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Vinokourov, Klöden injured

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) finishes

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) finishes (Image credit: Sirotti)

By Brecht Decaluwé in Autun

The Astana team had a major setback on Thursday when their two GC contenders, Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden crashed in separate incidents. Andreas Klöden was the first to go down, having touched a wheel of the rider in front when the peloton slowed suddenly. He fell into a roadside ditch, but managed to rejoin the peloton with the help of his team-mate Daniele Navarro. Post-race he was taken to hospital in Autun where X-rays revealed a fracture in his tail bone, which he had already broken in 2003. He also suffered contusions on his thigh and hip.

The team had a second serious mishap when Alexandre Vinokourov crashed after his chain jumped, and had to mount a furious chase for the last 30 kilometres of the stage. He arrived with blood pouring from both knees and his shorts ripped open on the right side.

In a first reaction, Astana's general manager Marc Biver was disappointed that his two leaders went down and was hopeful that things would turn out better than feared. "We heard from [Antonio] Colom on the team radio that Vino was on the ground, and 10" later we were there while he was already back on his feet," Biver explained. "We gave him another bike and he rode on, meanwhile the others didn't wait of course," Biver smiled.

"Everybody described us as favourites for the Tour, but I always said that the race is three weeks long and that it's not good to forecast the winner," Biver told Cyclingnews. "The Tour de France is three weeks long and many things can happen. And today our two leaders crashed but tomorrow it's Friday 13 and we'll see what happens, it's another day," the Luxembourgian said.

"The injuries from Vino looked like the most serious - at least visually. Klöden has hurt his vertebra, but we'll know the medical verdict tonight. Tomorrow morning we'll know if they could sleep and recover," Biver indicated.

Klöden already had to abandon the Tour twice. In the 2003 Tour, when the team was followed by TV cameras for the outstanding documentary Höllentour ("Hell on wheels"), he suffered a fractured tailbone, while in 2005 he broke his navicular bone, lying 11th overall.

"It reminds us that we have to remain humble. If accidents decide that we can't battle for the victory then that's our destiny, there's nothing we can do about that. It's sad to lose the Tour de France like that, but life goes on," Biver tried to put everything into perspective.

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