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The Plot Thickens: Armstrong Crashes, Breaks Collarbone

An unexpected twist in the Contador-Armstrong rivalry today, as Lance Armstrong crashed out of the Vuelta a Castilla y León. The crash occured approximately 20 kilometers from the finish and involved about twenty riders. Armstrong went to Río Carrión de Palencia hospital with a possible broken collarbone. We are awaiting confirmation on that bit of news. Meanwhile, the official race website has a photo of the crash.

The immediate consequence is that the anticipated head games and road rivalry between the two riders will not take place at Castilla y Lèon.

Update: Johann Bruyneel has confirmed that Armstrong has a broken collarbone. He called the fracture a clean break and said that there did not appear to be any complications.

The usual recovery time for a collarbone break is four to six weeks, though many riders prove able to return more quickly. Typically, it is possible to begin training on the indoor trainer very soon after a crash like this. At the same time, this injury does put a wrench in the works of Armstrong's Giro d'Italia preparation. The Giro d'Italia begins on 9 May, almost exactly six weeks from now.

Astana has a deep roster, of ccourse, and an out of form Armstrong may offer the chance for American Levi Leipheimer to take over as team leader at the Giro d'Italia. With its long time trial in Cinque Terre, this year's Giro should suit the American. It remains too early to know for certain, but Leipheimer's stage racing talent makes him an obvious choice to lead the team in Italy.

The press-fueled rivalry between Armstrong and Contador will have to wait. Speculation abounded about the possibility of conflict between the two riders at this Vuelta a Castille y Leon. With Armstrong's absence, the way is clear for Contador to chase victory. No doubt his recent defeat at Paris-Nice will motivate him to win at home in Spain. Though Armstrong may not hit perfect form in time for the Giro d'Italia, plenty of time remains before July's Tour de France. No doubt, the polemica will escalate as July approaches.