Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) put Sunday's Tour of Flanders at risk after injuring his knee. The local star crashed and landed on his leg yesterday in Ghent-Wevelgem.
"It was a stupid accident. One guy tried to squeeze through and touched Tom's front wheel and Tom crashed," Omega Pharma sports director Wilfried Peeters told a small group of journalists including Cycling Weekly.
"We tried to get him back on the bike. He continued going but there was no way he could bridge to the riders ahead, so he decided to stop.
"He's going for a diagnosis, his knee is injured but I don't know how serious it is. We're going to wait and see. He's going to be stiff, for sure."
This morning, Omega Pharma-QuickStep confirmed that Boonen will take to the start line of the Three Days of De Panne (Tuesday, March 26 to Thursday, March 28) and the Tour of Flanders having spent some time on a turbo trainer at home.
"The knee is still slightly swollen and it hurts, but I really have to work on my racing rhythm this week as well, prior to the Ronde," Boonen said. "We'll take it day by day and see how I feel."
Boonen flipped over and on to the bike path with 65 kilometres to race. Veering towards the curb at the road's right edge, he unclipped his right foot to brace himself and stay upright. He landed on his leg and rolled on his back.
Omega Pharma staff, including Peeters, tended to him. After a minute, they helped him on his bike. He continued, but pulled out on the Kemmelberg climb.
"Everybody was looking for good position for the Kemmelberg. I was waiting in the group for the right and last moment to go to the front so I didn't spend so much energy. At the moment I thought 'OK, this is the time to go', another rider passed me from the right, so I had to wait for a few seconds," Boonen said in a press release last night.
"In those few seconds the curb went from zero to 10 centimetres... I had to react and didn't have enough room to jump on it. I touched it with my front wheel and went down pretty hard. I touched first with my knee and then with the rest of my body."
Boonen added that it is important to keep calm, even if the most important race of his season is around the corner. On Sunday, the Tour of Flanders starts in Bruges. Boonen won the race last year, matching the record of three wins.
Peeters explained that Boonen might race the Three Days of De Panne this week with Mark Cavendish. He is on the provisional start list, but doubts remain.
In the last three years, he has skipped the stage race in his Flanders run up.
The crash knocked back the 32-year-old Belgian just as he was improving towards Flanders. Over the winter, he had to visit the hospital twice. He suffered intestinal problems and an infection in his elbow. The infection resulted from a crash while training on his mountain bike and nearly saw Boonen lose his left arm.
"I could have been racing the Paralympics," Boonen joked with CW earlier this year. "Really, I was eight hours away from losing my arm."
Time off his bike recovering delayed Boonen's training. He skipped the Tour of Qatar and began his season later than normal at the Tour of Oman in February.
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