The Frenchman crashed midway through the stage with EF Education-EasyPost’s James Shaw, and both riders were forced to abandon. The incident was described by Winston as a “high-speed crash on a left hand bend… as they came down a fast descent.”
Bardet was 12th on GC ahead of the stage and would have been targeting a top-10 finish and a stage win in the final week. His crash left his team with a conundrum: to let him continue or to withdraw him despite his protests.
“Romain was a little dazed,” Winston recollected. “He wanted to continue in the race, but the race doctor and myself assessed the situation and it wouldn’t have been smart to continue at that point.
“Romain is a guy who loves the Tour de France, he loves racing in France and for sure he wants to continue for as long as possible but you also have to look after the athlete and make sure that we take the smart steps in these moments.
“It’s easy to get back on the bike and see how it goes for 10km but he does have a concussion, the medical staff have confirmed that, and to continue wouldn’t have been the best thing overall and for the long-term.”
Winston admitted that he understood the significance of the decision - the team’s principle goal in the race was to target GC with Bardet - but further outlined the reasons.
“It was for sure not easy, and there were moments after that were I was thinking did I make the right choice,” he added. “He was a little bit dazed and when he stood up I didn’t feel like he was directly jumping back onto his feet as quickly as he should. Any guy who rides for our team I don’t want to risk their long term health - it’s not worth it.
“We always do our own in-house concussion checks - it’s really important to our team - and we really want to put those guys first and look after them. You can tell quite quickly when you know someone really well and you speak to them directly, you can tell if they are not OK.
“In this moment he wanted to continue but he was not looking in good shape. When we stood him up and we could feel it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right. He is really upset. He for sure is going to be devastated.”
Bardet’s parents are in the Alps and may drive him back home to his base in central France, but the team are acutely aware of the importance of the first 48 hours after concussion.
It is a subject that the sport is only just beginning to take seriously, and the Dutch team may decide that Bardet has to stay put in a hotel over the next few days before moving.
“The thing with concussion is that we have to make sure we protect the athlete now,” Winston continued. “We can’t say he’ll be racing in two weeks - you just cannot take that call. It can take time. Hopefully we see him back racing soon but you cannot put a time limit on it.
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