The dangers of racing on the open road came into full view Saturday at the Giro di Lombardia.
On a technical descent off the decisive Colma de Sormano, with about 40km to go in the season’s final monument, was the scene of several dangerous and frightening crashes.
One photo told the story of the danger that lurked on a tight right-hander on the high-speed, technical descent.
Photographer Kristof Ramon captured the image of Jan Bakelants’ (Ag2r-La Mondiale) bike hanging from a tree, some 15 feet above where the mangled Belgian rider had fallen into a ravine.
“Most horrific crash I ever witnessed,” Ramon wrote on his Twitter account. “The site of the crash was surreal.”
The first to crash was Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step), who slammed into the guardrail on a right-hand bend. Despite a high guardrail, De Plus clipped the barrier, high-sided over the guardrail, and disappeared into the abyss. TV images captured the horrific scene that left viewers holding their breath.
It appears trees and other vegetation helped slow his fall, and photographers captured the scene of De Plus lying awake and conscious in the ravine. Teammate Dries Devenys stopped and waited until a race ambulance came to attend to him. Team officials later confirmed he did not suffer any serious injuries.
“My thoughts are with Laurens,” said teammate Julian Alaphilippe, who finished second behind winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). “I got news of the incident during the race, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he is OK after that horrible crash.”
Quick-Step Floors said Sunday morning that de Plus had been released from the hospital in Como and was headed back to Belgium where he would be re-examined.
Bakelants was not as lucky as his compatriot. Ag2r-La Mondiale officials reported that the Belgian never lost consciousness, but suffered seven broken ribs, and two fractured lumbar vertebrae. Bakelants was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
Simone Petilli (UAE-Emirates) also crashed into the ravine and was transferred to a hospital in Varese. Initial reports revealed two fractured vertebrae, a concussion, cuts near his right eye, and a broken collarbone from the fall. Both the Italian and Bakelants remain in the hospital with serious injuries.
Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) was another who crashed on the corner, writing on Twitter, “My back wheel in eight pieces, a little cut and not much else. Lucky considering the impact and speed of the fall.”