Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) has abandoned the Tour de France with two fractured vertebrae, less than 24 hours after claiming the yellow jersey in Zeeland.
Cancellara was one of a number of riders to go down in the high-speed crash which marred stage three, and which caused the temporary neutralisation of the stage as medical support crews dealt with injured riders.
Spartacus, wearing the 29th yellow jersey of his career, was able to continue riding but appeared initially dazed and then in a lot of pain as he eventually rolled in 11’43” down on stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
But Cancellara will not start the fourth stage after x-rays revealed two fractured vertebrae – the same injury which forced him out of the spring Classics.
On that occasion he fractured his L2 and L3 verterbrae on the left side, whereas this time it is the L3 and L4 on his right side, and the Swiss superstar could not hide his disappointment after discovering the news.
“This is incredibly disappointing for me,” he said. “The team was on a high with the yellow jersey and were very motivated to defend it.
— Fabian cancellara (@f_cancellara) July 6, 2015
“We have had a lot of crashes and injuries since the start of the season, and we finally had a great 24 hours but now it’s back to bad luck. One day you win, one day you lose.
“It was very hard to come back in shape after my crash in Harelbeke and getting the confidence.
“The yellow jersey gave me a huge boost for the cobblestone stage tomorrow. I guess I have to keep the positive and look forward to the second part of the season.”
Cancellara isn’t the only rider whose race was ended by the crash, with William Bonnet (FDJ) – the first man to hit the deck, which caused a domino effect at high speed in the bunch – one of four unable to finish the stage.
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and white jersey Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who had been tipped to fight for the stage win, also abandoned, as did Dmitry Kozontchuk of Katusha.
A number of other riders suffered bad road rash, with torn jerseys on show as riders limped into the finish – Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal), Laurens ten Dam (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Johan Vansummeren (Ag2r-La Mondiale) among the worst affected.