Black day for Astana as both Brajkovic and Kessiakof are forced out of Tour de France
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Black day for Astana as both Brajkovic and Kessiakof are forced out of Tour de France

by VeloNation Press at 5:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
Fuglsang and team rue loss of two strong riders

Janez BrajkovicJakob Fuglsang’s ambition of a high overall finish in this year’s Tour de France suffered a setback today when he lost two important team-mates en route to Montpellier.

Having already seen Andrey Kashechkin withdraw earlier in the Tour due to illness, the Astana team was depleted by two more riders when Fredrik Kessiakoff and Janez Brajkovic both withdrew.

Swedish rider Kessiakoff pulled out during the stage as a result of damage suffered in his crash yesterday. He suffered injuries to his right forearm, both elbows, chest and left knee, and while he started the stage, his battered body wasn’t able to remain with the peloton half an hour into the stage.

“It's nobody's fault. It's the Tour de France, everybody is here to do a good job, everybody is here to work for their captain, and everybody wants to be at the front of the race,” he said afterwards. “The road is only so wide, and it is impossible for everybody to be at the front.”

In addition to his aches, his problems were compounded as he wasn’t able to change gears properly on the bike. “I couldn't shift today I was in so much pain, and when the crosswinds started and the peloton was speeding up, I couldn't accelerate and hold on to the bars because my whole body was in pain,” he said.

“I'm sorry for myself and I'm sorry for the team, because six guys now have to do the work of nine for the next two and a half weeks.”

Brajkovic ran into problems closer to the finish of the race, hitting a traffic island inside the final fifteen kilometres. According to his team, he suffered a large wound on his left knee, broke a flange in his left hand and scraped his chin on the asphalt.

He remained disorientated on the ground for several minutes, then was unable to put any real pressure on the pedals once he got back on his bike. His knee was the big issue and he received both internal and external stitches to the area when treated by two Tour de France doctors plus the Astana team medic after the finish.

“I was really scared when I saw the size and depth of the hole in my knee,” he admitted.

“I knew it was bad, but I wanted to finish because you never know. The doctors were very fast and very professional, and they sewed up both of the wounds. They also said that when the anaesthetic wears off I am going to be in a lot of pain.”

He was warned that if he continued in the race, that he risked doing permanent damage to the joint. As a result there was no question of him being allowed to continue.

Brajkovic finished ninth overall in last year’s Tour and hoped to perform well again. Jakob Fuglsang had been pinpointed as the team’s top rider for the race and while he has steered clear of trouble himself, he has been affected by the loss of three important team-mates.

Astana Pro Team Director Sportif Dmitriy Sedoun explained the difficulties this poses.

“Fuglsang in the mountains now has five riders to help him. We lost two exceptional climbers today, on a flat stage in the wind with no breakaway. What can you do?” he said. “We have to treat our injured riders, help the rest of the team recover and move on, and then we have to race again tomorrow and the next day and thirteen more stages after that. It's not going to be easy, nothing in cycling ever is.”

As for Fuglsang, he is determined to keep pushing on. However he admits that his stated goal of a top ten finish would be more complicated now.

“The goal remains the same. It's just not going to be any easier.”



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