Arvia: Vande Velde knocked down, not out of Tour de France
PHIL ARVIA email@example.com | (708) 633-5949 July 11, 2011 6:30PM
Easy rider: Lemont's Christian Vande Velde mugs for the camera on a rest day during the 2008 Tour de France, in which he finished fourth. He sits 19th overall as of Monday's rest day in the 2011 race. | File Photo
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:59AM
Bob Roll may be the Charles Barkley of Versus’ Tour de France coverage crew — easy to tease, given often to comic insights, yet with the bona fides of having ridden as Greg LeMond’s teammate and Lance Armstrong’s training partner.
So when, in the pre-race broadcast Sunday morning, he picked Lemont’s Christian Vande Velde to win the stage, let’s just say at least one local DVR was pressed into action.
Alas, Roll was wrong. Vande Velde’s uneven luck on cycling’s greatest stage hit a valley — almost literally — on a descent 61 miles from the finish, as he was part of a massive crash that eliminated teammate David Zabriskie and Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov, among others.
“He would’ve been there,” Vande Velde’s father, John, said Monday.
OK, John, himself a former Olympic cyclist, may be the most biased source you’ll find on the subject of Christian’s Tour chances. But he also knows a fair bit about cycling, so it’s worth noting his “would’ve been there” transforms to something along the lines of “might yet be there” when looking at the rest of the race.
To this point — Monday was a rest day after nine of the tour’s 21 stages — Vande Velde and the rest of the Garmin-Cervelo have been riding in support of teammate Thor Hushovd, who was the race’s overall leader after stages 2 through 8. Hushovd, though, isn’t the kind of rider generally thought capable of winning the Tour, and the Garmin team member with the top finish last year — Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, who was seventh in 2010 — is now riding hurt and out of the hunt for the overall, or general classification, title.
That leaves Vande Velde and fellow American Tom Danielson as the two riders most likely to be the riders catered to by their teammates the rest of the way.
Riding in service of a teammate is the way the Tour works. Deciding which teammate is tricky business for a team such as Garmin.
The question was being pondered before Stage 9 by Garmin team manager Jonathon Vaughters, which likely prompted Roll’s pick.
“At least we’ll have an idea who our GC (general classification) guy will be after tomorrow,” Vaughters told reporters Saturday. “I don’t think it changes a whole lot for us. We came to the race with three riders who were going to be possibilities for the top 10 in the GC, and Ryder has obviously lost a little more chance.
“Getting a rider into the top 10 ... I think we’re still going to do it, I just don’t know who it will be.”
According to John Vande Velde, Vaughters may still not know.
“It depends,” John said. “If (Christian) is hurt, they’ll ride for Danielson.”
Danielson is 17th overall, 4:22 behind current leader Thomas Voeckler, who won’t remain in first for long, and 1:56 behind Cadel Evans, the best-placed of the pre-race favorites. Vande Velde is 2:27 behind Evans.
Still, if Christian is well, he’d likely get the benefit of the team’s support. The 35-year-old has been with Garmin since 2008. He finished fourth in that year’s Tour and eighth in 2009.
Danielson is riding in his first Tour de France — though he did finish third to Vande Velde’s fourth in this year’s Tour of California.
And Vande Velde seems to have spent a bit more time off his bike than Danielson thus far in France. Vande Velde went down three times in the first stage — though he was well enough to help Garmin to the team time trial win in Stage 2.
And then there was Sunday’s pileup, which left Christian nursing, John said, a battered chin, shoulder and hip.
“For everything that went right for us this week, everything went wrong today,” Christian told Versus immediately after the stage. “We really wanted to get (David) Millar in the breakaway, he crashed before the breakaway went. Then came back ... we were doing an awesome job controlling the peloton and then, you know, half our team crashed. A lot of big guys crashed. It’s very unfortunate. I feel horrible for everyone who’s out of the race. I was never the same after that crash, that’s for sure.”
Hushovd and Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara did the gentlemanly thing, slowing the peloton to allow the crashed riders to catch up.
“If they wouldn’t have ... I would be out of the race, too,” Vande Velde said. “I was walking around for five minutes looking for bikes and helmets and glasses and stuff. It was just a catastrophe. People were way down in the ditch — it was bad. It was not a pretty sight.”
But it might yet be.