METZ, France (Reuters) - Tour de France hopeful Ryder Hesjedal was literally knocked out of contention by another violent crash on Friday, the latest bloody multi-rider pileup to blight the world's greatest race.
The Garmin-Sharp team was left in tatters, with shirts and skin layers ripped to shreds, as Giro d'Italia champion Hesjedal lost more than 13 minutes in a smash described by team mate David Millar as the worst he had been involved in.
American Tom Danielson suffered more than Canadian Hesjedal, quitting the race because of injuries which put him in hospital.
"We've lost most of our chances for everything in the Tour de France," Garmin director Allan Peiper told reporters as he emerged from his car after the sixth stage.
"At this moment I can't see what a successful Tour might be."
David Zabriskie, who was 72nd and the first Garmin rider to finish, was the only one of the team not on the casualty list.
"I just heard from the doctor that Tom Danielson's body is pretty beaten up and he has already got a displaced shoulder so he has gone to hospital," Peiper added.
"It's definitely a week to forget, sometimes it doesn't work. We've got so many guys who are injured. Hesjedal looks like he's got a haematoma at the top of his leg, we'll see what the doctors say about that."
A confident Hesjedal had talked up his chances of victory in the three-week race having triumphed at the Giro in May but the mass crash 30-km from the finish in Metz could lead to his withdrawal.
He was well placed in ninth overall - 18 seconds behind yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara - before the pileup on the flat stage which was won by rising starlet Peter Sagan.
The 31-year-old Hesjedal is now down in 108th place with no hope of recovering the ground even if his wounds heal quickly.
Almost all of Garmin's riders were caught up in the chaos, a day after mayhem led Tyler Farrar to try to storm a rival team bus after feeling aggrieved at tumbling in another smash.
Some riders say team messages through earpieces are distracting them and others have suggested the high number of early crashes are down to teams not riding as teams like normal, meaning individuals have less protection from the "train".
Team Sky and BMC managed to stay ahead of the carnage to keep race favourite Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans safe, seven and 17 seconds respectively behind Cancellara who expects to lose the lead on Saturday's first mountain stage.
"It's the worst I've ever been in. It just shouldn't happen. We were ploughing into each other at 60-70 kph at hour," Millar said.
"I was lucky I think, I was in the third wave (of the crash) so I started landing on guys and then bikes were hitting me and chains were going off and all over me," added the Briton, pointing to a long, bloody gash on his arm.
"I think Ryder is out as well, we'll see."
Other top names such as RadioShack's Frank Schleck and world champion Mark Cavendish were also held up by the crash.
U.S. outfit Garmin have been in the news throughout the Tour with management denying part of a report on Thursday which said four of the team had agreed to six-month suspended sentences in return for testimony against Lance Armstrong in a doping probe.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)