- Published: Thursday, 09 July 2015 16:32
- Written by Jamie Naragon
BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet finished fifth Thursday at the Tour de France after teammate Tejay van Garderen escaped injury when he was part of a crash that took down race leader Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) in the final kilometer.
Van Garderen was following last year's Tour de France winner, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), when Martin crashed in front of them. Martin suffered a broken collarbone while van Garderen fell on Nibali and 2014 Giro d'Italia winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).
"It is always dangerous with finishes like this," van Garderen said. "Uphill, there are going to be gaps. The GC (general classification) guys want to be up there but the sprinters still want to go for the stage. So getting that mix together is always pretty dangerous."
Because the crash occurred in the final three kilometers, van Garderen was awarded the finish time of the peloton, which arrived two seconds after stage winner Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step). Van Garderen remains 25 seconds behind Chris Froome (Team Sky), who is expected to wear the yellow jersey Friday for the second time since Monday. On Tuesday, Froome assumed the lead after Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) also abandoned due to injury.
Like it has been on nearly every stage in the opening week, the BMC Racing Team was formidably present at the front of the pack in the last 20 kilometers of the 191.5-km race. Rohan Dennis, Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär and Swiss national road champion Danilo Wyss combined to provide an escort for van Garderen and Van Avermaet. Van Garderen said he appreciated a calmer ride than the past few days which featured cobblestones, strong winds, rain and several large crashes.
"We spent almost the whole day on the coast, so if there would have been big winds, then it could have been a repeat of yesterday - or even worse," he said. "Luckily, we had a beautiful day with blue skies and calm winds. So it was a nice day."
Van Avermaet, who remained sixth overall and 40 seconds off the lead, said he was disappointed not to be able to contest the win. Stybar attacked just after the crash happened and no one followed.
"I had really good legs, so I was expecting a lot," Van Avermaet said. "To end up fifth is disappointing because I was aiming for first. They let people just go and nobody was reacting. Then, you are just angry at all the other guys that did not react. I was waiting, waiting, waiting and guessing that (John) Degenkolb, or (Peter) Sagan or (Alexander) Kristoff would close the gap. But they didn't. So the race was already over for me with 500 meters to go."
Van Avermaet said he did not react to Stybar's attack because he is often the first one to chase in similar situations.
"Today, I just wanted to play it a little bit smarter, just wait a little bit longer and come at a good moment," he said. "It was a bad decision, but it is a decision you have to make for yourself. It was a little bit strange that Sagan did not react, because he was in the perfect position. I was a little bit behind."
Besides van Garderen, Damiano Caruso was the BMC Racing Team's other rider who crashed Thursday. With about 35 km to go, Caruso struck a protective barrier while negotiating a roundabout. He was making his way back to the peloton after picking up a load of Elite bottles from the team car.
"Luckily, he landed pretty well," BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said. "The bottles acted as a pillow, so he had only superficial abrasions."