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Armstrong caught in crashes as Chavanel claims Tour de France lead

Lance Armstrong suffered cuts and abrasions after his crash on the second stage of the Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong suffered cuts and abrasions after his crash on the second stage of the Tour de France.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Crashes mar the second stage of the Tour de France, won by Sylvain Chavanel
  • Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong drops to fifth after crashing in Belgium
  • Chavanel claims yellow jersey for first time as 123-strong group of riders agree not to race
  • Frenchman has almost three-minute advantage over previous leader Fabian Cancellara

(CNN) -- Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong reflected ruefully on Monday's incident-packed second stage of the Tour de France, which saw Sylvain Chavanel claim the first yellow jersey of his career following a spate of crashes.

The Frenchman moved almost three minutes ahead of previous leader Fabian Cancellara with his victory on the 201-kilometer leg from Brussels to Spa in Belgium.

The Quick Step rider was the last remaining member of an eight-man breakaway that he led at the 10-kilometer mark, with the 123-strong peloton coming home together after refusing to race further following another day of crashes in difficult conditions.

Saxo Bank's brothers Andy and Franck Schleck both went down on the Stockeu climb -- also part of the Liege classic where Chavanel cracked his skull in April.

It was as if someone had put something on the road, it was so surreal. There was no way to stay on your bike
--Lance Armstrong
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Armstrong and titleholder Alberto Contador also lost time following spills, and the three main groups closed ranks to negotiate the slippery descents.

American Armstrong dropped one place to fifth, being 3:19 off the leader in what is the 38-year-old's final attempt at winning the race.

"It was a rough day. I've got a couple of good abrasions -- one on the hip, one on the elbow," Armstrong told the Team RadioShack website.

"Coming down the descent of the Stockeu, it was as if someone had put something on the road, it was so surreal. There was no way to stay on your bike, there were people everywhere.

"As we got back on our bikes and started to re-descend, we just kept coming across more and more crashes... motorbikes, TV cameras -- it was just bad luck."

Chavanel came home almost four minutes clear of the bunch to take a lead of two minutes and 57 seconds into Tuesday's third stage from Wanze across the border to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in France.

Prologue winner Cancellara, who negotiated the pact between the riders, will start the day in second place ahead of Columbia's young German Tony Martin and Garmin's British rider David Millar.

Spain's Contador was seventh behind Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, while Armstrong's RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer was eighth -- 3:25 behind Chavanel.

Columbia's sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, who won six stages last year and four in 2008, fell almost 10 minutes off the pace as he finished back in 148th.

Italian rider Alessandro Petacchi, who won a similarly crash-hit stage one on Sunday, was 13:37 adrift of Chavanel after finishing 157th.