Crashes mar a windy, nervous 5th Tour stage
CAP FREHEL, France — Britain’s Mark Cavendish avoided the crashes that littered the Tour de France on Wednesday to win Stage 5, while Alberto Contador and some other top riders were left to pick asphalt from wounds after a difficult ride on Brittany’s narrow, wind-swept roads.
Cavendish skirted the trouble and again showed that he’s one of the world’s top sprinters by leading a frenzied mass dash to the finish.
Gritting it out through pain of bruises, scrapes or broken bones, defending champion Contador and most of the other crash victims bounced back to finish the 164-kilometer (102-mile) trek from Carhaix to Cap Frehel along the rocky western French shores on the English Channel.
The top of the standings didn’t change. Thor Hushovd of Norway kept the yellow jersey for a fourth day, with a one-second lead over Cadel Evans of Australia. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg is third, four seconds back.
One who didn’t make it through was RadioShack rider Jani Brajkovic, who was briefly knocked unconscious in a crash and taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion and a collarbone fracture.
The promising 27-year-old Slovenian, who quit the race, was but one of the U.S. team’s riders to run into trouble.
“It’s a bad day for us,” said Johan Bruyneel, the RadioShack team manager, bemoaning also that Jaroslav Popovych of Ukraine badly injured his right wrist and scraped his left knee and elbow.
Bruyneel said Brajkovic was so dazed and disoriented that he couldn’t remember the crash: “He couldn’t tell us what happened, where he was and on which race.”
RadioShack’s American veteran Levi Leipheimer — a four-time top-10 finisher at the Tour — was also involved in a crash but returned to the course. French time-trial champion Christophe Kern also dropped out. (AP)