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The fourth stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour was cancelled, and several riders were taken to the hospital, after two motorcyclists collided while trying to pass on a descent, causing a massive pileup in the peloton.
According to Het Laatste Nieuws, the two motorcycles were trying to overpass the bunch when the lead motorcycle braked suddenly, causing a second moto to strike it from behind. Dozens of riders then went down, causing the race to be neutralized, and then cancelled.
It’s yet another incident in a season that has already been marred with several incidents with race motorcycles, including the death of Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Antoine Demoitié, at Gent-Wevelgem.
One of the riders most seriously injured was Belgian Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Soudal), who was struck by a motorcycle earlier this season, at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Het Laatste Nieuws reported that 19 riders were injured, with Broeckx in a coma after having suffered a suspected fractured skull. Broeckx was reportedly airlifted to a nearby emergency room. HLN.be reports that the crash was caused by a pothole, and that the race was neutralized because there were no more ambulances available to follow the caravan.
Sporza reported that a total of 11 riders were transported to local hospitals, among them Jesper Asselnan, Tony Hurel, Pieter Jacobs, Loic Chetout and Frederik Frison.
In a press statement, Lotto Soudal team doctor Servaas Bingé said that Broeckx did not have a fractured skull, but that he did have brain injury, and was in a coma.
“It was immediately clear that Stig had incurred a head injury and that he needed to be transported to a neurosurgical centre,” Bingé said. “Together with the race doctor and the medical emergency team we decided to transport him to the hospital of Aachen, which has the necessary infrastructure. A scan was taken at the hospital and it showed that Stig has two bleedings in his brain. Stig is in a non-induced coma, but for the moment he doesn’t need to undergo surgery. He doesn’t have a skull fracture, but he does have a fractured eye socket, which will be further evaluated later. At this point, it is very difficult to give a prognosis about a full recovery. The next 24 hours he will be very closely monitored.”
The crash caused a strong reaction from pro riders, including Etixx-QuickStep’s Tony Martin, who posted on Twitter, “What we need NOW is a round table with UCI, race organizers and riders to force changes and decide one safty standard for EVERY race!”
The UCI also took to Twitter, writing, “The UCI has recently introduced strict new rules governing the conduct of motorcycle riders in races and we will be looking very closely at what happened today to determine whether those rules were respected.”
Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Enrico Gasparatto spoke with Sporza after the crash, saying he felt immediately that the race must be cancelled. “I knew that it was very serious. What happened already with our team this year [the death of Antoine Demoitié] cannot happen again. We need to give a big signal to everybody, that we are the riders, but before being riders, we are fathers, we have families. Sometimes we have to look ourselves in the mirror, and not think about the race, or winning, or contracts. The most important thing is to live. To cancel the race was the best decision.”
Asked if he would compete on Sunday, Gasparatto was unsure. “I don’t know, I’ll have to speak with the others,” he said. “But what happened today is really, really bad, and it cannot happen anymore. Yes, this is the Tour of Belgium, and my team is Belgian, but also my team also knows what what it means to lose a teammate. I hope that is not the same situation for Lotto. We don’t want this situation to happen again.”
We will update this story, and on the condition of Stig Broeckx, as information becomes available.