And then there were two legs.
Radio Shack came into the Tour de France with high hopes and four leaders. After another crash-filled day on the narrow roads of France, they’re down to one leader. That honor goes to 36 year old Andreas Kloden, still upright and in sixth place on GC, 10 seconds from yellow.
Today on the flat and windy road to Chateauroux, a major pile-up destroyed the podium hopes of both Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer. Horner went down and both chased hard but finished way back, Horner losing a whopping 12 minutes and Leipheimer over three.
A shit day royale. Tres miserable.
“There’s just nothing you can do. We were actually well-positioned but we were going 75k an hour,” said Leipheimer. “Everybody’s gotta take some risks to stay at the front. That’s every team order out there. Everybody wants to be up front, there’s only so much room and sooner or later it just happens.”
It did happen and the consequences are devastating. Chris Horner, winner of the Tour of California, owning the best form of his entire life, with his first honest shot at leading a team in the Tour de France, is done.
“When I got there, he was lying in a ditch and was very shaken,” said Johan Bruyneel. “It was obvious he’d hit very hard.” Bruyneel later reported Horner has a concussion, nose fracture and a calf hematoma and we assume a start tomorrow is highly unlikely. Chris had joked this morning about his mom texting him to ride safe. She must have sensed something wicked was headed his way.
Levi Leipheimer, fresh off his tremendous overall victory in the Tour de Suisse, crashes three times in three days and now finds himself four minutes down. His ambitions of leading the red and white into the mountains as team boss are terminated.
Meanwhile Radio Shack leader number three Jani Brajkovik has already crashed out of the race with a concussion and broken collarbone. Misery times three.
There’s only one leader left and the winner is 36 year old Andreas Kloden. He earns the coveted position of He Who Shall Never Ride In The Wind. One for all and all for Klodi.
“He looks strong. He’s ridden really well this first week,” said Leipheimer after the disastrous stage.” “He’s good at sniffing out the safe spots in the group, I think he’s coming into form at the right time.” Form and safety and luck — so far that has been the magic formula for the experienced German diesel.
Radio Shack wasn’t the only team to have their Tour plans torn to pieces. Bradley Wiggins came to France with renewed confidence, great form, solid results and a strong Team Sky ready to kick arse.
Just yesterday they got their first Tour stage victory, with young Norwegian Evald Boasson Hagen winning the sprint to Lisieux. Today Wiggins broke his collarbone and abandoned the Tour. Just like that, world turned upside down, a year of training, sacrifice and time away from family, all wasted.
Highs and lows, ups and downs, and Alberto Contador must be feeling better because thing could be so much worse.
The first week of the Tour de France is so hard and intense and crazy. Narrow roads, wind and rain, technical, uphill finishes and 198 nervous riders. Bad things are bound to happen.
“Today, it went down like a house of cards, said Leipheimer. “It just hasn’t been my tour so far. We hope Andreas Kloden continues to ride his good luck for another day. Radio Shack is now down to one leader. Haimar Zubeldia, get ready, buddy.