The double crashes on a fast descent in the Ardennes at the Tour de France on stage 3 left many of the riders battered, scraped and bruised on the worst possible day - right before they hit the cobbles of Northern France. So numerous were the injured that race organisers were forced to halt the stage to let the medics do their jobs.
There were actually two crashes, one at kilometre 105 that took down maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara (Trek). He finished the stage, but was later diagnosed with fractured vertebrae and will not continue.
Two kilometres later, Dmitrii Kozonchuk (Katusha) was in a crash with Johan Vansummeren (AG2R La Mondiale). Kozonchuk fractured his scapula in addition to his collarbone. In all, six riders abandoned the race due to injuries sustained in the two wrecks.
In addition to Cancellara and Kozonchuk, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) finished the stage but was confirmed to have broken his collarbone. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) broke his shoulder and Simon Gerrans his wrist. The worst off in the crash, however, was William Bonnet (FDJ), the first rider to fall after touching wheels.
Bonnet was thought to have simply had a concussion in addition to all-over road rash, but after careful examination he was also found to have a multi-fragmented fracture of his second cervical vertebrae - the so-called 'hangman's fracture'. The break will require surgery but is not life-threatening.
Brave soldier award goes to Ten Dam
Intial radio reports stated that LottoNL-Jumbo's Laurens ten Dam had abandoned with a dislocated shoulder, but he was later reported in the peloton. The first announcement was not erroneous, according to team director Nico Verhoeven. “His bike was already on top of the car," Verhoeven said. “We thought that he was out of the race, but he said that he didn’t want to leave the Tour and that his shoulder had to be popped back in. When we knew that the race was neutralised, he was able to return quietly. He was chatting quickly afterwards. Laurens is a tough one.”
Ten Dam added, “I said that they had to pop my shoulder back in. I have trained very hard, so I don’t want to abandon the race even before we enter France. As long as I’m in the race, it’s possible that I can recover. Tomorrow, I’m going to try it on the cobblestones. It will be painful, but afterwards, I have four days to recover. The Alps are just in two weeks and maybe everything is different at that moment.”
More crash tales
The crash happened with under 60km to go in the stage on a section of road that, while straight, was a rapid descent, with riders travelling over 80kph. "It was bound to happen - in the Tour de France on a wide road like that in the descent at 80k an hour with a bunch of guys trying to pass Saxo on the right," Astana's Tanel Kangert said.
Bonnet was sitting near the front of the peloton when, from the right, a line of riders swept past and to the left. A Giant-Alpecin rider clipped the FDJ rider's front tire as he came past, and then bikes and bodies exploded onto the verge behind.
"I don't understand where it came from," BMC's Daniel Oss said. "It was a bad situation. We were going so fast. I think the guy on my right crashed, and then the wave of the bunch comes from the right to the left, and we crash on the left. I looked for the grass to find a good place to crash."
Oss suffered contusions to his face and left arm and has a sore wrist, but finished the race. His teammate Rohan Dennis was caught up in an earlier crash but was also relatively unscathed.
Giant-Alpecin's Ramon Sinkeldam was in the crash behind with Dumoulin. His team said he was doing "relatively well" after getting stitches in his arm, but will be sore for the cobbled stage.
Former world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) reassured his fans on Twitter after being involved in the wreck with teammate Filippo Pozzato. "Thanks for worrying about me. I'm in pain in the hip and knee but it's not serious. Many thanks for your support, my friends."
AG2R's Johan Vansummeren hurt his back in a crash that happened two kilometres after the one involving Bonnet. The Belgian finished the stage with rips and burns to his jersey, and road rash on his back, hip and right knee. "The crash occurred in a long descent on the way to the Andennes," Vansummeren said. "We were riding at full gas (around 80 kph) and, at this moment, a rider crashed just in front of me. Obviously, I could not avoid him, it was a real carnage. Then, I fought hard enough to finish the stage. Tomorrow, either I will feel good, or it will be very painful. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect."
Etixx-QuickStep had two riders in the crash, including Rigoberto Urán, their GC threat. Michal Golas was also involved. "Luckily they didn't hit any objects in the road, which is always much worse," team doctor Helge Riepenhof said. "It's road rash, but road rash at high speed is painful. Michal Golas' left shoulder is hurt, but again it is just the skin and he is bruised. So he is a little sore and will suffer in the next days. But he'll be okay. As for Rigoberto Urán, he has a contusion on the lower back. It is quite sore because of the position on the bike. He puts a lot of pressure and tension in this area. The muscles are a bit torn as well. He will also suffer some, but he will be at the start tomorrow."
IAM Cycling had three riders caught up in the crash, Mathias Frank, Matthias Brändle, and Sylvain Chavanel. Martin Elmiger had been a part of the four-man breakaway earlier in the stage, and was unfortunate to be swept up before the massive tumble.
“The peloton overtook us just as we suffered that terrible crash," Elmiger said. "I did not see it firsthand, but the decision to stop the race was in my opinion justified given the number of riders who fell. But the nervousness in the bunch is such that many riders do not respect anything in the peloton.”
MTN-Qhubeka had three in the wreck, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Tyler Farrar. "It was quite nervous leading up to the point of the crash as everyone was fighting for position before the first climb of the day," Janse van Rensburg said. "There was a touch of wheels up front and all I saw was guys on the floor. We were going so fast on that downhill that there wasn’t even chance to brake and about 30-40 riders went down. I crashed on the grass so I am okay. Daniel and Tyler look a bit worse than me but they still look okay to continue."
Bora-Argon 18 had two riders go down, Jose Mendes who bruised his knee and Dominik Nerz who came out with a bruised rib. Both riders will start tomorrow. "The stage started well. Jan [Barta] again got the opportunity to go in the breakaway and he managed it very well. After his crash in the time trial the red number is a great result for Jan," director Enrico Poitschke said. "It was surprising that the race blew up already before the first mountain, so that the group was almost caught. Shortly before the climb, three positions ahead of Dominik, the massive crash happened.
"In a situation like this as a rider you have no chance to escape. After that, the team rode a great race. With injuries like Dominik had, it is a strong performance, that he has lost only so little time. To go on the cobblestone tomorrow with a rib bruise, of course, is anything but pleasant. The bad luck of the last days of course gives the riders a hard time - but we continue to fight."
Other crash victims included Nicolas Edet and Florian Senechal. "I saw the fall happen in front of me but luckily I had time to brake to slow the impact," Senechal said.