TOUR DE FRANCE WATCH: Diamonds are a rider's best friends
HUY, Belgium (AP) The Latest from the third stage of the Tour de France (all times local):
Fabian Cancellara has pulled out of the Tour de France after being diagnosed with fractures in two vertebrae in his lower back.
Cancellara was among the riders caught in a spectacular crash during Monday's third stage of the race. The Swiss veteran, who started the day with the yellow jersey, managed to reach the finish line after being thrown over his handlebars. He was then transported to a local hospital where a scan revealed the extent of his injuries.
''This is incredibly disappointing for me,'' said Cancellara, who suffered a similar injury in another crash earlier this season. ''The team was on a high with the yellow jersey and we were very motivated to defend it. We have had a lot of crashes and injuries since the start of the season, and we finally had a great 24 hours but now it's back to bad luck. One day you win, one day you lose.''
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme says he took the ''exceptional decision'' to neutralize the race's third stage to guarantee riders' safety.
The stage to the Mur de Huy climb was interrupted for about 10 minutes following two consecutive crashes involving dozens of cyclists.
''This was an exceptional decision due to exceptional circumstances,'' Prudhomme said. ''All our ambulances and medical vehicles were mobilized at the back of the race because of the crashes. The riders at the front would have been without assistance if we had not stopped the peloton.''
Prudhomme said that four ambulances and two medical cars treated the injured riders on the site of the crashes, which happened with less than 60 kilometers (37 miles) to go.
The decision to stop the stage was criticized by Etixx-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere, who asked for the president of the race jury, Guy Dobbelaere, to resign.
''People can say whatever they want, what I know is that many in the peloton were worried about the injured riders' condition,'' Prudhomme said.
As he crossed the finish line with his arms raised above his head, it was impossible not to notice the big plaster on Joaquim Rodriguez's left elbow.
After crashing twice in the previous stage and picking up injuries on his knee, elbow and hip, Rodriguez mastered one of cycling's most brutal ascents to claim his second win on the Tour.
''I'm like good wine, getting better with age,'' said the 36-year-old Spanish veteran.
Nicknamed ''Purito'' - a small cigar in Spain - Rodriguez also claimed the best climber's polka-dot jersey after making his move about 350 meters from the line.
''I will maybe indulge myself with a cigar tonight although it might be better to wait until Paris,'' he said. ''I'm aiming for a podium finish.''
When Rodriguez attacked, Tony Gallopin managed to hang on in his wheel. That was before Froome counterattacked to finish second and take the yellow jersey, two years after winning the race.
''The Mur de Huy (climb) is something special to me,'' Rodriguez said. ''I already won here and finished on the podium of the Fleche Wallonne several times. But it was more difficult today. I wanted to forget what happened yesterday.''
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez was the strongest in the short but punishing climb of the Mur de Huy, dropping all Tour contenders to win the third stage of the Tour de France.
Rodriguez, who already triumphed at the summit of the famed climb when he won the Fleche Wallonne three years ago, launched the solo attack after Chris Froome and Alberto Contador led the pack in the final hectometers of the stage.
Rodriguez crossed the finish line ahead of Froome, who managed to gain more time on Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana. According to provisional results, Froome seized the race lead, one second ahead of Tony Martin.
After a 10-minute race interruption, riders are back on their bike.
A new start to the stage has been given at the summit of the Cote de Bohisseau, 50.5-kilometer (31.4 mile) from the finish.
The high-speed crash has forced three riders to withdraw: William Bonnet, Tom Dumoulin and Simon Gerrans.
Alain Gallopin, a sports director for Fabian Cancellara's Trek Factory Racing team, said the Swiss ''is groggy'' after hitting the ground.
TV replays showed the race leader being thrown over his handlebars and landing on the grass on the side of the road.
''It's a shame that it happened just before tomorrow's cobbles stage,'' Gallopin said.
Tour de France leader Fabian Cancellara has been involved in a massive crash about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the finish of the third stage at the Mur de Huy.
The crash, which brought down about 20 riders when Frenchman William Bonnet slid on the side of the road, forced the race to be neutralized by race director Christian Prudhomme.
Cancellara was able to get back on his bike and returned to the peloton but Bonnet pulled out of the race alongside Dutch time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin, who was also injured and received treatment in an ambulance.
With three weeks of punishing racing still ahead of him and a dislocated shoulder, Adam Hansen would not need more excuses to pull out of the Tour de France.
But, looking to complete a 12th consecutive Grand Tour, the Australian takes a different view on his case.
''It's only pain, right?'' said the 34-year-old Hansen at the start of the Tour de France third stage on Monday. ''The doctor said the worst part will be the next three or four days and then it should get better. I will try, knowing that it's going to be a long way to the finish.''
Hansen was one of the many riders who crashed during the rain-soaked and chaotic Stage 2 along the Dutch coast.
Hansen, who suffered a similar injury three weeks ago, hopes a good night of sleep and the support from his team will help him through his ordeal.
''I don't feel very good. When I'm in a fixed position it's all right. But I can't pull up on the handlebars so I can't sprint,'' he said. ''They gave me pain killers last night, I had my best sleep ever, didn't want to wake up.''
If Hansen, who has not missed a Grand Tour since riding the 2011 Vuelta, manages to reach the finish on the Champs Elysees, he will equal the record of Spanish rider Bernardo Ruiz, who rode 12 in a row between 1954 and 1958.
By claiming the race leader's jersey in a sixth different Tour de France, Fabian Cancellara not only equaled one of Belgian great Eddy Merck's feats. He also earned a nice present for his wife.
Before the start of Monday's third stage in Antwerp, a city known for its diamonds, the 34-year-old Swiss rider was offered a trophy worth 25,000 euros ($27,560) incrusted with 120 gems. A precious gift, especially when compared to the daily prize money for wearing the yellow jersey: a meager 7,000 euros ($7,700).
Competing in his last Tour, Cancellara won his 29th yellow jersey 11 years after claiming the first one in Liege.
Only Bernard Hinault has done better than Merckx and Cancellara, wearing the coveted shirt in eight Tours, from 1978 to 1986.
A time trial specialist also excelling in one-day classics, Cancellara confirmed that he won't be competing in next year's Tour, which will start at the historic Mont Saint-Michel abbey in Normandy, without an opening stage against the clock.
''I want to quit the sport with good memories,'' he said.