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Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) crashed...

Cancellara breaks vertebrae in E3 Harelbeke crash, out of classics

Fabian Cancellara's spring classics campaign comes to an unexpected end as he breaks two vertebrae in early crash on Friday

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Fabian Cancellara’s 2015 cobbled classics campaign ended before it began in earnest after a crash 39.4 kilometers into the E3 Harelbeke on Friday in Belgium. He fell on his left wrist and fractured two vertebrae according to early reports from the hospital.

“It all happened so fast. Someone slammed the brakes and there was no way to go, just straight into it,” Cancellara said to AFP. “I flew over a couple of riders and then landed in a pile of bikes. There were riders everywhere. I fell so hard and felt pain everywhere. It was sort of reflex to get back on the bike, but the pain was hard, in my lower back, left wrist, and my ribs on the back.”

The Swiss classics champion — a three-time winner of both the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix — crashed on the cobbled Haaghoek sector with around 40 to 50 other riders. He continued for 10km more, but the pain was too much and he abandoned.

“I felt right away that it was a serious crash, but I wanted to try to keep going. I had to stop; the pain was too much. We went to the hospital for scans and this confirmed the pain.”

“Unfortunately Fabian Cancellara has abandoned the race after his crash. We will keep you informed on his situation as soon as possible,” Trek Factory Racing said on its Twitter account of Cancellara, who won the 2009, 2010, and 2013 editions of the race.

A photo from the race showed Cancellara favoring his left wrist after the crash.

An update from journalists at the hospital confirmed he would have to end his classics campaign early. The problem was not his wrist, but his back. He will not require surgery, but will be forced to miss the upcoming classics.

“It seems that a water bottle fell on the cobbles and caused it,” Trek sport director Dirk Demol told Sporza TV.

“He hit his wrist and the lower part of his back. He couldn’t stay on the pedals anymore. He wasn’t looking good at all.”

The 34-year-old Swiss rider reportedly said his classics season is over. He is aiming to repeat in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 5 and Paris-Roubaix on April 12.

Cancellara went immediately to the hospital in Waregem for X-rays, which ended Demol’s and the team’s hopes for a quick recovery.

Milano-Sanremo winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Lars Boom (Astana) were also involved in the crash. They continued. Abandoning with Cancellara were Niccolò Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida), Robert Wagner (LottoNL-Jumbo), Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin), Vegard Breen, Gert Dockx (both Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti (both Movistar).

Demol said Cancellara would skip Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, but his entire cobbled classics campaign could be a wash if his wrist is fractured. The update confirmed he could not continue, due to his back injury.

In 2012, Cancellara had to abandon the Ronde when he crashed and fractured his collarbone. He skipped Paris-Roubaix a week later. In 2013, he collected his third Paris-Roubaix title and in 2014, he did the same in the Ronde.

Cancellara’s long-time rival Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) already had to pull the plug on his 2015 classics campaign. The Belgian crashed and dislocated his shoulder in stage 1 of Paris-Nice earlier in March.

“There is nothing you can do with this injury — no cast, no surgery — but just biting the pain,” he said.