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AJACCIO, France (VN) — American Ted King saw his Tour de France debut quickly transform from lifelong dream to painful nightmare at the finish of stage 1 in Bastia on Saturday, when he hit the ground in a massive pileup 4km from the finish line.
The Cannondale rider was just one of several riders, including Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Geraint Thomas (Sky), to sustain potentially Tour-ending injuries before the race had even started in earnest.
King spent much of Saturday evening in the emergency room, having X-rays taken. When doctors told him that nothing was broken, he quickly made up his mind to continue racing. He’s covered in road rash, but the worst of the injuries is a painfully separated left shoulder.
Nevertheless, the 30-year-old New Hampshire native kitted up and started stage 2 on Sunday. Four hours later, he could be seen grimacing as he crossed the finish line in the grupetto, 17 minutes off the stage-winning time.
“As a youthful, rough-and-tumble kid, growing up playing hockey and skiing, this is not the first time I’ve separated my shoulder,” King said. “So, in that sense, it allows me to know what I’m in for. That said, I’ve never done it in cycling. And I know that it’s gonna got worse before it gets better.”
King said the injury affects nearly every movement he makes, from standing and walking to pedaling and how he handles his bike.
“Everything is painful for a while,” he said. “Pulling up on the bars hurts, riding out of the saddle for a sprint hurts. It changes up the way you are pedaling. I basically can’t pull up with my left-hand side. I know I will be asymmetrical for a while, even when I am standing. It’s gonna be a tough few days, and then I think I’ll be on the mend.”
King was selected for Cannondale’s Tour team largely for his ability to help Peter Sagan win stages; King has played a role in Sagan’s wins this year at the Amgen Tour of California, Tour de Suisse, and Brabantse Pijl. Sagan finished second on Sunday’s stage 2 in Ajaccio.
Given that his injury was sustained on the first day of his first Tour, during a time when he’s had the best fitness he’s ever known, King described the setback as “devastating.”
Asked how he was coping with his situation, he paused, then answered, “You just deal with it, one day at a time.”