By John Trevorrow and Gregor Brown in Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) crossed the line at the end of stage nine of the Tour de France in Bagnes de Bigorre, dripping blood and with ripped apparel. His left shoulder hip and leg were obviously grazed, but the injuries did not appear too severe.
Evans crashed over the top of a Euskaltel rider about 105 km into the 224 km stage. "I don't know what happened," Evans said immediately after the finish. He is being treated by his team and is expected to continue racing Monday.
"Don't touch me on my left side," he yelled as the press scrum swarmed around for any snippet available. Evans was whisked straight into his personal minivan and gone before he could be interviewed. But before he left, he did pass his helmet to Australian journalist Rupert Guiness and said, "This is your interview."
The helmet explained a lot. It was badly damaged and had received a severe impact on the left side. The front left corner of the helmet was completely crushed and there was little doubt that without the helmet Cadel would be out of the race and maybe even this world.
Sports Director Roberto Damiani was quite relieved after the finish. "It was a very bad moment, but Cadel is a man of strong character so he will be ok. But what could have been a disaster, in the end was a good day."
Crashing was just what had worried Evans and his team in the earlier stages of the Tour. "This was the fear that we had in the first stages, and now we are in the mountains and it happens, it is unpredictable," said Evans' team manager, Marc Sergeant, to Cyclingnews following the stage finish.
"Apparently he touched the wheel of an Euskaltel rider," explained Sergeant. Evans' team-mate Christophe Brandt believed it was an object from a spectator. "He had some sort of bag in his front wheel and it blocked it," he said. "It was not a musette, but something from along the street."
Despite the crash, Evans finished with the group of favourites and maintains second overall, six seconds back on race leader Kim Kirchen and 38 seconds on Christian Vande Velde. However, the extent of his injuries may not be known until Monday.
"Tomorrow morning we will know for sure if it is something really serious or not. The doctor [Jan Mathieu] is already with him to the hotel. If he can survive tomorrow then he should be good." Tour de France doctor Gerard Porte, who treated him during the race, said he did not believe Evans had suffered any fractures.