Johan Vansummeren left the AZ Groeninge hospital yesterday with a black eye and stitches in his cheek after a horrible crash in the Tour of Flanders.
The Garmin-Sharp rider collided with a women who remains in “life threatening” condition. Police are investigating the incident that occurred at a traffic island, where the 65-year-old Belgian Marie-Claire Moreels stood.
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“I’m not so bad off,” the 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner told Sporza television yesterday. “I have a black eye and stitches on my face, but that’s not important right now. I’m shocked. I feel for the other people who are involved.”
Vansummeren abandoned the race after the incident in Wielsbeke at 57 kilometres into the 259-kilometre classic. As seen in a YouTube video that a fan uploaded, the peloton split around a traffic island where Moreels stood watching with other spectators. Although the incident happened too quickly to be able to make out exactly what happened, Vansummeren rode in to the traffic island and then hit the spectator. He was the only rider to crash.
Zebra stripes and a sign further ahead marked the island but it is unclear if a race signaller stood and waved a warning flag as normal. The Flanders Classics organisation hires 1,410 signallers for its biggest race of the season.
“I have no desire to go deeper into the collision itself. It would quickly get bogged down in a debate about who is to blame,” Vansummeren said. “Accidents happen every year, but a large part of the blame lies in everything they put on the road.”
Doctors transferred Moreels to the hospital in Kortrijk and induced a coma. A neurosurgeon operated on her for a second time last night, according to Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. Hospital Director Jan Deleu told the newspaper that she has a traumatic brain injury and that her condition is “very life threatening.”
Tom Janssens, Kortrijk’s public prosecutor, began investigating overnight. He told Sporza, “Why is that woman standing there? Does the rider make a wrong manoeuvre? Based on the evidence, based on the statements of Vansummeren and based on the video, we will take a position.”