Leading Australian road cyclist Amy Gillett was killed and two of her team mates are fighting for their lives after an out-of-control car crashed into six members of the national development squad during a training ride in eastern Germany.

Three other team members are also in hospital with serious injuries, but are listed in a stable condition.

Adelaide-born Gillett, 29, who rowed for Australia at the Atlanta Olympics and was a medal contender in road cycling at next year’s Melbourne Commonwealth Games, is understood to have been at the head of the group when the car veered into them. She died from multiple injuries.

Alexis Rhodes, 20, from Kersbrook, South Australia, is listed in a critical condition and 23-year-old Louise Yaxley from Penguin, Tasmania, is in a serious condition, one level down from critical.

Those in stable conditions are Lorian Graham, 27, of Brisbane, and two Sydney riders from famous cycling families – 20-year-old Kate Nichols, whose father Kevin was a Los Angeles Olympics gold medallist, and Katie Brown, 22, sister of Athens gold medallist Graham Brown.

Cycling Australia (CA) chief executive Graham Fredericks said it had been feared Brown may lose a badly fractured leg, but she had been stabilised after successful surgery.

Brown and Nichols are in the same hospital in the town of Jena, German authorities said.

“It is certainly a very tense moment while we hope that the other two are pulling through OK,” Fredericks said.

The families of the injured riders are making their way to Germany.

The driver of the car, an 18-year-old woman understood to have held a licence for only a few weeks, is also badly injured. She faces charges of negligent driving resulting in death and injury.

The accident has virtually wiped out the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) women’s road cycling program, which has now been suspended.

Australian cycling, which has endured a traumatic year involving doping allegations against male riders, is in a state of deep shock.

“For six riders to be hit in one accident like this is just a freak,” said CA spokeswoman Gennie Sheer.

She said it was too early to say whether any of them would be able to resume riding at the elite level.

Prime Minister John Howard took time out from his official trip to Washington to offer sympathies and condolences.

“It’s one of those awful tragedies,” he said.

Others who sent messages of condolence included Opposition Leader Kim Beazley and Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates.

The accident happened at 5.40pm local time (0130 AEST) on a bend in the road as the group were cycling downhill just outside the village of Zeulenroda, 80km south of Leipzig.

The riders were out getting the feel of the route for a road race they were due to ride in on Tuesday.

According to the police report the woman driver coming up the hill lost control of her car when it touched the shoulder of the road. It veered across to the wrong side of the road and hit the entire group head-on.

“There were six (cyclists) total. They were riding along and a car came over the white line and hit them head-on,” said Lorna Graham of Rockhampton, whose daughter Lorian was one of the injured.

Lorian was well enough to speak to her sister Lisa, who told ABC radio: “She said the next thing that she knew she was on the ground and there was glass everywhere – she obviously couldn’t get up at that point.”

Kevin Nichols told Sky News: “That should have just been a simple ride down the road.

“The team car would have been behind them and should have been safe as a bank … but you just don’t know when you are out on the road what can happen, unpredictable things.”

The race was postponed for 24 hours and competitors were to attend a memorial service in the village market square on Tuesday night, Australian time.

Gillett, a PhD student at the University of South Australia, won two gold medals in world junior rowing titles in 1993 and 1994 and was a member of the Australian women’s eight which finished fifth in the Atlanta Games.

Her husband Simon, a former world champion rower who was also her rowing coach, was told of her death early on Tuesday morning.

She switched to cycling in 2000, and was a member of the Australian World Cup cycling teams in 2002 and 2003.

She was seriously injured in a road cycling accident during the Canberra Tour of 2001, suffering multiple skull fractures and bruising to the brain.