It’s not unusual to see cuts and road rash at the finish of a race, but Chantal van den Broek-Blaak’s right arm was a right mess after stage five of the Tour de France Femmes.
As she emerged from the SD Worx team bus and into the shade of the riverside trees to chat with her team manager, she was sporting a number of open gashes on her right forearm, clearly from contact with a chainring. There were two large swellings above and below.
“I’m fine, I don’t have any pain, but it’s open,” she told Cycling Weekly.
The former world champion was one of many riders taken down in a huge crash with 42 of the 175.6km remaining. On a long, straight and wide road there was no apparent reason for the massive pile-up, which took out upwards of 50 riders and left a huge heap where riders where indistinguishable from their bikes.
Once untangled from the mess, TV coverage showed Van den Broek-Blaak receiving treatment for her wounds, with blood streaming down her right wrist.
“I just rode in over the girls and I think a few girls fell on top of me,” the Dutch rider said. “Demi and Marlen [Vollering and Reusser, SD Worx teammates] were saying it happened next to them and it was a bag of food, so it’s just the concentration. It was a long, straight road and with stages like this when it’s 175km and flat you know you cannot concentrate for four-and-a-half hours, so it can happen.”
Other riders reported the cause was a dropped bidon, and with the bunch so tightly packed any dropped bottles are likely to cause a catastrophic incident.
The only abandon at the time of the incident was Danish Movistar rider Emma Norsgaard. The team reported on Twitter that she suffered injuries to her head, cervical vertebrae and left shoulder. She has been taken to hospital.
In addition, the post-race report from organisers ASO showed 15 other riders suffered injuries amounting to skin abrasions and trauma, so it would be no surprise if others abandon overnight.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Olivia Baril (Valcar Travel and Service), who was one of those who crashed. “I was talking with Silvia [Persico, teammate] and everything was fine, I was taking a gel and then everyone crashed so it was a bit weird.
“I knew that 50 per cent of the bunch was on the ground so on the front they were going to wait, so it wasn’t too hard to come back but it’s just bothers the mood a little bit because it was unnecessary, in the middle of a big flat road and nothing to fight for.”
The race has suffered an unusually high number of crashes in its opening five days, with many issues being blamed. They range from concentration to a lack of experience among some in the bunch.
What is sure though is that the men’s race is notorious for its first week crashes, so it is just as likely to be the intensity of racing causing extra risks.
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