La Planche des Belles Filles

La Planche des Belles Filles. Epic.

There’s no other word.

In any Saga there are heroes and villains; but the only one of the latter to manifest herself on this day was Lady Luck.

Lashing out spitefully at Alberto Contador and casting a second Grand Favourite from the Tour.

I can’t recall the last time I saw the Spaniard “chuck” a race so knew it was serious.

The Tinkoff press release says;

“Alberto crashed on a fast and straight part of the descent.

“He was reaching for his pocket and the bike was swept away under him probably because of a bump or hole in the road.

“Alberto was in the shape of his life and the entire team had our eyes fixed on the podium in Paris and the work we would have to do to get there.”

La Planche des Belles Filles
Contador gets his knee strapped up.

Following the crash Alberto received a new bike and medical treatment to stop the bleeding from his knee.

“After the crash, Alberto got back on the bike and we tried for about 18 kilometers to keep him in the race.

“Despite his best efforts and an impressive show of willpower, he had to abandon the race”, says Bjarne Riis after the stage.

“The captain of Tinkoff-Saxo was brought to the finish line in a team car and underwent medical examinations with x-rays being taken of the areas affected.

“Alberto has broken his tibia just below the knee. It’s not a complicated fracture but it probably requires surgery.

“He will stay with us tonight and tomorrow he will travel back to Madrid to undergo further examinations and a surgery if necessary”, adds Bjarne Riis.

“Alberto Contador’s exit is a tragic event also taken the many months of preparation into consideration together with the work that the team has done leading up to and during this year’s Tour.”

The word on Eurosport was that Contador’s frame had snapped – but as we all know, we can’t count on everything Carlton says.

But as I write this, Al Hamilton our man in Iberia has just sent us this;

Contador Crashes
Contador’s frame, snapped in two places. Photo©John MacLeary

“As a result of” or “the cause of” the crash?

However, Stephen Farrand tweeted;

It seems Contador’s spare bike on the car was broken after it got hooked up with the Belkin team car. Not related to the crash. #calmdown.

Contador Crashes
Well, it would appear to be the case that the bikes did indeed get tangled when on the roof racks. Photo©Joxean Matxin, taken from the back seat of the Lampre-Merida team car.

And Ivan tells us that the word from Lotto’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck is:

“According to JVDB, it was Alberto Contador’s own stupid fault that he fell, he sprinted past JVDB on a descent, hit a hole and went over the ‘bars, JVDB says he simply can’t understand why he took such a risk to move up one place on a descent.

“The story on CyclingNews website on Contador’s fall up to now has not mentioned JVDB’s comments (it has now, along with the fact that Contador may, in fact have crashed twice) only Bjarne Riis saying that the Spaniard was riding at 60 or 70 kph.”

Whatever the ‘whys and wherefores’ VeloVeritas wishes Alberto Contador a full and speedy recovery and this race will be the poorer without him.

Contador Crashes
Alberto says he may not need surgery but is unlikely to be better in time for the Vuelta.

Heroes?

Where to start?

QuickStep won’t win this Tour de France, they probably won’t make the podium – but they’ve attacked, enlivened and won.

Today they lost – but there’s ‘getting gubbed’ and ‘glorious failure,’ which was what today was for them in my book.

That man Tony Martin was at it again, towing team mate Michal Kwiatkowski over the vicious Vosges climbs; with the Pole at one stage ‘maillot jaune virtuel.’

But even Tony couldn’t put enough time into Nibali and his soldiers and when the German world champ ‘blew’ it was positively thermo nuclear.

Contador Crashes
Tony Martin towing Michael Kwiatkowski. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

Respect to Martin, Kwiatkowski and QuickStep – for their aggression, spectacle and riding ‘la course en tete.’

Nibali – for the second time in this race he made the best look flat footed, grabbed a brilliant stage win and claimed that most desirable of jerseys.

Today he was bright eyed but calm – not the tired looking rider who happily let yellow slip last night.

But one rider does not a team make; Fuglsang and Scarponi in particular were outstanding for Astana.

Contador Crashes
Scarponi did a job for Nibali today. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

The Italian did a Johny Helms cartoon type head first dive into the scenery on a tricky bend but picked himself up, hammered back up to his Capo then set the killing tempo for Nibali to launch from.

But for all their clinical stiletto work at the end of the stage, Astana did not drive immediately after Contador crashed – rivals’ chains coming off and punctures are one thing, but their hitting the tar at high speed is another.

It’s a long way to Paris but just like Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013 it looks as if the stars are aligning for the Sicilian.

Contador Crashes
Gallopin did what he could today to hold onto yellow. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

Tony Gallopin lost the jersey today but there can be no shame, he rode himself inside out and cried at the finish at his losing the maillot jaune as his soigneur tried to console him – only the most cynical would not be moved.

(But I know Vik probably wouldn’t).

Rodriguez’s long hard day at least had it’s reward; he takes Tony Martin’s spotty jersey – and for a good part of the last climb it looked as if he was going to take the stage, too.

But it’s always easy to underestimate the rate at which a rampant top GC man eats up the tarmac between himself and a dying breakaway rider at the top of a mountain.

Contador Crashes
Rodriguez didn’t come to the Tour with the idea of being competitive – but he is coming into form nicely. Photo©B.Bade/ASO

And yesterday we said we’d wait until today before we run up the tricolour – head for that flagpole, guys!

There are four Frenchmen in the top 10 albeit Gallopin is only ‘passing through’ on his way back down the classement in fifth @ 3:12 after his adventures in yesterday’s successful big breakaway.

However, Bardet’s fourth spot @3:01; Pinot’s sixth @ 3:47 and Jean-Christophe Peraud’s eighth @ 3:57 are all solid and hard fought.

Pinot in particular was very impressive, putting 15 seconds into Valverde to take second on the stage behind Nibali.

Nibali leads Porte by 2:13 but 1:45 covers the rest of the top 10 – it’s going to be hand to hand combat for those podium places.

Crashes, rain, mountains – they deserve that rest day.

A demain.