Cycling: Hushovd's spill hands the lead to Hincapie
Monday 03 July 2006
Blood bounced back on to the Tour de France agenda yesterday when overnight leader Thor Hushovd suffered a major haemorrhage in his right arm thanks to a freak accident at the end of the first stage in Strasbourg.
In the 40mph dash for the line, Hushovd, the winner of the opening prologue on Saturday, had a close encounter with - of all things - a giant green cardboard hand doled out by sponsors for the crowd to wave.
The accident bordered on the surreal, but the effects were clearly painful enough. Hushovd made it across the line in ninth place, blood already welling brightly from his arm and well out of the fight for the stage win, taken by Frenchman Jimmy Casper. The burly Norwegian fainted immediately afterwards, his blood splattering other riders nearby him as he collapsed.
"He's got a deep cut in his arm and he's lost a lot of blood." the Tour's doctor, Gerard Porte, reported. "But he should be able to continue."
Despite being the first accident of this year's Tour, it is not the first time that blood has been under discussion in the race. Nearly 200 sachets of the stuff were found by police during a massive anti-doping operation in late May, together with 500 different types of banned drug - a discovery which led slowly but inexorably to the exclusion of Tour favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso late last week.
Just as their departure overshadowed Hushovd's victory in the opening prologue, so in turn the Norwegian's grisly - but fortunately not overly serious - accident cast a pall over Casper's spectacular win.
"The Little Ghost", as Casper is nicknamed, secured the first Tour victory of his career with a brilliantly timed acceleration in the final 300 metres at Strasbourg.
"It was a strange sprint." Casper said. "I didn't realise til afterwards that riders like [Tom] Boonen [the world champion] and Robbie McEwen were blocked in. Or what had happened to poor Thor."
To add insult to his grisly injury, Hushovd had already lost his leader's jersey thanks to a crafty manoeuvre by the American George Hincapie, who took advantage of a lull in the action to seize a two-second bonus on offer in an intermediate sprint and overhaul Hushovd's 0.7sec lead. Hincapie becomes only the fourth American rider to take the yellow jersey.
Britain's David Millar, racing for the first time since his two-year ban ended in late June, finished securely in the pack in 24th place.
Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly
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