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Whelan breaks pelvis in Itzulia Basque Country crash

James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo) at the UAE Tour 2021
James Whelan (EF Education-Nippo) at the UAE Tour 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

EF Education-Nippo’s James Whelan has watched his early season opportunities evaporate with the 24-year-old confirming that he broke his pelvis in a hard crash in the early stages of a wet and slippery stage 2 at Itzulia Basque Country.

There was plenty of rainfall along the 154.8km stage 2 route on Tuesday, with the Australian rider, who won the under 23 Tour of Flanders in 2018, crashing on the slippery roads early in the stage. He rode on, registering a finishing time less than ten minutes behind the winner, Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech), and coming across the line in 138th place. Unsurprisingly he didn’t line up for stage 3 with a CT scan on the agenda instead.

“The ache of a broken pelvis is rather impressive but it’s substantially more painful to accept the rest period and miss the racing opportunities over the next few weeks,” said Whelan in a post on Instagram, where a nasty looking wound on his chin was also on display. “Far out this crazy beautiful sport is a savage sometimes.”

Whelan started his season in Australia, racing the Santos Festival of Cycling with the national squad, Team Garmin-Australia then taking sixth at Road Nationals. He raced the UAE Tour before starting at the 6-stage Itzulia Basque Country.

As the other riders race on – with Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) moving into the race lead on stage 4 ahead of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) – Whelan has had to adjust his plans after only spending two days racing in Europe this season.

“Time to reset and chase new goals for the middle of the season,” said Whelan.

It is the EF Education-Nippo rider's third year in the WorldTour team, signing a three year deal starting in 2019. The rider, who has largely focussed on stage races, only took up cycling about five years ago after an Achilles injury ended his running career.