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Rubén Plaza to miss Tour due to crash injuries; says radio ban partly to blame

Ten days after his horrific crash at the Vuelta a Murcia, Spanish rider Rubén Plaza underwent a five-hour surgery Tuesday at a Barcelona hospital to repair a fracture of his tibula and fibula in his right leg. Ligament swelling on his ankle delayed the operation by more than a week.

Doctors expect the Spanish rider to be immobilized for at least eight weeks before he can begin the rehabilitation process. That means no Tour de France for Plaza, who finished 12th overall last year and was third in the stage to Pau in what was Lance Armstrong’s last hurrah.

“The doctors told me it was a very intense operation. In addition to correcting the fracture, the ligaments were also damaged, which resulted in a very complicated procedure,” Plaza said in a Movistar team release Wednesday. “It looks like things turned out OK and after 10-15 days of complete stop, we can start little by little to move the zone.”

Plaza crashed on the descent off the Collado Bermejo and put part of the blame for his crash on the race radio ban that’s been introduced at some of the pro races this season in Europe.

“The descent was dangerous and on a curve to the left, the wheel hit a bump and I went flying into a dump. We weren’t using ear-pieces, so nobody could advise me it was there,” Plaza said. “I saw that the race was passing by and I was screaming, but nobody heard me. As best I could, I crawled up to the edge of the road so they could see me. It was a bad moment because I could quickly see that it was something serious.”

Plaza’s crash draw strong reaction from many opposed to the UCI’s plan to phase out two-way radio at all professional races by 2012.

In the days following the crash, which also took down Movistar’s Juan Mauricio Soler and Euskaltel’s Mikel Landa, Vuelta a Murcia race director Paco Guzmán said the crashes overshadowed the high-profile victory of Contador.

“From our small ‘vuelta’ we want to make a battle cry, a call for security. I believe that the ‘pinganillo’ (ear-pieces) ought to return to all the races,” Guzmán wrote on the Spanish website biciciclismo.com. “I am sure that if the information that their rivals were close that Rubén, Mikel and Mauricio would have taken less risks and the Vuelta a Murcia would have been a complete success.”

Saxo Bank sport director Bjarne Riis also lashed out at the radio ban, citing the same crashes off the Collado Bermejo as what he says is proof that the sport is risking too much in terms of security by phasing out the two-way race communication.

“Today’s race showed just how dangerous it is to race without radios,” Riis told VeloNews at the race. “A Movistar rider crashed on the descent. He was screaming at us because he was off the road and no one saw him. I was asking the mechanic if we had a phone number for Movistar. We couldn’t stop because we had Contador on the attack. If he had a race radio, he could call for help and get taken care of.”

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