Among those who went down include overall race leader Marlen Reusser (Àle BTC Ljubljana), Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo), and Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma).
The stage from Stramproy to Weert finally looked to be heading in the favour of the sprinters after a series of breakaway wins scuppering the chances of bunch sprints in previous days. However, with just over 5km to go a touch of wheels left the majority of the peloton involved in or held up behind a crash.
Only six riders remained at the front of the race: eventual winner Lonneke Uneken, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Amy Pieters, and Demi Vollering of SD Worx and Susanne Andersen and Pfeiffer Georgi of Team DSM.
GC leader Reusser managed to finish the stage after being held up by the crash and retained the yellow jersey. Reusser, who had also crashed in stage 1, had bandages on her arm and right knee, and a new wound on her left knee.
"It was really hectic, there was not really one breakaway going, just this bigger one one time and then it was really a lead out and hectic. Everybody wanted to be at the front to not crash and yet everybody crashed, yeah it’s hectic.
“I was a bit later than the crash so I just went off my bike a little bit. I touched the ground a little bit but I didn’t really crash and I was one of the first to chase back.”
Reusser committed to the chase because rival GC contender Van den Broek-Blaak was part of the small group that split off the front following the crash.
“I understood Chantal Blaak is in this first group so I knew every second would count and I didn’t want to lose seconds also on Trek so I was a bit afraid to chase everything on my own and then be attacked somewhere. So we chased all together it was nice in the end," Reusser said.
“We expected that kind of racing. I never did this tour before but I heard about it, it’s really technical, you go to smaller roads, bigger roads, you have wind.
"It’s about being in the front, covering the attacks you need to cover, and we’ll try our best for the next two days.”
Reusser expressed sympathies for the riders from SD Worx who appeared to have been injured in the crash. “I’ve heard SD Worx [has] some riders are not well, I’m really sorry for them."
Favourites for the stage, Wiebes, Norsgaard, Barnes, Hosking, and Vos were all caught behind the crash. Vos finished eighth on the stage at 14 seconds down.
Trek-Segafredo wrote in a post on Twitter that Hosking and her teammate Trixi Worrack appeared to have minor injuries. “'[They] don’t appear to have major consequences.” However, Letizia Paternoster also crashed and has been abandoned the race.
"Chloe Hosking and Trixi Worrack were involved in the big crash at the finish but don’t appear to have major consequences. Letizia Paternoster crashed earlier in the race and had to abandon. She is being assessed in hospital. We will continue to update," Trek-Segafredo wrote.
Canyon-SRAM were the worst affected team and wrote in a post on Twitter that all their riders were caught up in the crash, with Kasia Niewiadoma requiring additional medical assistance.
“Unfortunately, all of our riders were caught in or held up by the crash. Alice Barnes came down but is okay. Kasia Niewiadoma crashed and is having further medical attention for skin wounds and abrasions.”
With four riders still in front after the crash, SD Worx were the least affected by the crash.
"It was our plan to attack with 5km to go, that's why we were in front with so many of us,” said stage winner Uneken. “Suddenly there was a crash, it happened in a split second. I'm happy that I can finish it off. I hope everyone is OK."
Andersen, who also avoided the crash, said her Team DSM was in control at the front of the race but that their sprinter Wiebes was one of the first to crash.
“We were going all in to keep it together for a bunch sprint today, and definitely didn’t want to end up with the same situation as the second day," Andersen said.
“We were in control of everything that went up the road and kept compact towards the front of the bunch. Towards the last kilometres it was all together and Pfeiffer, Lorena and myself were well positioned as the second team. The road narrowed a little though and the gutter was deep, and unfortunately Lorena went down hard. It left Pfeiffer and me in the front group and it was hard switching my mindset to sprinting for myself after seeing Lorena go down.
"I knew I had to be first through the last corner but I waited too long with overtaking Pfeiffer and messed it up a bit. Honestly, I’m annoyed at myself for making a mistake like that. What matters the most though is that Lorena will have a good recovery, and also all the other riders who went down in that nasty crash, too.”
Norsgaard finished the stage but appeared to be injured as she stepped into the team bus, however the Danish national champion later wrote in a post on Twitter that she did not suffer major injuries.
“I’m okay. I just got a bad hit to the ribs and chest, but with some rest I’ll be all good again soon. I hope we can take a little bit more care of each other out there, even in the crazy sprint finishes.”
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