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Team Lotto-Soudal has announced that former World Champion, Philippe Gilbert, will be unable to take the start of stage 2 at the Tour de France after crashing in the treacherous conditions of stage 1, sustaining a broken patella.
“I was riding around position 20 in the peloton when they crashed in front of me. I managed to escape that crash. I passed two, three fallen riders and thought to be safe, but then they crashed again, and this time I couldn’t avoid them anymore,” Gilbert said in a press release. “We were lying there with 10-15 guys… Immediately I tried to get up, but that was impossible. I’ve waited there some two minutes, leaning against a guardrail. Then I left alone without being able to really push on the pedals. In a small group of dropped riders, I managed to finish, without being able to help the others.”
“I was in pain. A pain I recognised from 2018,” Gilbert said, referencing the 2018 Tour de France, where he broke the same patella on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet.
After initial medical aid by the Lotto-Soudal team doctor at the finish in Nice, Gilbert was brought to the Tour’s medical truck where X-rays did not reveal a major problem. A later MRI at the hospital however revealed a fracture, with Lotto-Soudal estimating a recovery period for Gilbert of two to three weeks.
It was a day to forget for Lotto-Soudal, with Gilbert’s teammate John Degenkolb also crashing badly with 65km to go, damaging both knees. Like Gilbert, Degenkolb made it to the finish, but as he missed the time cut he was ejected from the race by the commissaires.
“The problem is especially my right knee, but the knee cap is okay. There was, howeverm a big impact on the bursa and the knee is swollen,” Degenkolb explained. “I am deeply disappointed to leave the Tour like this, especially on the first day. There is nothing we can do. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I think that also for my health it is better to go home. The season is not over yet.”
Losing two of its biggest stars was “a disappointment”, Gilbert said in the team press release, before taking aim at the commissaires for their strict interpretation of the timecut in eliminating Degenkolb.
“We are both riders who love their sport and job. We always have respect for the races, our team and sponsors. We always fight and share the same values. I have big respect for what John did, finishing after a nasty crash, 65 kilometres alone and arriving two minutes out of time limit. John gave everything, but got zero respect from the commissaires. With the rain and all crashes, at least he deserved the respect to put him in the result, even if, afterwards, he would have been unable to continue.”
The Tour de France continues tomorrow with its first foray into the mountains, where a diminished Lotto-Soudal will be hoping to keep it together for some Caleb Ewan stage wins later in the race.