Mathieu van der Poel says he didn't know a ramp on the mountain bike course during practice laps, situated on the downhill section where he crashed, would be removed for the actual race.
The Dutchman fell heavily in the opening laps of the mountain bike event at the Tokyo Olympics, eventually getting back to his feet but then well off the pace, subsequently abandoning before the finish. He has since been taken to hospital with an injured hip.
Van der Poel has now said during practice laps he was able to ride the course "with his eyes closed" and that a ramp that was present during these warm-up sessions was removed before the race and was the reason behind his freak fall.
"People close to me know how hard I worked for this and how bad I wanted it," Van der Poel said. "I could ride the track with my eyes closed but I didn't know they would remove this ramp on race day."
"When they take out the ramp after the last course practice," commented Hungarian mountain biker Blanka Vas, which Van der Poel then reshared, agreeing with the sentiment.
De crash van Mathieu van der Poel uit een andere angle!😱 pic.twitter.com/kOqo16oSjgJuly 26, 2021
There are conflicting versions of events coming out of the Dutch camp, however, reflecting the confusion that reigned supreme during the women's road race, as Dutch coach Gerben de Knegt told national broadcaster NOS that Van der Poel had been told several times the ramp would be removed for the race.
“I was in the woods when it happened, so it's hard for me to judge. He indicated that he thought there would be a ramp. We've talked about that several times, so it shouldn't be [the reason]," De Knegt said.
“If you want to ride for the win here, you can't go wrong. Of course you hope for a Van der Poel miracle, but you knew after the fall that he would no longer ride for the medals. That is, of course, a downer. You will have to ask him what went wrong.
“He has done more laps [of this course] than ever. Where he explores four to five laps in a World Cup race, he has now completed twelve. And we made videos of the course. He was really fresh, but one small mistake and it's done."
As for the hip, Van der Poel will now wait to see what the x-rays say.
“He has quite a problem with his hip. He complained of the pain, so it could be a crack or tear in his hope. The photos in the hospital should prove it," said De Knegt.
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