Jai Hindley says a crash at the Tour de France has not only cost him his place on the podium but also left him with real “pain in the a–e” after a dramatic day featuring another spectacular duel between the two race leaders.
The Australian contender’s 10 days in the top-three are over after Hindley got caught up in a mass early crash that left him floored and then having to ride with a painful backside for the rest of the gruelling 14th stage.
He paid for his suffering, cracking later on the final Col de Joux Plane, while Spain’s Carlos Rodriguez not only won the stage but leapfrogged over Hindley into third place by just one second.
The man from Perth had been in the top-three since his brilliant fifth-stage win had briefly given him the race lead, before Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar turned the Tour into a two-horse race.
The pair were at it again on a thrilling 152-kilometre stage 14 from Annemasse, with Pogacar beating Vingegaard in the sprint for second place behind Rodriguez, but actually losing another second in the general classification standings after the Danish leader picked up a crucial bonus in an earlier mountain sprint.
But while Vingegaard holds a 10-second lead over Pogacar, it’s all beginning to look more difficult by the day for BORA-hansgrohe’s Hindley, who’s four minutes 44 seconds off the lead, while also having to chase Ineos-Grenadiers’ Rodriguez, to whom he lost 1:46 on Sunday.
Hindley eventually finished sixth on the stage, but battled courageously to limit his losses after the early mass crash which prompted a stoppage of half-an-hour in the race.
Hindley was caught up in a massive pile-up that forced five riders to abandon before another two also crashed out, and counted himself lucky that he was able to struggle on.
“I’ve no idea what happened in the crash. We were just laying down before I knew it, hopefully, the other guys are all right. I’ve got quite a bit of pain in my a–e actually, in my backside, so it wasn’t really ideal – but that’s bike racing,” he said.
“I think it’s more likely to be a muscle or something, but it’s quite sore at the moment and hopefully we’ll try to sort it out over the next few days.”
There was drama at the top of the Joux Plane, where a motorbike blocked Pogacar’s efforts to race away from Vingegaard and take the vital three bonus seconds which the Dane ended up grabbing in a burst for the line.
The Slovenian two-time champ Pogacar felt it was his own fault, shrugging: “It was one wasted bullet after already doing the big climb to do one sprint for nothing.
It’s a bit of a shame but I don’t think it will change the outcome. OK, I messed it up a little bit but it is what it is.”
Pogacar had attacked with 3.7 kilometres of the final climb remaining, initially distancing Vingegaard but never getting more than 20 metres clear.