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Nature Valley women’s stage stopped, Armstrong, Olds among the crashed

Race officials neutralized and canceled the fourth stage of the women’s Nature Valley Grand Prix on the final lap after a large crash at the start/finish line took down a number of riders. Overall leader Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) and defending champion Shelley Olds (Diadora-Pasta Zara) were among the crashed riders heading into the bell lap in the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium.

2011 Nature Valley Grand Prix, stage 4: Crash clean-up
Mechanics and officials try to sort out the bikes and bodies from the crash.
Olds was placed on a backboard by emergency medical personnel and evacuated from the scene. Armstrong was seen holding her arm in pain, but was not evacuated.

Armstrong went down hard and a number of bikes landed on her. Team manager Nicola Cranmer told VeloNews that the yellow jersey suffered an elbow injury, but no fractures.

Referee Bonnie Walker told riders that all points and times from the crit will be nullified.

“This stage essentially never happened at all,” she said.

The race that didn’t happen

Though it didn’t officially happen, nearly an hour of racing unfolded before the crash. Olds led an early break that included Lauren Tamayo (Peanut Butter & Co.), Amanda Miller (HTC-Highroad), Joelle Numaineville (Tibco-To the Top) and Leah Kirchmann (Colavita-Forno D’Asolo). Behind them Tamayo’s teammates gave chase but when the gap remained near 20 seconds with 10 laps to go, she dropped back to help in the pursuit. Two laps later, the race was all together.

The peloton reshuffled over the ensuing six laps with Armstrong’s teammates driving the pace, but unable to string the group out. With two to go Evelyn Stevens (HTC) went to the front, Armstrong on her wheel. As they headed for the bell, Armstrong and Stevens faded behind the Tibco and Colavita leadout trains.

The crash & injury updates

As the bunch approached the final, right-hand corner at Calhoun Square to begin the last lap, Olds and another rider swung wide left near the front. One rider who asked to remain unnamed said it looked as though Olds was looking for her leadout when she reached a section of the course where the barriers narrowed. According to conflicting reports from riders, the crash initiated when Olds either struck the barrier or crossed a rider’s wheel behind her.

At the same time, Tibco’s Erinne Willock attacked and strung the front of the peloton out. The pileup choked the road and fewer than 20 riders snuck through into what appeared to be the final selection. Willock’s teammate Meredith Miller made the split and said, “I was at the front and I didn’t even hear it.”

Among the riders down were Armstrong and Olds; Miller and Stevens from HTC; and Numaineville, Emma Mackie, Megan Guarnier and Joanne Kiesanowski (Tibco). The crash spanned most of the road and made a final sprint impossible.

Up ahead officials and volunteers took to the course at the penultimate corner ordering the riders left in the race to stop. The women stood aside the road for almost 10 minutes before Walker addressed them, canceling the stage.

Olds was among four riders to be backboarded and evacuated to a nearby hospital be emergency personnel. She was reportedly conscious and talking, headed for x-rays. The conditions of the other three — Hillary Billington (Danbury Audi), Robin Bauer and Laura Ralston (Kowalski’s Collegiate All-Stars) — were not known at press time.

Armstrong, whose bike was broken in the crash, suffered bruising in her ribs and an ankle, and according to team director Nicola Cranmer, “a hole in her elbow,” but was not seriously injured. Cranmer did say that the yellow jersey wearer was beginning to feel increased pain and tenderness in her ribs as the evening wore on.

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