It was a harrowing scene with 37 miles to go in Stage 3 of the Tour de France when close to 20 riders went down in a massive pile up that left mangled bikes and riders in agony.

The scene nearly resembled the aftermath of a terrorist attack as riders lay on the pavement, writhing in pain, their uniforms torn and their skin lacerated with cuts and bruises. Some riders collided into a metal utility pole. Others skidded down the tarmac, ripping their lycra suits and exposing raw skin.

All of the race leaders managed to avoid the crash except for leader Fabian Cancellara who dropped out of the race after discovering a fractured vertebrae. Cancellara was one of the last into the crash, flipping over his handle-bars and landing with a thud on the grass. He managed to finish the race but dropped out after seeing a physician. Four other riders had to withdraw as well.

The riders that fell victim to the pile up were given 20 minutes to recover and catch up to the remaining riders. British rider Chris Froome took the leader’s yellow jersey following the stage.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons