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Tour de France crash decimates Garmin-Sharp team

METZ, France (AP) — The Garmin-Sharp team was decimated after a massive crash during the sixth stage of the Tour de France on Friday, with two riders being hospitalized with serious injuries and Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal out of realistic title contention.

The huge pileup split the peloton about 16 miles from the finish.

Hesjedal of Canada crossed the line with his left leg bloodied, more than 13 minutes after stage winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia.

Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters later said on Twitter that Hesjedal was hospitalized and the team was unsure whether he would be able to start Saturday's stage.

Garmin riders Tom Danielson of the United States (collarbone, hip, elbow) and Johan van Summeren of Belgium (concussion) also were evacuated to the Metz hospital.

Danielson dropped out of the race, one of at least six to do so because of the crash. He finished eighth at the 2011 Tour and had separated his shoulder earlier in this year's race.

Hesjedal was ninth overall before the stage, 18 seconds behind leader Fabian Cancellara, and had been aiming for a podium finish. He dropped to 108th place, 13 minutes, 38 seconds off the pace.

Teammate David Millar said he was worried Hesjedal would be forced to withdraw.

"I think Ryder is out," Millar said. "We'll see, but he is in a bad way."

Van Summeren reached the finish with the back of his jersey bloodied and torn and with road rash covering his buttocks.

Almost all of the Garmin riders were caught up in the pileup, the worst on this year's Tour so far.

"It was the scariest crash I've ever been in, we were doing like 70 (kph)," Millar said. "I was lucky, I think, because I was kind of in this third wave. So I started landing on guys, but then bikes were hitting me, a chain was going off."

Christian Vande Velde of the United States escaped with bruising.

"It was obviously a horrible crash, a lot of people got hurt real bad there — you never want to see that," he said.

Garmin sports director Allan Peiper said he had never seen a team struck by so much bad luck during the first week of cycling's showcase event.

"It's definitely a week to forget," he said. "Sometimes it just doesn't work, and this is it for us — we've got so many guys who are injured. We'll have to take stock tonight of who's still capable and who's not.

"It doesn't really matter what happened, they're all on the ground. It's just a difficult moment, we've really just lost our chances for just about everything in this Tour de France."

Garmin was embroiled this week in speculation surrounding the U.S Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Lance Armstrong. A Dutch newspaper reported that several former teammates of the American — including two current Garmin riders and Vaughters — had struck a deal to testify against the seven-time Tour winner.

Asked whether it could have distracted the team, Peiper said: "I'd like to think not but you never know how things affect people."

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