Stage 2 of the 2019 Tour Down Under was marred by a late crash that saw a number of riders hit the ground ahead of a chaotic sprint finale where Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) emerged victorious.
Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin) looked to be the worst affected by the crash as he rolled into the team vehicle area past the finish line with his face, sky-blue kit and bike covered with blood. Despite the initial impressions, however, the majority of Haller’s injuries appear to be superficial and the former Austrian national champion plans on starting stage 3 on Thursday.
“If you have a cut on the face it always looks worse than it actually is,” Haller said. “The guy in front of me, his bike came up from the ground and hit me in the face and obviously it's not a nice feeling when somebody throws their bike in your face.
“Right now, it looks like nothing is broken and that's the most important thing, I'm pretty ok, my shoulder and neck is a bit sore but everything is alright.
“I'm very sure I'll be on the start line again tomorrow, there is no reason to not try at least. You know how it is sometimes and you can have a tough night and tomorrow it can feel even worse than today. You're still buzzing from the final and have a bit of adrenaline in the blood but I'm very sure it will not affect my race.”
Katusha later confirmed that Haller had suffered “a bruised trapezius muscle and has multiple superficial road rash on his elbow, face, knee and hip,” though he had avoided any broken bones.
The Tour Down Under is preceded each year on a Sunday evening with a criterium in the centre of Adelaide. Despite the short distance and uncomplicated nature of the course, the final lap saw two crashes, injuring a number of riders before the real event had even begun.
As the first WorldTour race of the season, the Tour Down Under can be pivotal in a few months’ time when team cars are positioned and ordered, in the often-narrow roads of the Classics, subject to their ranking in the WorldTour points table.
This adds more value to the already respected race – now in its 21st edition – and, alongside an array of riders and neo-pros also looking to perform in their new teams, this creates a level of pressure perhaps expected in more prestigious races later in the season.
“I think it was, I don't need to say who, but a rider went down in front of me and his bike hit my face and I was down too,” Haller explained further.
“Nobody goes down on purpose, nobody wants to cause a crash or something like that so it's probably a normal incident. I think you feel that everybody is under real tension, everybody likes to brake late, everybody wants to keep their space close and yeah, this is why it gets harder and harder, year by year.
“There are no easy races anymore, we just started in the new year and everybody is keen to get a result in their pocket straightaway.”