Crash! How a race-ending collision can be the first step on the road to greater glory

Will Rodriguez and Martin return at the Tour de France?

It’s the split-second moment in which months of meticulous preparation disappear.

In a sport in which risk is increasingly managed, whether it be by race radio or power meter, the mid-race crash represents in the most literal sense the moment when control is lost.

Joaquim Rodriguez exited the Giro d’Italia after being caught up in a huge collision on stage six that left him with a broken thumb, a fractured rib, and aggravation to injuries suffered in the Amstel Gold Race. (pic: Sirotti)

The consequences can be spectacular and deeply harming. The crash, however, will remain a fundamental component of racing; the great unavoidable consequence of the professional cyclist. Michael Barry writes eloquently about the terrifying experience of having a race photographer’s motorbike on his chest, an experience that left him mentally scarred, as well as injured and ultimately a DNF on the 2002 Vuelta a Espana.

Two of the biggest names in this year’s Giro d’Italia have already crashed out of the race as the result of sheer misfortune. Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) failed to finish the opening stage team time trial, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was the highest-profile casualty of a collision that engulfed much of the peloton on yesterday’s sixth stage.

Race-ending crashes are nothing new, of course – just ask Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, who saw months of preparation for a tilt at the 2011 Tour de France title end on stage seven. The Londoner’s recovery to finish third at the Vuelta, courtesy of extended turbo sessions in his garden shed to replicate the heat of a Spanish summer, shows that a race-ending collision does not necessarily spell the end of the season. Which leads us to our next point…

Will the Giro’s loss prove to be the Tour’s gain? Rodriguez had built his 2014 season around the Giro and the Vuelta, but he is unlikely now to wait until the final week of August before returning to Grand Tour action. Similarly, Martin, who proved so effective in last year’s Grande Boucle, could now make his comeback at the Tour. The addition of the Birmingham-born rider to the peloton set to roll out of Leeds on July 5 is likely to please many among the home support.

Dan Martin’s Giro d’Italia ended on the opening stage. Will the Birmingham-born Irishman return to action at the Tour de France? (pic: Sirotti)

Aside from Rodriguez, Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), perhaps suffered the greatest disappointment among the Grand Tour contenders yesterday. The Irishman had been expected to contest the overall victory at the Giro, but after losing 15 minutes yesterday waiting for a spare bike to replace his damaged machine, has been reduced to assisting co-leader Rafal Majka in his hunt for stage wins. Roche was always expected to ride the Tour as well, but his participation in the French race will be in service of Alberto Contador, rather than for himself.

What next for this year’s Giro? Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), a rider who has relied far more often upon hard work than fortune in a stellar career that has brought victory in the sport’s most prestigious stage and one-day races, for once finds himself with the rub of the green. Alone among the GC contenders riding ahead of the carnage on the road to Montecassino, he now lies second overall, 21 seconds behind the stage winner, Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), and with nearly a minute in his pocket over the Colombian climber, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) to whom he los second place overall on the penultimate stage of last year’s race.

This gruelling Giro is not yet a week old, but has witnessed crashes on almost every stage: a consequence frequently of the bad weather. Yesterday’s carnage unfurled on a stage already lengthened by 10km to avoid a landslip. The race organisers, as well as the riders, will hope for better fortune in the weeks ahead if the 97th corsa rosa is to produce a winner who can claim victory on merit. Evans would certainly be such a man.


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