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Naesen injured in mass pile-up at BinckBank Tour

BinckBank Tour 2020 - 16th Edition - 1st stage Blankenberge - Ardooie 132,1 km - 29/09/2020 - Oliver Naesen (BEL - AG2R - La Mondiale) - Dries De Bondt (BEL - Alpecin - Fenix) - photo Tim van Wichelen/CV/BettiniPhoto©2020
Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A massive crash with just over four kilometres to go on the opening stage of the BinckBank Tour left riders straggling in well after Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) had won the stage in a reduced bunch sprint. Among those limping across the finish line was overall favourite Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale).

Naesen, unable to bend his right knee, finished the stage thanks to help from Belgian champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) who pushed him along.

It doesn't bode well for Naesen's Classics campaign in October.

“It was a huge crash," Naesen said to Het Nieuwsblad. “I fear a football injury [torn ACL]. I hit the frame of my bicycle with my right knee. The moment I fell I had a new wave of riders fall on top of me. My bike turned 180 degrees under my body while my foot was still clipped into my pedal. So I fear a joint problem, an injury to the ligaments of my knee. It does not make sense to have a scan because my knee is too swollen.

"I'm waiting. I have crossed the line because I still intend to continue, but it may be that this will not work."

Naesen was one of about 50 riders to fall when Canadian Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-Up Nation) looked back and touched wheels with the rider in front of him. He fell and sparked a chain reaction that rippled through the bunched up peloton.

Stijn Steels (Deceuninck-Quickstep) was on the ground holding his left wrist but eventually got up and finished with help from Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma).

There was concern about safety in the BinckBank Tour last season with the riders association (CPA) complaining about the narrow roads and style of barriers used in the sprint finishes.

Organisers said they listened to the riders and widened the roads but Dutch champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) perhaps foreshadowed the incident by telling Nos.nl that "riders make a race dangerous".

"I think the riders are quite quick to criticize these days. If they put the finish on a straight road of ten kilometers, then the riders will still crash," he said.

"Sometimes I also see things that can be better protected. But even the safest finish zone becomes dangerous if you come to it with a peloton. It is the riders who push and pull."