The accident at the finish happened when Weylandt and Farrar appeared to touch shoulders with 200 metres to go. When the Belgian lost control, he brushed the unfortunate Farrar’s rear wheel, and both men tumbled to the ground.
Sutton had launched his sprint from distance and had been passed by Weylandt when he came down. The Australian was thus unable to avoid the incident as he rode into the fallen Belgian.
It was a frustrating conclusion for Farrar as he appeared well placed to at least challenge Cavendish when his race came to an abrupt halt inside the final 200 metres.
“All went perfectly, I was on Cavendish's wheel and was ready to start my sprint,” he said afterward. “Someone touched me from behind. My whole tubular went off and I tried to stay upright.”
After his podium finishes at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem, Farrar believed that he was on track to repeat his Scheldeprijs win of twelve months ago. “I had the legs to win,” he said.
The American did not believe that injuries would be enough to keep him out of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, although he admitted that in the heat of the moment it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage.
“I think there's only some skin off but I'll wait with the diagnosis until the adrenaline is gone,” Farrar said. “Too bad.”
Sjef De Wilde rode into the prone Farrar and fell head first. Although he managed to finish the race in 168th place, the Belgian was taken directly to hospital with injuries to his vertebrae and head.
Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov also came perilously close to hitting the deck after Farrar fell against him, but he recovered to finish in second place behind Cavendish. “It was quite a strange sprint as there was a bit of confusion, but Denis did well to avoid the crash,” Katusha directeur sportif Serge Parsani told Cyclingnews.
Boasson Hagen and Boonen among the early fallers
Edvald Boasson Hagen was eliminated from contention when he fell heavily on the finishing circuit in Schoten with 30km to go. The Norwegian was taken to hospital and diagnosed with three broken ribs after the race, and will have to forgo Paris-Roubaix.
“It looks as if Edvald got pushed out of the way,” his teammate Kurt Asle Arvesen told TV2sporten. “Fortunately he landed softly, as he fell the grass when he came down. It was a dramatic day for us, with probably three of us going to ground.”
Meanwhile, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) fell twice during the race and opted not to contest the finishing sprint. Cofidis’ Arnaud Labbe also came down and abandoned the race.
George Hincapie (BMC) also fell twice during the race, and scraped his right hip and his left knee. “I’m really sore right now,” the American said afterwards, but he is still due to undertake a reconnaissance of part of the Paris-Roubaix course on Thursday morning.
HTC-Highroad hitman talks age and the dangers of modern day sprinting
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) took his third Scheldeprijs title on Wednesday in a thrilling sprint over Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ).
The Manx Missile launched his sprint with around 250 meters to go, avoiding a pile up that involved sprint rivals Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) and Chris Sutton (Team Sky).
After he crossed the line he was quick to share his win with his teammates, and as they crossed the line one by one, each of them received a warm hug and thank you.
It was Cavendish’s first appearance in the race since 2008 and made up for his crash in Gent-Wevelgem last week when he had been in contention until a fall within the final 20 kilometres.
“I’d missed the race for the last two years and I was really upset to miss it. I won it the first two years I rode it and then didn’t ride it in 2009 and 2010 because I had a busy programme and it was upsetting. So I was really glad to be back and the team were really, really incredible,” he told the press at the finish.
“I said I wanted to win today and the team were incredible to back me up. They worked all day and rode a great tempo on the front and then Bernie Eisel kept me near the front on the last lap into every corner and then Leigh Howard was my lead out man today. He had to go early but he was incredible and strung the peloton out.
“CJ Sutton went for a long one and had Hutarovich on his wheel and I slotted onto his wheel and I knew then with 250 meters to go that as long as my sprint was okay I should be all right.”
Scheldeprijs is a race that helped shoot Cavendish into the big leagues and was his first professional win back in 2007 when he beat Robbie McEwen and Geert Steegmans to the line.
In his post-race press conference Cavendish talked about his wins here in 2007 and 2008 and voiced his opinion that sprints had become more dangerous.
“I’ve been a bit nervous this year and we came around with a lap to go and I said to Thor [Hushovd] am I getting old and he said now this is crazy. I’ve been wondering have I been getting old and nervous - cycling is changing and it’s just a fucking free for all nowadays and it’s pretty dangerous. I’ve never been nervous before but now I’m scared,” he said.
“I think there’s so much pressure to do well in every race now. It’s a long season and every race matters and there’s more than one captain in each team now. It’s a free for all. It makes it very different.”
“There are a lot of sprinters around now and there’s a lot of second tier sprinters who can get a look in and they’re going to have a go and fair play you can’t give them shit for having a go but it certainly makes it more chaotic.”
