Tuesday 17 January 2012

Big crash at Tour Down Under

A broken hip could easily have
spelled the end of 40-year-old
 Guesdon's career
(image credit: Ludovic Peron CC BY-SA 3.0) 
Jürgen Roelandts may never ride again, reports Sky TV

The first stage of the Tour Down Under was marked by a high speed crash today with several riders suffering serious injuries. Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) has a neck fracture, Frédéric Guesdon (FDJ) a broken hip and Matteo Montagutti (AG2R) a snapped collarbone. Around 20 riders in all were involved in the 70kph accident.

FDJ has since stated that x-rays confirm 40-year-old Guesdon's hip is indeed broken; but  initial hopes that, as the break is relatively minor, the rider could make a full recovery and return to racing in time for Paris-Roubaix now look unlikely. The rider had previously stated that he would retire following the Monument, which will be held on the 8th of April, but directeur sportif Yvan Madiot now believes this is unlikely.

Roelandts underwent a scan which revealed that he has a fractured sixth cervical vertebrae and as such is fortunate to have escaped paralysis - fears that he might have other injuries have proved unfounded. Sky TV  reported fears that he too might face early retirement, but other sources are far more optimistic and his team haven't produced a press release to support the British broadcaster's report.

The crash took place 1km from the finish line of the 149km stage and was caused when Kenny van Hummel collided with a 70-year-old female spectator, who received minor injuries. Some spectators have criticised crowd control at the event - however, race directors told AdelaideNow that the rider had lost control on a patch of dirt, causing him to skid into the woman rather than the crash resulting from a failure to keep the road clear. Robbie McEwen of GreenEDGE, the Australian team launched one year ago today, was also in the crash; Vacansoleil's Romain Feillu fell earlier and is suffering stomach pains but will race again in the next stage.

Greipel, now riding with
(image credit: Manfred Werner-TSUI
CC BY-SA 3.0)
A group of four riders broke away early in the race and built a lead of  11'40"  before being caught by the peloton with 12km to the end of the  stage for a sprint finish. André Greipel, who used his Twitter account to pass on "get well soon" messages to the injured riders, won the stage - his ninth in the Tour to date - when he edged ahead of Alessandro Petacchi as they reached the line at the bottom of a short hill; thencriticised Petacchi's tactics after the race by claiming that he was veering from left to right with little care for the crash. The Italian rider refutes the claims, adding that he had nothing to do with the accident as it happened behind him and says that other than hearing it, he was unaware of what had happened. Race officials have viewed footage and support him, feeling that his conduct was not irregular.

Conditions along the parcours, which stretched from Prospect to Clare, are described as having been "brutal" with powerful winds and temperatures of 40°C. Fabio Sabatini of Liquigas-Cannondale took 3rd place. Greipel has attacked organisers, saying that in his opinion the parcours was unnecessarily dangerous. Race director Mike Turtur responded by saying that riders were given sufficient detail concerning hazards and the final section, but adds that he will meet Greipel to discuss the issue and his concerns.

Roelandts also used his Twitter to pass on congratulations to the German rider and posted a photograph of himself in the Accident and Emergency Department at Adelaide Hospital.

Video of the final sprint and crash

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