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Belgian pro cyclist placed in coma undergoes spinal surgery after training crash

25-year-old Julian Mertens also suffered injuries to his jaw, arms, and ribs following what his Bingoal WB team described as an “accident” while training yesterday

Belgian pro rider Julian Mertens has been placed in an artificial coma and has undergone spinal surgery following a serious crash while training in Belgium yesterday.

The 25-year-old, who rides for the second-tier Bingoal WB squad, was taken to hospital in Antwerp after suffering multiple severe injuries in what his team has described as an “accident” during training.

While the circumstances surrounding the crash are not yet known, Bingoal WB confirmed in a statement that Mertens was placed in an artificial coma to best deal with his injuries, the most serious of which relate to his spine.

The Belgian team later announced that Mertens underwent successful spinal surgery this morning, and that he will undergo another operation, this time related to damage to his jaw, later today.

The 25-year-old, who also suffered fractures to his arm and ribs, will be kept in a coma over the coming days, depending on his progress.  

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Mertens joined Bingoal WB at the start of 2023 following three seasons at Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, for whom he raced the Tour of Britain last year and secured a handful of top 20 placings in French and Belgian semi-classics.

The former Lotto-Soudal development rider raced his second Tour of Flanders in April and finished 21st, behind winner Gerben Thijssen and second-place Caleb Ewan, at the Ronde van Limburg on Monday.

Though further details have yet to emerge concerning Merten’s crash, he isn’t the first pro this season to be injured while training on Belgian roads.

> UAE Team Emirates pro hit head-on by motorist while training

UAE Team Emirates’ Colombian sprinter Juan Sebastián Molano suffered concussion and a broken toe, but was fortunate to avoid even more serious injury, after being struck head-on by a motorist in a horrifying collision at the end of March.

Molano, who won the Grand Prix de Denain cobbled semi-classic and took a stage of the UAE Tour during a successful spring, was training alone in Waregem when he was hit by a motorist who appeared to be turning into a driveway and across the rider’s lane.

Footage of the shocking crash, captured by a nearby CCTV camera, showed the 28-year-old riding along before being suddenly struck head-on by the turning motorist, catapulting Molano out of shot and sending his bike flying into the driveway.

While, miraculously, the sprinter’s injuries weren’t too severe and did not require surgery, he was ruled out of the remainder of a cobbled classics campaign which saw teammate Tadej Pogačar solo to victory at the Tour of Flanders.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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