Canadian Svein Tuft took tenth place in the stage three time trial at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe today, a good result for his Spidertech-C10 team, but one which belies the extraordinary circumstances in which he had to complete the 6.8 kilometre stage.
A pre-race favourite, Tuft was on track to contend for the stage win, poised perhaps to deliver his team its first big success in its nascent Pro Continental season.
The 33-year-old Canadian time trial champion was taking the usual risks of a top time trialist on the short, technical course, testing the limits of traction in his tires while using his bike handling skills to keep himself upright when, near the mid-point of the race, disaster struck.
He hit a bump in the road and cracked off one of his carbon aero bar extensions, and unfortunately it was the one with the controller for his rear derailleur attached.
With the bar dangling from the electric wire used to shift his Shimano Di2, and more tight turns, speed bumps and descents in the coming three kilometres, Tuft continued to plow ahead, much to the amazement of his directeur sportif, Steve Bauer.
"I could not believe Svein kept it together," said Bauer. "He was entering technical turns with one arm, trying to get his shift right and the entire time trying to keep his top speed - which was impossible. ...
"Watching him powering at over 60 km per hour, imbalanced and running speed bumps with one arm was crazy," added Bauer.
Tuft managed to finish the stage just 13 seconds behind winner Daniele Bennati, although he admits that he will be hard-pressed to gain back enough time to contend for the overall stage race win.
"This lost time is going to be tough to get back," said Tuft . "My fitness is really good and I was on a great ride before it all went wrong. I am pretty gutted after aiming for this event for a few weeks now."
Russian sprinter Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) captured second place in the 99th edition of the Scheldeprijs in Belgium behind winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad). After a tumultuous sprint finish that saw last year's winner Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) crash, the runner-up was thankful for the support of his teammates.
“I'm very happy,” Galimzyanov told Cyclingnews. “Not only for my second place but also because of how the team worked for me the whole day long. Even when I crashed twice they brought me back to the first rows of the peloton.”
Galimzyanov was brought back to the front in the final kilometres before narrowly avoiding the massive crash at the front of the peloton. While men like Wouter Weylandt (Leopard Trek) and Farrar went down in the finishing straight in Schoten near Antwerp, Galimzyanov avoided the carnage and grabbed second place.
“Our team set-up the sprint and then HTC-Highroad took over,” he said. “I wanted to get on Cavendish's wheel. I was on his right side and the next second they went down on his left side.
“I was very lucky to avoid the crash as it was very close to me. In Paris-Nice [stage 3] I was very lucky, too, when [Peter] Sagan crashed. Then it was very close to me as well.”
Katusha content with second place in the “world championships of sprinting”
Katusha directeur sportif Serge Parsani was pleased with Galimzyanov’s showing in Schoten and said that it offered further confirmation of the progress that the young Russian has made since the beginning of the season. Galimzyanov won stage two of the Three Days of De Panne last week, and measured up well against some of the world’s top sprinters at Scheldeprijs.
“We can call this race a world championships of sprinting, because all of the strongest sprinters in the world apart from Petacchi were here, so that means that second place behind Cavendish is a good result,” Parsani told Cyclingnews. “I think this confirms a little of what he showed in De Panne last week and in Qatar too. He has had second and third places in races where there weren’t riders of such quality, but this will bring him on even further.”
After Katusha’s Vladimir Isaichev and the early breakaway had been swept up with 22km to go, the Russian squad was a visible presence on the front of the peloton, and Parsani acknowledged that their attempts to control the race were indicative of the trust they have in Galimzyanov’s rapid finish.
“We knew that there was a 99% chance of a sprint so we managed our riders to give him a hand in the finale to get him to the sprint in the best possible condition,” Parsani said.
At just 24 years of age, Parsani is confident that Galimzyanov will grow into a important role at the Katusha team for years to come.
“He’s a boy who certainly has a quick turn of pace, and he also has a big margin for improvement,” Parsani said. “It’s his second year as a professional, he has needed to get used to things, but you can see how he is adapting. He has character, and he’s someone who we will look towards in the future."
Fifth place brings little consolation for Australian sprinter
While Mark Cavendish sped to his third win in the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday afternoon, Australian veteran sprinter Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) was disappointed with his fifth place behind the Manxman.
It's a rarity when the Scheldeprijs doesn't finish in a bunch sprint and thus it's no surprise that McEwen has stood on the podium no fewer than five times in the past. In this edition the Australian came close again but a spectacular crash from Wouter Weylandt (Leopard-Trek) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) ruined McEwen's sprint on the Churchill-lane in Schoten near Antwerp, Belgium.
