A late pileup on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under saw Ben Hermans (Israel Start-Up Nation), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and Rafael Valls (Bahrain-McLaren) come off the worst as a number of riders hit the deck with 1.5km to race before the finish in Stirling.
The crash came on a right-hand turn towards the end of the stage, with the peloton flying along at almost 70kph. A touch of wheels in the tightly packed lead group looked to set off the accident, which occurred midway through the peloton.
Hermans looks to have suffered the most serious injuries in the aftermath of the crash, with his team Tweeting that the Belgian has come away with a complex shoulder fracture plus a broken clavicle (collarbone) and ribs. He has flown back to Belgium for surgery and is expected to miss two months of action.
Yates is another rider who will potentially be out of the race as a result of the crash. The Brit, racing the Tour Down Under for the first time, was left with a gash to his left knee and struggled to the finish afterwards, finishing five minutes down on stage winner Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal).
"To lose Simon wouldn't be good. It's early days; it could be fine or it might not be," Mitchelton-Scott directeur sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews.
"He's not so good at the moment. He's lost some skin in as couple of other places but his left knee is the real concern. He could barely pedal to the finish line," White admitted.
A decision on Yates' future in the race will be made after further evaluations before Thursday's stage 3.
Cofidis' new sprint star Viviani suffered road rash to a large section of his upper body and went to hospital for scans and treatment. Also suffering from a sore knee, Viviani told Cyclingnews that he'll evaluate whether he can continue the race on Thursday.
"At the hospital exams and scans ruled out fractures and trauma but my left side of the body is full of grazes and I have a sore knee," he said. "With the team we will evaluate the situation tomorrow."
Trek-Segafredo leader Richie Porte was involved in the crash too, suffering grazes to his left knee, while teammate Juan Pedro López was also held up and was among the riders who rode to the finish alongside the Tasmanian.
Additionally, Team Bahrain-McLaren have announced that Rafael Valls has been forced to abandon the race after suffering an sacral fracture in the crash. The Spaniard managed to finish stage 2 but was in too much pain to continue.
"It’s hard to accept that injury, because I was in really good shape and highly motivated, with all the team that supported me," said Valls in a statement on the team website.
"But the injury is not so bad and maybe in the next few days I can train again, more or less normal, so that keep me in a good mood for the next races. Now the pain is intense, but we will see tomorrow and with the team we will decide the best option for my health."
Manuele Boaro (Astana) took to Instagram to thank André Greipel and Francisco Ventoso for stopping to help free his legs from under bikes after the crash. The Italian escaped the accident with bruises.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was caught up in a separate crash, which occurred with 6km to go, and ended up losing 2:23 as a result. The Frenchman avoided hitting the deck though, only suffering a damaged rear derailleur and the time loss after the bike change at that inopportune moment.
This crash has come with a costly price tag to unlucky @hermansben : The diagnosis worst than expected: Its a complex shoulder fracture plus a broken clavicula and ribs. Will fly to Belgium for the operation.Recovery time: 2 months. Our hearts go out to Ben. #tourdownunder https://t.co/0Zrfhpdau7 pic.twitter.com/3CYRtWXPKrJanuary 22, 2020
Not a nice day for me, unfortunately I was involved in the big fall at minus 1.5 km. Just a few blows and bruising thankfully! Thanks @andregreipel and @franventoso for stopping to help me with my legs stuck under the bikes! 🙏🏼 📸: @dariobelingheri @bettiniphoto Manuele 🇮🇹 / 🇦🇺
A photo posted by @manueleboaro on Jan 21, 2020 at 11:25pm PST