Back in the moment, however, it was a different story. I think everyone saw me cry. They were tears of anguish. I couldn’t believe my Tour de France had ended so suddenly, with such bad luck. At first I didn’t want to give up. When I crashed for the first time, the directors could see it was serious and they were asking me ‘do you want to continue? It might be better to stop ”. But I said “no, I will continue”.
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Then I had the second crash. I was going really fast in a roundabout, the surface was slippery, my wrist was so locked that I couldn’t catch the front brake, and my bike just slipped out from under me. I came back, but it was different this time. I was able to analyze the situation much more clearly. I was in a lot of pain, and the mere thought of four more hours of that pain was enough. Then there was a clear risk that the same thing would happen over and over again, so it became a fairly easy call to make, although it was still hard to accept. I had worked so hard for it, and everyone dreams of going up to Paris, so I guess that’s what went through my head when the tears fell.
However, I quickly returned. I went to the hospital for checkups and while I was there I went through everything in my head. I thought about the season and the results I got, the things I learned, and I came away happy and positive. I hope this is something that I can take heart and strengthen myself.
I want to make it clear that I don’t blame Bob Jungels for what happened. For me, yes, the move he made was a bit abrupt, but at the end of the day the crash wasn’t intentional. Luck wasn’t with me that day, and I was sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time. I looked back, then a fraction of a second later he turned around. I moved, then a fraction of a second later it moved. Either way, we didn’t surprise ourselves. He didn’t know I was by his side, but I was there. It was unintentional and in my opinion neither he nor I are to blame. It’s one of those things that can happen in a race.
Bob texted me that night, saying sorry for what happened and the movement he made. I think he spent all day thinking he knocked me down and was the reason I was out of the Tour, but he didn’t need to. I told him not to worry, that these things happen and to have a good rest from the Tour. In any case, I appreciated his message.
After I left the hospital, I returned to the hotel, packed my bags and found a theft. I had technically left the team bubble so I had dinner alone in my room, without seeing my teammates, and returned home the next day. It sounds sad but it was not a great tragedy. A runner leaving a race happens all the time, and as a professional you learn to take the emotion out of it. You have your own issues to deal with, and there’s no point in the team if you can’t ride the bike, so the only thing you can do is let them.
What was strange was emerging in the outside world. Everyone talks about bubbles, but they really are. I was far from home and with more or less the same group from La Dauphine, so for over a month. As you know, we took care of everything for us, so going back to the real world – doing your grocery store and re-familiarizing yourself with cooking – was a shock to the system. Still, I enjoyed cheering on the boys from the sofa.
I’m not sure what will come next for me. Right now, I am resting and focusing on my recovery. I can’t do much – I just have to keep my fingers crossed. I haven’t ridden a bike yet but will be doing it on the weekends, and that’s when things will get a bit clearer. The world championships are obviously on my radar but that will totally depend on the reaction of the body. If I don’t feel good I will have to say no to the national team, but if I feel good I will say yes in a moment. I am optimistic, but the body will decide in the next few days.
Beyond that, I will not go to the Vuelta. I’m still very young and even though I haven’t finished the Tour, now is not the time to do two Grand Tours in one season. I can’t wait to experience the Ardennes Classics – races in which I hope to do well in my career.
So my Tour de France blog doesn’t quite have the last chapter I envisioned, but I’m still only 23 and I have time on my side. I said at the beginning that it was a dream come true, and it is no less. One tour is over, but there will be more to come.