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Armstrong's Stage 1 includes crash

Four-time champion Lance Armstrong was thrown from his bike but not seriously hurt in a crash involving about 35 riders sprinting for the finish line in the first full stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.

Alessandro Petacchi, just ahead of the pack that crashed, won the stage and blamed Tour organizers for the pileup, saying the corner where it took place, a few hundred yards from the finish, was dangerous.

"We're made to wear a helmet, but then they give us a dangerous corner so close to the finish," he said. "That's something that should not be on the route in such an important race as the Tour de France."

Tour competition director Jean-Francois Pescheux denied the course was at fault.

"If people tell me that it was dangerous, then they should stop cycling," he said.

Jose Enrique Gutierrez slipped in the turn. Other riders, including Armstrong, piled into him. Many others were blocked behind the mass of fallen riders and bikes.

Armstrong bruised his right thigh and scratched his left shoulder, his team said. He held his back as he boarded the team bus but had no visible injuries.

Two of Armstrong's teammates also went down. George Hincapie had cuts on his left knee and Vjatceslav Ekimov had scratches.

Tour doctors said five riders were taken to a hospital for X-rays, including American Tyler Hamilton. He has a broken collarbone and said he likely will pull out.

"I've dedicated my life to it this year," Hamilton said. "It's a big disappointment."

A French rider, Jimmy Casper, injured his neck.

Bradley McGee, who won the opening time trial, retained the overall lead. Armstrong was eighth, 11 seconds behind.

Armstrong completed the race on the bike of teammate Jose Luis Rubiera. Armstrong had a flat, and the wheel wouldn't turn.

"It is never good to crash, but it wasn't that bad," Armstrong said. "We all just fell over and got piled on top of. It kind of makes for a hard day, but it's good to get the first (stage) over with."

100th Tour de France

SUNDAY: Stage 1, 104 miles from Paris to Meaux.

WINNER: Alessandro Petacchi of Italy, 3 hours, 44 minutes, 33 seconds.

LANCE ARMSTRONG WATCH: 107th but doesn't lose time to Petacchi because all of the riders involved in the crash were together inside the last kilometer, when the crash occurred; overall, he is eighth, 11 seconds behind Bradley McGee.

TODAY: Stage 2, 126.48 miles from La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to Sedan.

TV: 9 a.m., Outdoor Life Network.

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