SAINT-FLOUR, France (AP) ― Spain’s Luis Leon Sanchez won the ninth stage of the Tour de France on a wild day of crashes, while France’s Thomas Voeckler finished second to take the leader’s yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd.
Among those caught in the mayhem was defending champion Alberto Contador, who overcame another crash, banging his troublesome right knee after an early spill.
Sanchez moved into second place overall, followed by Australia’s Cadel Evans.
“I’m so happy to win this stage as it was important for me and my whole team,” Sanchez said through a translator. “It was really a hard stage today. The roads were thin the whole day long.”
Veteran Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov fractured his right thigh bone and withdrew after crashing near the halfway point of the 129-mile route from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the Massif Central. He was to be taken by helicopter to La Pitie Salpetriere hospital in Paris and will undergo immediate surgery, his team said.
Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha was hit by a car late on, and took down Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland with him as he flew sideways off his saddle. Both got up and kept riding. Defending champion Alberto Contador fell early on, but the Spaniard was unharmed and rode on.
“Even before the accident a lot of cars brushed right past us,” Sanchez said. “I understand that guests want to have a close look at the race, but we need to get a message across to the organizers so that the drivers are more careful.”