Belgian Wout van Aert has been forced to abandon the Tour de France during his debut in the race.
Van Aert crashed heavily in the final kilometers of Friday’s stage 13 individual time trial in Pau after speeding through a sharp right-hand turn.
Television replays showed that van Aert caught his bicycle on a cloth advertising sign covering a section of metal barriers along the course.
Van Aert was unable to remount his bicycle, and team officials and medics attended to him as he lay on the tarmac. Van Aert was eventually removed from the course in an ambulance and taken to a local hospital.
“Wout van Aert unfortunately has to abandon the race after his crash. He is conscious and has a flesh wound at his right upper leg,” the team said on social media.
Jumbo-Visma released a statement after the crash saying that van Aert underwent surgery to close a wound that was opened into his leg muscles. The team confirmed that van Aert did not sustain any fractures in the crash.
In a video released on the team’s website, Jumbo-Visma’s head of performance, Mathieu Heijboer, said van Aert sustained a “serious deep wound” in the crash.
“It was a terrible sight,” Heijboer said. “Wout saw his leg and he panicked. It was a horrific image. He imediately stood up and walked to the side. I told him ‘sit down, don’t walk now.'”
Heijboer pulled a banner from the fence and placed it over van Aert to avert the sight of the deep gash.
The gash was likely caused by the metal barrier that van Aert collided with. Heijboer said the operation to stitch van Aert’s leg closed took an hour.
“Wout is now in recovery,” Heijboer said. “He’ll go home to the infirmary tonight and then remain in the hospital for a few days before he can go home.”
The crash marked a disastrous end to van Aert’s impressive debut in the race. He was a member of the Jumbo-Visma team that won the team time trial on stage 2 in Brussels. Van Aert then added his own name to the list of Tour victories, winning a bunch sprint on stage 10 into Albi.
During his time trial van Aert was also setting some of the fastest time checks along the 27.2 kilometer course before his crash.