Tour de France06/07/2012 - 18:37 - Updated 06/07/2012 - 19:26
Rolland setback hard to swallow
After an almost perfect opening week, Pierre Rolland was dealt a blow on the Tour de France on Friday after a large pile-up saw him lose more than two minutes on the main favourites. It's a difficult setback that Rolland will be keen to set right in the Vosges mountains over the weekend.
Everything had been going as well as hoped since the start of the Tour in Liege last Saturday. Well supported by his team-mates and wary of the all the eventualities of a nervous opening week, Pierre Rolland had avoided all crashes and splits in the peloton to maintain a strong position in the general classification. On Thursday, Rolland had shown superb bike handling skills to avoid the sprawling Tyler Farrar and Peter Sagan in the fast run-in to Saint-Quentin.
On the eve of the race's first rendezvous with the mountains, the 2012 race was looking highly promising for last year's white jersey. Unfortunately for Rolland, his team and his supporters, a massive pile-up pulled the carpet from underneath the feet of the 25-year-old.
With 25 kilometres remaining until the finish in Metz, around 30 riders hit the deck at top speed - including Rolland, Vincent Jerome and Giovanni Bernaudeau. The crash also held up around two-thirds of the peloton, including Team Europcar's road captain Thomas Voeckler.
"It happened towards the front of the peloton on a slightly downhill stretch of road," explained directeur sportif Dominique Arnould. "They were riding at 60 km/h. Pierre was not badly placed - he just was unlucky."
Relegated to a chasing group featuring some big names such as Alejandro Valverde, Frank Schleck, Janez Brajkovic and Robert Gesink, as well as his good friend Cyril Gautier, Rolland fought tooth and nail to get back onto the main pack. The group combined well to reduce the deficit but nevertheless crossed the line in Metz two minutes and nine seconds down on stage winner, the Slovakian Peter Sagan (Liquigas).
Rolland now drops to 40th in the GC, 2:50 down on race leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack). "What worries me more than his time loss is his health. I hope he will recuperate fast from his fall and will be able to race on and build on his promising form," said Arnould. Team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau confirmed at the finish that Rolland was likely to go to hospital for an X-Ray on his elbow.
Despite pain in his back, shoulder and elbow, Rolland will hope to be patched up in time for Saturday's opening stage in the medium mountains. The 199km stage from Tomblaine finishes with the Cat.1 climb of La Planche des Belles Filles - terrain ideally suited to Rolland's usual strengths.
The only Team Europcar rider not to be affected by the crash was Italian Davide Malacarne, who was part of the day's main break. Malacarne was one of four riders who broke clear inside the opening kilometres in Epernay and were only caught within three kilometres of the finish in Metz.
Voeckler's testing Tour de France continued, the veteran Frenchman finished the stage just over six minutes down on Sagan and is now 14:17 down in the GC.