GENT, Belgium (VN) — Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) will race Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix despite a harrowing collision with a fan during last weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
The 2011 Roubaix winner’s status was uncertain following an emotional week that saw a 65-year-old Belgian woman remain in the hospital with a brain injury after Vansummeren crashed into her early in Flanders.
Vansummeren didn’t want to miss the chance to race Sunday, and decided to race after riding with the team during a training session over cobblestones Thursday.
“He did the training with us today. He’s confident and he looked OK, and that’s very good news,” Garmin sport director Andreas Klier told VeloNews on Thursday. “After the crash, he went home, and we stayed in touch with him. He got better every day, and he did a long training ride Wednesday, and today another one.”
Vansummeren, 33, was not seriously injured in the collision, but the injured spectator, identified by Het Nieuwsblad as Marie-Claire Moreels, remains in stable by critical condition in a hospital in Kortrijk, Belgium, after undergoing two brain surgeries, Belgian media reported.
Vansummeren rode directly into the woman, who was standing on a traffic island as the peloton swept past at race speed. Police have opened an investigation into the incident that served as a reminder at just how dangerous racing can be for both riders and fans.
Family members told Het Laatse Nieuws that they did not blame Vansummeren, and urged him to not only race Sunday, but to try to win in honor of Moreels.
Garmin officials supported Vansummeren, and said they’re glad to see him back on the bike.
“I am happy he’s back on the bike, that he’s on the cobbles, that he’s doing his training like he’s done in the past years,” Klier said. “I am very happy for him to be in the race.”
With Vansummeren back in for Roubaix, Garmin will bring a mixed squad of experienced veterans and young riders for Sunday’s battle across the pavé.
Sebastian Langeveld, 10th in Flanders, joins an on-form Tyler Farrar, second in Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs, as well as Jack Bauer. David Millar will be making his final Roubaix appearance ahead of his retirement later this year. Danish sensation Lasse Norman Hansen will make his Roubaix debut.
Klier was realistic this week about Garmin’s chances Sunday, saying the team is hoping for a top 10. He admitted the team was not on the same level as favorites Trek Factory Racing or Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but as Vansummeren proved in 2011, anyone going deep into the cobbles has a chance to win.
“To win, first of all, you have to have the legs, to be up there in the front, and then once you’re in the select group, you should also have luck,” Klier said. “When you have a flat or a crash, once you are on those pavé, it’s very hard to come back. It’s a mix of legs and luck, but the legs are the most important.”
Klier expressed satisfaction with how Garmin has performed across the northern classics. Farrar has been consistent, with second in both Scheldeprijs and Dwars door Vlaanderen, and eighth at E3 Harelbeke. Langeveld salvaged a challenging Flanders marred with mechanical problems to ride to 10th.
“We can be satisfied. Of course, we would have liked to have won. That’s what we are working for, and it’s too bad about the crash with Tyler in Gent-Wevelgem, because I am sure he would have had a very good result,” he said. “We have one more chance Sunday, but Roubaix is the hardest one of them all to win.”