Mathieu van der Poel's much-hyped foray into road racing's spring Classics looked to be over before it really got under way, with the Dutch champion crashing heavily in the sprint finish of the Nokere Koerse on Wednesday – although his Corendon-Circus team later reported that he hadn't suffered any fractures.
Van der Poel was taken down by a touch of wheels from Team Sunweb's Max Walscheid in the final 500 metres and tumbled numerous times down the cobbled stretch before being run over by CCC Team's Jonas Koch. The cyclo-cross world champion was conscious but in pain as he was attended to by medics on course, and then stretchered away.
Van der Poel's Correndon Circus teammate Stijn Devolder had been one of the first on the scene.
"I saw Mathieu groan with pain, and then I stopped with him," Devolder told nieuwsblad.be.
"It took a long time before doctors came to help. He was in pain all over. It was terrible, and he couldn't say a word. I tried to calm him down, which was difficult as he was in so much pain, and really just wanted to be left alone."
Although there were concerns that Van der Poel had injured his shoulder and pelvis, his team confirmed in a post on Instagram that he has no fractures.
"Nokere Koerse didn't end as we expected," Corendon-Circus stated. "[There was] A nasty crash for Mathieu van der Poel in the final straight, and afterwards they took him away by ambulance to the hospital. Luckily, no fractures have been determined – only abrasions and bruises. Under these circumstances, he will be able to complete his road program as planned."
Later, Van der Poel was able to confirm himself that he was OK, via Instagram.
"That was a hard crash. I don't know how, but I came away with [just] some bruises and abrasions. Could have been worse!" he posted.
Floris Gerts (Tarteletto-Isorex) was also involved in the crash and carried off course on a stretcher with possible injuries to his neck. The team later reported that Gerts had suffered a bruised neck, stitches above and below one eye and a very bad headache, according to Sporza. The Dutchman should leave the hospital today.
Team Sunweb's Cees Bol won the race ahead of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates).
The race was the first of a series of planned one-day events for Van der Poel, who was due to race in Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders after helping his team to secure wildcard invitations to the main Flanders Classics events.
Van der Poel showed himself well in the closing stages of Nokere Koerse, and had put in several probing attacks in the race before settling in for the bunch sprint.
The nervous race had already been disrupted by numerous minor crashes along the 195.6km route, but the worst had been saved for the finish. Walscheid's fall sparked a chain-reaction crash, with Gerts also seriously injured in the wreck. Trek-Segafredo's Matteo Moschetti also went down, but finished, and was taken for medical examinations after the race.