By Bjorn Haake in Gent, Belgium
The fourth night of the U23 UIV Cup at the Gent Six Days was marred by crashes. The most prominent rider going down was Stijn Steels, wearing the yellow leader's jersey. Jackie Simes also went down when his fork collapsed. Both were able to continue to race after a brief treatment. Steels and partner Tosh van der Sande retained their lead the overall one lap ahead of Americans Austin Carroll and Guy East.
Steels received treatment from the Stichting Service Medical, a non-profit Dutch medical service that is specialised in sports events, and he gave the thumbs up to some concerned spectators. "I have a few bruises, and a I hurt my ankle a bit." Otherwise, he was fine and the thought of stopping didn't cross his mind once. "We are racing in front of our crowd. I'd be stupid to stop."
Steels noted that the fourth night, with several crashes, was very different than the previous three nights. "We can be lucky that nothing happened the first three nights."
As for the crash itself, it happened so fast that Steels didn't recall the details. "I don't know what happened. I think I was going a little too fast at the hand over, and then I just couldn't go anywhere." He went down hard on the back straight.
Simes crashed due to a broken fork, and Steels felt bad for him. "That is a lot worse," he sympathized. Simes was OK, albeit a bit shaken after the traumatic experience, but like all the other crash victims of the event, he was able to continue racing.
The Stichting Service Medical, which is based in Limburg, Netherlands, counted a total of four crashes.