Chad Haga blog: Losing Dumoulin and moving on
The longest week in cycling is finally drawing to a close, and it has been far more eventful than we would have liked here in the Sunweb camp. The nine stages of 'week one' have been a true rollercoaster.
Everything started well. Tom Dumoulin was off the mark on the opening time trial, but with a Grand Tour so back-loaded with brutal stages, it was widely agreed that coming in a bit fresh was the wise choice. At the very least we knew he would be in the mix with the GC favorites when the hard days arrived. The only question was whether Primoz Roglic could hang on to such superb form for three more weeks, and only time would provide that answer.
Our young team is on good form and was full of motivation in the first few road stages. We navigated them well and kept Tom out of trouble amid the chaotic sprint stages with the rain adding even more stress.
The first 228 kilometers of stage 4 went exactly to plan. It was a tough day, but we still had the whole team there and were fighting to deliver Tom into the uphill drag in a good spot. Then came a frightful reminder that months of preparation can be left on the pavement along with a fair bit of skin and blood with a simple mistake by a single person. With just six kilometers remaining, Tom was involved in the huge pile-up. Our team had gotten split up after a series of corners but were fighting to get back together when it happened. I was on the left side of the road and did what I always do when bikes and bodies start flying: throw my weight back, slam on the brakes, steer towards open space, bounce off whoever I need to, and hope I don’t get hit from behind. I almost managed it, but just before I came to a stop I was sent tumbling upside-down into the drainage ditch next to the road.
My first reaction was that the impact really hadn’t been so bad. The ditch was overgrown, and the drop of a few feet had been cushioned by the branches and roots. I was completely turtled with my feet above my head and my bike sitting atop my tangle of limbs. "Tom crashed! Tom crashed!" came through my radio, but I was in no position to do anything about it. Just as I began to wonder if anyone knew I was down there, a Bora rider’s head appeared over the edge and I pushed my bike upward toward him. Next to appear was Koen Bouwman’s hand, which graciously pulled me to my feet again.
After arriving at the bus, I learned the extent of the damage to Tom’s knee and GC standings. To my eyes, the blood made the cuts to his knee appear worse than they were, but the way he struggled to bend his knee was alarming. After confirming there was nothing broken or torn, he resolved to get through the night as well as possible and give the next stage a try. The GC was gone, but perhaps he could salvage something from all the work he’d put into the arriving in Italy in top shape. We had a team meeting that night to motivate us all to shift our mentality to stage-hunting. They were unfortunate circumstances that provided it, but the opportunity to go for our own results would not be passed up.
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com