Jakob Fuglsang was able to finish stage one of the 2019 Tour de France but was taken for medical checks immediately after the stage following a crash.
The Dane was caught in a collision 18km from the finish in Brussels as the road narrowed and high curbs caught out some riders, but he is hopeful he should be OK to continue.
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Astana announced shortly after the stage that the 34-year-old had not suffered any fractures but would require stitches. He confirmed later after emerging from the race medical truck that he had suffered a contusion to the knee and had to have stitches above his right eye.
“I crashed, some guy came flying in front of me the moment we wanted to move up and just… I don’t know. S*** happens,” Fuglsang said.
“I have a contusion on the knee and a few stitches on the eye, but for the rest I think everything should be OK.
“For sure it’s not going to be an easy tomorrow but there’s 20 stages left, so we’ll see.”
The pre-race favourite was able to remount and had four Astana team-mates to help him chase down the peloton, but was seen with blood pouring from his face.
Fuglsang, who fired himself into the top-tier of general classification riders on the eve of the Tour de France when he won the Critérium du Dauphiné, suffered a wound above his eye in the fall, as well as grazes on his right side. He also appeared to be suffering from discomfort in his right knee.
His team-mates were able to pace him back onto the bunch with around 10km left to race and he finished the stage without losing time.
“It’s always hard [to chase back] but we had good roads to chase on, so I was never really afraid that we wouldn’t make it,” Fuglsang’s team-mate Magnus Cort said.
“We’ll see how he is, he went down, but he came back and got back to the peloton so that’s the main thing. We’ll have to see how he’s feeling tonight and tomorrow.”
The Tour continues with a 27km team time trial on Sunday, a crucial stage that could have an early influence on the general classification. Fuglsang will be hoping to make it through safely without losing too much time to his closest rivals.
He was not the only GC favourite caught in a collision in the opening stage of the Tour de France 2019, as reigning champion Geraint Thomas was involved in a crash in the final 2km.
A crash near the front of the bunch, which took out Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) forced Thomas to veer into the barriers and he fell.
The Welshman was quickly able to remount his bike and finished the stage without losing any time as the fall happened inside the final 3km.