July 6th, the day Garmin-Sharp’s Tour de France ended, all GC plans destroyed and their sprinter covered in bandages and too gun shy to sprint.
Last July Garmin had a dream Tour with Thor Hushovd winning two stages, wearing yellow for several days, Farrar taking his first Tour victory, Tom Danielson making the top ten in his first crack at Le Tour and Garmin winning the team time trial. Jonathan Vaughters was thrilled; they’d finally broken through at Le Grand Shindig.
Twenty five kilometers from Metz, Garmin-Sharp hit rock bottom and the tarmac. A massive pile up took down what seemed like the entire squad. Tom Danielson, already gutting out a separated shoulder, sat in misery on the ground, finished, resigned to abandon. Johan Van Summeren and Robbie Hunter (yet again) lay on the ground, David Millar and Tyler Farrar looked on in shock and disbelief.
Recent Giro winner and Tour GC contender Ryder Hesjedal was able to remount his bike but he’d lose 13 minutes. Same ugly story for Christian Vande Velde and Dan Martin. To his credit Van Summeren would ride to the finish, last man in, over 16 minutes down. It’s a 50-50 bet he takes the start tomorrow with the mid mountains on tap.
Only Captain America Dave Zabriskie was spared the carnage. The seven time US time trial champion was told to jump in the early breakaway, a move that spared him the painful fate of his teammates back in the peloton. Zabriskie made a solo bid for victory and held off winner Peter Sagan, Matthew Goss and Andre Greipel until the final 1500 meters. Dave Z will spend the evening on medic duty, rolling bandages and cleaning road rash.
Garmin suffered similar bad fortune in the 2010 Tour de France. Zabriskie, Hunter and Farrar all crashed out of the race. Le Tour giveth and Le Tour taketh away. Yesterday Andre Greipel pulled off one of the most amazing displays of bike handing to avoid the Farrar crash, then to double the astonishment, won the stage. Today Greipel crashed and dislocated his shoulder while the man he knocked down yesterday Peter Sagan won his third stage.
The Tour is a nasty roll of the dice. Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner never made it past the first week last year but now they’ve survived. This year Robert Gesink, Frank Schleck, Janez Brajkovic, Alejandro Valverde and Ryder Hesjedal all saw their chances disappear in a single crash outside Metz.
Perhaps Garmin-Sharp will once again deliver their usual tour surprise with a stage win from Martin or Hesjedal. Maybe the surprise will simply be surviving the rest of Le Tour.