Boonen and Chavanel battle onwards in Tour de France
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Boonen and Chavanel battle onwards in Tour de France

by Conal Andrews at 3:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
Dark day for Quick Step team

Tom BoonenTom Boonen was one of several big names to crash during yesterday’s fifth stage of the Tour de France and, following a spirited battle to reach the finish line within the time limit, will continue today in the race.

He hit the deck approximately 70 kilometres from the end of the stage, going down with team-mates Geert Steegmans, Gerard Ciolek and Addy Engels. They had nowhere to go when riders in front of them crashed. “To avoid the riders ahead of me I braked but my front wheel touched another athlete’s back wheel” Boonen says .“I flew over my bike in an endo and I fell, hitting my head and the right side of my body. My helmet busted on impact.”

He suffered cuts to various parts of his body, including his shoulder, elbow and right buttock. His jersey was torn but fortunately fears that he had broken his collarbone proved to be unfounded. Although he was clearly very tender and kept taking his hands off the bars, the bone is not fractured. This enabled him to continue in the race, although that was only after a big battle to make the limit.

"After the first few minutes of shock I got back on my bike and I wanted to finish the stage” he said after crossing the line. “I have to thank Engels for his support. Alone I would have risked ending up outside of the maximum time. Now all I only want to recover some energy for tomorrow."

Team-mate Sylvain Chavanel was yet another from the Quick Step team who crashed. He came out badly in his fall, which happened approximately ten kilometres before the feed zone. The French champion dislocated the acromion-clavicular joint in his right shoulder.

“In the fall I also hit my head and broke my helmet. The consequences could have been much worse,” he said. “I’m lining up for the start as usual, but it’s obvious that I can look forward to a day of suffering.”

Boonen has had a difficult recent history in the Tour. He was blocked from starting the 2008 race due to a out of competition test for cocaine. He again ran into such problems in 2009, but was allowed take part in the Tour; however his form was completely forgettable and he pulled out without any top ten placings.

Last season was another frustrating one, as a bad crash in the Tour of California plus one in the Tour de Suisse caused a knee problem which prevented him from being able to ride all summer.

Boonen had hopes to pick up what would be his seventh Tour stage win during this year’s race, even if he feels he doesn’t have the same sprinting speed as before. That goal is still possible, but it may take him a few days to get his strength back and to recover from the crash.

Yesterday was doubly frustrating for him as the points he picked up in the intermediate sprint were erased when he and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Team Movistar) were relegated. Both riders weaved from one side of the road to the other during the effort, and were deemed to have blocked Mark Cavendish (HTC Highroad). As a result of the relegation, Rojas lost the green jersey to Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto).


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