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Lance Armstrong heading to local hospital after crash outside of Visalia

Staff reports • May 20, 2010

A crash early in the race on the outskirts of Exeter left cycling icon Lance Armstrong with an inch-long gash below his left eye and a severe bruise on his left elbow.


After the crash Armstrong was evaluated by Race doctor Ramin Modabber and Team doctor Dag Van Elslande in the Team bus. They administered eight stitches below his left eye, said Team Radio Shack's spokesman, Philippe Maertens.

Armstrong was taken to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital for precautionary X-rays which were negative for broken bones,

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"It was a shame to have to abandon early and not be able to help Levi to another victory," Armstrong said in a statement. "It was one of those crashes that put a bunch of us down.

"I tried to give it a go but my eye was swollen so I couldn't see properly and the pain in the elbow prevented me from holding the bars for the remainder of the stage," he added. "It was a relief to learn there were no breaks. I will take a few days to recover and be on the bike as soon as possible"

The crash, which downed three riders, unfolded within a few yards of David Blackwell,42, and his girlfriend Angela Castello,39, in front of their home just west of Exeter on the 16000 block of Avenue 288.

Castello was videotaping the race for her mother, Dulane Smith, who is an avid cycling fan but was in Visalia on jury duty.

As the group of cyclists — known as a peloton — approached at high speed, Blackwell joked that the riders would be past them before they noticed they were there.

"You can actually feel the gust of wind as they go by," Blackwell said. "And then we realized that there someone had crashed."

The pair didn't see what caused the accident but Blackwell said a car along the side of the course did force the group of cyclists together.

Castello kept videotaping as three riders fell. Blackwell said he had no idea that one of the injured riders was Lance Armstrong.

"All of the cars that were following the race suddenly had to slow down," he said. "It looked like they almost hit [the cyclist.] And the Team Radio Shack car came through blasting its horn."

Armstrong is riding for Team Radio Shack on the Tour of California.

Blackwell said riders all got to their feet as their support teams rushed to fix their equipment. Five minutes later, everyone was on their bikes and continuing with the race.

"One person had what looked like a bad scrape on his leg that went from his knee to his thigh," he said.

Blackwell, who is finishing a degree in computer animation, immediately took the video inside, compressed it and put it up online. Less than an hour later, he was being interviewed by a local television station.

Once the riders continued, Blackwell's brother Robert went to the spot where Armstrong had fallen. He found a disposable water bottle with the Team Radio Shack label.

"It might go up on Ebay," he said.

This story is developing and more information will be added as it is available.

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