The 2016 season was an exceptionally bad year for luck in the professional peloton. Before the season even started, half of the Giant-Alpecin team was nursing injuries after a wrong-way driver crashed into the riders at training camp in Calpe.
Although the usual slide-outs and tumbles that often change the course of races were overshadowed greatly by the serious injury to Stig Broeckx and the death of Antoine Demoitié, there were still a number of important incidents that shaped the major races this season. Cyclingnews looks back at five critical crashes that changed the races this year.
1. Mont Ventoux mayhem
High winds forced the Tour de France organisers to move the finish line of the Mont Ventoux stage below the tree line, compressing a snaking mass of spectators into a poorly controlled mob that scarcely could move to allow the racers through. As maillot jaune Chris Froome, Bauke Mollema and Richie Porte attacked the final kilometer, the fans closed in forcing the television motorbike to come to a halt, crashing all three riders. Porte and Mollema quickly remounted and rode on, but Froome's bike was broken and his support car nowhere in sight.
The incident overshadowed the fine stage victory of Thomas De Gendt, and Froome's a pied chase up the mountain will forever be a running joke in the cycling world. That the judges reversed his time gains was no joke to Mollema, however.
2. Kruijswijk's crisis on the Cima Coppi
Steven Kruijswijk was on his way to making history as the first Dutch rider to win the Giro d'Italia in 2016. He enjoyed a three minute lead on his nearest competitor Esteban Chaves with just two mountain stages before the parade to the finish in Torino. But on the top of the race's highest point, the Coll dell'Agnello, he clipped the shoulder-high snow bank on the edge of the road and took a dramatic tumble from which he struggled to recover. His injuries kept him from being able to answer the attacks on the next stage, and he fell to fourth overall, missing the podium. It was a long way to fall for the Dutch rider after such a strong first 18 stages.
Photo: TDW Sport
3. Zakarin's tumble from the Coll dell'Agnello
Ilnur Zakarin was on his way to a possible podium finish after Kruijswijk's crash. The Russian was chasing after the leaders on the descent of the Coll dell'Agnello when he missed a turn and crashed into a gully, breaking his collarbone. Fifth overall, just seven seconds behind eventual Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali before his fall, Zakarin will be a rider to watch in next season's Grand Tours - provided he can keep the rubber side down.
4. Cancellara's Paris-Roubaix denouement
Fabian Cancellara's second place at the 2016 Tour of Flanders proved the Swiss star was on fine form to close out his career with a storied Paris-Roubaix victory. The Trek-Segafredo man was on the back foot by 50 seconds after missing the split driven by Etixx-Quickstep, but he still had 46km to race and a motivated world champion Peter Sagan helping to chase. But on a muddy Mons-en-Pévèle sector, Cancellara's front tyre slid away, and he fell sprawling to the pavé. His 40th place was an unceremonious exit to a storied Classics career.
5. Dodgy Olympic descent
The Vista Chinesa descent had been a source of anxiety for all of the racers in the 2016 Olympic Games road race, and for good reason. Tight, steep, shaded, off-camber turns on a descent with just over 10km to go opened up the door for one small mistake to bring a rider's gold medal dreams crashing down. And crash down they did. In the men's race, Richie Porte fell on the penultimate lap, then two of the three leaders over the top of the final climb - Sergio Henao and Vincenzo Nibali - fell. The race was won not by a climber, as expected, but by Classics specialist Greg Van Avermaet.
It was even worse in the women's race, as Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten was en route to almost a sure gold when she suffered a horrific wreck on the descent. Mara Abbott, who had been more tentatively chasing on the descent, was overtaken in sight of the line by a group with eventual winner Anna van der Breggen.
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