By Alex Ballinger published
The final sprint of stage four of the Giro d’Italia ended in disaster for two riders, when a helicopter reportedly blew the barriers into the road.
Vini Zabú-KTM riders Luca Wackermann and Etienne van Empel were both seen lying on the floor injured on the final straight in Villafranca Tirrena after the sprint finish, but it wasn’t clear how the riders had crashed.
TV pictures showed the barriers that divide riders and spectators at the finish was stretched across the road, with reports suggesting a race helicopter has blown the fencing into the path of the riders.
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."
Video footage has since emerged showing the aftermath of the crash, with both riders lying prone in the middle of the final straight.
Wackermann has been taken to hospital, while Van Empel re-mounted his bike and finished the stage.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Brent Bookwalter said after the stage: “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).
Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.
Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.
Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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