Break Out The Bandages… Again

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Unfortunately, the demand for bandages has been high over the first seven days of racing at the Tour de France. There has been at least one crash every day of the Tour, though many are never seen on television coverage. This year it seems there have been more falls than normal, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The subsequent injuries have already sent several riders home, and it remains to be seen if today’s dramatic crash within the final kilometer ends the Tour de France for even more men.

Lance Armstrong was involved in two crashes during Stage 6. The first one was just 16 kilometers into the stage when a few riders ahead of him hit the deck. Unable to avoid them, Lance went over the top, damaged his front wheel and removed a little skin from his knee. Benjamin Noval, the consummate domestique, gave Lance his front wheel and the US Postal Service team leader quickly rejoined the peloton.

Nearly within sight of the finish line, Lance was involved in a crash that affected the majority of the field. Fortunately, the rules of the Tour de France give anyone who crashes within the final kilometer of the stage the same finishing time as the group they were originally part of. Since the entire peloton was together when the crash occurred, just 10 meters inside the final kilometer, everyone was awarded the same finishing time and riders didn’t have to worry about losing time in the overall classification.

Details about injuries are slowly being released from the different teams, but as of a few hours after the finish, it appears Tyler Hamilton fell on his back but didn’t break anything, and Lance Armstrong just suffered a few scratches and bumps. Jan Ullrich may have avoided the crash altogether, and there hasn’t been any word on Roberto Heras yet.

Two men who were not involved in today’s crashes at all were Alessandro Petacchi and Mario Cipollini. Both Italian sprinters abandoned the Tour de France this morning due to injuries they sustained in earlier crashes. After all the hype about the anticipated head-to-head duel between these sprinting stars, neither one factored in a single stage and both are now gone before the race even reached the mountains. It’s unfortunate for them and for the fans, but it’s great news for men like Robbie McEwen, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Stuart O’Grady, Erik Zabel, and today’s stage winner, Tom Boonen. Not only will the other sprinters increase their chances of stage victories, they also won’t be overshadowed by the immense media attention Petacchi and Cipollini always receive.

As the Tour de France reaches the end of the first week, everyone is hoping the peloton will calm down and the frequency of crashes will subside. We’ve already seen Iban Mayo’s crash in Stage 3 have a major impact on the overall contenders for the yellow jersey, and no one wants to win or lose the Tour de France because of a crash. These men are true competitors and want to win the Tour with their legs, lungs, and minds—not through unfortunate incidents that injure their rivals.