Belgian one-day race claims another victim in its infamous final straight

Team Sky’s Italian sprinter Elia Viviani could be out of action due injuries sustained in a crash in today’s Scheldeprijs one-day race in Belgium. Paris-Roubaix favourites Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins came through without scratches.

Viviani’s crash was part of an aftershock caused by a collision between Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the final kilometre of the 204.2-kilometre race. Thomas, Stannard and Wiggins had taken their turns at the front of pack and had already sat up when the crash occurred.

Viviani rolled on the right side of the road several times. He remained there while Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) sprinted to the win.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIMAmVCagPY

“Elia had a lot of pain in his arm and ribs, but that’s all we know at the moment,” said Sky’s sports director, Servais Knaven.

“Obviously, it’s a shame for him, but the rest of the guys are in good shape for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.”

The team has yet to issue any further update on Viviani’s medical condition.

Alexander Kristoff wins the 2015 Scheldeprijs (Watson)

Alexander Kristoff wins the 2015 Scheldeprijs (Watson)

The mid-week Scheldeprijs race has seen its share of crashes in the final straight into Schoten, and many riders plan their efforts to steer clear of trouble.

“I know about this race,” Stannard told Cycling Weekly. “It was a matter of doing my work early and pulling off.”

In 2012, Australian Jonathan Cantwell came away with a punctured lung when a group of cyclists crashed into photographers positioned after the finish line. That year, other cyclists crashed two kilometres out.

Jon Cantwell retires from the 2012 Scheldeprijs (Watson)

Jonathan Cantwell retires from the 2012 Scheldeprijs (Watson)

Other notable crashes include Wouter Weylandt’s in 2011, Alessandro Petacchi’s in 2009 and Ludovic Capelle’s in 2003.

Despite Scheldeprijs’s reputation, this year’s winner believes that the course isn’t inherently dangerous.

“Why so many crashes? Many guys think they can win because they have fresh legs. It’s mostly because of this,” Kristoff explained.

“The race is not as hard as the others so there are many fresh legs at the end. Everyone wants to try for the win. I don’t think it’s more dangerous than other races. It’s the riders, not the race that makes it dangerous.

“It’s nervous in the sprint when everyone’s fighting for position, and someone who should not have braked, braked. You don’t want to lose and that makes it dangerous.”

Race director Ronald De Witte explained in 2012 that the finish straight is safe and would remain in Schoten.

“Schoten is a tradition — it has held the finish for 100 years,” he explained. “I’d raise hell if it changed. I’d resign.”