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Belgian star Tom Boonen is interviewed before the start.
Big names bruised but not broken
Some of the sport’s biggest names were involved in finish circuit crashes on the Amgen Tour of California’s opening stage, but all escaped major injury. Former Tour de France green jersey Tom Boonen, former Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady and current US national champion George Hincapie were all caught up in the final five kilometres of chaos.
Boonen, the Belgian national champion, lost a lot of skin in the crash near the head of the peloton but early reports the big rider had broken a collarbone were false. Hincapie was near Boonen when the crash occurred.
"Tom Boonen went down and I rode over his bike," said Hincapie. "I'm disappointed because I had good legs."
Hincapie wasn’t the only rider to come across the big Belgian road block, with UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis’ Matt Crane also left with nowhere to go. “I thought I was in good shape to get around the crash and then all of the sudden, Boonen was on the ground in front of me,” Crane said. “I really couldn’t do anything to avoid him and I T-boned him.”
The accident also caught Cervelo TestTeam out, with both Dominique Rollin and Heinrich Haussler being taken down. It ruined the team’s lead out for sprinter Theo Bos, but both riders recovered to finish the stage.
“We had a little bit of bad luck in the end,” recalled Cervelo’s João Correia. “It was basically a criterium and most of us, especially the Europeans, are not used to riding a criterium at the end. It wasn't fast enough, and couple of guys from some of the North American teams, were nervous, and then the crash happened and it kind of screwed everything up."
Crane’s team-mate Andrew Pinfold had suffered a crash earlier on the three laps of the short finishing circuit. Pinfold touched wheels with team-mate Karl Menzies while setting up the squad’s lead out train and while Menzies managed to stay upright Pinfold hit the deck. Like the riders in the later crash, Pinfold escaped injury with bruising and road rash.