The high speed gambles that cycling's sprinters take usually pay off in victory, but today the luck ran out for HTC-Columbia speedster Mark Cavendish and several of his closest competitors.
Cavendish was unleashing his powerful final burst to push his way past Milram's Gerald Ciolek. On his left, Heinrich Haussler was attempting the same feat. Both riders came past at the same time, then dove for the center of the road, collided and crashed causing a chain-reaction wreck that took down some of the sport's top sprinters.
Cavendish was given a 30 second time penalty for irregular sprinting. He, Ciolek and Haussler were scraped up and bruised but preliminary examinations showed no serious injuries.
Tom Boonen, who is still trying to recover from a knee injury sustained in a wreck at the Tour of California last month, was right behind the incident and landed on his bum leg just as he should be improving his form ahead of the Tour de France.
"The consequences of the fall could have been worse," said Boonen. "Fortunately I realized right off that riders in front of me were falling and I managed to reduce my speed significantly. But a rider hit me from behind and I ended up on the ground, hitting my left knee. The knee hurts a little but tomorrow I will be at the starting line for the stage hoping that the problem doesn't get worse during the race."
The worst off appears to be Arnaud Coyot (Caisse d'Epargne) who has a suspected broken hip. Two AG2R-La Mondiale riders also hit the deck hard, but their condition is unknown.