"The sprint was completely uncontrolled. Then HTC got to the front with Cavendish. There were guys going everywhere. I saw there was a gap because there was a fight to get the wheel. Galimzyanov had to close the gap to get it but he had it, and then sort of lost it. Everyone else was sort of scrambling.
"It's a dead flat race. Everyone brings their sprinters and today it was a very easy race. Nobody's tired by the time the final starts. Even the guys who can't sprint think: I feel good, I'll have a go," McEwen said.
McEwen was spotted in an ideal position before he had to make room for Cavendish lead-out man Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad), who was going backwards. "Just as I came in to get the wheel from Cavendish I was off balance. I locked up with Farrar a little bit and lost several places. There were still more than 200m to go," McEwen said.
When the actual sprint started Cavendish powered away on the left but right behind him Farrar collided with Weylandt, putting all the riders behind them into trouble. McEwen sat in about eighth place on the right hand side of the pack when the crash happened.
"I was coming back into the wheels to make a run when they started to fall. Cavendish was already gone. I went all the way up to the other barrier and stopped pedalling and basically did a right hand turn to avoid it. I had to swerve out twice. Two guys crashed at different moments. It was really strange.
"I don't quite know what happened. I was concentrating on getting out of the way than on seeing what was happening." McEwen described the crash that ruined his sprint. "That was the end of my podium place. I swung back in but it was all over. At least I stayed upright. A top five, it's not bad but I was really aiming for a podium finish," McEwen said. "My next race is [Paris-]Roubaix so now I can put the fat tyres on."
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Belgian rider Sjef De Wilde and his family have been relieved to find out that the injuries to his vertebrae are less dangerous than previously feared. The Veranda's Willems rider crashed hard in the final sprint of the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, taking down other riders with him, and was immediately transported to the Schoten hospital where two fractured vertebrae were diagnosed.
On Thursday morning, however, Belgian site Sporza said that a second scan had been performed and that De Wilde's first cervical vertebrae C1 was not fractured after all. The immediate danger of the rider being paralysed was therefore discarded.
The rider remains in intensive care as he also suffered a light brain haemorrhage, but he has been transferred to the hospital of Duffel, closer to his home.
"He will certainly need two months to rehabilitate and will have to wear a neck brace for a while," said Dieter Deprez of the Veranda's Willems team. "But the C1 is not broken and that is very important."
Quick Step rider ready to fight, defends Tour of Flanders tactics
Fortunately, in the world of professional cycling, disappointment rarely has time to linger on as the next race is already around the corner. One week after the Tour of Flanders, where Tom Boonen missed out on the victory, the Quick Step rider is fully focused on the 'Hell of the North', taking place next Sunday.
Shrugging off his questionable team tactics in the Ronde, which left him in fourth place and teammate Sylvain Chavanel in second, the three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix now looks forward to the French cobbles and another match with Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).
"You know that I'm not afraid of Cancellara," Boonen told L'Equipe after Wednesday's Scheldeprijs. "I've always thought that Fabian was not a machine, he's a man like the rest of us who also has his weaknesses. On Sunday, I never thought for one second that the race was over when he attacked. I've known him for 15 years, so I also know his boundaries.
"We've seen it last Sunday, Fabian cannot do the same thing every year, whether that is at the Tour of Flanders or in Paris-Roubaix."
Indeed, although Cancellara powered clear on the Leberg, the other favourites took heart when the Swiss faded on the approach to the Muur van Geraardsbergen. With Chavanel in tow during his solo effort, Cancellara showed that he, too, was not unbeatable. Still, the deployment of two team leaders at Quick Step may have been fatal to the squad in the end.
But Boonen defended his team tactics against this week's criticism, even saying that the choice of attacking while Chavanel was one minute up the road had been his, not his DS's Wilfried Peeters. "It was me who went up to Wilfried's car to tell him I was going to attack (on the Leberg)," Boonen said.
"There were still too many dangerous riders such as Van Avermaet or Boom, that were gaining time on Sylvain. I couldn't just sit there and watch them do it. Anyway, if I had sat back in the pack, I would have been blamed, too. I repeat: On Sunday, I did not commit any mistake, I just did my job!"
Now, all that matters is to take revenge in Roubaix, where Boonen has an historic opportunity. "I've always said that Paris-Roubaix motivated me more this year than Flanders, because I can make history and equal Roger De Vlaeminck's palmarès," said the Belgian, who already won the Queen of the Classics in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
Cancellara, the 2010 winner, not only has to defend last year's crown but also his nickname of 'Spartacus' and favourite number one. Once again, this Sunday, he will face the whole peloton against him, as well as a Quick Step team that is hoping to have learned its lessons.