Classics over for Cancellara after E3 Harelbeke crash

Fabian Cancellara’s Classics campaign is all but over after the Trek Factory Racing rider crashed out of E3 Harelbeke on Friday. The team confirmed that the Swiss star suffered two minor fractures in the transverse processes of his lower vertebrae. Although he will not undergo surgery the team confirmed to Cyclingnews that “the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix were very unlikely”.

Cancellara was involved in a fall early in the race together with Milan-San Remo winner John Degenkolb (Giant Alpecin) and Lars Boom (Astana). Despite briefly remounting and regaining contact with the peloton, Cancellara was forced to stop soon after and was taken to hospital immediate for scans when the extent of his injures were confirmed.

As Cancellara abandoned the race, the team’s director Dirk Demol confirmed that his rider would miss Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem but with a fractured back the rider is most likely out for the foreseeable future with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix also highly unlikely to form part of his campaign.

Cancellara is the reigning Tour of Flanders champion and has given himself until the end of 2016 to win as many spring classics as possible before retirement from the sport.

“It all happened so fast. Someone slammed the brakes and there was no way to go, just straight into it," Cancellara said. "I flew over a couple of riders and then landed in a pile of bikes. There were riders everywhere. I fell so hard, and felt pain everywhere. It was sort of reflex to get back on the bike but the pain was hard, in my lower back, left wrist, and my ribs on the back.

“I felt right away that it was a serious crash, but I wanted to try to keep going. I had to stop; the pain was too much. We went to the hospital for scans and this confirmed the pain.”

The bones that are broken are the wing-like parts of the sides of two vertebrae in his lower spine, and it is unknown how long he will be out of competition. One thing is certain, he will not be racing any more Spring Classics.

“There is nothing you can do with this injury – no cast, no surgery – but just biting the pain,” Cancellara said.

General Manager Luca Guercilena will now have to re-work the Trek team's strategy for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“These are things that happen in cycling, and that everyone has to deal with sooner or later,” Guercilena said. “But we know how much Fabian is important for us, so we are of course very dejected to hear this news.

“First what is the most important is his health, and that he takes of that so he can return 100 percent again. And then for the rest, it’s time for all the other riders to step up - as they now have possibilities - and perform well. Certainly it’s not great news for our team, but that does not mean it’s over. We have some very good riders that will now have their chances.”

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.