The Dutchman crashed heavily on the opening lap of the event. Although he managed to remount and hold the leaders at just over a minute for four laps, he eventually abandoned the race and he subsequently travelled to hospital for X-rays on a hip injury.
During Van der Poel’s reconnaissance of the course, a descending wooden plank had been in place at the point in which he would crash. Writing on Twitter, Van der Poel said he was unaware that the plank would be removed for the race itself.
Both Dutch national coach Gerben de Knegt and Van der Poel’s teammate Milan Vader, who placed 10th, could not explain how the pre-race favourite had not realised the plank would be removed.
“It may be hard to say, but we talked about that during lunch today,” Vader told NOS.
“Mathieu said: ‘Gosh everyone jumps there.’ I asked: ‘Won't you, then?’ He said, ‘No, I'll roll off that plank,’ Then I said that they had removed that board at the test event in 2019 for the competition.”
Van der Poel confirmed on Twitter that he was under the impression the plank would be in place during the race.
“I was not aware of it – that plank was there during the reconnaissance. I only heard that it had been removed at the test event,” wrote Van der Poel.
Asked if he had been informed of the plank’s removal beforehand, Van der Poel wrote: “No, I didn't know anything.” He also confirmed that he was in hospital undergoing x-rays after his crash.
The cross country event was won by Tom Pidcock (Great Britain), who beat Mathias Flueckiger (Switzerland) by 20 seconds, while Spain’s David Valero claimed bronze.
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