Mountain stage going to be a shock to the body
Dan Martin’s Diary: Stage 7
The pack of riders during the 205.5 km seventh stage of the centenary Tour de France race from Montpellier to Albi.
I said in yesterday’s diary that I hoped my team-mate and friend Christian Vande Velde would be able to get through the Tour after his big crash on Wednesday, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. He went down again on yesterday’s seventh stage and this time, it put him out of the race.
I was actually at the back when it happened because, in the neutral zone at the start, I had problems with my race radio. I went back to the team car about it, so I was right at the back. The start ended up being very fast, with the bunch hitting 70 kilometres per hour on the flat.
We were thundering along and then we turned onto a small road and two riders just got away. It was a swooping road, with a downhill that was probably a kilometre long and with a profile like a big dipper on a rollercoaster. . . it dropped down, kicked up, and then we could see the breakaway just going away.
The crash occurred at the bottom of the dip. Guys just lost concentration; you can imagine how – the breakaway is gone, they are starting to relax. The guys at the front hit the climb first and slowed down, then the guys behind who had so much momentum from the downhill just rode into the back of them.
I nearly got caught up in it too. The road was a little bit melted and that didn’t help with stopping. When I went to brake, both my wheels instantly locked up and I was skidding towards this big pile of bodies.
Luckily, I just about got it stopped in time, but it was certainly touch and go for a moment there. I could see all these other guys just running into the back of each other.
There ended up being a pile of about 30 guys on the ground; unfortunately Christian was at the bottom of that. He crashed the other day and had a few issues as a result, not least a screw coming lose in the collarbone plate he had inserted after a previous accident. If he hadn’t had that first fall, I think he might have been okay . . . but the second crash was the final straw.
It is a big loss for the team and we will all miss him. Fortunately he doesn’t seem too badly hurt and it looks like he will be able to get back to racing a little later this year, his final season as a pro.
Later on after that, there was another scare for me when Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team broke things up. I made an error of judgment; I stopped for a pee just before that team went ballistic. Luckily the whole Movistar team had also stopped, We got moving again, riding very fast up the climb, but we were not getting any closer to the peloton. We were looking at each other wondering what the heck was going on. Fortunately I was with two strong riders, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, and we were able to get back up. I think we were the only ones to do so out of the 15 guys who had stopped.