By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong crashed hard in Monday’s opening stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León and was transported by ambulance to a hospital in nearby Palencia, Spain.
Race organizers and the Astana team doctor confirmed that the seven-time Tour de France champion had broken his right collarbone after Armstrong underwent an X-ray at a hospital in the city of Valladolid.
“Lance suffered a fracture of the middle third of the right collarbone as well as some bruises on his right hip and arm,” said team doctor Pedro Celaya, who was with Armstrong at the hospital.
Armstrong left the hospital Monday evening and said he was “miserable.”
“It has never happened before, I feel very disappointed,” he told reporters as he left the hospital. “I feel miserable right now so I have to relax a few days.”
He nodded when asked if he would return to the United States, telling reporters his participation in the Giro d’Italia in May “will be very complicated.”
Armstrong’s teammate Levi Leipheimer told VeloNews he did not see the crash.
“I was in the front. It was on really narrow, bumpy roads. It was a pretty bad road, super-rough and narrow. The edges were deteriorating, with cracks and parts missing, It was worse than typical (Spanish roads).” Leipheimer said.
The pack was roaring down a narrow farm road over rough surfaces. It appeared that riders clipped wheels, sending at least a dozen skittering to the ground. Armstrong was knocked off the road and was sitting on the ground, cradling his right arm, an indication that he injured his shoulder. Initial reports indicate a likely broken clavicle, but there are no official medical reports yet. A photo from Spanish TV can be seen here.
Astana teammate Tomas Vaitkus, who also went down in the pile-up, approached Armstrong, but he waved him off. Vaitkus remounted his bike and continued in the race.
The crash occurred on a narrow road as the peloton was ramping up its speed to reel in two attacking riders with about 20km to go in the 168.3km first stage from Parades de Nava to Baltanás in northern Spain.
The 37-year-old Armstrong waved to a race doctor and was helped into an ambulance. Race organizers told The Associated Press that he was being treated at the Rio Carrion hospital in Palencia.
Spaniard Joaquin Sobrino (Burgos Monumental) went on to win the stage ahead of David Vitoria (Rock Racing) and José Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne).
Armstrong returned to Europe this month and completed the 298km Milan-San Remo on Saturday, finishing 125th. The Castilla y León race was his first European stage race since winning his seventh and final Tour in 2005 — and the first time he and 2007 Tour champ Alberto Contador have raced alongside each other as Astana teammates.
“It was a shame to lose Lance,” said Contador, who has won here twice. “We could see that he wanted to use this race as part of his preparations. It was a good chance for us to work together.”
Armstrong is scheduled to race the Giro d’Italia, May 9-31. In a statement issued late Monday, he said he would return to the States to decide on surgery options and his racing calendar.
“In 17 years as a pro I have been lucky to avoid one of the most common cycling injuries. The crash has put my upcoming calendar in jeopardy but the most important thing for me right now is to get back home and rest up and begin my rehab,” said Armstrong.
Riders with broken collarbones typically return to competition between four to six weeks after the injury. —Agence France Presse contributed to this story.