By Bjorn Haake and Brecht Decaluwé in Gavere
Niels Albert was not able to defend his lead in the Superprestige standings in Gavere after he crashed during the warm-up for the men's elite race and was taken from the course on a stretcher with severe abdominal pain. He was transferred to the university hospital in Gent, where he was diagnosed with a torn spleen.
According to sporza.be, Albert is in intensive care as a precaution, and will undergo further tests. If the bleeding does not stop on its own, Albert may need surgery. He could be in the hospital for five days and then out of competition for two to three weeks in the worst-case scenario.
Albert, like most of the elite men, used the break between other races to warm-up and get familiar with the course. Relentless rain had made the course muddy and the descents tricky. Previous races and the other pros warming up had caused deep ruts to be formed in the mud.
Albert reportedly crashed and fell chest-first onto his handlebars. When he was carried off on a stretcher by the ambulance, he complained of having trouble breathing.