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Alexandre Vinokourov breaks leg

7/11/2011

SAINT-FOUR, France -- Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov ended his Tour de France career in dramatic fashion, bowing out of the race that made him both hero and villain after breaking his right thighbone in a high-speed crash during a descent in Sunday's ninth stage.

The 37-year-old Vinokourov's career could be over after previously saying this would be his last Tour.

"I never expected such a dramatic end on the Tour de France," Vinokourov said in a statement."This is a terrible disappointment to me, I am so sad tonight."

Vinokourov was one of several riders caught up in the crash on a slippery road about 63 miles into the stage between Issoire and Saint-Flour in the Massif Central.

Vinokourov fell into a wooded area and landed in a ditch to the right side of the road on a stretch where riders reach speeds of more than 43 miles per hour. He was attended to by the race doctor before several of his Astana teammates helped him back up to the road.

The 2006 Vuelta champion was then evacuated to a nearby hospital in the town of Aurillac, where he was diagnosed with a "fracture of the head of the right femur," his Astana team said.

Vinokourov was to be transported by helicopter to La Pitie Salpetriere hospital in Paris, where he underwent surgery Sunday night.

"I want to reassure me by telling me that it could have been much worse," Vinokourov said.

Vinokourov, who was third at the 2003 Tour, served a two-year doping suspension after twice testing positive for banned blood transfusions during the 2007 race.

Omega Pharma team leader Jurgen Van Den Broeck also fell in the crash and had to withdraw. Organizers said he suffered a fractured shoulder blade and broke several ribs.

Van Den Broeck, who finished fifth last year in his second appearance on the Tour, tried to get back on his bike but quickly realized he was not able to continue.

Two other cyclists -- Frederik Willems of Belgium and American time trial champion David Zabriskie of the Garmin-Cervelo team -- were forced to withdraw after being involved in the same pile-up.

Willems, from the Omega Pharma team, bowed out with a fractured collarbone after suffering a small concussion, while Zabriskie injured his wrist.

Other riders involved included RadioShack leader Andreas Kloeden and British rider David Millar from the Garmin team. Both were able to return to the race.

Kloeden injured his lower back and went to a local hospital for scans.

The Tour had already lost several main contenders during a crash-marred first week, notably Bradley Wiggins, Janez Brajkovic and Chris Horner.