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Crashes Rule the Day at Tour

From the Associated Press

Wheels touch. Bikes and riders go down. A bone breaks. Tour de France over.

So it went for Alejandro Valverde during an accident-strewn third stage Tuesday. The Spaniard, who Lance Armstrong once said could be cycling’s next big thing, fractured his right collarbone, taking yet another favorite out of the showpiece race, which already had lost its top contenders to a doping scandal before it began.

On the road, there was a new overall leader, Tom Boonen, who donned the Tour’s yellow jersey over the rainbow-striped world champion’s shirt he already owns. Matthias Kessler of Germany won the hilly stage that covered three countries -- Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was the first stage victory in four tours for Kessler.

Boonen will wear yellow in his native Belgium in today’s fourth stage, “something that happens maybe only once every 10 years, so I think it will be special,” he said.

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He holds a one-second lead over Australian Michael Rogers, the world time trial champion. American George Hincapie is third, with previous leader Thor Hushovd of Norway slipping to fourth after he struggled on the final hill of the 134.5-mile route from Esch-sur-Alzette.

American Fred Rodriguez’s Fourth of July holiday finished in a hospital emergency unit. A pothole ended his Tour, a teammate said. Rodriguez injured his right shoulder and wrist and suffered a concussion.

Valverde will now return to Spain, where he may need surgery. He plowed into a teammate’s wheel when the pack of riders slowed sharply, hitting the deck. Grimacing in pain, he was initially cared for by the doctor who rides behind the race in a car and was then taken to a hospital.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

STAGE 3 AT A GLANCE

Tuesday: The third stage was a rolling 134.5-mile ride from Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, to Valkenburg, Netherlands.

* Winner: Germany’s Matthias Kessler of T-Mobile in 4 hours 57 minutes 54 seconds. Teammate Michael Rogers of Australia was second. Italy’s Daniele Bennati of Lampre-Fondital placed third.

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* Yellow jersey: Tom Boonen, a Belgian with Quick Step-Innergetic, won the overall leader’s jersey from rival sprinter Thor Hushovd, a Norwegian with Credit Agricole.

* Quote of the Day: “Some of the guys thought he was dead.” -- Rabobank team spokesman Jacob Bergsma on rider Erik Dekker, who fell in a crash that left him with broken teeth and deep facial cuts.

*

STAGE 3 RESULTS

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1. Matthias Kessler, Germany: 4:57:54

2. Michael Rogers, Australia: 5 secs. behind

3. Daniele Bennati, Italy: same time

4. Tom Boonen, Belgium: same time

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5. Erik Zabel, Germany: same time

*

OVERALL LEADERS

1. Boonen, Belgium: 14:52:23

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2. Rogers, Australia: 1 second behind

3. George Hincapie, U.S.: 5 seconds behind

4. Thor Hushovd, Norway: 7 seconds behind

5. Paolo Savoldelli, Italy: 15 seconds behind

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