Telekom's Alexandre Vinokourov won the ninth stage of the Tour de France, but leading contender Joseba Beloki is out after crashing on the final descent.
The ONCE rider was in a group chasing Vinokourov down when he lost control of his back wheel on a tight turn.
Beloki fell hard, forcing overall leader Lance Armstrong to take evasive action and detour across a field before rejoining the peloton.
Tour doctors later confirmed that Beloki had broken his right
leg near the hip and also sustained wrist and elbow fractures.
The crash left Vinokourov free to take his first stage win of the Tour and close the gap on Armstrong to just 21 seconds.
The Kazakh finished 36 seconds clear and received a 20-second bonus for winning the stage.
"I didn't plan to go out and win the stage," said Vinokourov, who won the Tour of
Switzerland, the Amstel Gold race, and the Paris-Nice earlier in the season.
"I talked to my team manager this morning and we agreed that it would be good if I could attack on the final climb and maybe take a few seconds off Armstrong."
Vinokourov added that he was still not confident of challenging four-times winner Armstrong for victory.
"It's easy to say but it's harder to do. In the Alps I had good legs and was quite proud of my performance. I was second on the Alpe d'Huez and I won today so realistically I'm
hoping to make the [Tour] podium," Vinokourov said.
"As for challenging Lance, we'll see how the legs are when we go into the Pyrenees after a rest day."
Iban Mayo of Spain, who finished the stage third behind Italian champion Paolo
Bettini, is third overall, one minute and two seconds behind the Texan.
Beloki, who was in second place overall before the stage began and considered to be one of Armstrong's biggest rivals, was taken to hospital, where doctors said he had suffered fractures of his right leg, wrist and elbow.
Armstrong said the Spaniard's tyre had punctured as they braked for a corner.
Vinokourov had made a break on the final climb of the day in an attempt to further up the pressure on Armstrong, who had looked vulnerable during the ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez.
It was the last of a series of breakaways on Monday as Armstrong's rivals continued to test the American's endurance as he bids for a record-equalling fifth victory.
Britain's David Millar had looked certain to catch the leaders but he mistimed his challenge and was swallowed up by the peloton with 7km remaining.