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Times wires

SPA, Belgium - Lance Armstrong bloodied his thigh in a tumble to the asphalt Monday, one of dozens of Tour de France riders ensnared in widespread nerve-racking crashes during a rainy second stage won by new race leader Sylvain Chavanel of France.

Armstrong and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain fell on a slippery descent from the mid-grade Stockeu Pass toward the end of the 125-mile run from Brussels to Spa. Both completed the stage and were okay, their teams said.

Chavanel took the yellow jersey from Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara. The Frenchman finished in 4 hours, 40 minutes, 48 seconds, winning a Tour stage for the second time in his career. Armstrong is in fifth place overall, 3:19 behind.

With so many riders downed in crashes, organizers said they briefly considered canceling the stage altogether. But under the race rules, the spills were too spread out to warrant a cancellation.

Armstrong returned to the RadioShack team bus with his leg and hip scraped, an elbow aching, his team outfit torn. Many riders suspect a mixture of motor oil and water on the roads was to blame.

"You had people everywhere. It was surreal. When I got back on my bike ... I saw crash after crash after crash," Armstrong said, noting riders lay on the ground. "It was like war."

Some riders said at least half the pack of almost 200 riders had fallen. A medical report listed 23 as at least slightly injured.

American Christian Vande Velde pulled out after breaking two ribs in a crash. And sprint specialists Tyler Farrar of the United States and Robbie McEwen of Australia were taken to a hospital for treatment.

"There was no way to stay on the bike," Armstrong said. "There was something on the road. ... I was scared. I think everybody was scared."

RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel said the elbow Armstrong hurt was not the same one the seven-time Tour champion injured during a crash in the Tour of California in May.

Bruyneel said Armstrong's teammates Andreas Kloeden and Levi Leipheimer also fell.

"Riding downhill was almost like ice skating," Bruyneel said. "Almost half of the peloton crashed (Monday)."

Fast facts

Tour de France

Monday: Sylvain Chavanel of France earned a solo win on a day that featured several high-profile riders crashing in a slippery downhill.

Lance Armstrong watch: Fifth, 3:19 back of Chavanel.

Today: Third stage is a 132.36-mile ride from Wanze, Belgium, to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, France. The stage features four cobblestone sections in the last 18.64 miles, and more crashes are expected.

TV: 8:30 a.m., Versus