Valverde, Rodriguez, Dekker all out; Horner and O'Grady also injured

Stage 3 of the Tour de France took a heavy toll on the peloton in terms of race-ending crashes. The...

Stage 3 of the Tour de France took a heavy toll on the peloton in terms of race-ending crashes. The biggest name to bow out was ProTour leader, stage win and Tour GC candidate Alejandro Valverde, who touched his teammate Oscar Pereiro's back wheel with 20 km to go and crashed, breaking his collarbone. Valverde couldn't get back on the bike and was taken away in an ambulance to Maastricht hospital, where the collarbone fracture was confirmed, as well as abrasions to his left elbow and hip. The bone was was fastened to allow him to travel to Spain - likely tomorrow - where it will be decided if an operation is necessary.

"I am really disappointed of course at being so unlucky," declared Alejandro Valverde after leaving the hospital. "Now what I hope is that I will come back as soon as possible in good shape because I am already hungry to compete again. I am sure my teammates from Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears will do great things during the Tour. I would have like to share those emotions with them, but it will be for next year!"

Another crash with 54 km to go took out Davitamon's Fred Rodriguez and Rabobank's Erik Dekker. Both abandoned the race immediately, and although Rodriguez didn't break any bones, he suffered heavy concussion. Dekker suffered concussion and serious facial injuries: abrasions, facial trauma, a contusion, a ripped upper lip, as well as a couple of broken teeth. He was kept unconscious on Tuesday night so that his face could be cleaned. Thus ended what is almost certainly his final Tour de France.

Stuart O'Grady (CSC) also crashed during the stage, and a CAT-scan in the hospital in Genk revealed a small fracture on his fourth thoracic vertebra. He will probably be able to continue the race, with a decision being made before tomorrow, depending on how much pain he is in and how much power he has to work with.

Finally, Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) had to be checked out in Herentals for a suspected broken hand. Fortunately for the American, it was not broken and he will be able to race tomorrow.

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