Battered ... Matt Lloyd of Australia has his injuires inspected after stage two. Photo: Kathryn Watt
World champion Philippe Gilbert was among a large group of riders who crashed in the second stage of the Tour Down Under on Wednesday as British rider Geraint Thomas won the stage and took the race lead.
Gilbert, after his bike gears broke, was pushed for the last seven kilometres to the finish by his teammates.
The crash saw a small group fall on the descent of the Corkscrew climb before another group of riders ploughed into them from behind as the riders turned left on a blind corner a kilometre below the summit. Also in the crash were German Jens Voigt (RadioShack), New Zealand's Jesse Sergent, and Australians Matt Lloyd (Lampre) and Bernie Sulzberger (Uni SA-Australia).
Geraint Thomas streaks away to claim the race lead in the Tour Down Under. Photo: AFP
Sulzberger suffered a dislocated finger, which he re-set himself.
Italian Giovanni Visconti went to hospital for x-rays on his ribs and Frenchman Arnaud Courteille is also in hospital with a suspected broken nose and mild concussion. Another Australian Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) tweeted that he was also seeking treatment in hospital.
A race medical report said Lloyd, Spaniard Jose Herrade, German Julian Kearn, Blel Kadri of France and former Tour winner Mikel Astarloza of Spain were treated at the finish for cuts and abrasions.
French rider Blel Kadri. Photo: Kathryn Watt
At the finish of the 116.5km stage from Mount Barker to Rostrevor the riders who fell were left bloodied, bruised, grazed and in need of medical assessment to confirm their futures in the race that finishes on Sunday.
Gilbert appeared to be okay, and more relieved that he had escaped without serious injury; although he said he would seek a medical check up.
The Belgian explained that he had very little chance of avoiding the pile-up.
"We came with my group and [a group of other riders] were laying there. I arrived just after the corner so we couldn't pass and we just hit them. It was pretty impressive because after my crash I had time to go left of the road and the group after me crashed also. It was impossible to pass them. It was on the third corner of the descent, the sharp left corner and [when they were racing] pretty fast. You didn't even see after the corner. Then there was a big crash. So you come full gas and then hit the breaks."
Gilbert then smiled as he explained the one upside from his misfortune after he realised that his rear derailleur was broken in the crash.
"My gear system was broken, so my friends [teammates] pushed me to the finish. I did the last seven kilometres easy. I didn't pedal. I just recovered a bit," Gilbert said after placing 71st on the stage at 2 minutes 49 seconds to Thomas.
Thomas captured the race lead after he attacked on the Corkscrew and outsprinted Spain's Javier Moreno (Movistar) and Belgian Ben Hermans (RadioShack) to take the stage win. Thomas leads overall by five seconds on Moreno and seven seconds on Hermans.
Race director Mike Turtur rated the two-time Olympic track champion as a dark horse for this year's Tour and Thomas has justified the rating.
The fourth member of the break, Hermans' New Zealand teammate George Bennett, was caught by a chase group at the finish and was 10th for the stage.
Defending Tour champion Simon Gerrans did not feature among the lead finishers.
Bennett attacked first as the riders approached the 2.5km Corkscrew Rd, but Thomas left him in his wake once the climb started.
Thomas looked superb as he went over the top by himself.
But Bennett, Hermans and Moreno managed to join him on the speedy 7km descent to the finish.
A breakaway group of four riders had dominated the short 116.5km stage from the Adelaide Hills town of Mt Barker.
Australians Calvin Watson (UniSA) and Will Clarke (Argos Shimano) were joined by Dane Chris Juul-Jensen (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Guillaume Bonnafond of France (Ag2r) when they went clear in the first few kilometres.
Their lead never went above two-and-a-half minutes and they were caught inside the last 20km.