With the road narrowing and cyclists piling up in front of him, Lance Armstrong tumbled hard off his bike.
He was left with a broken collarbone that will need surgery and
questions about whether he'll be able to contend for an eighth Tour
de France title in July.
"I'm alive!" he wrote on his Twitter feed. "Broken clavicle
(right). Hurts like hell for now. Surgery in a couple of days.
Thanks for all the well wishes."
Armstrong will fly back to the United States after being knocked
out of the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon stage
race in Spain.
"The crash has put my upcoming calendar in jeopardy, but the
most important thing for me right now is to get back home and rest
up and begin my rehab," he said in a statement.
Armstrong is scheduled to compete in the Giro d'Italia from May
9-May 31, then the Tour de France from July 4-26.
"I think for the Giro it's a very big problem," Armstrong said
as he left Valladolid University Hospital. "For now, the biggest
problem is just the pain."
Armstrong won seven straight Tours from 1999-2005 before
retiring. He returned after 3½ years, and at 37 was hoping for
another triumphant ride through Paris.
Astana team leader Johan Bruyneel said on his Twitter feed there
were no complications in the break, and suggested Armstrong could
be riding soon.
"Clean collarbone fracture," Bruyneel said. "Should be fast
Added Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens: "We are confident he
can still race the Tour de France, of course. He will be off the
bike, but he can still do condition training."
Armstrong was tossed off his bike during a pileup 12½ miles from
the stage's finish Monday. The Texan was grimacing and trying to
hold his right arm as he entered an ambulance.
"I've never had this happen before; it's pretty painful," he
said. "I feel really miserable."
After falling off his bike, Armstrong sat in the grass beside
the road, his right shoulder slumped and his wrist resting on his
right thigh. When help arrived, he motioned toward his right
shoulder. Armstrong eventually walked to the ambulance and climbed
into the back.
Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer described the pileup on his
"Lance was involved in a huge crash as the road narrowed and
became very rough," Leipheimer wrote. "He wasn't far from the
front, as he was riding top 10 all day."
Armstrong said the crash was no one's fault.
"Toward the end of the race people started getting excited, a
bit of wind, some hills and everybody wanting to be at the front,"
he said. "A couple of guys crashed in front of me, I crossed my
wheel, then I hit them and over the top."
Armstrong was first taken to Rio Carrion hospital in Palencia,
then to the hospital in Valladolid. In his statement, Armstrong
said he had "been lucky to avoid one of the most common cycling
injuries" in his 17-year career.
"It has been a pity to lose Lance because we see him with
desire of doing a good preparation in this race," said Alberto
Contador, Armstrong's teammate and biggest rival for the role of
team leader. "Now only I can support him and wish him to recover
as soon as possible in order to take the start on the Giro."
This was Armstrong's first stage race in Europe since winning
the 2005 Tour. Armstrong started his comeback at the Tour Down
Under in Australia in January, where he finished 29th overall, 49
seconds behind winner Allan Davis of Australia. He then finished
seventh in the Tour of California in February.
On Saturday, Armstrong raced in the Milan-San Remo cycling
classic and finished 125th, 8 minutes, 19 seconds behind winner
The mainly flat first stage of the Castilla and Leon covered 109
miles from Paredes de Nava to Baltanas. It was won by Joaquin
Sobrino Martinez of Burgos Monumental in 4 hours, 31 minutes, 53
seconds after a sprint finish. He was followed by David Vitoria of
Rock Racing and Jose Joaquin Rojas of Caisse d'Epargne.