Alejandro Valverde crashes, abandons at Tour de France (video)

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Spaniard Alejandro Valverde crashed and abandoned the Tour de France early on Stage 1 in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Saturday.

Valverde, who finished third at the 2015 Tour, hit the wet pavement and slid into a metal barrier on a rainy day during his individual time trial. Valverde was one of several cyclists to crash on the flat, nine-mile stage won by Geraint Thomas.

Valverde’s Team Movistar said the 37-year-old was taken by ambulance to a hospital to assess possible fractures. He is believed to have suffered a broken knee, Movistar chief marketing officer J.P. Molinero said on NBCSN.

Valverde finished in the top 10 at the last four Tours and was to be a strong support rider for teammate Nairo Quintana, who is trying to challenge Chris Froome for the title.

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Valverde has made the podium at all three Grand Tours, with most of his success coming at the Vuelta a España, which he won in 2009.

Sunday’s Stage 2 is a mostly flat 126 miles from Duesseldorf to Liege, Belgium, that should set up well for sprinters. A fourth-category climb about 12 miles before the conclusion likely won’t prevent a mass finish.

NBC Sports Gold‘s live coverage starts at 5:55 a.m. ET. NBCSN coverage starts at 7:30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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