American Levi Leipheimer successfully defended his title in the Tour of California last week, but did so while quietly suffering from a fractured sacrum, his team announced Saturday. The "undisplaced" break in his lower spine was revealed by a MRI scan on Friday.
The break occured when Leipheimer crashed on stage three of the Tour of California, causing him to ride the rest of the event, including the stage six time trial which he won by eight seconds over David Zabriskie, in pain.
Because of his injury Leipheimer will not start in Paris-Nice. The Vuelta a Castilla y León will be his first race after his recovery period.
The news was just the start of the injury reports for Team Astana. In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tomas Vaitkus and Valeriy Dmitriyev both crashed. Vaikus was taken down in the sprint along with Katusha's Filippo Pozzato and suffered an undisplaced fracture of his right radius near the elbow.
"Gent never brings me luck, I always crash here," Vaitkus said, according to the team's web site. "This was a perfect race for Tomas," said directeur sportif Dirk Demol. "He had slipped into the right group and we knew the two [breakaway riders] would be caught. Victory would have been difficult but a top five was possible. The podium would have been fantastic."
Valeriy Dmitriyev was the victim of an earlier crash, where he hit a car. He suffered a hematoma to his left thigh and an injury to his right calf, and will not be able to start the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. He will be out for a minimum of two weeks.
Astana's Press Officer Philippe Maertens was not in good spirits after he received the news. "Maybe we will have to start Kuurne with five guys," he said. Gregory Rast did not travel to Belgium due to a thigh injury, leaving the team down three riders for the race on Sunday.