The UCI has defended the Olympic road race course after several riders crashed during the men’s and women’s events at the weekend. Meanwhile Annemiek van Vleuten, the Dutch woman who crashed heavily yesterday while in the lead and was taken into intensive care, has tweeted her thanks to well-wishers and say she will “be fine.”
The 33-year-old sustained three fractures in her vertebrae and severe concussion when she crashed on the Vista Chinesa descent when leading the race, won by her team mate Anna van der Breggen, with just 10 kilometres to go.
In the men’s race 24 hours earlier, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali broke his collarbone and Sergio Henao of Colombia fractured his iliac crest after coming down on the same descent while in the front group of three with Poland’s Rafal Majka.
Team GB’s Geraint Thomas also crashed there on the final descent – without serious injury, completing the race in 11th place – while Australia’s Richie Porte went down on the previous lap, fracturing his scapula.
Former world and Olympic champion Chris Boardman, in Rio as a pundit for the BBC, said the descent “was way past being technical; it was dangerous. The people who designed the course and said what safety features were needed had seen it as well and left it.
"We knew the descent was treacherous. I looked at that road furniture and thought, nobody can crash here and just get up. It is really bad and that is what we have seen today."
But in a statement, the UCI said: "The Rio 2016 road race course was carefully designed and was extensively tested at the test event and in training.
"We do our utmost to design safe, challenging courses but unfortunately crashes do sometimes occur due to a combination of factors."
Gold medallist van der Breggen, who passed van Vleuten moments after the crash, said on Twitter afterwards that she had “Never experienced the best of cycling and the worse of it so close.”
This team won a golden medal today! Never experienced the best of cycling and the worse of it so close ... - https://t.co/38nvoctomQ
— Anna van der Breggen (@AnnavdBreggen) August 8, 2016
Yesterday evening, van Vleuten tweeted from hospital to say she would “be fine,” thanked people for their messages of support and congratulated van der Breggen on her win.
@AvVleuten very glad to hear you are (or will be) OK
— Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman) August 8, 2016
— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) August 8, 2016
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.