By Gregor Brown
German cyclist Arnold Fiek (Christina Jewelry) survived a horror 12-metre fall into Lake Lugano yesterday in Switzerland's GP Lugano race. He fractured his hip, but swam to the edge of the chilly lake and survived.
The incident occurred only 13 kilometres into the rain-soaked Swiss one-day classic, which also saw Italian Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) crash against a wall and fractured four vertebrae (fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth). Zardini's team-mate Sonny Colbrelli won the race.
"The road was slippery and I crashed in a right-hand curve," 22-year-old Fiek told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "I tried to grab on to the guardrail, but I was unable to do so. I banged my hip against the wall and fell into the water."
Rain fell steadily during the race. The temperature hovered around 5°C most of the day, the water felt much cooler.
"I never lost consciousness. I was very lucky, had I fallen on my head it would not have been good," he continued. "In that first moment in the water, I thought, 'Ah, it's ending.' You don't know. Then I swam to the edge, but with much pain."
In the yellow and black kit of Christina Jewelry, he swam three metres to reach the rocky edge of Lake Lugano. He waited around 10 minutes for a rescue boat organised by the race to arrive.
The incident occurred shortly after the race left Lugano on a bend in the Via Riviera lakeside road. The pavement's curb may have helped launch Fiek over the railing, which appears to be around 70 centimetres high. Only his bike remained and helped alert race officials to the fallen cyclist.
A photograph shows Fiek giving a thumbs up from a bed in the Lugano hospital. In a nearby room, Zardini did the same for another photograph. The 26-year-old appears worse off after hitting his back against a small wall with 45 kilometres to race.
"He splintered his vertebrae, the ninth one significantly," read a Bardiani press release. "Right now, it appears that it won't be a short break from competition."
Also on Sunday, a motorbike clipped Belgian cyclist Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Soudal) in Belgium's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne one-day classic. He fractured his right collarbone and ribs.