Although Quickstep-AlphaVinyl saved their Spring Classics season with Remco Evenepoel's victory in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the team is now without two riders who were hospitalised after a massive crash in the peloton with 60km to go.
World champion Julian Alaphilippe crashed down the embankment and hit a tree, suffering two broken ribs, a fractured scapula and a punctured lung. According to Quickstep-AlphaVinyl he is still in hospital in Herentals under observation "before a recovery pathway will be decided".
Ilan Van Wilder, who suffered a broken jaw in the crash, underwent surgery and was allowed to return home to recover. But the injury means he will not be starting the Giro d'Italia as planned.
According to L'Equipe, Alaphilippe's cousin Franck visited him and said he was in good spirits.
"He was also joking right away. The joker as I know him," Franck Alaphilippe said.
"Obviously he is seriously injured. The blow was very big. 'Fifty centimetres further I would have avoided that tree and jumped back on the bike' he said."
Alaphilippe was sick before his debut race, Tour de la Provence, he crashed spectacularly in Strade Bianche when a sudden crosswind pummeled the peloton, and missed Milan-San Remo with bronchitis.
"Since the beginning of this year he has suffered from colds, bronchitis, he has had the flu and he has fallen three times. And that in less than two months.
Some might call it the curse of the rainbow jersey, but Franck Alaphilippe says that every rider has a bad year at some point.
"Julian is right in the middle of that. He has always had difficult periods, but never before a dark period like this. But now that I've seen him, I have a feeling that this situation is going to make him stronger. This will give him more mental toughness and he will be even more determined than before. We can't give a recovery date yet, but I'm very optimistic for the rest of the season."
Cabot angry with Bardet for blaming him
Romain Bardet, who was the first person to stop and attend to Alaphilippe, who was out of view of the medics and team staff, and alert them to his situation, posted a call on social media for riders to prevent these kinds of crashes.
"Apart from the immediate consequences, this makes me think about our common responsibilities to prevent accidents like this, which could have ended tragically, about the respect we have to show each other, as riders. I saw everything happen. I was just behind Tom Pidcock and Jérémy Cabot when they collided," Bardet wrote.
Cabot took exception to that post, feeling that Bardet was blaming him for causing the crash.
"I take my hat off to Romain for his very nice gesture, he is the leader of his team and he stopped on the roadside to rescue Julian, but that doesn't mean he should blame it on me," Cabot said to L'Equipe. "I don't deserve this, plus I'm not a guy who disrupts the peloton, who likes to bump, I don't take risks, I'm also the father of a two-year-old girl."
He then explained the circumstances leading up to the crash, saying: "It was a key moment in the race. I had made the effort to go up the Haute-Levée, then I had been overtaken a little, I had backed up, so I wanted to put myself back in place again for the Col du Rosier. I took the wheel of two Bora riders who were overtaking their leader, Aleksandr Vlasov. The movement was done in a totally usual way.
"At that moment, I was at the front, a rider came up on my right and tried to pass, you can't see him on the helicopter pictures because he is hidden by the trees, but there was no room. At the same time, at the head of the pack, there are some curves, and Bahrain, I think, are pushing the Bora a little bit, who are tightening from the centre to the right. So, I also have to shift a bit to the right, to follow the movement, but the rider I was talking about before, who I think took too many risks, comes in at full speed.
"My front wheel touches the back wheel of the third Bora rider, and that's it. I couldn't do anything, I couldn't brake. The space I had was gone. I think my speedometer was reading 73 km/h at that time."
Cabot said he is angry with Bardet for naming him publicly, and the Team DSM rider quickly posted an apology. Tom Pidcock, Cabot insinuated caused the crash, in turn, blamed Cabot. Pidcock suffered a possible broken finger, but Cabot said he was far worse off.
"My left collarbone is broken in two places, I have road rash all over my body, I look like a mummy, I took big blows on my knees, ankles, hip. My face is fine, my helmet rubbed a little because I went over it but I didn't hit the head too hard.
"Unfortunately I landed on the road, not on the grass. I felt several riders fall on me, Fabien Grellier was scared because he had to remove a bike that was on me and I wasn't moving.
"The shock was so violent, I was paralyzed, I almost naturally put myself in a safe position on the right side, I was in so much pain that I curled up, I didn't even shout, I didn't realize what was going on around me. I was afraid of going to pass out. I spent thirty minutes on the asphalt without moving. Then I had to wait on the stretcher again, but that wasn't the worst.
"I'm mad at Tom Pidcock and Romain Bardet. I know there are riders who are more seriously injured than me, but I didn't do anything, I just suffered the consequences.
"At Pidcock, because he said I had made a reckless move, which is unfounded, unfair and thoughtless treatment. And at Romain, because he throws me in the public square by giving my name, and suddenly I am insulted by everyone."
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