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A deflated-looking Allan Peiper, Garmin’s director of competition, termed the day a “disaster” and admitted that the day’s events had left the team without any GC hopes and that he had no immediate idea of how to regroup his charges.
“I have to get my own morale up first,” he said with a wry smile.
Peiper will struggle to find positives in what he sees. Zabriskie was awarded the “most aggressive rider” prize for the day, but it’s small consolation in the face of the team’s losses. Worse, the crash happened on the very last day before the race begins to climb, and the team could have put its attacking plan into play.
Hesjedal is still the best-placed rider, but he is now in 108th overall, 13:38 down to Fabian Cancellara and with injuries of unknown extent. Almost every rider on the team is banged up, Danielson is out, and questions about the Armstrong-USADA case will doubtless continue.
But all may not be lost.
Before the race, Vaughters said the team’s plan would be to “sow chaos” in the race and force teams like BMC and Sky to work hard to control things. They can’t necessarily affect the overall now, but they can still ride for stage wins and other prizes.
The mountains classification in particular has barely even begun; Saxo Bank’s Michael Morkov leads with a mere nine points. Sunday’s medium-mountain stage from Belfort to Porrentruy has seven categorised climbs and could well see a breakaway go to the line.
Last year Garmin had by far its best Tour in the team’s short history; this year, it appears to be paying for that success. Bike racing can be senseless and cruel in its whim, and right now Garmin simply has to be hoping to hold on long enough for its luck to turn, and get back on course.