AFP - Lance Armstrong's Astana team-mate Levi Leipheimer has withdrawn from the Tour de France with a broken wrist, his Astana team announced on Friday.
The 35-year-old American, one of the main riders for the Astana team along with seven-time Tour winner Armstrong, 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador and Andreas Kloeden, sustained the injury in a fall 2km from the finish line of Thursday's 12th stage.
He crossed the line at the back of the peloton but still sat in fourth spot in the Tour's general classification overnight.
"He was fine last night but in a lot of pain this morning," Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told AFP on Friday.
The Californian, who was also left with bruising to the right side of his back and road rashes on his right shoulder, lower back and hip, went to hospital earlier Friday to undergo an x-ray which confirmed a broken wrist, Maertens said.
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel hinted there might be a change in team tactics but refused to add further details.
Leipheimer was a "domestique deluxe" for Astana, whose main task was chasing down breakaways and helping his high-profile team-mates tackle the tough mountain stages, which crucially begin this weekend.
"It's definitely not a good thing," Bruyneel acknowledged. "After the crash, I thought there might be something. You hope there won't be and in the first instance we didn't think there was something broken.
"But he had a fairly bad night and we took him to hospital and saw the fracture.
"Obviously he's out and that changes a lot for us. He was in fourth place and could have potentially won the Tour.
"We've lost an important option and this will motivate other teams to attack us."