Horner in hospital with concussion, may be forced out of Tour de France
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Friday, July 8, 2011

Horner in hospital with concussion, may be forced out of Tour de France

by Conal Andrews at 3:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
Black day for Team Radioshack means Andreas Klöden is sole overall contender left

Chris HornerChris Horner today crossed the finish line delirious after hitting his head hard in a crash some 35 kilometres from the stage finish in Châteauroux. The Team RadioShack rider was the last-placed rider on the stage and was in a severe state of confusion, asking team officials how long before the finish he had fallen and appearing not to remember much.

Horner was loaded into an ambulance to be taken to hospital for scans. At that point he was asking those present if he had crashed; his dazed state caused concern for many on the team, including general manager Johan Bruyneel.

“I can tell you what happened from the car perspective,” he told reporters after the stage. “We don’t know how the crash happened, but I just spoke with the guys and we were basically on the right side of the peloton near the front. They came out of an open area into a covered area and they all went off to the right. We had a few guys right there: Levi, Haimar, Markel and of course Chris. He was the worse. When I got there, he was lying in a ditch and was very shaken. It was obvious he’d hit very hard. He finished the stage and I think basically he’s ok physically. He has a few bruises and swelling. But we’re taking him to the hospital to have a scan.

“He doesn’t really know where he is right now or what happened. We’ll see what the results are but I fear the worst. Obviously it’s been three difficult days for us with Jani crashing out, yesterday Levi crashing and again today, and now maybe losing Chris. We’ll see what the damage is tonight and tomorrow morning and then we’ll go on.”

It has since been confirmed that he has concussion, a fractured nose and a calf hematoma.

The team has had very bad luck in the race, with Brajkovic falling two days ago. The 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné winner broke his collarbone and was dazed; he immediately retired from the race. Levi Leipheimer then crashed towards the end of yesterday’s stage, sliding along a guardrail before falling to the ground. He chased hard but lost one minute and five seconds. He also fell today and later punctured, conceding another three minutes six seconds and dropping to 50th overall, four minutes 29 back.

“There is just nothing you can do,” he said, somewhat pragmatically. “We were well-positioned but were going 75kph and everyone is nervous. It’s been a long first week. We’ve had a lot of technical, critical finishes, uphill finishes, a lot of small roads, some bad weather. I think all of that together has created the nervousness and the GC standings are still very close. Until that separates, the peloton doesn’t really calm down.”

He described how the fall happened. “At 35k to go there was a huge crash. I have no idea what caused it…nerves in the peloton, I guess. People are taking risks. Everybody wants to be in the front and there is only so much room. Today it went down like a house of cards; it was massive. I just got scraped up, but three days, three crashes. It just hasn’t been my Tour so far.”

The team went into the race with four overall contenders; now it has just one. Brajkovic has gone home, Leipheimer is four and a half minutes down and Horner is twelve minutes 59 seconds back. Klöden remains within reach of yellow, and will begin tomorrow’s stage ten second behind Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) in fifth place overall.

Unsurprisingly, the team will put its whole weight behind him now. When asked who the team would ride for, Leipheimer pledged his support. “Definitely for Klödi,” he said. “He looks strong and has ridden really well this first week. He’s great at sniffing out the safe spot in the group and he’s coming into form at the right time. So first for Klödi, then we’ll look for stage wins, we have the team GC on our minds. We’re here to fight. I’m thankful I’m still in the race. It was warfare out there.”

Klöden finished second in the 2004 and 2006 Tours. He was fourteenth last year.


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