American cyclist Lance Armstrong, the only man to win the Tour de France seven times, crashed on the first stage of a five-day race in Spain on Monday and was taken to a hospital by ambulance.
Armstrong reportedly fell around 20 kilometers from the finish and was seen pointing to his collarbone, CNN’s Al Goodman reported from northern Spain. Organizers said Armstrong was taken to hospital and had withdrawn from the race. The 37-year-old Armstrong, who ended a three-year retirement to return to competitive cycling in January, walked to the ambulance unaided, television pictures from the scene showed. A group of 15 to 20 riders fell, according to Bartosz Huzarski, a cyclist racing for the Italian team ISD. Huzarski, who saw the fall, said he did not know what had caused it. Only Armstrong appeared to indicate he was hurt, the Polish cyclist said. An official with Armstrong’s team, Astana, said he did not know the extent of the cyclist’s injuries. The fall took place a on a sunny day on a stretch of two-lane highway, Goodman said, as riders tackled the 104-mile (168-km) opening stage. Armstrong’s first comeback came in 1998, two years after he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. Doctors gave him a less than 50 percent chance of survival. He has become a highly visible cancer activist at the head of his Livestrong foundation. Armstrong, whose Tour triumphs came between 1999-2005, announced in September last year that he would be returning to the saddle. He launched his comeback in January when he raced in the Tour Down Under in Australia, finishing 29th. Armstrong then played a key support role as Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer won the Tour of California title in February before finishing 125th in last Saturday’s Milan-San Remo in Italy. He was riding in this week’s Castilla and Leon race to continue his bid to reach peak form ahead of the Giro d’Italia and then a crack at an eighth Tour crown. Armstrong returned to the sport not only to attempt to become the oldest Tour winner, but also to raise awareness about cancer.
“The most important issue is taking the global epidemic of cancer really to a much bigger stage,” explained Armstrong, who previously fought a battle with testicular cancer. “The best way to do that is to race the bike all over the world. So you race in Australia, South Africa, South America, Europe, America — that is the first priority,” added the Texan.