Tiesj Benoot's spring Classics campaign has been brought to a premature end after the Lotto Soudal rider broke his collarbone and sustained other injuries when he collided with a team car at Paris-Roubaix.
Benoot, who finished 9th at the Tour of Flanders the previous weekend, was chasing back through the team cars after a mechanical on the cobblestone sector to Wallers, ahead of the Arenberg Forest.
The mass of cars on the narrow sectors made it a treacherous chase and, after crashing once and remounting, Benoot hit the back of a Jumbo-Visma car, with the rear window shattering on impact. The Belgian rider knew instantly his race was over and was taken away by an ambulance in tears.
"At a certain moment, the Jumbo-Visma car was sitting in front of me and suddenly closed everything off. I could not respond anymore and went straight into the it," Benoot said, according to Nieuwsblad.
"The window shattered completely. A motorcyclist behind me also crashed because he tried to turn away from me and then fell into me. When I was on the floor, I was in great pain everywhere."
Benoot was taken to hospital in Valenciennes, where scans revealed an avulsion fracture to his collarbone. Doctors also suspect a muscle tear around the pelvis or the upper leg, with further scans set to take place on Monday.
Either way, Benoot will not line up at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. He was not due to race La Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so his spring campaign is done. After winning Strade Bianche last year, the 25-year-old has not managed to take a victory or podium this year but has been consistent. He was 5th at Strade Bianche, 16th at E3, 13th at Gent-Wevelgem, 5th at Dwars door Vlaanderen, and 9th at Flanders.
"My condition was good, so I was disappointed, but I also realise that it could have been much worse. I could have easily broken my neck. I don’t blame anyone. That driver didn’t do it on purpose. That’s the stress of Paris-Roubaix,” Benoot said.
"Unfortunately my spring is over. After Amstel I was due to rest anyway, but now I don’t know how long I’ll be out."
According to Lotto Soudal, there were no hard feelings towards Jumbo-Visma, with sport director Herman Frison explaining that his counterpart Nico Verhoeven had immediately stopped to apologise and tend to Benoot.
"We don’t blame him. You don’t do that on purpose and you don’t wish that on your worst enemy," Frison said.
"Paris-Roubaix is so hectic, you have to constantly look left and right, because there are so many motorbikes with photographers and UCI commissaires, and the riders coming back pass on all sides. Nico could not go any way with his car and braked in a fraction of a second."