Scott Sunderland's racing return following a severe concussion has ended at the Tour de Langkawi after the Australian suffered another serious head injury. Although the original diagnosis of fractured vertebrae proved to be incorrect, Sunderland was still hospitalised following the accident.
"Scott had a crash about 4.5km to go. He got caught on the wheel of another rider and just didn't manage to get off it and went over the handlebars," Bennelong SwissWellness team official Neil Walker told Eurosport and Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 4.
"He's sustained a head injury and there was talk about a possible fracture to his vertebrae but as far as we know this morning from a doctors report, that is not the case. He is obviously suffering from a concussion and there is a concern because of the crash he had in China."
Sunderland, who turned 30 the day before the race, won the opening stage of the Tour de Langkawi last year and went on to his enjoy his best season to date. However, his high-speed crash at the Tour of China II abruptly ended his season and delayed the start of the New Year for the former track world champion. The Tour de Langkawi was to start his 2018 season, and having placed eighth on stage 1, it appeared Sunderland was ready to challenge in the sprints.
However, a DNF on stage 3 due to the crash was followed by a night in hospital, where he posted a photo of his facial injuries on social media, and the race is now over for Sunderland.
"He won't be continuing and we will try and get him home as soon as possible," Walker added. "He is in hospital in Kuala Terengganu and there is talk of moving him into a hospital in Kuala Lumpur but I think that is to get better treatment. Because of the review this morning that might not happen, so we are just waiting to hear about that."
Sunderland has now suffered two serious concussions in just over six months. As for the long-term effects of the two injuries, Walker was not willing to speak for his sprinter.
"The concussion was serious there and took him a long time to get back," Walker said of the China crash. "I wouldn't like to speculate what he is going to do at this point. We have to find out what he wants to do."
With their number one sprinter now out of the race Bennelong SwissWellness is looking to Anthony Giacoppo to take up the baton in the sprints and the likes of Sam Crome and Dylan Sunderland to make a move on the queen stage up to Cameron Highlands.
"AJ is the backup sprinter and is certainly capable of getting a result at this race. Any sprint stage we will be riding for AJ," said Walker of the adjusted objectives in the race. "Obviously, the team takes a bit of a knock with something like this but the guys we have are all capable of getting a result. I think the whole race is going to be lit up fairly strongly with what happened yesterday. There are a few WorldTour teams that probably wouldn't be happy with the situation as things are now so it could turn into a move lively race from now on."
Steele von Hoff was originally down to race the Tour de Langkawi for the team but crashed last month and fractured several vertebrae. He has since returned to racing and is aiming to hold his place in the road race for the Commonwealth Games in April.