St Flour, France: Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov was forced out of the Tour de France on Sunday after being involved in a huge crash with 90 kms to go in the ninth stage from Issoire.
The crash, which also forced Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck out of the race, prompted the peloton, led by Belgium`s Philippe Gilbert and Andy Schleck`s Leopard team, to momentarily neutralize the stage as the bunch dramatically eased the pace.
Astana team leader Vinokourov, who was taking part in his last Tour, tumbled into a ditch after a dozen riders fell on the descent from the Pas de Peyrol mountain pass and was taken back to the race ambulance with a suspected hip injury by two team mates.
The Kazakh, 37, finished third in the Tour de France in 2003 and won the Spanish Vuelta in 2006.
Also caught in the crash was Van den Broeck, fifth in the Tour last year. The Belgian pulled out a few kilometers after the crash with an injured knee and a suspected broken collarbone.
American David Zabriskie was also caught up in the crash and pulled out.
Two of his team mates, Briton David Millar and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, fell off their bikes but continued the race, Garmin-Cervelo sports director Lionel Marie told Reuters by telephone.
Last year, then overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland had a stage neutralized after team mate Schleck and scores of other riders crashed on a descent.