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.
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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