Ilan Van Wilder blamed two riders for “not giving each other an inch,” failing to use their brakes, resulting in a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège that left him with a broken jaw.
The crash happened at high speed with just less than 60 kilometers to go in the Belgian monument. Van Wilder’s Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammate Julian Alaphilippe suffered a punctured lung and other injuries.
While he didn’t name the riders he was referring to, and said he could not apportion blame to one or the other, Van Wilder said that the crash had been caused by two riders who would not allow each other room on the road.
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“I have no idea whose fault it was exactly, that doesn’t matter,” Van Wilder told Het Laatste Nieuws. “But based on the images I saw and testimonials from other riders, I know that it was typical rooster behavior. Two riders – I won’t name names – who wouldn’t give each other an inch, wouldn’t use their fucking brakes, and caused huge chaos. That really pisses me off.
“On a straight road in a dip where you ride so fast, such crashes normally don’t happen, because common-sense rules and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, if there’s a fall here, we’re in for something.’ Unless someone wants to win one or two positions and dives into a gap that isn’t there. Then you get something like that.”
While Van Wilder was seriously injured, his teammate Alaphilippe was far worse off after he hit a tree when he crashed. Footage from the race showed Alaphilippe lying motionless in the grass with Team DSM rider Romain Bardet rushing to his aid.
Bardet later described how Alaphilippe had appeared unable to breathe, though he had been conscious. Van Wilder was unable to get to his teammate, injured as he was, but saw the aftermath unfold in front of him.
“Suddenly I heard the doctor yell, ‘Hey, but that’s one of us! It’s Julian,’” Van Wilder said. “I went to look and almost passed out from the image I saw. Julian lay there, so to speak, like a ‘bag of chips’ among the trees. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe properly, and was in a lot of pain. Everyone was deeply shocked.”
Van Wilder is in no rush to go through another crash like the one he endured last weekend and he says the actions that led to the crash need to be curtailed.
“Such behavior endangers people’s lives, and we really need to get out of it. It was one of the heaviest mass crashes I’ve ever experienced and never wish to experience it again,” he said.
Van Wilder underwent surgery on his jaw earlier this week and has returned home since. He had been scheduled to race the Giro d’Italia next month — the second grand tour of his career after the 2020 Vuelta a España, which he abandoned midway through the opening stage.
However, he’ll be unable to race while he’s recovering as he’s unable to eat solid food at the moment.
“My jawbone was completely [broken] through. Under general anesthesia they screwed in my gums and stretched a kind of wire to straighten my jawbone again,” he explained. “After removing those screws, a titanium plate was placed over the fracture to stabilize it and allow me to open and close my mouth.”
“It will be five or six weeks before I can chew proper food again. Annoying. I have to throw everything in the blender and that’s no fun.”
Though the team lost Alaphilippe and Van Wilder to the crash, it won the race on an attack from Remco Evenepoel.