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Large crash marks end of Vuelta stage

Horner breaks his hand, Vino among the injured

By Andrew Hood

2009 Vuelta, stage 4: Horner after the race end.

2009 Vuelta, stage 4: Horner after the race end.

Photo: Graham Watson

Chris Horner was among the major victims of a horrible high-speed crash Tuesday as scores of riders crashed near the end of the rainy fourth stage at the Vuelta a España.

The Astana captain hit the deck with dozens of riders in a pile-up caused by a narrow run through a rain-slickened traffic circle within the 3km-to-go banner.

The team later announced that Horner had broken his left hand and would leave the Vuelta.

“I hit my face into the concrete,” Horner said in an audio recording released by Astana. “Somebody went too fast … I thought I was in a good position but sometimes there are no good positions.”

“I’m done for the year, for sure,” he said.

The team said Horner had a hematoma on the right hip and a deep cut in his upper lip and he would return to the U.S. Wednesday morning.

Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov was bleeding on his right leg and was receiving stitches from a team doctor, telling VeloNews: “I crashed pretty hard, but I will be able to keep going.”

Alexander Vinokourov rolls to the finish line after a massive pile-up near the end of the 4th stage of the Vuelta.

Alexander Vinokourov rolls to the finish line after a massive pile-up near the end of the 4th stage of the Vuelta.

Photo: Agence France Presse

Only six riders made it past the mayhem, three riders from Columbia-HTC and three from Quick Step. Tom Boonen and Allan Davis were both caught up in the massive pileup at 2.5km to go, sending at least three dozen riders to the pavement.

It was like a war zone as bloodied and scraped up riders limped into the lobby of a Holiday Inn to shower and change clothes before boarding a flight to Spain later Tuesday evening.

Roger Hammond of Cervélo was livid, saying that a rider from Jaxobeo-Galicia caused the crash.

Several from Garmin-Slipstream went down, including Tyler Farrar, Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjdal.

“Everyone went down in a half-second,” said Farrar, who didn’t appear seriously injured. “There was nowhere to go.”

Hesjedal said it was a missed opportunity for the team.

“It’s been summer here and probably hasn’t rained for a long time. The roads were super slick once we crossed into Belgium, with a lot of dust and oil on the roads,” Hesjedal said. “It was too bad because we had Tyler set up perfectly for the sprint.”

Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) also crashed, but retained the race lead because all riders were awarded the same time.

“I hurt my head pretty bad,” Cancellara told VeloNews. “I am not so bad. I can continue in the race. It was very dangerous all day.”

Others more seriously injured included Robert Kiserlovski (Fuji-Servetto), broken clavicle; Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), serious cuts; and Gustavo Dominquez (Xacobeo-Galicia), deep cuts to right leg, need for stitches.

There were other crashes throughout the day, including Cervélo’s GC man, José Angel Gómez Marchante, and a spectacular crash by Danish talent Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank), who skidded into the back of a semi-tractor-trailer parked on the race course.

Some teams avoided serious, including Columbia-HTC, which had three riders clear at the front and the rest of its team further back to avoid the havoc.

“I was very worried about the stages in Holland, because the roads there are designed for grandmas riding their bikes at 10kph, not for a modern race,” said Columbia-HTC sport director Brian Holm. “I’m glad that no one seems seriously injured.”

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