A Dutch Olympic cyclist remains hospitalized after suffering a brutal wipeout on a Rio de Janeiro course that left several other athletes injured.
Annemiek van Vleuten was leading Sunday’s 137-kilometre race when video shows her losing control and violently flipping off her bicycle on a tight bend.
After hitting a steep curb, the 33-year-old appeared lifeless and twisted on the ground. She was taken to a hospital and placed in intensive care, where it was determined that she suffered three fractures to her spine and a concussion.
Her teammate, Anna van der Bergen, went on to finish the race with the gold.
“I am now in the hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine,” she later posted on Twitter. “Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career.”
She expressed hope that she’ll be able to leave the hospital Monday.
One day earlier, several other cyclists crashed on the same Vista Chinesa circuit during the men’s road race. The accidents left Australian cyclist Richie Porte with a broken shoulder blade, Sergio Henao of Colombia with a broken pelvis, and Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali with a broken collarbone, AFP reported.
The number of injuries led to some blowback against Union Cycliste Internationale, which designed the roadway. They’ve since spoken out in defense of their handiwork.
“The Rio 2016 road race course was carefully designed and was extensively tested at the test event and in training,” the organization said in a statement obtained by The Guardian. “We do our utmost to design safe, challenging courses but unfortunately crashes do sometimes occur due to a combination of factors.”
New Zealand cyclist George Bennett, speaking in a pre-race interview, expressed both surprise that the course’s conditions were approved and excitement over its challenge.
“I’m surprised someone signed off on a course this hard,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s hectic, it’s dangerous. There are slippery roads, patches of oil, difficult corners. It could send you home early. But it’s the kind of racing I like. I like the chaos.”
Great Britain’s Dan Martin also chimed in on the course’s conditions, calling them “dangerous.”
“It’s a pity when mechanical problems and crashes decide a race,” he told RTÉ Sport. “Obviously, that’s part of sport as well.”
“The downhill was quite dangerous. If it was raining I don’t think anyone would have finished, there would have been crashes everywhere,” he said. “Fortunately, we had good weather, but we still had a lot of guys crashing, and you don’t want to see that.”