Rabo Liv’s chances of following up last year’s World Championships silver medal in the women’s team time trial collapsed in dramatic fashion due to a serious multiple-rider crash.
The first setback for Rabo Liv came when Marianne Vos - the outstanding favourite for the road-race - was dropped with about 11 kilometres to go. Vos struggled to keep the pace of her team-mates as they forged towards what looked like a bronze or silver medal.
But then much worse was to come for the Dutch team when Annemiek Van Vleuten sliced into the barriers as she was leading a string of four Rabo Liv riders out of a roundabout.
Three of the four went spinning onto the tarmac. Van Vleuten and Anna Van Der Breggen were subsequently taken to hospital. Later reports say that Van Vleuten needed stitches, whilst Van Der Breggen apparently has a broken pelvis.
“We were going through [the roundabout] and Annemiek was on the front and she wanted to take the corner and she went too fast, couldn’t brake and went into the barriers,” Pauline Ferrand, one of the riders who went down, told Cyclingnews afterwards. “It was a big crash.”
“For me, the good thing is I have nothing” - some road rash - “but Anna was in the road and...I think for her it is a really bad thing, she couldn’t move her legs.”
Although all the Rabo Liv riders prior concern was for their injured teammate, Ferrand said to have the medal wrenched from their grasp when it was all but certain was also a blow: “We’re very disappointed; we train all year for this day.”
“I didn’t see the crash happen, but there were two roundabouts in succession, the first was ok but the second seemed a little dangerous,” Vos told reporters.
Vos admitted that she was not in her best shape, saying “team time trials are not really my thing, the rest [of her Rabo Liv teammates] were in very good shape, but I was not really that good. It’s not the perfect scenario for the road race, but I still have a week to close that gap.”
Given Vos is the stand-out favourite for the women’s road-race, any question marks over the defending World Champion’s condition could well create a far more open event than initially expected.