McEwen suggests gravel to blame for 'sickening' crash
Robbie McEwen's (RadioShack) prediction prior to the start of the Tour Down Under's second stage from Tailem Bend to Mannum proved correct.
The Australian sprint veteran told Cyclingnews : "I think we're going to see a finish that's even more chaotic than yesterday."
Around a dozen riders finished the stage with injuries ranging from broken bones to gravel rash over three separate incidents. Those left suffering included: Chris Sutton, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Mark Cavendish, Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad), Cameron and Travis Meyer, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo), Bernard Sulzberger (UniSA), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), David Tanner (Saxo Bank-Sungard) , and Simon Clarke (Astana).
Team UniSA's Bernard Sulzberger became the first serious casualty of the race, taken to hospital with a broken right collarbone following a crash within 100 metres of the finish. He was taken to Royal Adelaide Hospital where he was operated on to have a plate inserted. It's been a rough few weeks for the 29-year-old who is one of the many riders caught up in the uncertainty over the future of Pegasus.
The team's manager Dave Sanders said: "No one likes to lose a rider and especially Bernie, with the situation he's in, hopefully he was going to put his hand up later in the week and chase a result - it's not good at all."
'Sickening' crash claims HTC speed men
HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish looked to be in a bad way once he eventually made it back to the team bus after the race, with blood dripping down the side of his face and his kit ripped to shreds after his involvement in the first crash around.
Shaking and struggling to swat away flies that seemed to have invaded the town of Tailem Bend, Cavendish sought refuge in the team bus and there he was properly treated by team doctor Helga Riepenhof. He was given two stitches in one of the cuts above his eye and the sprinter will be riding on.
Teammate and now sitting second overall in the general classification, Matt Goss suggested the course was only as dangerous as the riders made it.
"There was plenty of carnage I didn't even see it all I don't think," he said. "I got caught four kilometres to go and I think around the corner there was a crash and I went down but I managed to get back into the peloton before the finish."
New general classification leader Robbie McEwen told reporters that Goss actually hit Cavendish's neck once his teammate hit the deck.
"They went down after the corner - there was just so much gravel on the sides of the road and after that particular left-hander there was actually gravel in the middle of the road," he described. "Somebody hit it with a front wheel and just went arse-up, took everyone down... It looked sickening, it looked horrible."
Battle scars worth it for Team Sky
Chris Sutton was taken straight to the medical tent after he was involved in the same incident that claimed Cavendish and Goss.
Hobbling with his father Gary and with a knee tightly bandaged he described what has been coined the 'mayhem in Mannum' to Cyclingnews.
"It just all happened so quick," he recalled. "I went through on the corner and someone was underneath me and everyone ran into me."
"I was sitting behind Hendy [Greg Henderson] so there was HTC on the left and then there was us and I think it was Vansoleil were on the right of us and then Garmin as well. Around that corner it just got so hectic and people just went everywhere.
"We'd done some re-con and we knew what it was going be like that's why we were at the front to try and avoid crashes but it didn't help."
Sutton received further medical treatment once he returned to the Adelaide Hilton, including six stitches in his wounded knee. His condition with be reassessed before the start line in Unley tomorrow.
Geraint Thomas received six stitches in his left elbow after he crashed just short of the finish following his turn in the Team Sky lead-out train.
Team Sky's head coach Shane Sutton was buoyant after the race, despite the injuries to his men.
"We'll take 12 stitched for a stage win."
Question marks over state of the course
McEwen claimed loose gravel on the surface of the road leading into Mannum played a major role in today's carnage.
"In the last five to eight kilometres there was just bloody gravel everywhere," he told reporters.
Goss too suggested there was an issue with the road surface - "That was a little bit dangerous coming into the finish it [gravel] was just coming onto the road a little bit. It's hard to make sure every thing's spot on but if everyone's paying attention it's not too bad but everyone seemed a little bit crazy today."
A clearly angry race director Mike Turtur was forced to go on the defensive but he was adamant there was not a problem and the pace of finish was instead to blame.
"Let's get one thing straight, the gravel on that road that they saw, was caused by the team cars that stopped for the crash, spinning their wheels and taking off," he said.
"We can't have a billiard-table finish for every circuit, we can't have a straight run, there has to be technical aspects of the course.
"Having said that, it breaks my heart and makes my guts churn."