A mass crash three kilometres before the finish of the third stage of the Tour de Belgium took down over half of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team of race leader Philippe Gilbert. Two of its riders and at least one other did not start of Saturday' stage four.
Omega Pharma-Lotto and Gilbert had to do without Gerben Löwik and Wilfried Cretskens. Löwik suffered severe bruising to the groin area, and Cretskens a broken collarbone.
Gilbert noted that his chances of the overall victory were reduced as a result of the crash. "If I do well in the individual time trial, then I will certainly miss the support of those two on the final day," he told the Belgian news agency Belga.
He blamed the smaller teams for the mishap. "It is a recurring problem in such races. The little teams with young riders sprint for the 18th place. Then we have all the unnecessary jostling and shoving, with all the consequences. We now have half the team in the waste basket."
Landbouwkrediet was affected as well, as captain Bert De Waele suffered a fracture in his knee in the crash, and is expected to out a minimum of five weeks. His left leg was put in plaster cast and will be examined again next Friday.
"He can now give up his dream of becoming Belgian champion," team spokesman Ivan Elegeert told Belga.
De Waele also suffered a sprained ankle and deep cut on his right knee, which had to be stitched.
His teammates David Boucher and Geert Verheyen were others involved in the crash. Boucher got a pedal in the ribs and Verheyen had scrape wounds on his thigh and back, but both will start again today.