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“Tell me that didn’t just happen”: Aleksandr Vlasov abandons Tour de France with broken ankle, after Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe slammed for allowing dazed rider to immediately continue racing after heavy crash – but team boss says head injury was “minor”

“His head, where he was bleeding, and his elbow, I think these are minor things,” Ralph Denk said – though Geraint Thomas has claimed that Vlasov was vomiting during the stage following his “heavy” crash

Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk has claimed that the head and elbow injuries sustained by Aleksandr Vlasov in a heavy crash into a ditch during the ninth stage of the Tour de France were “minor things” – after cycling fans, riders, and commentators expressed their horror and dismay as a clearly dazed Vlasov was allowed to carry on racing so soon after the serious spill, which broke his bike in pieces and saw him suffer an ultimately race-ending broken ankle.

Vlasov, who was sitting in 11th place overall at this year’s Tour heading into the rest day while working for Red Bull-Bora team leader Primož Roglič’s yellow jersey aspirations, was forced to pull out of the race on Monday afternoon, after his team confirmed that he had suffered a fractured ankle during Sunday’s stage around Troyes.

The Russian stage racer appeared to touch a wheel while riding in the main group of favourites with 50km to go of the spectacularly entertaining stage on the Champagne regions’ gravel roads, won by TotalEnergies’ Anthony Turgis.

The 28-year-old’s nasty crash, which took place on a section of tarmac between two of the stage’s 14 gravel sectors, saw him slide out of the bunch and land heavily in a ditch.

However, as Vlasov got back to his feet, with a bloodied elbow and ankle, he appeared extremely dazed and unsteady, initially attempting and failing to swing his leg over his spare bike, which was being held by one of Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe’s mechanics.

After leaning over his bike for a moment, Vlasov then gingerly remounted and was pushed off by the mechanic, before being treated from their car by the Tour’s medical staff, who appeared to be focusing on his elbow and ankle.

The former Tour de Romandie winner eventually finished 25th in Troyes, safely ensconced within the main group of GC contenders including his leader Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel, and yellow jersey Tadej Pogačar.

The severity of the crash was underlined by a photo, posted by Vlasov on his Instagram account on Tuesday morning, of his broken and battered S-Works, which appeared to have cracked in three different places as it collided with the ditch:

Aleksandr Vlasov’s broken bike after crash on stage nine of 2024 Tour de France (Aleksandr Vlasov, Instagram)

(Credit: Aleksandr Vlasov, Instagram)

The swiftness of Vlasov’s return to the fray, on a stage already made additionally dangerous by the controversial inclusion of 32km of off-road sections, and the worrying scenes that followed his heavy fall, led to strong criticism of Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe’s decision to let their Russian rider continue without a proper health and concussion check.

“Tell me Vlasov has not just been put back on his bike when he couldn’t even stand straight. Tell me that didn’t just happen,” Eurosport’s cycling presenter Orla Chennaoui tweeted in the immediate aftermath of Vlasov’s crash.

“As a doctor this made me cringe,” added Helen Metcalfe. “Very dangerous to let him back on the bike. Where are the medics to advise?”

Aleksandr Vlasov crashes during stage nine, 2024 Tour de France (Eurosport)

> UCI publishes new concussion protocol as other sports face lawsuits from retired athletes

Others noted that Vlasov had exhibited “observable signs” of concussion in the immediate aftermath of the crash, as outlined in the UCI’s concussion protocol, including ‘balance impairment’.

“Vlasov should not get back on the bike. I’d bet a good amount of money that he doesn’t start tomorrow because of a concussion. The fact that he’s allowed back on the bike is ridiculous,” said former pro-turned-commentator Jens Dekker.

That prognosis was echoed by Ineos Grenadiers riders Geraint Thomas and Laurens De Plus, who claimed that Vlasov was vomiting while riding in the bunch towards the end of the stage in Troyes.

Speaking on their Watts Occurring podcast, 2018 Tour winner Thomas said: “I was right next to him when that happened, I was on his right. It was on a normal road, on a descent, and it was fast.

“I went off the road, actually, to avoid his bike and some flying bottles. That was heavy, and I was surprised to see him back.”

Vlasov crash 2

Belgian climber De Plus added: “He must have had concussion or something.”

“He was puking up as well, he was being sick, wasn’t he?” asked Thomas.

“Yeah, with 4km to go, you were sitting in Vlasov’s wheel and he was puking in front of you, and I was ‘did you see that?’” said De Plus. “I don’t think he’ll feel well today.”

Meanwhile, Thomas concluded: “Surely if they have any sort of concussion protocol, he’ll be out of the race.”

However, as part of the German-speaking ‘Inside Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe’ podcast, the team’s founder and general manager Ralph Denk downplayed the risk of concussion after Vlasov’s crash, instead emphasising his concerns about his rider’s ankle, which has ultimately led to his withdrawal from the race on the rest day.

“His head, where he was bleeding, and his elbow, I think these are minor things,” Denk said.

“I’m a bit worried about his ankle, which will be examined more closely, because when he came back to the bus he was limping quite a bit. It looked like a riding error, he crashes and lies in the ditch. Luckily the ditch was overgrown with grass.”

Denk’s fears were then confirmed on Monday afternoon, as Red Bull announced that Vlasov has been forced to leave the race on the first rest day due to an ankle fracture.

> "Should not have finished": Boss of Swiss cycling team admits they got Stefan Küng crash wrong

Nevertheless, the debate surrounding the Russian’s crash on Sunday echoed the concerns that were raised following Stefan Küng’s horror crash into the barriers at last year’s European time trial championships.

