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Andreas Kloden (RadioShack)
RadioShack down to five riders as mountains take their toll
Andreas Klöden's injuries he suffered in multiple crashes at the Tour de France forced him to abandon the race early during Friday's 13th stage. Gert Steegmans of Quick Step did not take the start after it was discovered he had a fractured scaphoid in his left hand, while Lars Boom (Rabobank) also retired after a very fast start to the stage. Russia's Vladimir Isiachev (Katusha) also climbed off.
Klöden, 36, had come into the race as one of four captains for RadioShack but the team is now down to one, Levi Leipheimer, who is currently 7:51 down in 17th place. Janez Brajkovic was forced to retire after suffering a concussion and broken collarbone in the fifth stage. Chris Horner left with a concussion and broken nose after stage eight. The US-registered ProTeam is now down to five riders, after Yaroslaw Popovych did not start the 10th stage due to a fever.
Klöden has been involved in several crashes during the first 12 stages. Most recently, he crashed on Thursday during the descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan, suffering injuries to his right elbow and shoulder. He also had back problems after an earlier crash.
Steegmans out with fracture
Gert Steegmans became the second Quick Step rider to leave the race when it was discovered on Friday morning that the Belgian had a fractured scaphoid on his left hand.
"I'm really bummed," said Steegmans before the stage. "I tried to continue, hoping that things would get better with time, that it was just a little swollen. In the first few days following the fall the swelling was too intense and an x-ray wouldn't have picked up the fracture. So I decided to continue because this race meant too much to me. I wanted to do well and my legs were great. I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to show it."
With the pain continuing, Steegmans had x-rays taken Friday morning at the General Hospital in Pau. They showed the fracture, which he suffered in a crash during the fifth stage. Steegmans will now return to Belgium on Friday and go to the Herentals Clinic over the weekend, to see if surgery is needed. "Now I have to concentrate on recovering, to try to reduce the recuperation time to as little as possible before returning to competition."
Steegmans crashed at the same time as team captain Tom Boonen, who suffered a concussion but did not abandon until two stages later.
Steegmans was only one of many who has been riding with injuries suffered in the race's many crashes to date. The grueling Pyrenees stage are expected to see other riders make the decision to leave the race.