Boonen out of Abu Dhabi Tour after crash knocks him unconscious

The Belgian went down hard around 55km into Friday's stage 2 at the four-day race in the desert.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Tom Boonen abandoned the Abu Dhabi Tour after a crash in Friday’s stage 2 that briefly knocked him unconscious. Initial reports say he escaped fractures.

“He had blood on his face, but it wasn’t coming out of his ear,” said race doctor Stefano Tredici. The Belgian classics champion of team Etixx-Quick-Step was taken to the Abu Dhabi hospital, where he was found to have a left temporal bone fracture. The team reports that he is now conscious and lucid but will remain in the hospital overnight under observation.

He crashed after the intermediate sprint at 55 kilometers into the 130km stage. Theo Bos of MTN-Qhubeka also fell and abandoned.

Italian Elia Viviani (Sky) held off a charge from world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and won the sprint finish after 129km of racing around a sun-baked Abu Dhabi. Attention, however, immediately shifted back to the 34-year-old Boonen, a three-time winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and a four-time winner of Paris-Roubaix.

“I was behind Theo Bos, Boonen was behind me,” MTN’s Songezo Jim explained. “Bos hit something on the road and fell, but I couldn’t really see what happened. I went into him, and Boonen was also caught in the crash.”

Bos, said Tredici, hurt his forearm and went to the hospital in Abu Dhabi with Boonen.

Jim also crashed and hurt his hand, but continued the race. He said there was a crosswind and a lot of stress in the start of the stage. “Tom looked really bad,” added Jim, “but I couldn’t go to him.”

Boonen, who was wearing the green jersey for leading the points classification, caused a scare when he remained on the ground for longer than normal.

“Unconscious? Just a few seconds because of the crash, but a few seconds is very normal,” said local race doctor Christos Karavolias, who treated Boonen. “Blood? Yes, some scratches, but nothing severe. It wasn’t coming from his [ear], but from scratches from around the outside his ear.”