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Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Stannard and Sutton off to hospital
Gent-Wevelgem proved to be a tough day out for Team Sky as almost all of their riders were involved in a crash at some point during the race's 233 kilometres, with only Luke Rowe managing to keep his nose clean until the finish.
At the team bus, team directeur Servais Knaven was at a loss to explain why there had been so many tangles in the bunch. "It's hard to explain. I think it was a pretty easy race and everybody is pretty fresh and everybody's really nervous for all the important moments. Everybody is fighting for a spot and trying to move up, which makes it really dangerous at some moments."
Of the team's eight riders, Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton came off the worst in the various dices on the cobbles. Stannard was launched into a ditch with 67 kilometres to the finish, after what looked like a touch of wheels. But for his bike lying prone on the tarmac it would have been easy to miss him. He was eventually assisted out of the grassy ditch by his team and, unsurprisingly, abandoned the race. It is the second race in a row that Stannard has had to take an early leave. The Brit also took a tumble at Friday's E3 Harelbeke and hit his head. It remains to be seen what effect these crashes have on the rest of his Classics campaign.
Sutton was felled around 25 kilometres after Stannard, coming down with Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida). The Australian was on the ground for some time and soon followed his teammate to the hospital. The team has yet to announce the full extent of either riders' injuries.
Geraint Thomas looked like he might be able to salvage something from the wreckage, as he hung onto the lead group. However, with around eight kilometres remaining, the Welshman was also involved in an accident putting him out of contention.
"My crash? I don't know, everyone seemed to crash in front of me. I was like 'oh shit', and just went over the bars. It was fine, I was going slow, but it was frustrating. I was on a straight road. I don't know what happened," explained Thomas.
All things considered, he was relatively upbeat about the forthcoming Tour of Flanders. "The form's there, I'll just rest up now and take it easy and all systems go for next week."
Despite the bad luck, Knaven and the team were able to take some solace in what they were able to do during the race. "Geraint and Bernie were riding well. G went down heading into the closing stages but luckily he is okay. We ended up with four guys left coming into the final but they got held up behind the next set of crashes. It wasn't our luckiest day today but hopefully we've used up a lot of the bad luck ahead of next week.
"The guys are riding well so we just need to keep our chins up and look ahead to Sunday and Flanders."