- The highest-placed US rider in the Tour de France, Tejay van Garderen, withdrew from the race late Friday.
- Van Garderen crashed heavily early on stage seven after hitting a traffic median, he told Business Insider. Broken and bloodied, he finished the stage, the longest of this Tour at more than 140 miles.
- Postrace X-rays revealed a fracture in his left thumb.
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CHALON-SUR-SAONE, France – Bike racing can be brutal and unforgiving. Tejay van Garderen, the top American rider in the Tour de France, got a bitter reminder of that on Friday: He is now out of the world’s greatest race after crashing hard on stage seven and breaking his left thumb and suffering multiple abrasions to his face and body.
He crashed not long after the stage’s start and still managed to complete the longest stage of the Tour, 230 kilometers, or 142.9 miles, albeit broken and bloodied.
EF Education First team manager and CEO Jonathan Vaughters confirmed to Business Insider that Van Garderen would not start stage eight on Saturday. He was in 33rd place heading into Friday’s stage, the highest-placed US rider.
Early on the stage, which was supposed to be a relatively relaxing but long day for most of the riders, Van Garderen hit a traffic island and crashed heavily. He was checked by team management and the official Tour doctor after crashing and was eventually allowed to continue racing.
He finished the stage, the longest of this year’s Tour. After, he went for X-rays, which showed a fracture in his left thumb.
“I really feel the most disappointed that I can’t contribute to the team,” Van Garderen told Business Insider. “I have a lot of belief in Rigo and Woods. I think they can win stages and podium, and maybe even win the whole Tour. And I would’ve loved to have been part of that and contributed toward that.”
EF’s Michael Woods of Canada, a talented runner turned climber, and Colombian Rigoberto Uran, the team leader who finished second in the 2017 Tour, are sitting in ninth and 10th after Friday’s stage.
Van Garderen told Business Insider how the crash happened: “It was a really stupid crash,” he said. “I think a piece of paper or something got stuck in my bike somewhere, and I was just looking down trying to see what it was and get it out. And as I was looking down, I ran into a median. It was really a benign moment of the race, and it was just one of those things. I can’t blame anyone but myself.
“There’s a fracture in my medial carpal, and right now it’s not displaced, but doctors advise I keep it in a splint and keep it immobile,” Van Garderen added. “If I’m riding on it and going over bumps, it’s directly impacting the area of the fracture, and it could easily become displaced and become a more serious problem.
“As far as continuing, you would have to ask also in what capacity. If I could continue and be an effective and contributing member of the team, that might be worth the risk. But if I’m out there, and I’m putting other riders in danger as well as myself because I’m having less control in braking and shifting and gripping the handlebars, I don’t just want to sit at the back and limp my way to Paris. That’s not a very productive use of time. I can better recover and prepare for other events this season.”
Vaughters added in a team statement late Friday: “We never want to see a rider leave the Tour like this. There is a huge amount of work that goes into the preparation for this race, no one wants to be there more than these riders do.
“After talking with Tejay, our doctor, and race directors this evening, we’re not only concerned about Tejay doing lasting damage to the fractured bone if he were to continue riding, but we are also concerned for the safety of others, too. Full use of your hand is important when racing alongside 180 riders.”
“We will miss having him in the team,” Vaughters said. “He has showed great form coming into the race. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that he’ll be back racing again soon.”
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 12, 2019
Van Garderen told Business Insider he wouldn’t have finished the stage Friday if he didn’t believe there was at least a possibility he could continue in the race. “But once the medical reports came out, it was just the most prudent call to stop,” he said.
He said he’d head back to his European base, in Girona, Spain, on Saturday, to meet with his family before flying back to the US and figuring out where he goes from here and how he finishes out the season.