Some guys just can't catch a break. Christian Vande Velde was forced to withdraw from the Tour de France on Monday after crashing twice on the road from Brussels to Spa in stage 2. Vande Velde wasn't alone. Countless riders hit the deck on the descent of the Col de Stockeu thanks to an unfortunate combination of rain and spilled fuel from a motorcycle that slid out moments before the peloton came through.
For Vande Velde, this marks yet another unfortunate interruption to his racing life in an injury-plagued two years. Last year he crashed heavily in the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia, breaking a bone in his back and several ribs. He recovered quickly and put in a fairly heroic performance at the Tour de France to finish in the top ten, clearly short on preparation and with some lingering pain.
This year has been worse.
This season, VDV broke his collarbone in the Giro d'Italia, repeating his bad luck of a year ago. On top of that, he broke three ribs in the Tour de Suisse after working his way back to fitness. After a trip to the hospital following today's stage- which he did finish- Vande Velde was informed that he has suffered yet another two broken ribs and multiple contusions, not to mention a laceration on his eyelid that required stitches. His Tour 2010 is over.
"No one wants to leave the Tour de France," he said Monday night. "I worked really hard to get myself ready to be here again and I was just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m indescribably disappointed to not be starting [Tuesday]."
It was an unlucky day for nearly every member of the Garmin-Transitions team. In addition to Vande Velde, crashes on the now infamous descent of the Stockeu took their toll on David Millar, Tyler Farrar, Julian Dean, and Robbie Hunter. Farrar wasn't in much better shape than Vande Velde, suffering a fractured wrist but willing himself to start the next day.
It goes to show how surprises abound in the Tour de France and stages are often not what they appear. With all the talk of stage 3 and the chaos to come on the cobblestones of northern France, stage 2 proved sufficiently deadly to send nearly all of the race favorites to the ground at some point or another.
What, then, will Tuesday bring? One would hope no more bad news for the Bears.