Fabian Cancellara tonight breathed a sigh of relief after CSC's team doctors gave the Tour leader the all clear after his crash inside the final three kilometres of stage two to Ghent.
CSC spokesman Brian Nygaard said that no x-rays would be necessary and that Cancellara was moving his left hand freely. When the Swiss powerhouse crossed the line with his arm held to his chest, many had feared a broken wrist or collarbone.
T-Mobile sprinter Mark Cavendish arrived on the finishing straight shortly after Cancellara, tearful and bleeding from his left knee. Cavendish was apparently among the riders sent sprawling towards the barriers after the same crash which did for Cancellara. "Mark was in there. Luckily the crash was not as bad as it looked. Mark hurt his left knee and side, but he'll be OK," T-Mobile Sporting Director Valerio Piva was quoted on his team's official web page.
CSC will welcome Cancellara's clean bill of health after what has been an eventful start to the Grande Boucle for the Danish team. After Bjarne Riis's controversial appearance at the London opening ceremony on Friday, Riis's team have been blighted by crashes ever since Stuart O'Grady's tumble in the prologue on Saturday.
Today Cancellara, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Frank Schleck all hit the tarmac. Schleck's left elbow was bleeding badly as he crossed the line, though the Luxembourger seemed grateful that this was the only legacy of his fall in Pittem after 127km. "My elbow's pretty painful. After my first crash I was pretty scared, so I stayed at the back as we came into the finish," Schleck told reporters.
One of the Tour's pre-race favourites, tonight Schleck lies 95th on general classification, 57 seconds down on his team-mate Cancellara.
Another CSC man, Jens Voigt, said the pressure on Tom Boonen to win in Flanders had a ripple effect throughout the peloton. "You could sense it and it made the race even more tense," Voigt commented. "We had to work a lot today. In fact the sprinters teams only started working right at the end. I'm OK, I avoided all the crashes today but we have three riders who crashed. Four of our riders have crashed so far in the Tour - that's almost half the team. Fortunately we still have the jersey, which is good, but we paid a high price for it."
CSC directeur sportif Alain Gallopin could also be forgiven for ruing his team's luck, but insisted that the 30-man pile-up which could, on another day, have ended Cancellara's Tour, couldn't be blamed on a dangerous course. "You get falls like that quite often, not only at the Tour," Gallopin reasoned. "I did the Giro and there were lots of falls like that. I was just saying to [fellow CSC directeur sportif] Kim Andersen that, on the Tour, there are never dangerous finishes, so we can't say it's the course's fault. Someone just happens to fall, then everything stems from there."
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