METZ, France – Peter Sagan of Slovakia avoided a bloody, across-the-road pileup to capture a stage for the third time at the Tour de France on Friday while Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland also missed the mayhem to keep the yellow jersey.
The 129-mile ride from Epernay to Metz began in the Champagne region of France, with roadside fans holding aloft glasses of bubbly to cheer the riders. But as the pack picked up speed to chase four breakaway riders with about 16 miles to go, at least two dozen riders spilled across a rural road. Many were downed and dazed, looking for team staffers in a jumble of injured riders and bikes.
"It was like a trench hit by a (grenade) when I entered the crash to give my bike to Bauke," Rabobank's Laurens Ten Dam said on Twitter, referring to teammate Bauke Mollema. "Lots of blood and screaming. Carnage."
The U.S. Garmin-Sharp team bore the brunt of the crash, with two riders being hospitalized with serious injuries and Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal out of realistic title contention.
Tom Danielson, who finished in last year's Tour in eighth place, was already nursing a separated shoulder from a crash earlier in the week. In Friday's spill, he was briefly knocked unconscious and later rushed to a hospital for hip, collarbone and elbow injuries. He was one of at least four riders to drop out of the race because of the crash.
"It was the scariest crash I've ever been in," Garmin veteran David Millar said. He had black marks of chain grease all over his arm and said the riders were going at least 43 mph at the time.
Hesjedal hurt his knee and lost more than 13 minutes. He had been 18 seconds back.
RadioShack leader Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who was third in last year's Tour, said he had pain in his hip, elbow and shoulder and that team tactics may need to change today. Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans were unscathed.