Colombian rider crashes, sustains brain injuries

By the Associated Press | June 16, 2011 | 4:59 PM EDT

The race has to be restarted following the crash of Colombian cyclist Juan Hernandez Soler, of Team Movistar, during the 6th stage, a 157,7 km race from Tobel-Taegerschen in Switzerland to Triesenberg/Malbun in Liechtenstein, at the 75th Tour de Suisse UCI ProTour cycling race, near Bauma, Switzerland, Thursday, June 16, 2011. (AP Photo / KEYSTONE/Jean-Christophe Bott) GERMANY OUT AUSTRIA OUT

MALBUN, Liechtenstein (AP) — Colombian cyclist Juan Mauricio Soler was hospitalized with severe brain injuries Thursday after a crash during the Tour of Switzerland.

The 28-year-old rider has bleeding on the brain, multiple fractures and hematomas, his Movistar team said on its website. Soler was in second place overall and less than a minute behind the leader.

Safety in cycling has been under scrutiny since Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt was killed May 9 in a crash during the Giro d'Italia.

Thursday's accident came seven miles into the 98-mile stage. Soler was unconscious and bleeding from the left ear when doctors reached him, race medic Roland Kretsch said. He was airlifted to a hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and was in a stable condition in intensive care, Kretsch added.

Medic Thorsten Hammer said the head injuries were the main concern.

"We can't say at this time in which direction it will go," he said.

Tour organizers temporarily stopped the stage to treat several injured riders. They were unclear how the crash happened.

Movistar told The Associated Press that Soler may have hit a curb, flown over his handlebars and hit a pole or fence. The press team said in response to emails that Soler might have struck a spectator. The tour website suggested spectators were injured.

Sporting director Beat Zberg said the road hadn't narrowed and there were no obstacles at the crash site. Until the crash, Soler had been in second place overall and was less than a minute behind leader Damiano Cunego of Italy. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands won the day's sixth stage in which Cunego finished third.

Soler captured the second stage Sunday and dedicated the victory to former Movistar teammate Xavier Tondo, who died last month when crushed between his car and a garage door in Spain.

Weylandt's death was the first at the Giro in 25 years and the first in one of cycling's showcase tours in 16 years. His Leopard Trek team sent a message of support to Soler.

"We keep him, his family and his Movistar team in our thoughts," the team said on Twitter.

British rider Mark Cavendish, riding in the Tour of Switzerland for HTC-Highroad, tweeted that the crash was "very nasty."

"I really hope he is ok, and wish him a speedy recovery," he wrote.

Kruijswijk completed the ride from Taegerschen, Switzerland, to Malbun, Liechtenstein, in 4 hours, 12 minutes, 3 seconds. He beat Levi Leipheimer of the U.S. to the finish line by nine seconds.