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For anyone watching the Women’s Olympic Road Race on Sunday 7th August the overriding memory will be of the terrible crash involving Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten.
The Men’s Road Race had come the day before and the dangers of the course were well highlighted with no less than 3 cyclists suffering injuries and more crashing out.
The site of the crash was the descent called Vista Chinesa. Chris Boardman, 1992 Olympic Champion, had walked the course and found it lacking in terms of safety. In an interview Mr Boardman told the BBC after the Women’s race “I am past commenting – I am angry about it…I went down and had a look at the course and saw those edges. We knew it was way past being technical; it was dangerous. The people who designed the course and said what safety features were needed had seen it as well and left it.”
Annemiek van Vleuten was leading the 141km race with 10km to go when she came down the descent, her bike slipped and she went head first over her handlebars. She hit the large concrete curb and lay motionless on the side of the road. Her teammate, Anna Van der Breggen who went on to win the race, said it really shook her when she saw Annemiek come off her bike but she realised she was now first in the Netherlands’ team and had to chase, doing it for Annemiek.
The Dutch Cycling Federation confirmed that Annemiek was admitted to intensive care with severeconcussion, facial injuries and three fractures in her lumbar spine. According to a later statement from Annemiek she is recovering well and has been discharged from Hospital. She hopes to fly home this Friday in order to convalesce further.
Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, issued a statement following the Dutchwoman’s fall to insist the course had been thoroughly checked.
It read ‘The Rio 2016 Road Race course was carefully designed and was extensively tested at the test event and in training. We do our utmost to design safe, challenging courses but unfortunately crashes do sometimes occur due to a combination of factors.’
This crash acts as yet a stark reminder of the potential dangers of road racing, even with the most experienced of cyclists and demonstrates, once again, the importance of safety equipment at all levels.
We wish Annemiek well on her recovery.