Mark Cavendish suffered concussion and whiplash in a low-speed crash that caused him to abandon the Abu Dhabi Tour after less than five kilometres, his team has announced.
Cavendish crashed in the neutral zone as the riders rolled out towards the official start of the WorldTour race, falling to the tarmac along with four other riders in a crash that appeared to be caused by the race director’s car suddenly braking sending a ripple effect back through the bunch.
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The Manx sprinter received medical attention while sitting on the road, and remounted his bike before abandoning and climbing into the team car after the first five kilometres of the stage.
From there Cavendish was taken to hospital for check-ups, with doctors ruling out any more serious injury to his neck.
“Mark sustained a concussion and a whiplash injury after his crash today,” said Dr Adrian Rotunno, Dimension Data‘s team doctor, in a statement after the race.
“Due to the concussion, we were not willing to risk rider safety and the call was made for Mark to stop the race. A serious neck injury has been excluded in hospital.
“He currently has some concussive symptoms and neck pain, but is otherwise stable. We will monitor Mark’s condition closely going forward.”
The team described the loss of Cavendish, their best sprinter in the race, as “a massive blow”, with no Dimension Data rider able to get into the top 10 on the otherwise uneventful opening stage which was won by Alexander Kristoff ahead of Andrea Guardini and Caleb Ewan.
Concussion has been a rarely discussed topic in professional cycling, although it was received considerable attention at the Tour of California last year when Toms Skujins rode for a few kilometres after shocking images showed him stumbling over, struggling to maintain his balance and remount his bike following a heavy crash.
The Abu Dhabi Tour will continue without Cavendish on Thursday, with another flat stage of 154km between Yas Mal and Big Flag.