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Surgery successful for Leipheimer

Levi Leipheimer crosses the finish line after being involved in a crash during the final kilometres of stage 12.

Levi Leipheimer crosses the finish line after being involved in a crash during the final kilometres of stage 12. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

The Astana team lost a valuable rider when American Levi Leipheimer had to abandon the Tour de France on Friday morning. A broken scaphoid bone in his wrist meant the Californian would spend his day having surgery rather than contesting the mountainous journey to Colmar.

Doctors in the Hôpital Jeanne d'Arc in Dommartin-lès-Toul fitted a 22mm titanium Herbert Screw in the bone before sending Leipheimer on his way. He will return to the United States while his team finishes out the race, weakened by the loss of Leipheimer, who had been placed fourth overall before a crash on Thursday's stage ended his race.

Lance Armstrong rued the loss of his teammate on Friday morning. "It is a serious blow to our team. We had a nice four-headed approach, now 25% of that is gone," said Armstrong. "Not only does it hurt us, but it helps the others in terms of morale, they will think the team has been weakened. It's unfortunate, but it's part of bike racing."

Astana will face one of its toughest tests on Sunday during the stage to Verbier. The stage ends with an 8.8-kilometre climb that could see Rinaldo Nocentini lose his overall lead. Astana is poised to take over the maillot jaune with Alberto Contador is second overall at six seconds and Armstrong is third at eight seconds.

As for the rest of his season, Leipheimer was uncertain what it would hold.

"The recovery can take a while," he said. "I'm afraid I won't be able to do big races any more this year, maybe only some US events."

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