US rider Vande Velde out of Tour de France

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ALBI, France (AP)

Veteran American rider Christian Vande Velde withdrew from his last major race Friday after his second crash in three days at the Tour de France.

He tumbled early into the hilly trek of the seventh stage from Montpellier to Albi.

''It was a crash over a bridge. I was on top and underneath a lot of people,'' the 37-year-old Vande Velde said. ''I have to get home and heal up. I'm pretty beat up.''

The fact he can finally put his feet up after 15 years as a professional rider - and rest his battered body - is little consolation.

''I won't be back next year. This was my last Grand Tour. It's not a great way to go, that's for sure,'' he said outside his Garmin team bus after the stage had ended. ''You're almost relieved, in a way, to stop. But at the same time, two or three days from now I'll be sitting at home watching my teammates - it's going to be really hard.''

Vande Velde was riding with severe back pain and a blood clot in his neck muscle from an earlier crash in Wednesday's fifth stage.

''The multiple contusions and abrasions he suffered in today's crash, compounded with the injuries he sustained on Stage 5, which included a blood clot in his neck muscle, a loosened screw in his clavicle plate and upper back injuries, made it impossible,'' Garmin team doctor Prentice Steffen said.

It is the third time he has failed to finish the Tour. In 2001, Vande Velde crashed out during a wet team time trial stage and three years ago he had to abandon after falling in a mass pileup on Stage 3.

''I'm not blase about this by any means,'' he said. ''The team's going so well and you always want to be part of a team that's doing great.''


Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.

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