World champion Julian Alaphilippe sustained multiple injuries after hitting a tree at high speed during Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège – one of cycling’s most prestigious one-day races.
In the crash, Alaphilippe “suffered two broken ribs, a broken scapula and a hemo pneumothorax [collapsed lung],” according to a statement released by his team, QuickStep AlphaVinyl.
“His condition is stable, but will need to be hospitalised for observation,” the statement continued.
The Frenchman crashed 60 kilometers from the finish in a mass pile-up that decimated much of the peloton, fell down a ditch, hit a tree, and was initially hidden from view by foliage.
Such was the severity of Alaphilippe’s condition that Romain Bardet – a rival from another team – put aside his own hopes of victory to scramble to his compatriot’s aid.
Bardet stayed with Alaphilippe until trained medics arrived.
“It was just a nightmare,” Bardet said at the finish to cycling website VeloNews.
“When I looked around, I saw Julian maybe five or six meters down, and it was an emotional shock because he was in a bad situation. No one was coming and he really needed help. It was an emergency situation. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe.”
“He felt conscious but he couldn’t really talk. I really hope that he’s OK. The mechanic came, then the doctor. The road was completely blocked.
“A lot of guys were involved in a very bad situation. No one saw him, you couldn’t really see him from the road … After that, I was in shock. The race was gone. I was lucky to escape with no injuries.”
As one of the favorites for Liège-Bastogne- Liège, Alaphilippe’s withdrawal changed the complexion of the race.
Ultimately, his 22-year-old teammate Remco Evenepoel took a spectacular solo victory, after attacking 30 kilometers from the finish.
“Today’s win is one for the entire team! Giving all my strength to my brothers @alafpolak1 and @IlanWilder and wishing them a speedy recovery,” Evenepoel wrote on Twitter after his victory.
Many other riders were also affected by the crash, including Alaphilippe’s teammate Ilan van Wilder who suffered a broken jaw.
In September, French cycling star Alaphilippe’ clinched the men’s world road cycling title for the second successive year.