Armstrong takes tumble, is shaken up but pedals on

Defending champ, others criticize narrow finish

Tour De France

July 10, 2004|By Bonnie DeSimone | Bonnie DeSimone,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ANGERS, France - A massive crash near the finish of Stage 6 caused a big scare but few casualties yesterday in what quickly is becoming the Tour de Ambulance.

As the 122-mile Tour de France course abruptly narrowed just under the arch with the red flag that tells riders they have 1 kilometer to go, two riders, Australia's Robbie McEwen and Austria's Rene Haselbacher, tangled and ignited a huge chain reaction. The first group of riders behind the duo crashed hard, and others piled up accordion-style behind them until the last came to standing stops on their bikes.

Texan Lance Armstrong, trying for a record sixth straight Tour title, and rival Jan Ullrich were among about 30 riders who avoided the smashup, the Associated Press reported.

But in a scenario similar to last year's crash in Stage 1, several team leaders were caught up in the wreck despite being near the front of the peloton, the place conventional cycling wisdom says is the safest.

"Coming in, they have the barriers really tight, and you have 200 guys raging through there at 40 mph," Armstrong said. "I don't know what ... they're thinking. You're going to have crashes."

Armstrong had banged a hip and arm in another crash, early in the stage.

Others who went down near the finish included American Tyler Hamilton, who had a frightening flashback to a year ago this week, when he suffered a broken collarbone on the Tour's second day.

This time, he tumbled over the handlebars, scraped his back and cracked his helmet. In recorded comments on the Phonak team Web site, Hamilton called the day "frustrating,"

"I think we deserve better finishes than that," he said.

Every rider was given the same finishing time under the Tour's long-standing rule governing crashes in the final kilometer, so the standings remained the same as the previous day.

That gave riders such as Hamilton chances to collect their wits, dust themselves off and roll slowly across the finish line without worrying about the seconds ticking away. U.S. Postal's George Hincapie escorted Armstrong. Another rider held a teammate's torn shorts together for modesty's sake.

Haselbacher, who rides for the German Gerolsteiner team, fractured three ribs and broke his nose.

Belgium's Tom Boonen won his first Tour de France stage, and young French hope Thomas Voeckler retained the overall lead.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.


Sixth stage

121.79-mile leg from Bonneval to Angers

1. Tom Boonen, Belgium, Quick Step-Davitamon, 4 hours, 33 minutes, 41 seconds.

2. Stuart O'Grady, Australia, Cofidis Credit Par Telephone, same time.

3. Erik Zabel, Germany, T-Mobile Team, same time.

4. Danilo Hondo, Germany, Gerolsteiner, same time.

5. Baden Cooke, Australia,, same time.

6. Sergio Marinangeli, Italy, Domina Vacanze, same time.

7. Jerome Pineau, France, Brioches La Boulangere, same time.

8. Julian Dean, New Zealand, Credit Agricole, same time.

9. Janeck Tombak, Estonia, Cofidis Credit Par Telephone, same time.

10. Samuel Dumoulin, France, AG2R Prevoyance, same time.


16. Magnus Backstedt, Sweden, Alessio-Bianchi, same time.

26. Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile Team, same time.

33. George Hincapie, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, same time.

34. Lance Armstrong, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, same time.

45. Roberto Heras, Spain, Liberty Seguros, same time.

102. Tyler Hamilton, United States, Phonak Hearing Systems, same time.

109. Floyd Landis, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, same time.

140. Levi Leipheimer, United States, Rabobank, same time.

163. Viatceslav Ekimov, Russia, US Postal-Berry Floor, same time.

176. Bobby Julich, United States, Team CSC, same time.

Overall standings

1. Thomas Voeckler, France, Brioches La Boulangere, 24 hours, 37 minutes, 30 seconds.

2. O'Grady, 3 minutes, 1 second behind.

3. Sandy Casar, France,, 4:06 behind.

4. Backstedt, 6:06.

5. Jakob Piil, Denmark, Team CSC, 6:58.

6. Armstrong, 9:35.

7. Hincapie, 9:45.

8. Landis, 9:51.

9. Jose Azevedo, Portugal, US Postal-Berry Floor, 9:57.

10. Jose Luis Rubiera, Spain, US Postal-Berry Floor, 9:59.


12. Ekimov, 10:05.

13. Hamilton, 10:11.

15. Zabel, 10:14.

21. Ullrich, 10:30.

26. Leipheimer, 10:43.

39. Heras, 11:20.

Tour at a glance

Yesterday: A 122-mile flat, slightly downhill stretch from Bonneval to Angers.

Winner: Tom Boonen, Belgium, Quick Step-Davitamon, 4 hours, 33 minutes, 41 seconds.

How others fared: Lance Armstrong, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, same time, finished 34th. Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile Team, same time, finished 26th.

Yellow jersey: French cyclist Thomas Voeckler of Brioches La Boulangere holds on to the leader's shirt.

Today's stage: A 127.08-mile stretch from Chateaubriant to Saint-Brieuc.

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