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Stones send riders to hospital2007-4-11 20:17Wevelgem, Belgium - Team managers and top riders were among those cursing the organisers of the Gent-Wevelgem one-day classic here on Wednesday as the treacherous cobblestones sent several riders to hospital.

 

 

 

The descent of the Kemmel climb, completed twice by the peloton, took the biggest toll and left one rider, Frenchman Jimmy Casper, in intensive care.

 

 

 

Unibet's Casper sustained head, face, and shoulder injuries when he came down hard on the downhill section some 50km from the finish.

 

 

 

He lay bloodied and prone after he came off his bike, flipped over and scraped his face across the ground and is now in hospital awaiting surgery.

 

 

 

Australians Mathew Hayman, Luke Roberts and Matt Wilson, and American Tyler Farrar also fell victim to the cobbles, which at some parts were made more slippy by water from the water bottles that had shook loose as the bikes' violently jittered over the terrain.

 

 

 

Cofidis rider Farrar is at the same hospital in Ypres as Casper. The American is believed to be suffering from a hairline fracture of the kneecap, and could be out for a month.

 

 

 

His team manager, Alain Deloeil, hit out: "It's an absolute disgrace. This part of the course is too dangerous. In past years we lost two riders at this section, and I know of plenty of others who have crashed here.

 

 

 

'Not worthy of being called a ProTour race'

 

 

 

"What has to happen before we change something?"

 

He added: "Some of the guys who ride past lose their water bottles, which open on to the cobblestones and make them even more slippy.

 

 

 

"Really, it's not worthy of being called a ProTour race."

 

 

 

Italian ace Alessandro Petacchi also fell victim on the descent, but unlike his teammates Marco Velo and Fabio Sacchi he escaped unhurt.

 

 

 

"My bike was broken and I couldn't get a spare," said Petacchi, more fearful for two of the teammates who usually form part of his sprint train.

 

 

 

Velo, who fell due to a water bottle in his path, has a suspected broken collar bone while Sacchi has a suspected thigh injury.

 

 

 

Belgium's Tom Boonen, a big favourite for Paris-Roubaix - which usually features 50km of even more treacherous cobblestones - has lost one of his teammates for Sunday's race.

 

 

 

Quick Step's Wilfried Cretskens picked up a right arm knock, and while no fracture has been diagnosed he has been ruled out of the 'Hell of the North

 

 

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