After more than two weeks of riding and nearly 2,191 kilometres logged, the 2019 Tour de France is done and dusted for Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) who was forced to abandon the race after feeling worse for wear following a crash with Cees Bols (Team Sunweb) with 26km to go until the Stage 16 finish in Nîmes on Tuesday.
"I’m really disappointed about leaving the Tour de France this way, but there was too much pain to continue," said Fuglsang after the stage. "Somebody crashed in front of me and there was no way to avoid it, so I crashed over my handlebar. My hand directly swallowed up and I could barely stand on my feet, I directly knew my Tour would finish here.
"I was very motivated for the final week and I was ready to battle for a higher position in the GC," continued the recently crowned two-time winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné. "That this has to be the way of missing out on this battle, is just very disappointing.
"Now all the focus will be on recovering, both physically as mentally, because the Tour was a big goal after my wins in Liége and the Dauphiné."
Astana tweeted Fuglsang sustained no fractures despite Danish media originally reporting he had suffered a broken hand, but nothing from Astana has supported that claim. The 34-year-old Dane never really looked to form following an ugly opening stage crash, despite his ninth-place standing on general classification prior to crashing out.
Fuglsang's withdrawal was the first of two blows for the Kazakh-registered WorldTour team, who also lost Luis León Sánchez due to back issues and is now down to six riders.
"I already suffer from my back problems for a week," said the four-time Tour stage winner. "Examinations on the rest day showed that I would need more rest to recover. Together with the team, I decided to do two more stages to support Jakob Fuglsang. After him crashing out today, it didn’t make sense to me and the team to continue the Tour.
"I’m sad this race has to end like this, I wish my teammates all the best for the upcoming stages, I hope they’ll fight for a stage win."
Earlier on the day, defending race winner Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) found himself sliding across the road sans bike after going down alone while making an innocuous right turn just 47km into the stage.
However, the 33-year-old Welshman quickly remounted and finished the sprint stage won by Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)—his second of the race—to remain runner-up on GC, 1 minute 35 seconds adrift of current race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
“I just took off an old scar, so there was obviously some new skin bleeding," explained Thomas. "I had one hand on the bars and the gears jumped and jammed and I got thrown off my bike around the corner.
“I knew the race wasn’t on, so it was just a case of getting back into the group—but of course it was frustrating. It was such a freak incident to be honest."