LUZ ARDIDEN, France, July 14, 2011 (AFP) – Race leader Thomas Voeckler and German Andrea Kloden were among a small group of riders who fell victim to a crash during the 12th stage of the Tour de France Thursday.
The pile-up occurred just after the chasing peloton had crested the first of three major climbs, La Hourquette d’Anzican, 141.5 km into the 211 km stage from Cugnaux to Luz Ardiden ski station.
Europcar leader Voeckler, wearing the yellow jersey, skidded before tumbling into a car parked at the side of the road after breaking to avoid crashing harder.
In his wake Kloden, who is competing in spite of suffering from a back injury sustained in a heavy crash on stage nine Sunday, came down much harder.
Former podium finisher Kloden got back on his bike to continue, apparently suffering from grazes and cuts to his right shoulder and elbow.
His RadioShack team is already reeling following the retirements of Chris Horner and Janez Brajkovic, two key riders for the crucial mountain stages.
Six minutes earlier Welshman Geraint Thomas, who was part of an early six-man breakaway, provided drama when he almost crashed twice within 500 meters.
Shortly after cresting the summit the Team Sky rider braked hard as he came around a right-hand bend and, as he headed towards the grass and a possible drop over the edge, he came off his bike.
Thomas got back on but barely 500 meters further on he rode into the grass verge again after failing to negotiate a left hand bend.
The 12th stage is the first of three consecutive days in the Pyrenees.