Crash Forces Team RadioShack Captain to Exit Tour de France 2011
Team RadioShack's Slovenian Tour de France Team Captain Jani Brajkovic suffered a race-ending injury from a serious crash in a Tour de France stage marred by more than ten crashes.
Team RadioShack's Slovenian Tour de France Team Captain Jani Brajkovic (27) suffered a race-ending injury from a serious crash in a Tour de France stage marred by more than ten crashes.
Brajkovic touched wheels with another cyclist on the left outer part of a narrow road in northern France and came down hard on the pavement because of the high speed at which the crash occurred, appearing to be momentarily knocked out.
Brajkovic was transported by ambulance to the local hospital in Guingamp where he was diagnosed with a fracture in the lateral third part of the left collarbone as well as a mild brain concussion.
"I don't remember anything of the crash," Brajkovic said while interviewed in his hospital bed.
"I remember the moment I was about to crash and then the next thing I remember was our team doctor asking me if I thought I could continue. But I wasn't aware of where I was and which race I was in. Nothing. So it was clear that I had to go to the hospital," Brajkovic continued.
"Obviously I am super disappointed with this. This is the worst case scenario for me. My entire year was focused on this Tour de France and now after five days it's all over. But on the other hand, I think I can recover pretty fast and go for the Vuelta (a Espana 2011) and get results there. But still, the Tour de France is something special and it's very hard for me and for my heart. It's very sad," Brajkovic concluded.
Team RadioShack General Manager and Sports Director Johan Bruyneel - who helped Lance Armstrong obtain all of his seven Tour de France victories - find the loss of the team captain to be very devastating for the team, but at the same time tried to emphasize the team's claim of having started the 2011 Tour de France with a total of four captains out of nine riders.
"It's too bad because we started with four guys for GC and wanted to try to keep those four guys until we reached the mountains," Bruyneel commented after the stage finish.
"At the same time, this is the Tour de France and riders were nervous all day. Levi (Leipheimer) was in a crash. (Chris) Horner had a wheel change and was in the back by himself. Then Jani crashed. Popo (Popovych) waited for him but later he crashed when he hit an ambulance. So at one point we had half of the team at the back. Now we've lost Jani, one of our protected riders, which is a shame. But that's the way it is in racing. Truthfully it could have been worse," Bruyneel concluded.
Contrary to other riders in the Team RadioShack roster, Jani Brajkovic had specifically targeted this year's Tour de France in his year-long racing program, so he clearly arrived at the Tour as the team's true team captain.
The team's other protected riders remain Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden.
Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovych crashed too. According to a team spokesman both riders suffer from a contusion of the wrist (Leipheimer left wrist, Popovych right wrist). Popovych's swollen wrist was examined in the hospital of Saint-Brieuc where no fracture was diagnosed. According to the spokesman, both riders are expected to be able to start in the 2011 Tour de France's sixth stage from Dinan to Lisieux tomorrow.
Brajkovic recently won the Slovenian time trial championships and brought good form to this year's Tour. Last year Brajkovic won the prestigious Tour de France warm-up race Critérium du Dauphiné Libere in front of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
"I know it's just words, but after yesterday's stage I knew I could do my part in this year's Tour de France," a clearly disappointed Brajkovic added from the hospital bed.
In spite of his crash and bad luck in the Tour de France, Brajkovic impressively remains optimistic about the remaining part of his 2011 season.
"The doctor says if they insert a pin in my collarbone I can ride very quickly, after just a few days, but my head needs a few more days, so I'd say I might be back on the rollers in another five days and after that go day-by-day to see how I'm feeling. I might be on the road a few days after that."