Lance Armstrong Breaks Collarbone in Crash

Armstrong injured during race in Spain; "Hurts like hell..." he twitters.

ByABC News
March 23, 2009, 2:51 PM

March 23, 2009— -- Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was rushed away in an ambulance with a fractured collarbone after a fall during a bike race in Spain today.

The famous cyclist was seen holding his right arm after a pileup crash 12 miles from the finish of the first stage of the five-day Vuelta of Castilla race.

"I'm alive!" Armstrong posted on his Twitter feed late Monday evening. "Broken clavicle (right). Hurts like hell for now. Surgery in a couple of days. Thanks for the well wishes."

Armstrong said he would fly back to the United States to see whether he needed surgery, according to Phillippe Maertens, a spokesman for Armstrong's Team Astana.

The accident could endanger his hopes of racing in the 2009 Tour de France, which begins July 4.

"I have been lucky to avoid one of the most common cycling injuries," Armstrong said in a statement. "The crash has put my upcoming calendar in jeopardy but the most important thing for me right now is to get back home and rest up and begin my rehab."

Although Armstrong's personal Web site said he is "officially retired," the 37-year-old cancer survivor and Tour de France champion had returned to racing with the Astana team and was said to be preparing for a run at an eighth Tour de France title. But Maertens said Armstrong could be back on the road in a month, in time for a race in Italy in May and the Tour de France in July.

"The collarbone is broken, and I have a little bit of road-rash abrasions," Armstrong said as he left Valladolid University Hospital. "I've never had this happen before; it's pretty painful. I feel really miserable."

Astana team leader Johan Bruyneel was optimistic, writing on his Twitter feed that Armstrong appeared poised to make a speedy recovery.

"Clean collarbone fracture without complications," he wrote. "Should be fast recovery."

Armstrong had already covered 97 miles of the stage and was at the front of the pack when he fell, Maertens said, adding that Armstrong knew immediately what had happened, although he had never before broken his collarbone in his 17 years as a cycling professional.

When he fell, Armstrong's first reaction to the crash was reportedly to utter the single word "sh**."

From the time he returned to racing in 1998 after his battle with testicular cancer to his retirement after the 2005 Tour de France, Armstrong was not sidelined for any significant time periods from crash-related injuries in training or competition, although he did take an occasional spill.

"Crashes are a part of what we do in training and in racing," he told Sports Illustrated in 2000. "It seems like every year, I have two big crashes. I did last year, I did this year. Like I said, it is just part of our job."

While training for the 2006 New York City Marathon Armstrong experienced some of the most taxing injuries of his athletic career.

"I'm icing my shins right now," Armstrong told USA Today in November 2006. "I've been riding the bike lately because of these nagging little injuries."

That shin splint problem was diagnosed as a stress fracture 10 days after the marathon, according to Armstrong's Web site.

"Having survived so many things, having climbed so many mountains, it seems to me that this is just another mountain for Lance Armstrong to climb," said Christine Brennan, USA Today sports columnist and ABC News consultant.