Garmin-Cervélo defended the yellow jersey with Thor Hushovd in another wild ride at the Tour de France that saw scores of riders hit the deck in a late-stage crash that marred the 218km seventh stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux.
Hushovd sprinted to seventh to carry the maillot jaune into Friday’s climbing finale at Super-Besse in France’s Massif Central.
“The team did a great job today to protect me all day at the front” Hushovd said.
“It’s too bad that Tyler was in the crash. It’s very nervous every day. Too many riders are trying to be at the front of the race. We are very pleased. Almost a week in the yellow jersey, we are all very happy about that.”
While it was good news that Hushovd was able to defend the yellow jersey, Garmin-Cervélo saw Ryder Hesjdal and Tyler Farrar caught up behind a crash in the closing hour of racing. Both crossed the line in a group of riders at 3:06 behind the winner.
“It was great that we were able to keep the yellow jersey, but we lost options to win the stage with Tyler and we lost some GC ground with Ryder,” said Garmin-Cervélo sport director Bingen Fernández.
“We knew it was dangerous near where the crash was because there were strong winds. We put the team on the front. It was just bad luck that those guys were caught in the crash.”
Farrar was especially upset at the twist of fate. A winner in stage 3, Farrar was targeting the rolling stage across the Loire Valley as one that was ideal for his characteristics.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was just bad luck. I am scraped up, but nothing is hurt,” Farrar said. “I lost an opportunity today to try to win, but I will look for another chance in the Tour. The most important thing is that the team could defend the yellow jersey.”
Garmin-Cervélo once again had its riders at the nose of the action throughout the long stage that featured no major climbs, but was up and down all day. Strong winds and rain showers kept the nerves ratcheted high.
The team was controlling an early breakaway when a crash with about 40km to go split the peloton. Only about 60 riders made it through unscathed, but Farrar and Hesjedal were not among them.
“Unfortunately, I got caught up in the big crash today along with Tyler,” said Hesjedal.
“I got taken down from behind and I fared well considering, but its never fun to go down. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and of course will keep racing as hard as I possibly can for my team. Despite the crash the team rode great and we retained the yellow jersey for Thor. Tyler and I finished in the second group. I hope everyone involved in the crash is ok. Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll keep taking this Tour day by day.”
“We tried to keep everyone as calm as possible for long as we could. I don’t even know what happened behind in the crash. I knew that Tyler was behind, so that was too bad,” said Christian Vande Velde, who avoided crashing. “We stayed out of trouble and we set up the sprint for Thor as best we could.”
The 98th Tour continues Saturday with the 189km eighth stage from Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy. The stage features the most challenging climbs so far in the 2011 Tour and ends atop the short, but steep Super-Besse summit at 1,275 meters.
“Tomorrow we will see how can do on Super-Besse. Thor is riding well, but we have to be realistic. There are a lot of good climbers who are close to the jersey,” Fernández said. “Our tactic will change as we ride closer to the mountains, that is for sure.”
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