Cofidis riders Luis Angel Maté and Filippo Fortin are recovering well in hospital in Warsaw, Poland, after having both been involved in a crash on the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne this weekend, the team reports.
Maté was attempting to bring sprinter Fortin to the front of the bunch around 20 kilometres from the finish of stage 1 in Krakow when the Spanish rider hit a pothole in the road, taking both riders down at a speed the Pro Continental team estimated to be around 55kph.
Cofidis sports director Roberto Damiani, team doctor Stéphane Desbuisson and race medical staff were all quickly on the scene, with both riders then taken by ambulance to hospital in Krakow. There, Maté received around 50 stitches for a head wound, while Fortin – who hit a crowd barrier in the crash – was diagnosed with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung after a scan.
"There was a pothole in the road, but I didn't see it," Maté explained on the team's website on Sunday. "Although I never lost consciousness, it was a pretty bad crash. Fortunately, Stéphane and Roberto stayed with us [at the hospital] in the evening to help look after us.
"Thank you to the fans, too, who know how to support us in both good times and bad. I'm looking forward to getting back on a bike and competing again: that'll will be the best gift I could give them," said the 35-year-old, who's been with Cofidis since 2011.
Italian sprinter Fortin, who joined Cofidis this season from Austrian Continental outfit Team Felbermayr-Simplon Wels, said that he was still having trouble breathing, but that he was beginning to feel better.
"Luis Angel's crash happened so quickly that there was nothing I could do to avoid it," he explained.
"I'll probably be out of action for three weeks," said the 30-year-old, who finished second on the opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire in May. "For the team, and for my family and loved ones, I can't wait to be back racing again."
On Sunday, both riders were transferred to a hospital in Warsaw, where they'll continue their recovery.
"It was a difficult to see Luis Angel and Filippo like that," Damiani added of the immediate aftermath of the crash. "We needed to stay calm, as there was no time to lose, and I wanted to go with them in the ambulance at what was a difficult time for them.
"The race medical teams and organisers reacted superbly, with great professionalism, and our team doctor [Desbuisson] was also there to assist. It's at moments like this that teamwork is absolutely essential.
"But as early as Saturday evening, Luis Angel and 'Pippo' were already talking about riding again, and we'll of course be there to help them return to competition," said Damiani.