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Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel)
Injured Spaniard unlikely to defend Olympic road race title
Euskaltel-Euskadi have suffered another big setback in this year’s Tour de France as Samuel Sánchez was forced to quit on stage eight with a possible broken left collarbone, dislocated shoulder and possible fractures in his left hand. The injuries, if confirmed, could seriously affect the 2008 Olympic road-race champion’s chances of racing in London. He was lying twelfth overall.
The crash took place in the 60th kilometre of racing on stage eight on a short uphill section, and initial reports say it was apparently caused by a elderly male spectator sitting at a table too far out in the road. Team-mate Jorge Azanza - who was mainly responsible for protecting Sánchez in the pack - tried to avoid the spectator, who was moving out of the way at speed, but instead ended up colliding with him, with Valverde slamming into Azanza and Sánchez crashing into the two Spaniards, and somersaulting into the tarmac. Valverde was able to continue, but Sánchez injuries were too serious for the 34-year-old to follow suit, and he abandoned in tears.
Taken by the Tour’s medical services to the nearby Montbeliard hospital, Sánchez is the fourth of Euskaltel-Euskadi’s nine riders to quit, all because of crashes. Three - Gorka Verdugo, Mikel Astarloza and Amets Txurruka - were hurt in the mass pile up on stage six, with Verdugo also abandoning today.
As team leader, the loss of Sanchez, though, will have the biggest impact - and as defending champion in the Olympic road-race, could well seriously affect the chances of his repeating that success this summer. The winner of the King of the Mountains prize last year in the Tour and sixth overall, as well as a top five finisher in 2010, Sanchez biggest victory this season came in a long-wished-for win overall in the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, his team’s biggest home race.