NANCY, France — Two promising American riders with an outside shot at victory in the Tour de France this year hit the asphalt in crashes in Friday’s seventh stage, but picked themselves up to resume the chase of overall leader Vincenzo Nibali.
The 146-mile ride from Epernay in Champagne country to eastern Nancy, which was won by Italian Matteo Trentin, was the latest installment of a first week of many spills in the pack, some of which led defending champion Chris Froome to pull out with an injury. That has blown the race wide open.
While relatively unscathed physically, BMC leader Tejay van Garderen took the biggest hit on Friday among the 10 or so riders who stand a reasonable chance of victory.
He was in the center of the pack with about 16 kilometers left, got bumped on his back wheel by a Movistar rider as he moved to the right. They tumbled, and then van Garderen got rolled over by another rider’s bike.
He got back up, but lost more than a minute to Nibali and other contenders, even after several BMC teammates pedaled furiously to try to escort him back up to the pack.
“It’s a tough blow, but the Tour is long, the race changes,” van Garderen said of the time loss, and calling the crash “nothing major. So I’ll definitely be fine to start tomorrow… you just have to keep the course, you just have to keep fighting.”
More significant may be the withdrawal of Colombia’s John Darwin Atapuma, a good climber whom BMC was grooming to help escort van Garderen in the mountains ahead. Atapuma suffered a broken leg just above the knee.
Van Garderen, from Bozeman, Montana, dropped from 11th to 18th place overall, 3 minutes, 14 behind Nibali — after starting the stage only 2:11 adrift.
Andrew Talansky got bumped by Australia’s Simon Gerrans in the final mad dash to the line. Talansky rolled over and grazed his left arm, with his jersey ripped at the shoulder.
Under course rules, Talansky didn’t lose time in the title chase because his crash happened within the last three kilometers, so the Miami native remains eighth overall — 2 minutes, 5 seconds back.
“It’s not something that’s going to affect him much,” Garmin-Sharp team boss Jonathan Vaughters said of Talansky on French TV. “I don’t know if it was Gerrans’ fault, but he’s angry.”
Van Garderen and Talansky represent the top echelon of American cycling ambitions at the Tour in the generation after dethroned doping cheats Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong became emblems of a blighted era of drug use.