TOMBLAINE, France – Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada is focusing on the London Olympics after a left leg and hip injury forced him out of the Tour de France.
Hesjedal, who was injured during the crash-marred sixth stage of the race, did not join his Garmin teammates at the start of Stage 7 and was flying home later Saturday. His Garmin-Sharp team said Hesjedal was not able to pedal because of the leg injuries.
Hesjedal was among at least two dozen riders caught up in a nasty crash with 16 miles to go Friday. He lost more than 13 minutes and dropped to 108th overall.
“The problem is that the swelling is to a degree that he can’t actually bend his leg, and you obviously need to bend your leg to race a bike,” Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters said.
In a statement released by his team, Hesjedal said he was disappointed to abandon the race, ruing the fact he was looking forward to reaching the mountains.
“I only took a few days off the bike after the Giro before I started training again, and I have been very focused on doing a great Tour,” Hesjedal said. “It’s a huge disappointment.”
Hesjedal will try to recover quickly in order to be ready for the London Games, where he is expected to compete with the Canadian team.
“I’ll go home, keep working with the medical staff on my recovery and refocus everything on the Olympics,” he said.
Another Garmin-Sharp rider, Robbie Hunter of South Africa, had to pull out ahead of Saturday’s stage between Tomblaine and La Planche Des Belles Filles, another blow to the American team.
Almost all of the Garmin cyclists were caught up in Friday’s pileup, the worst on this year’s race so far. Vaughters hopes his riders will be able to reach the first rest day next week without more trouble and recover from their injuries.
“Then I think we’ll have to play sort of an open and aggressive game and see how it goes,” he said. “First things first. First thing is just to get to the rest day in a survival mode.”
Garmin has had its fair share of trouble since the Tour started. On Friday, the team lost Fort Lewis College alumnus Tom Danielson, last year’s top American finisher at the tour in eighth place, while sprinter Tyler Farrar, who has crashed several times, still is looking for his first stage win.
Danielson already was nursing a separated shoulder from a crash earlier in the week. In Friday’s spill, he briefly was knocked unconscious, then later rushed to a hospital for hip, collarbone and elbow injuries. He was one of at least four riders to drop out of the race because of the crash.
“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever been in,” Garmin veteran David Millar said Friday. “God knows how it happened,” Millar said.
Also this week, Garmin was embroiled in speculation surrounding the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Lance Armstrong. A Dutch newspaper reported several former teammates of the American – including two current Garmin riders and Vaughters – had struck a deal to testify against the seven-time Tour winner. Vaughters has dismissed the report as “completely untrue.”
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.