Alexander Kristoff was targeting a second successive win on the Mattrah Corniche on the final stage of the Tour of Oman, and hoping to book-end his 2019 race on a winning note. However the UAE Team Emirates sprinter was unable to finish the race after a heavy crash left him with deep lacerations on his arm and knee.
The crash occurred with just over 50km of the largely flat stage remaining, and affected a chunk of the peloton, including second-placed Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), who was able to remount and finish despite significant road rash.
Kristoff didn't get off so lightly and immediately exited the race with blood flowing from his left arm and knee.
"We went through a big town before and there was a big fight. I don’t really know why there was a such a big fight because it was still quite far to the finish," Kristoff told Cyclingnews after the wounds had been patched up.
"I was actually trying to take it a little easy because I didn't see the reason to fight, so I was sitting in the last part of the pack. Then the crash happened in the middle. I was on the right side and the crash moved from the middle to the right, unfortunately for me – if it had moved to the left I would have been fine.
"I almost managed to brake, but then I hit a bike and crashed over into a pile of people and bikes and then I think I hit a lot of equipment, because it didn't hurt so bad but I cut myself really bad. So for sure I went into the bikes and cut myself on something on the bikes."
Asked by Eurosport whether it could have been caused by a disc brake, Kristoff said that was his inclination, but that he couldn't say for sure, only that it must have been caused by something sharp on one of the bikes.
Kristoff remounted but soon made the decision to pull out of the race. Had it been the opening day, he would surely have tried to finish the stage but given it was the final day – and victory had suddenly become a remote prospect – he decided to climb into the car and get properly seen to by medical staff.
"I jumped on the spare bike but I saw I was bleeding so much, then I looked and it was so deep so I don't really feel so comfortable riding anymore, so I stopped," he said.
"I'm a bit disappointed. I was feeling quite good, so I think I would have been really up there fighting for the win today. I come out of the race with something, but I was hoping to make it one more victory on the Corniche. Ah well, maybe next year."
On to the UAE Tour
Kristoff is due to travel to Abu Dhabi on Friday ahead of the UAE Tour. He had hoped to ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne in Belgium next weekend but team sponsors want him on home turf, and he had agreed to work for teammate Fernando Gaviria in the sprint stages.
Despite the severity of the wound, Kristoff is confident he'll be OK to race next week, even if he'll have to put pressure on it on the extended bars of his time trial bike on the opening day.
"Yeah, it should be OK," he said.
"I feel I should also been racing now, but just after crashing you hurt more than you do one hour after. I could have finished but my bike was completely broken and I was not feeling too good.
"When I get it fixed up it should be okay, but it's really hurting. When I see how it looks, it's not very nice. I'm able to move everything, so it could’ve been worse."