Disastrous crash dashes yellow-jersey hopes for Alexander Vinokourov, Jurgen Van den Broeck

Alexander Vinokourov and Jurgen Van den Broeck crash out of the 2011 Tour de France.

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2011 Tour de France, stage 9, Alexander Vinokourov
Alexander Vinokourov shot off the road on a descent and out of the Tour. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

SAINT-FLOUR, France (VN) — Alexander Vinokourov’s final Tour de France didn’t end the way he wanted. Just a day after attacking on the road to Super-Besse, Vinokourov was among the many victims in Sunday’s carnage at the Tour de France.

Vinokourov, 37, fell into a ravine on a steep left-hander midway through the ninth stage. He collided with a steel safety guard, breaking his right femur.

Vinokourov’s cleat was still attached to his pedal when teammates scurried down the help their fallen captain. He was unable to walk, so Andriy Grivko and an Astana official helped carry him up to the road.

He was soon taken by ambulance to a hospital in Aurillac and was scheduled to be transported by helicopter to Parisian hospital la Pitie-Salpetriere to undergo surgery later Sunday.

“I never thought the Tour de France would all end so dramatically,” said Vinokourov, according to his Astana team. “It’s a huge disappointment for me. I feel so down tonight, but I’m trying to reassure myself by saying that I could have come off worse.”

The controversial Kazakh, who came back from a blood-doping ban in 2008, was hoping to win a stage in what he said would be his final Tour. He’s already hinted he might compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, perhaps opening the door to going back to the Tour for one last hurrah.

Jurgen Van den Broeck’s exit was an equally huge blow to Omega Pharma-Lotto, which was hoping to push a Belgian rider onto the winner’s podium for the first time in three decades. Van den Broeck broke his shoulder blade and was crumpled on the side of the road when he realized his Tour was over.

“We were decapitated today,” said team manager Mark Sergeant. “The entire team was riding for him and he was in the best shape of his career. In one second, a year of work is gone.

“To lose your leader with half the Tour still to come will make for a very long race. Luckily, we can suffer in our misery with the consolation of having Gilbert.”

Philippe Gilbert, who won the opening stage and the yellow jersey, said he ordered his team to work late in the stage in the outside chance that the breakaway could be reeled in and he would have a shot to win the stage.

“We are really disappointed for (Jurgen). The team rode a perfect race until now and we were protecting him every day,” Gilbert said. “It’s unfortunate when this happens, but that’s racing. The Tour continues. The big goal now for us will be the green jersey. I will keep fighting for the points all the way to Paris.”

Vinokourov and Van den Broeck are the latest GC contenders to get knocked out of the 2011 Tour with injuries. Others who have left the race early include Jani Brajkovic and Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky). Other podium contenders who are among the walking wounded include Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo).

Andreas Klöden (RadioShack), who also fell in the mass pileup, managed to finish the stage with the favorites, but was immediately transported to a local hospital for observation.

In all, seven riders abandoned Sunday’s stage and one did not start, leaving 180 riders still in the Tour going into Monday’s rest day.

Agence France Presse contributed to this report.

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