MEAUX, France Lance Armstrong was hoping for an uneventful start to the Tour de France no crashes, nothing to disrupt his quest for a record-tying fifth win.
It didn't quite work out that way.
The 31-year-old Texan was thrown from his bike Sunday in a dramatic pileup involving about 35 riders sprinting for the finish of the first full stage of the Tour.
''It is never good to crash, but it wasn't that bad,'' said Armstrong, the 1999-2002 Tour winner. ''We all just fell over and got piled on top of.''
Armstrong was not seriously hurt, but his bike had a flat and the wheel wouldn't turn so he completed the race on the cycle of his U.S. Postal teammate, Jose Luis Rubiera.
U.S. rider Tyler Hamilton, a former teammate of Armstrong's now cycling for the Danish CSC team, and four others were taken to a hospital for X-rays, Tour doctors said. Hamilton, who broke his collarbone, looked doubtful to continue the Tour.
Italy's Alessandro Petacchi was just ahead of the pack that crashed and won the stage. He blamed Tour organizers for the pileup, saying the corner where the accident took place, a few hundred yards from the finish, was dangerous.
''We're made to wear a helmet, but then they give us a dangerous corner so close to the finish,'' said Petacchi, 29, who rides for Italy's Fassa Bortolo team. ''That's something that should not be on the route in such an important race as the Tour de France.''
Tour competition director, Jean-Francois Pescheux, denied the course was at fault. ''If people tell me today that it was dangerous, then they should stop cycling,'' he said.
A Spanish rider, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, went down first, slipping in the last turn before the finish in the town of Meaux, east of Paris.
Other riders piled into him. Many others were blocked behind the mass of fallen riders. Shouldering broken bikes, some walked the few hundred yards to the finish.
Armstrong bruised his right thigh and scratched his left shoulder, said a spokesman for his U.S. Postal Service team, Jogi Muller.
Hamilton, one of Armstrong's main rivals, broke his right collarbone and said he would likely pull out of the race.
''I've dedicated my life to it this year. It's a big disappointment,'' Hamilton said.
The accident highlights the pitfalls that could derail Armstrong's drive to tie Spanish great Miguel Indurain's record of five consecutive victories, from 1991-1995.
Before the race, Armstrong said his goal was to avoid trouble and save his energy for a team time trial later in the week and for punishing mountain stages, where he often leaves rivals in his wake.
''It's a dangerous week, as we all know, and you need to avoid problems and accidents,'' he said. ''We'll just stay out of trouble, try to avoid any problems.''
Those sounded like famous last words after the crash.
Two of Armstrong's teammates also went down during the crash. George Hincapie suffered cuts on his left knee, and Vjatceslav Ekimov had scratches.
The winner, Petacchi, beat out Robbie McEwen of Australia in the dash for the finish. German Erik Zabel was third. Petacchi covered the 104-mile course in 3 hours, 44 minutes and 33 seconds. McEwen and Zabel were just behind.
Australian Bradley McGee retained the yellow jersey awarded to the overall leader. McGee won the Tour's first event, an individual race against the clock over 4.03 miles in Paris on Saturday.
Armstrong is eighth overall, with 19 days of racing left. The 2,125-mile Tour finishes in Paris on July 27.
Wednesday's time trial is important because Tour favorites could fall behind if their team performs badly. They race against the clock over 43 miles, with each team member getting the overall finishing time. Armstrong said it was an opportunity to begin weeding out potential rivals.
''That day already starts to shape the race,'' he said. ''That day is more than survival, that's a day to make some selection.''
Sunday's stage started from Le Reveil Matin, a restaurant in the southeastern Paris suburb of Montgeron where the Tour started in 1903. Today, the restaurant serves French cuisine and Tex-Mex.
From there, the riders cycled south before turning east and then north to finish in Meaux, a town of 50,000 people known for its Brie cheese and mustard. This was the first time the Tour has stopped in Meaux, about 25 miles east of Paris.
The route took the riders past ripened fields of golden wheat, the lush forest of Fontainebleau and through picturesque villages. Waving fans along the route cheered the riders.
On Monday, the Tour's third day, the riders cover 126.8 miles, skirting Champagne country and the cathedral town of Reims, where French kings were crowned. They finish in Sedan, a town on the border with Belgium where German troops broke through during their invasion of France in 1940.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.