Bloody day of crashes injures 27; U.S. team hit hard
METZ, France — Peter Sagan of Slovakia avoided a bloody, across-the-road pileup to capture a stage for the third time at the Tour de France on Friday while Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland also steered clear of the mayhem to keep the yellow jersey.
The 129-mile ride from Epernay to Metz began in the Champagne region of France, with roadside fans holding aloft glasses of bubbly to cheer the riders.
But as the pack picked up speed to chase four breakaway riders with about 16 miles to go, at least two-dozen riders spilled across a rural road. Many were downed and dazed, looking for team staffers in a jumble of injured riders and bikes.
“It was like a trench hit by a (grenade) when I entered the crash … ,” Rabobank’s Laurens Ten Dam said on Twitter. “Lots of blood and screaming. Carnage.”
The U.S. Garmin-Sharp team bore the brunt of the crash.
Tom Danielson, who finished eighth in last year’s Tour, was already nursing a separated shoulder from a crash earlier in the week. In Friday’s spill, he was briefly knocked unconscious, and later rushed to a hospital for hip, collarbone and elbow injuries. He and teammate Johan van Summeren of Belgium (concussion) were evacuated to a hospital.
“It was the scariest crash I’ve ever been in,” Garmin veteran David Millar said. He had black marks of chain-grease all over his arm and said the riders were going at least 43 mph at the time.
“God knows how it happened,” Millar said.
Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal of Canada – winner of the Giro d’Italia in May – injured his knee and lost more than 13 minutes, all but ending his chances for a top-three finish. He had started the stage in ninth place, 18 seconds back.
Another crash slowed down the peloton with 37 miles to go.
RadioShack leader Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who was third in last year’s Tour, said he had pain in his hip, elbow and shoulder and that team tactics may need to be revised for today. Two other contenders, Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans, escaped unscathed.
A Tour medical report listed 27 riders as injured on the day – two hospitalized from the first crash, and eight from the second.