Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has been left disappointed at having had to leave his debut Tour de France early following his horrific crash during Friday's stage 13 time trial. Having managed to win a stage – stage 10 – against some of the world's best sprinters, heading home early due to injury is unfortunately foremost in the 24-year-old's mind right now.
"I'm feeling pretty good, given the circumstances," Van Aert said in a video posted on the Jumbo-Visma team's website on Saturday, the day after the crash that left him with a gaping wound on his right hip, which was operated on at a hospital in Pau on Friday evening.
"I had a good night's sleep, and am not in much pain, but that's also perhaps due to the medication. As long as I don't have to move too much, it's not too bad."
While Van Aert explained how disappointing it was for him to have to leave the race in such a way, he said he'd also begun to come to terms with what had happened after he clipped a crowd barrier close to the end of the 27.2-kilometre course – a stage for which the Belgian time trial champion started as one of the favourites.
"When I see the Tour on TV today [Saturday], it'll hurt for a while," he said. "I wanted to get straight back on the bike after the crash, but then when I saw the wound, I panicked."
Asked to explain what he remembers of the crash, Van Aert's memory of what happened was relatively detailed.
"I was riding at the limit, and there was a corner just before the start of the last kilometre. I knew it was a tricky corner; I turned into it a bit too much, and I must have hooked my hip up behind the barrier. I don't actually know whether I hit the barrier first with my handlebar or my hip, but it's hard to watch the images of the crash.
"The fact that I crashed is my own mistake," Van Aert continued, "but the fact that I hurt myself this way is the result of hitting the barrier, I think. I also think it's a crash that rarely occurs, but it might be something [for race organisers] to think about in order to improve things.
"I think that the mechanism by which the barriers click into each other had come loose, and I injured myself as a result. It could be safer. But of course the intention is to go around the fences and not into them," he said, showing that his sense of humour was still intact, even if much of the skin on his hip wasn't.
Van Aert said that he believed he was given morphine at the side of the road when the race doctor got to him, and more morphine once he reached hospital in Pau, where a scan revealed no fractures.
Now, the young Belgian will return home to recover, and will no doubt return to winning ways in the near future. In the meantime, Van Aert is left with time to reflect on his first Tour.
"I think I can be very proud of my first two weeks, and we've been able to do fantastic things with the team," he said, neglecting to mention the fact that he won the sprint finish to stage 10.
"The goal I had in mind was to reach Paris, so this is a huge disappointment."
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