By Shane Stokes in Caslano, Switzerland
CSC team leader Fränk Schleck made his big bid for the yellow jersey at the Tour de Suisse on Wednesday but rather than ending up with a race lead he seemed destined for, he wheeled across the line 2'52" behind the stage winner Marcus Fothen in 44th place.
The two had been over 30 seconds clear together until four kilometres to go and, with Schleck starting the day just 16 seconds behind Igor Anton in the general classification, things looked very promising. However the CSC rider misjudged a tight right-hand bend on the descent to the finish in Caslano, slamming into the guardrail, flipping over and falling down the other side. He was miraculously unharmed, apart from scrapes and bruises, and attributed his good fortune to something he carries with him while racing.
"It is a medal of my guardian angel, it brings me luck," he said after crossing the finish line, holding the talisman up for all to see. "It was given to me by my mother when I was born."
For anyone who watched the live coverage, the accident looked certain to have very serious consequences. Fothen said afterwards that he was convinced that the Luxembourg rider would have broken bones, but Schleck looks set to take the start of stage six with only scrapes and bruises.
"I am hurting here [points to his forearm - ed.] and my shoulders and fingers, and I think tomorrow I will be stiff," he said. "I lost the Tour de Suisse today, but the most important thing is that I think I will be all right for the Tour.
"I suppose that I went into the corner too fast," he continued. "I didn't realise that the corner turned so sharply and I was going too quick. I just hit the barriers and went over them. It is a pity because I would have got the yellow jersey today. I definitely felt good on the climb...in fact, I wish it had been a little longer.