By Gregor Brown
Thomas Voeckler broke his collarbone in training hours after arriving in Australia today for the Tour Down Under. The team Europcar rider will travel home to France immediately and miss the race.
"A pedestrian crossed the road so a car braked very quickly," Voeckler said in a press release. "I didn't have time to brake and I bumped into the car."
Voeckler said that he "immediately understood" he broke his right collarbone. He went to the hospital, where x-rays confirmed the damage.
The 34-year-old had only been in Adelaide, where the Tour Down Under starts on Sunday, for 12 hours. He arrived in the morning and in the afternoon, went training with his Europcar team-mates.
"It's the first time in my career, my 14th year as a professional, that I hit a car in training... That's the way it is, it's a pity," Voeckler added. "When it's during a race you say to yourself it's your job and there are risks but when it's stupid like this morning. I crashed into a car, it's not the car's fault but it's a stupid crash, a really stupid crash but that happens sometimes - this time it happens to me."
Voeckler won four stages and wore the yellow jersey in two editions of the Tour de France. In 2012, after victories in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and Bagnères-de-Luchon, he took the overall mountains classification.
He also fractured the same collarbone twice before. Unlike in Adelaide, he was racing. He fell in the 2009 Paris-Nice stage race and in the Amstel Gold Race last year. He recovered in time to win a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné and start the Tour de France. He said he just had an operation to remove the metal plate supporting his collarbone earlier this month.
"It's been 12 days," he said. "It was OK but I [could] not crash on it."
Voeckler would have made his 2014 race debut in the Tour Down Under. This year, Europcar is racing for the first time since it received a first division, WorldTour licence for the 2014 season.
Team Manager Andy Flickinger said that the team will now only race with six cyclists. Voeckler travels home. In 2012, he won Brabantse Pijl, and placed fifth in Amstel Gold and fourth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He now races to recover in time for the classics and the Tour.
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