Van Avermaet falls hard in E3 Harelbeke

BMC rider finishes with sore back, hip and ribs

Several crashes marred the spring classic E3 Harelbeke on Friday afternoon. Early on in the race there was a pile-up that took out multiple riders, including Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

At the end of the race Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) took a horrible tumble. Luckily Van Avermaet managed to get back on his legs, and his bike, completing the final kilometres to the finish in Harelbeke. The Belgian classics specialist will undergo a check-up but expects to start Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

“Nobody is free from falling,” Van Avermaet said at the team bus after reaching the finish line in Harelbeke. “We’ll see tomorrow how I feel. If nothing is broken. My ribs are hurt. My back and my hip hurt the most.

“It was a serious knock. I had to recover for a while. I’m someone who usually tries to get back up as quickly as possible but this time I didn’t feel like riding a bike straight away.”

Van Avermaet said he believed there was no severe damage and seemed to expect to be race ready on Sunday in Gent-Wevelgem.

“We’ll see with the team what we can do,” he said. “We’ll do a check-up with the eye on the upcoming days. We’ll see how it is tomorrow. I think I’m still ok for the other races.”

The crash occurred shortly after climbing the Tiegemberg, the 17th and final “berg” of the E3 Harelbeke. BMC was setting a fast pace to get back on the three leaders. On the climb they cut away 15 seconds of their deficit, still trailing the leaders by 25 seconds.

On the small and twisting roads towards Anzegem it was BMC’s Daniel Oss who was setting a fast pace with Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha), Van Avermaet and the rest of the main group on his tail. When cornering at high speed into the Landergemstraat at 17 kilometres from the finish, Van Avermaet suddenly flipped over his handlebars.

“We enter the corner at quite a high speed,” Van Avermaet said of the crash. “Kolobnev misses the corner and starts to brake. I’m very closely behind him. I’m riding against his rear wheel and can’t stay upright. It was quite a heavy crash. I make a bit of a somersault. Luckily the damage seems alright. My hip seems worst off.”

The 29-year-old Belgian rider landed in the muddy roadside, which probably saved him from severe injuries. He remained on the ground for some time, lifting up his legs a bit. After awhile he was helped back on his feet and seemingly looking for a bike. He took on his sunglasses from a spectator and then limped towards his bike.

“I tried to ride back at ease to the finish because getting straight into the team car isn’t ideal,” he said. “Just not to be sore. Because If you go directly in the car it’s probably worse the day after. It was better to try and stretch the legs if it was possible. My hip is hurting a little bit. It was a really bad crash.”

Van Avermaet was runner-up in the Ronde van Vlaanderen 2014. In the absence of last year’s winner, Fabian Cancellara, and Tom Boonen he is one of the top favourites for the victory in the Ronde next week. After a tumultuous start of the season – being implicated in the doping investigation of Dr. Chris Mertens – he seems to have made another step forward, winning the uphill finish in Arezzo’s stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico two weeks ago.

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