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Points competition leader Tom Boonen did not start today's 12th stage of the Tour in Briancon because of injuries picked up yesterday when he crashed on the descent from the stage start at Courchevel. Boonen fell heavily on his right knee and said that afterwards completing "every kilometre was a victory".
The fall was Boonen's third in this Tour, but even until this morning there was still hope within his Quick Step team that he would be fit enough to start and continue his defence of the green jersey. A short session on the rollers, however, confirmed that Boonen was not up to tackling another tough stage through the Alps.
"It was impossible for him to continue with his leg in that stage," Quick Step directeur Wilfried Peeters told La Dernire Heure. "The doctor has drained quite a lot of liquid away this morning, but even that wasn't enough to allow him to start. Of course we are disappointed, but the success of our season doesn't depend on the green jersey, which we were hoping of taking up the Champs Elyses. But the problem has been that Tom has had a lot of bad luck and he didn't want to push himself further no matter what the price."
Boonen, whose lead in the points competition now goes to Thor Hushovd, had already lost team-mates Stefano Zanini and Kevin Hulsmans in the Alps. Hulsmans was eliminated yesterday when he finished just 39 seconds outside the time limit with Jens Voigt.
Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefvre said that 80cc of blood had been drained from Boonen's knee, and that the pain the sprinter was suffering made it difficult for him to go onto the podium last night to receive the green jersey. "But this drama won't make us forget the joy we experienced earlier in the race," he said in reference to Boonen's two first-week wins.
"Now we've got to play the Michael Rogers card. I think that he can slip into the top 10."
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