Stage six of the Tour de France was a brutal one, which left numerous teams reeling as they tried to tend to the medical problems of their riders. There were many crashes on the day, but it was a large crash with about 25km to go which did the most damage.
Movistar Team probably considered simply driving its team bus to the hospital after the stage, as all eight remaining riders in the race were involved in crashes. Alejandro Valverde suffered a serous bruise on his thigh, Vladimir Karpets was bruised on his whole left side, Ruben Plaza “had wounds all over his body”, and Rui Costa bruised his back. Ivan Gutierrez was taken to hospital with injuries to his left elbow and right knee, while Imanol Erviti had “serious wounds in his right side” which required hospital treatment.
Only Cobo and Kiryienka were “the fortunate ones, who landed on the grass” in the crash.
Movistar later reported that Erviti would not start stage 7 as he required surgery and a likely 48-hour hospital stay while Gutierrez is also questionable for starting on Saturday.
Lampre-ISD's Davide Vigano was at the heart of the late-stage crash and he was one of four riders unable to finish the stage as he was taken away in an ambulance for treatment of his injuries. Teammate Michele Scarponi crashed in the same incident but managed to finish the stage, albeit 2:09 down in a group that also contained GC hopefuls Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
Lampre's Danilo Hondo accounted for what brought Vigano and Scarponi down. "Viganò was putting [Alessandro] Petacchi's shoe covers in his jersey, when some riders ahead slowed down. Davide had only one hand on the handlebar, so he could not brake properly and he fell in the ditch on the side of the road, then all the rest of the group crashed, Scarponi too."
Lampre-ISD also reported that Matthew Lloyd and Marco Marzano crashed during the stage but didn't sustain any injuries.
Andre Greipel of Lotto Belisol proved himself to be an Ironman, when he finished second in the sprint with a suspected dislocated shoulder. He crashed twice on the stage and had to be talked into sprinting by his teammates, although he later said it was “unbelievably painful.”Two hours in the hospital showed however that he had suffered no serious injuries. With bruises on both shoulders and the right wrist, a cut on his right thumb and scrapes on his left knee, shoulder and elbow, Greipel will be at the start again Saturday.
Euskaltel-Euskadi was also hit hard. Mikel Astarloza had to leave the race with a fractured right elbow. Two riders were taken to hospital after the stage, Amets Txurruka with a suspected fractured collarbone and Gurka Verdugo with a deep gash to his leg.
Garmin-Sharp lost Tom Danielson to undisclosed injuries, whilst Johann Vansummeren went to hospital for further examinations. Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar and Christian Vande Velde were treated on the team bus for various injuries.
A number of Sky riders were caught up by the mass crash, but only Richie Porte, who actually crashed three times on the day, was injured, suffering only bumps and bruises.
Fränk Schleck was one of the biggest names involved in the crash near the end of the stage. The time loss hurt most for the RadioShack-Nissan rider, but there was some physical pain as well. “I don’t think I have anything broken. Just some pain in my shoulder, some pain in my hip and we’ll check my knee. So we’ll see. If there is nothing broken I will be there tomorrow.”
Five members of Argos-Shimano hit the tarmac en route to Metz, Tom Veelers, Albert Timmer, Matthieu Sprick, Johannes Fröhlinger and Koen de Kort, but all finished with 'only' abrasions, according to the team.
Argos-Shimano manager Rudi Kemna had a theory about the occurrence of big crashes in the Tour's first week. "Everyone wanted to be in the front, sprinters and GC riders, and they all wanted to have their teammates with them and that is just not possible," said Kemna. "GC riders don’t belong up front but they're there because they’re afraid to lose time and that is because the jury is very strict. They relentlessly ensure that riders don’t get back in the peloton behind cars. If the jury is more flexible the race would stay a lot calmer and crashes will not happen that often."
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