5 Things about the Tour de France rest day
BESANCON, France (AP) — Whew! After a week that included rain, fog, wind, cobblestones, crashes and nervous riders going through huge crowds at the Tour de France start in Yorkshire, England, the pack finally got a day off on Tuesday.
Competitors got massages, mingled with family and friends, took some more leisurely rides and faced questions from reporters in a mostly relaxing day before returning to the roads for a hilly 187.5-kilometer (116.3-mile) ride from Besancon to Oyonnax in eastern France on Wednesday.
Here are 5 things to know about the Tour de France on Tuesday:
BACKSTAGE AT THE CONTADOR CRASH
Tinkoff-Saxo team boss Bjarne Riis might be forgiven for having a pit in his stomach right after seeing his star rider, two-time champion Alberto Contador, had crashed in a speedy descent from a mountain climb in Monday’s Stage 10.
“First thought was ... I’m pretty sure: A crash downhill, going at a speed like that, it’s bad,” Riis recalled Tuesday. “That’s the worst thing to be sitting there in the car and knowing your guy is crashing, and then you think, ‘OK. We can lose everything...’”
A clearly anxious Riis helped bandage up Contador’s bloodied right knee after the crash. The Spaniard then tried to ride before the pain grew, telling Riis, “I can’t pedal, I can’t pedal. What should I do?” the Danish manager said. “I said, ‘Alberto, you have the pain, not me. So you have to decide.’”
Riis advised that Contador try holding on, without pedaling, during a cool downhill, “and when you start pedaling again, then you see what you can do.”
But the pain was too much. Contador got off his bike, wiped his eyes and dropped out. An X-ray later showed a fractured tibia.
TEJAY’S TAKE ON NIBALI
American rider Tejay van Garderen says Tour leader Vincenzo Nibali is “one of the most incredible bike handlers I’ve ever seen.”
The Italian race leader has avoided crashes like those that meant the end of the Tour for Contador and Chris Froome, the 2013 Tour champion.
Van Garderen, bearing scrapes and a bandage on his leg after his own crash in Stage 7, suggested that Nibali has a sixth sense about bike racing.
“Like, if he gets himself in a bad situation where 99 percent of us would go down, Nibali seems to do OK,” he told reporters. “Sometimes crashes are bad luck; sometimes you make your own luck.”
The Tour is “the most dangerous race of the year, in my opinion,” said van Garderen, who’s riding in his fourth Tour but his first as BMC team leader. He is currently 7th overall, just under 4 minutes back of Nibali.
Fabian Cancellara has pulled out of the Tour de France to focus on the Road World Championships later this year.
The 33-year-old Swiss rider is eyeing success at the worlds, which will be held in Ponferrada, Spain, from Sept. 21-28.
“I will travel home now and take a little break. The season has been long for me, starting back in Dubai. I have done 59 days of competition this season so far and I have another big goal,” Cancellara said. “It’s not a secret that I’d like to be in my best shape there, so it’s important that I take some rest.”
Cancellara, who has won eight Tour stages and has worn the race leader’s yellow jersey numerous times during his career, finished second behind German rider Tony Martin in Sunday’s ninth Tour stage.
UCI CHIEF CLEARS THINGS UP?
The new head of cycling’s governing body says it could do a better job of communicating high-profile doping cases.
UCI President Brian Cookson, speaking with reporters Tuesday, was on the defensive over an announcement in a little-noticed change to a doping-violation table on its Web site over the weekend, concerning a violation by Denis Menchov, a Russian former rider who won the Italian Giro once and the Spanish Vuelta twice.
Cookson, asked about the UCI’s handling of the Menchov case, said: “I think we can do a better job there. I think we can produce that schedule and update it more effectively and efficiently.”
Cookson, who took the job in October, had campaigned on promises to bring greater transparency to the UCI on his way to defeating former president Pat McQuaid, whose re-election bid was overshadowed by many high-profile doping cases during his tenure.
Menchov was handed a two-year ban and stripped of his Tour de France results in 2009, 2010 and 2012 for violations related to his biological passport.
ARMSTRONG: A WITCH-HUNT VICTIM?
McQuaid made an unannounced visit to the press room on Tuesday. The ex-UCI chief declined to comment when asked if he had any regrets about his tenure.
But U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart has said the UCI under McQuaid failed to live up to promises made in November 2012 to deal with the fallout from the case of Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong admitted to doping in his career and was stripped of his seven Tour titles.
McQuaid, who once said that Armstrong had no place in cycling, said Tuesday: “I don’t necessarily think the same now.”
Armstrong, he said, “is the victim of a USADA witch hunt.”