The 2016/17 cyclo-cross season has been something of a two-horse race, such has been the dominance of Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, but one of their closest challengers, Toon Aerts, has been ruled out for the rest of the season, including the World Championships, after his crash at Fiuggi on Sunday.
The Belgian, who is the European champion, was taken away in an ambulance after hitting a tree on the sixth lap of Sunday’s World Cup race. Hospital scans have revealed two fractures in his left shoulder.
“Toon has suffered a fracture in the clavicle and a complex fracture in the head of the scapula,” read a medical update from the Telenet-Fidea team. “For the break in the clavicle, an operation is not required, and in the other case the fracture is too complex to operation – only rest will heal it."
“Because of this Toon will not be in action in cyclo-cross again this winter. Over the next three weeks he must give his shoulder complete rest. Thereafter, a new medical check-up will determine whether he can start his rehabilitation. Either way, everything will be devoted to preparing for next winter’s cyclocross season.”
Aerts was initially taken to an Italian hospital in Frosinone, but his family and team were apparently unhappy with the conditions there and decided it would be best for him to fly straight back to his native Belgian for assessment.
According to Nieuwsblad, Aerts’ father, Raf, explained that there was a queue of 100 people at the hospital, that the scanning machines weren’t working, that they couldn’t provide Aerts with painkillers, and that they only offered him two cubes of ice for his shoulder.
“I doubt even if there was electricity in the hospital – apparently the Italian hospitals have no money and nothing works there,” said Raf Aerts. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Aerts was quickly seen once back in Herentals in Belgium, and he was quickly told his season was over and that he would miss the biggest race of the year – the World Championships – for a second year in a row.
Since the 23-year-old received an automatic place in the Worlds race courtesy of his European champion's status, Belgium will have one rider less than they were counting on for the last weekend of January. They will announce their squad on Tuesday.