Sprinter Gerald Ciolek of T-Mobile Team thought he saw his chance to win the sprint in the fourth stage of the Tour of Poland by going up the right side, close to the barriers. He was wrong.
An overly-enthusiastic fan stuck his or her arm out into the road, clipping the young sprinter, similar to an incident in stage three in the Deutschland-Tour. Down he went, only 30 metres or so before the finish line and right in the middle of a mass sprint. He took some other big names down with him, including race leader Wouter Weylandt of Quick.Step-Innergetic, Graeme Brown of Rabobank and Astana's René Haselbacher.
The crash was so close to the finish line that their momentum carried them over it, with all four finishing in the top 14. Weylandt slid over the line on his back, Haselbacher flew over it, and Ciolek apparently went in face first.
The 20 year-old was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which proved negative. "Gerald has some bruising and cuts over the eyebrow and upper lip. We hope it looks worse than it really is," Directeur Sportif Jan Schaffrath said. This morning, team spokesman Stefan Wagner told Cyclingnews, "Gerald Ciolek is fine and he will start today. There are no serious injuries but he has some pain."
Weylandt lost the yellow jersey because of the incident. Stage winner Danilo Napolitano took over the lead by two seconds, based on bonus time associated with the stage win. "Suddenly they crashed right in front of my nose, and I went flying over them," Weylandt said, according to sportwereld.be. He had gone into the race with a sore wrist, but now has two of them. "Now my other wrist got hit, and a piece of a bike banged against my leg. But I think I can start again on Thursday."
Both Graeme and Haselbacher have reputations as "crash pilots", but both were innocent in this incident. "I had a great position in the last two kilometres. 200 metres before the finish I was still second behind Napolitano," Haselbacher said on his website, haselbacher.com.
"Unfortunately I waited too long and started too late. Ciolek went by me and thundered into the barrier. I flew over his bike and sailed over the finish line. It was a crazy crash, which reminded me of the 2004 Tour de France."
The Austrian noted that his knee hurt and that he had multiple scrapes on the left side of his body, but knew, "It could have been a lot worse." He wasn't sure whether he would start today, but joked, "The finish line photo must be great!"
Even though Brown was a victim in this crash, and not its cause, he still came in for criticism, as apparently some in the peloton blamed it on him. "Total nonsense," said team manager Frans Maassen on rabobank.nl. "I saw the sprint and also watched it attentively on video. This was not Graeme's fault. Ciolek just hit a barrier. They cannot expect Brown to fly over him. No one could ever have avoided Ciolek in this situation. But I do know where it comes from. Brown has a reputation of being a cowboy. This just proves how hard it is to shake that."
The Australian is expected to start the stage today. "He is tough as a rock. My first thought was 'we are going to have to scrape him off the road,' but now he is here on the bus watching the finale on video. Scraped and everything. He will probably have a bad night but I know him by now and I am sure he will be back on Thursday." Maassen said Wednesday evening.