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Tour de France News for July 15, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Beloki crashes out of Tour

Joseba Beloki
Photo: © AFP

Joseba Beloki's Tour de France came to a painful halt near the end of stage 9 when he crashed on the descent of the Côte De La Rochette, the final climb of the day, with around 4 km to go. The ONCE rider who was second on the general classification was immediately taken out of the race in an ambulance. He was diagnosed with a fractured upper femur, a complex fracture of the right elbow, a simple fracture of the right finger and multiple contusions to the hip.

Beloki will be operated on tonight in Gap for his elbow, before being medivac'd back to his home in Vitoria in the Basque Country to get his hip and finger evaluated. The hip will probably require an operation but it's not yet certain.

Race leader Lance Armstrong narrowly avoided the crash, which occurred when Beloki locked up and blew a tyre on the melting tarmac of the descent at 60 km/h. Armstrong was 5m behind Beloki when he lost it, and went straight ahead down the embankment, re-catching the group he was with after a short cross country diversion.

Armstrong avoids
Photo: © AFP

Afterwards, Armstrong said that it was "the scare of my life...In a moment like that, it's only a reflex of survival. When you see something happening like that the first thing you do is ask yourself 'Ok, where do I go?' I couldn't go right and I couldn't go over him, so I could only go left and into the field. Then I just kept going and got back on the road as quickly as I could. When I was riding through the field I felt like a farmer ploughing."

"I'm really sorry for Beloki," added Armstrong. "He was riding aggressively and was in the race. When he crashed we were trying to bring Vinokourov back and the time gap was going down. It was only 10 seconds and he was going flat out on the descent. You hate to see a guy go down like that while he's doing his best."

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)

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