Levi Leipheimer recovering after wrist surgery in France

Astana team lost their time trial and mountain climbing specialist

Astana's Levi Leipheimer broke his right wrist after a crash in the 12th stage of the Tour de France, and his team reports his successful operation July 17 in France.

According to team press officer Philippe Maertens, the doctors joined the two parts of the broken scaphoid with a 22mm titanium Herbert screw. The operation was done in the Centre SOS Main Nancy (Hôpital Jeanne d'Arc) in Dommartin-lès-Toul.  

Leipheimer will return to the United States as soon as possible to begin his recovery. Leipheimer, three-times on the podium in Grand Tours, was  disappointed to not be able to take the part in the 13th stage departing from Vittel, won by Cervelo's Heinrich Haussler.

"My wrist hurts a lot but it doesn’t compare to the pain of watching the Tour leave me behind and not be able to ride the Tour with my teammates," Leipheimer said Friday evening. "We've had a big battle so far and we’re the favourites and I wanted to be part of that.

"For sure I wasn't the biggest favourite, but it was a tactic that we could play," he added. "If  I went up the road, the others would have had to chase. A day like today would maybe have offered possibilities for me.”

About the crash he said, “The turn came upon me fast. I started to brake and slide a little bit and ran out of room and touched another wheel. I was sliding and saw the kerb coming and I put my hand out…that's where I  broke my wrist.

"The recovery can take a while," he explained. "I'm afraid I will not be able to do big races any more this year, maybe only some US events,” he replied about the remainder of his racing season.

General manager Johan Bruyneel is getting used to the reality of losing Leipheimer, who also injured his sacrum during the 2009 Tour of California. Teammates Chris Horner and Lance Armstrong have also suffered broken bones this season.

"He had a bad night, so we went to the hospital this morning where they saw the fracture," Bruyneel said. "He is out (of the race) now. For us it changes a lot. He was in fourth place. He was one of the guys who could potentially win the Tour. Strategically it will make a difference."

Teammate Alberto Contador added, "Levi was a key person in our team. The Tour is still long and despite the fact that the team did a superb job without him today, we will miss him in the coming week. I hope he will recover soon and wish him all the best."

Armstrong also commented on the loss of Leipheimer to this year’s Tour: "It's a serious blow for our team. We had a nice four-headed approach there.  Twenty-five percent of it is gone now. Not only does it hurt us, it helps the others. It turns their morale.

"They're maybe thinking that the team is weakened. It's unfortunate but it's part of bike racing."

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