Stage 1 of the Baloise Belgium Tour proved to be a mixed affair for Aqua Blue Sports as Martyn Irvine crashed out with a fractured hip, while an aggressive Lasse Norman Hansen is within one second of the race lead. A crash in the finale saw several more riders fall although no injuries severe as Irvine's were reported.
Irvine announced his retirement from cycling at the beginning of 2016, only to reverse his decision and sign with the Irish Pro-Continental squad late last-year. The former track world champion was making his fifth racing appearance of the season when he was involved in a crash on the stage into Knokke-Heist where he fell and suffered a hairline fracture of his right hip. Irvine was taken to University Hospital Ghent where the fracture was confirmed via examination and an x-ray
Irvine had animated the day's early breakaway before suffering his injury. He initially tried to ride on through the pain but was forced to withdraw from the 2.HC race.
"I am very disappointed and I am sad to leave the race so early. The doctors have said to me that I should be recovered hopefully after five or six weeks of rest," Irvine said in a team statement.
"I just want to thank the team, the medical staff on the race, the staff of University Hospital Gent and the many people who have sent me messages."
While the team lost Irvine, Hansen was a late aggressor in the stage to pick up nine bonus seconds, ensuring he starts stage 2 just one second in arrears to stage 1 winner Bryan Coquard. Stage 2 of the race takes the peloton from Knokke-Heist to Moorslede over 189.7km before Friday's short time trial in Beveren where Hansen is eyeing off taking the leader's jersey.
"I feel fine – physically it was probably harder to be in the break than the peloton. Mentally I avoided a lot of stress being out there," said Hansen. "I got the bonus seconds as well while I was out there. I'm not sure if I will go for the GC but I will go for the golden kilometre tomorrow. Then there is a TT and maybe I will get a leader's jersey after the TT and then we still have Mark on the same time. The plan of the team worked out really well today so overall we are happy."