A sideways collision between Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) at the head of the field on stage four of the Tour de Suisse saw the Briton suffer one of the worst crashes of his career.
Although team doctors initially reported that the HTC-Columbia rider is okay despite the extraordinarily dangerous high-speed pileup, Cavendish had x-ray checkups as a precaution.
The crash happened when Germany's Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) and Cavendish were sprinting for the finish line in a dangerously narrow, twisting run-in. Cavendish was within 30 yards of the finish when he went spinning to the ground, with more than a dozen riders on top of him.
After the mass of riders had disentangled themselves, Cavendish finally made it to the team bus with both himself and his bike badly battered. The initial diagnosis was that he has severe road rash and bruises, but that - extremely luckily - nothing had been broken.
"We think he's all right but we will be doing checkups to make sure," said team sports director Valerio Piva.
"Initially it's looking as if he'll be ok, but after a crash as bad as that it takes a while for all the effects to become clear."
"It always hurts like hell, too. I've not seen many crashes like that."
The stage was won by Alessandro Petacchi but the Lampre rider was not happy to take the victory under those circumstances and said so later. Overall, Cavendish's team-mate Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia continues to lead.
"I was maybe a thousand metres away when I heard the crash," added Martin, "but the crash was at such high speed that by the time I stopped I was right up next to Cav and my bike even touched him."
"Fortunately it seems like he's not seriously injured."
"We think he's okay physically, even if mentally he's shaken up and he's very angry," added team manager Rolf Aldag.
It was the narrowest of escapes, and another rider, Frenchman Arnaud Coyot, was not so lucky. Hunched up on the ground for around 45 minutes before doctors finally moved him, the Caisse d'Epargne rider was taken to hospital with a suspected broken hip. Cavendish may even start tomorrow's stage, although the doctors will have the last word.
Cavendish was penalised 30 seconds by the race jury for irregular sprinting. Haussler has withdrawn from the race.
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage four: Schwarzenburg - Wettingen, 192.2km
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
2. Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo Bank
3. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
5. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
6. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Team Sky
7. Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
9. Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack
10. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step all same time.
Overall classification after stage four
1. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank at 1sec
3. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Team Sky at 8sec
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d'Epargne at 10sec
5. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step at 11sec
6. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team at 11sec
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 13sec
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank at 14sec
9. Nicolas Castroviejo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 15sec
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 17sec
Cavendish, Haussler and Ciolek hit the deck
Alessandro Petacchi takes the stage win
Mark Cavendish after the crash
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage three: Frank Schleck claims Suisse stage win but Martin gets lead
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage two: Haussler back on track with stage win
Tour de Suisse 2010, stage one: Cancellara blasts to TT victory
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