Reigning champion Niki Terpstra crashes out of Tour of Flanders 2019

The Dutchman has been riding strong with his new team but was forced to abandon his title defence

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Niki Terpstra has crashed out of the Tour of Flanders as he looked to defend his 2018 title.

The Dutchman made the move to Direct Energie at the start of the season but didn’t appear to have lost any of his ability in the Classics.

After strong performances in the opening spring races, Terpstra’s campaign may have been cut short after he crashed out of Flanders.

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The 34-year-old was caught in a collision 157km from the line, as the peloton approached the Oude Kwaremont for the first time.

He looked to be in a bad way on the floor after the low speed fall, with medical staff treating him on the course, but his team said they have had “reassuring” news.

Terpstra was forced to abandon the race and was taken to hospital.

The crash throws also Terpstra’s Paris-Roubaix into doubt, as he looks to repeat his 2014 victory in the famous velodrome next weekend.

Direct Energie said on Twitter: “Terrible at 160km from the finish. A fall forced our leader Niki Terpstra to abandon.

“Niki is being transported to the hospital.”

The team later added: “Reassuring news about Niki Terpstra who was able to regain his spirits after his fall.

“As soon as we have more news, we will communicate.”

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After Terpstra came down, Cofidis rider Christophe Laporte was seen checking on his rival and calling for medical help.

Terpstra’s results this season show he hasn’t lost any ambition in the move to the Professional Continental ranks, finishing third in both Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Le Samyn.