‘Whistling replaced by chaos’: Totality of Liège destruction becomes clear

Julian Alaphilippe was among the riders who suffered heavy injuries in the mass pile-up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

by Jonny Long

photography by Kristof Ramon

It was a heart-in-mouth moment, and that was just for those watching at home with no skin, family or friends in the game.

Following a mass pile-up with a little over 60km remaining, the riders of Liège-Bastogne-Liège were sat up on the grassy verges lining the road collecting themselves, others limping around with jerseys ravaged by the tarmac. Julian Alaphilippe had been flung off the road down into the trees below, his condition so concerning that his compatriot Romain Bardet clambered down after him and the world champion’s partner Marion Rousse left her position in French television’s commentary box. Thankfully, word soon arrived that Alaphilippe was conscious, but that was where the good news abruptly ended.

“He was conscious but he couldn’t really talk. I really hope that he’s okay. The mechanic came, then the doctor. The road was completely blocked,” Bardet told VeloNews. “A lot of guys were involved in a very bad situation. No one saw him, you couldn’t really see him from the road. It was a really bad situation. After that, I was in shock. The race was gone. I was lucky to escape with no injuries.”

Alaphilippe was soon in the back of an ambulance and on his way to the hospital, where it was revealed the crash at more than 70km/h had left him with two broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade, and a collapsed lung. The Frenchman’s Quick-Step teammate, the promising young Belgian prospect Ilan Van Wilder, also suffered a broken jaw in the crash, which will prevent the 21-year-old from making his Grand Tour debut at the upcoming Giro d’Italia. While Remco Evenepoel rescued Quick-Step’s spring, the effects of the race will be long-lasting for the Belgian squad.

Ineos’ Tom Pidcock also came away with a broken finger to cap off his miserable Classics campaign, while Arkéa-Samsic’s Elie Gesbert suffered a broken pelvis and his teammate Łukasz Owsian left with a dislocated left shoulder after crashing into a road sign. Ag2r Citroën’s Dorian Godon was also handed a broken wrist and collarbone while TotalEnergies’ Jérémy Cabot broke his collarbone as doctors made their investigations and the subsequent injury list mounted. “Many thanks to Fabien Grellier for staying with me for a long time (and for sacrificing his own race) when the shock left me unable to move,” Cabot said after the race.

EF Education EasyPost were one of the teams caught up in the crash en masse. A battered Rigoberto Úran shared a video from inside the team bus after the finish showing the cuts and bruises suffered by nearly all of his teammates.

“It’s still hard to put into words the events of yesterday, the distress of the faces and bruised bodies after the crash,” Romain Bardet wrote on social media the Monday after Liège. “My thoughts are with Julian, but also all the guys badly affected who saw their lives flash before their eyes when at 70km/h the whistling of the peloton was replaced by chaos, the sound of material exploding and the human cries that rang out.”

“As well as the direct consequences, this has made me reflect on our shared responsibilities to avoid these types of accidents that could be tragic, on the respect that we must afford between riders. I saw everything, I was just behind Tom Pidcock and Jérémy Cabot when they got caught up. The responsibility that we have when we take risks to get ahead in the peloton can have severe consequences for the 100 guys who are behind us.”

“I’m not throwing blame at anyone, and I know the truth even less. Simply, we put our body and soul into a sport, a passion for racing that can in a flash turn into tragedy and hinder the beauty of the sport.”

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