A massive crash on a dark and humid blind corner during the descent of a seemingly unimportant category 2 climb at about 100km from the finish of stage 9, caused a lot of damage in the Tour de France peloton. Among the victims were Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) but also podium contender Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
After receiving some treatment the Belgian rider tried to continue the race but quickly found out that wasn't possible. On the slopes of the Col du Perthus he disappointingly dropped himself on the ground while angrily shaking his head. After being brought over to the hospital Van den Broeck was diagnosed with a collapsed lung, three broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade. Before stage 9 the Belgian was 12 in the general classification at 39s from race leader Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo). In last year's Tour de France the Belgian finished fifth.
For the Belgian Omega Pharma-Lotto team the elimination of Van den Broeck brings an abrupt end to its general classification ambitions. Team manager Marc Sergeant was devastated when looking back on the incident when talking to Sporza.
"Jurgen worked for this race for months and in one second it's over. When I saw him lying on the ground he could barely breathe. For a brief moment he wasn't conscious and looked very pale," Sergeant said.
"It's unreal. We were controlling the race with our team and suddenly this happened. Everybody in our team was convinced that a podium result was possible for Jurgen. He'll be downhearted that he abandoned but he needs to be courageous," he concluded.
The Omega Pharma-Lotto team will now have to focus on defending the green jersey of Philippe Gilbert. Also during stage 9 the versatile Belgian gathered a lot of points for the green jersey competition by winning both the intermediate sprint and the sprint at the finish behind the breakaway group. Gilbert is now leading the points classification by a huge 45-points margin over Spanish sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar).
"Our team is beheaded and now has to go on with six riders because with Willems another important chain dropped out with a broken collarbone," Sergeant wrote in an official statement. "Both riders were transferred to the Aurillac hospital. Stage wins and the green jersey of Philippe Gilbert are now our major goals."
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