Levi Leipheimer, the petite, bald-headed Santa Rosa resident who until Thursday was considered a possible dark horse to win the Tour de France, dropped out Friday with a wrist fracture suffered in a crash during Wednesday's stage, according to press reports.
Though Leipheimer's Astana teammates, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, were garnering the lion's share of the Tour's media attention, Leipheimer had quietly positioned himself for a possible overall Tour win, sitting in fourth spot in the race's overall classification after 12 stages.Leipheimer, 35, crashed just a mile and a half from the previous stage's finish line. He went on to finish the stage, but woke up Friday in extreme pain. Hospital X-rays revealed a serious wrist fracture, requiring that the Bay Area hero withdraw.
The fact Leipheimer sat so close to the overall lead had led pundits to suggest the laconic Californian just might upset Armstrong's planned eighth Tour de France win. However, team boss Johan Bruyneel
said Leipheimer's absence would actually make it more
difficult for Armstrong to win, because the Texan's rivals would feel more confident in attacking, now that they don't have to worry about a dangerous counterattack from Leipheimer.
"Obviously it's disappointing and it changes a lot. He was fourth on GC and he's one of the guys that could have won the Tour," Cyclingnews.com
quoted Bruyneel as saying. "We'd wanted to keep our options open, and
this morning we lost one of those options. Strategically we are now
weaker and it is likely to motivate the other teams to attack us."Photo | Montgomery