Cavendish escapes serious injury in Tour de Suisse crash

Did I say yesterday’s stage at the Tour de Suisse should be a fairly standard finish for the sprinters? As it turned out, it was anything but, with many of the green jersey contenders for the Tour de France lucky to escape serious injury in a high-speed crash less than 50 metres from the finish in Wettingen.

It had all been looking pretty run of the mill until the final three kilometres. The sprinters’ teams were controlling the pace at the front of the main bunch, despite attempts by a handful of riders to slip away. But with 3km to go, Greg Van Avermaet of Omega Pharma-Lotto launched himself clear. The attack was nullified, but the effort required to haul Van Avermaet back in fractured the neatly ordered sprint trains.

Then, as the peloton approached the 1km flag, Astana’s Allan Davis attacked, turning the finish into a free-for-all. Aussie Mark Renshaw, the pilot fish for HTC-Columbia’s British fast-man Mark Cavendish, put in a punishing stint to deposit his leader on the wheel of Gerald Ciolek, but as Cav pulled out to pass the Milram sprinter he veered to his left across the road and collided with Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler at in excess of 60kph. Both went down instantly, with those immediately behind the incident coming down on top of them, including Quick Step‘s Tom Boonen, whose front wheel hit Cavendish’s head.

Boonen is still recovering from a knee injury he sustained in May’s Tour of California, and landed on his bad leg in the crash.

The consequences of the fall could have been worse. Fortunately I realised that riders in front of me were falling and I managed to reduce my speed significantly. But a rider hit me from behind and I ended up on the ground, hitting my left knee. The knee hurts a little but tomorrow I will be at the starting line for the stage hoping that the problem doesn’t get worse during the race.

In the ensuing chaos, Lampre’s Alessandro Petacchi claimed the stage win, and was quick to acknowledge his good fortune.

I don’t like winning this way. If Cavendish hadn’t crashed, for sure he’d have won. I was far behind, and I didn’t have any chance to win otherwise.

Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia team reported their rider had been fortunate to escape with no worse than road rash and bruising, but that he would go for precautionary some x-rays. Team doctor Helge Ripenhof said:

He has skin rash everywhere: in the right shoulder, the right hip, the right knee, and he’s very shaken but has no broken bones as far we can see.

The injury to Cav’s pride would have been greater. A win would have been a timely boost in advance of the Tour de France in a season which has been badly disrupted by complications arising from dental surgery. At the very least, he will desperately want to finish this race to put some vital climbing miles into his legs.

Ciolek also escaped with only road rash. Haussler, however, suffered a deep cut to his elbow and has withdrawn from the race, but not before venting his spleen at his rival:

I didn’t see Cavendish coming. He drove into my wheel and before I knew it, I went down and was lying on the ground. I could have won the stage.

The worst injury was suffered by Caisse d’Epargne‘s Arnaud Coyot, who has a suspected broken hip.

For his part in causing the crash by “irregular sprinting”, the race commissaires gave Cavendish time and points penalties, and fined him 200 Swiss francs. But, in the greater scheme of things, that is even less of an annoyance than a spot of road rash. Cavendish clearly lacks the swagger and form he has carried into the Tour in the past two years, and yesterday’s crash was merely symptomatic of a man desperate to re-assert his position at the top of his profession.

Despite being caught up in the tail end of the crash, Cavendish’s Columbia teammate Tony Martin continues to lead the race by one second from defending champion Fabian Cancellara as the race continues on to Frutigen today.

General Classification after Stage 4

1. Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) 14:35:37

2. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) @ 0:01 behind

3. Thomas Lövkvist (Sky) @ 0:09

4. Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne) @ 0:10

5. Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) @ 0:11

Selected others:

7. Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) @ 0:13

13. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) @ 0:19

22. Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) @ 0:30

27. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) @ 0:37


About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to Cavendish escapes serious injury in Tour de Suisse crash

  1. Pingback: Petacchi wins as crashes ignite 4th of July fireworks « The armchair sports fan

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