A Giro d’Italia rider has been left with awful facial injuries after a helicopter blew barriers onto the course on stage four.
Luca Wackermann and his Vini Zabú-KTM team-mate Etienne van Empel were both taken out inside the final kilometre of the stage to Villafranca Tirrena when a race helicopter reportedly got too close to the riders.
The barriers flew into the path of Wackermann and Van Empel, who were seen lying prone after the sprint finish.
Van Empel was able to get back on his bike and finish the stage, but Wackermann suffered serious injuries and was taken to hospital.
His team have now confirmed Wackermann has abandoned the race after suffering a head injury, a fracture to his nasal bones, multiple contusions to the face and spine, and lacerations to the left eyebrow, chin and right knee.
The 28-year-old was kept in hospital overnight for observation.
Immediately after the stage finish, Vini Zabú-KTM manager Angelo Citracca told Italian broadcaster RAI: “The helicopter was flying too low, the movement of the air blew up the barriers. Wackermann was sent to the hospital, he was barely conscious – it is not clear if he had broken his pelvis or femur.”
Mitchelton-Scott’s Brent Bookwalter said on Twitter: “Did anyone catch the crash that happened in our grupetto with 800 metres to go when the helicopter sent the unsecured barriers flying into riders just inches away from me?
“One of them on a stretcher to the hospital.”
Van Empel said: “I am okay. Only some small cuts on my fingers. Not really sure what happened, but out of nowhere the barriers flew into our group. For now my thoughts are with my team-mate Luca and hope some good news will arrive soon.”
The first pure sprint stage of the 2020 Giro d’Italia was won by Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), who took victory by the narrowest margin ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
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