Küng smashed into roadside barriers while riding for a few seconds with his head tucked down, but quickly remounted and finished the event bloodied and with damage to his helmet.

Stefan Kung crash at Europe ITT 2023 (Eurosport/GCN+)

The crash prompted former UCI president Brian Cookson to call for a crackdown on what he described as the current “crazy” head-down time trialling position favoured by many pros, but also raised rider welfare questions as many suggested Küng should not have been allowed to continue after such a major impact, which saw him suffer a concussion, a fractured cheekbone and multiple hand fractures.

Days after the crash, Swiss Cycling’s sports manager admitted the rider should never have been allowed to continue, but pointed to logistical issues that allowed it to happen and make stopping a rider “almost impossible”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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20 comments

Avatar
genesis | 3 days ago
0 likes

The time is long passed for improvements in rider safety and welfare. A crash abrasion standard for kit, like DSM's Dyneema.
Helmets should be equipped with temperature and G-force sensors...once the G load passes a threshold, say 50g then they're pulled for the day. If cleared fit that evening by the race doctors then they'll be given the finish time of the bunch and reinstated the following day. Same with temperature, if the aggregate temp of the race edges into severe weather then race is neutralised

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Rendel Harris replied to genesis | 1 day ago
1 like
genesis wrote:

Helmets should be equipped with temperature and G-force sensors...once the G load passes a threshold, say 50g then they're pulled for the day. If cleared fit that evening by the race doctors then they'll be given the finish time of the bunch and reinstated the following day.

That couldn't possibly work, imagine if one of the leaders crashed 10km into a 230km stage that was nearly all headwind and finished with the peleton all together, was pulled out for suspected concussion, cleared and put back into the race the next day with 220km less in their legs than their rivals.  Imagine they then went on to win the Tour with everyone knowing they had ridden a 5% shorter course than everyone else. All in favour of riders being pulled for suspected concussion but you can't give them a day off then put them back in the race, it would make a mockery of the whole thing.

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I love my bike | 3 days ago
0 likes

How are riders allowed to re-start after a crash wearing broken helmets?

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OldRidgeback | 3 days ago
1 like

He was obviously in a bad way when he was heled to his bike. I don't know why he wasn't checked out medically. I'd have thought that would have been an obvious thing to do.

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alexuk | 4 days ago
0 likes

Maybe he's just not a pu**y? Rode to the finish strongly, just fine, despite the ankle. Concussion nonsense, its not a head injury everytime someone falls, this isn't football. We've learned it was obviously his foot that hurt and why he stumbled, not his head. Not every man is a sissy like you lot.

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perce replied to alexuk | 4 days ago
9 likes

You've upset me now. I'm going to sort out my collection of Bunty comics.

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chrisonabike replied to alexuk | 4 days ago
5 likes

Good old UK humour!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmInkxbvlCs

On the other hand if you think the public are clamouring for circuses why not return to the days of Tom Simpson, or even the original tour?

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Rendel Harris replied to alexuk | 4 days ago
3 likes
alexuk wrote:

 Not every man is a sissy like you lot.

I was once knocked unconscious in the first half of a rugby game aged 27 and have absolutely no memory of the second half, although according to my teammates I played rather better than usual (they kindly refrained from saying it would be impossible to play worse). I played rugby to a good standard until I was 34 so I don't feel I'm that much of a sissy, but I do feel that I should definitely have been stopped and checked and the same should happen with riders. Still, it's done me no harm, knock wood. Sorry, got to go, someone at the door. Nobody there, must be kids playing silly buggers...

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 4 days ago
3 likes

And now there are smart mouthguards to check for sudden changes in acceleration to alert medics.

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Rendel Harris replied to Hirsute | 4 days ago
2 likes
Hirsute wrote:

And now there are smart mouthguards to check for sudden changes in acceleration to alert medics.

Yes, a great advance, still very expensive at the moment and limited to top-level pros but the idea is eventually that prices will fall and players at every level will use them and be able to store a complete career history of collisions that will make it easier to identify potential dangers. Actually, now you mention it, it surely wouldn't be too difficult to incorporate such a sensor into riders' helmets, would it? Then in the event of a crash medics could be alerted to any head deceleration outside the acceptable limit, triggering automatic concussion protocols.

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Cayo replied to Rendel Harris | 3 days ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris]<p>[quote=Hirsute wrote:

Actually, now you mention it, it surely wouldn't be too difficult to incorporate such a sensor into riders' helmets, would it? Then in the event of a crash medics could be alerted to any head deceleration outside the acceptable limit, triggering automatic concussion protocols.

Such devices already exist: https://www.hitrecognition.co.uk/pages/cycling
and have been used in off-road riding: https://www.itv.com/news/border/2024-04-29/new-technology-to-monitor-hea...

What initially went wrong here is that Vlasov was allowed to continue by his team without any medical checks. Perhaps what is needed are set concussion protocols such as used in the NFL and NHL (preferably combined with a device like Hit). As such, the medical team would have X minutes to decide if the rider was safe to continue (with no intervention from team staff) after which the rider could remount if cleared.

The problem then would be they would be at least X minutes further behind the race. So, either 1) the team car would be permitted to drive them to a point where the time gap was restored (plenty of reasons why that option could be impractical) or more likely 2) it would be a case of treating it like a mechanical: tough luck but you have to make your own way back. "It's that or you abandon mate!"

There would be a compulsory hospital checkup for any rider having been assessed that day.

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Rendel Harris replied to Cayo | 3 days ago
1 like

I generally agree with you but as I said above, there is a missing piece of time between the crash and the TV coverage returning to Vlasov remounting and it's possible the mechanic did the basic checks they are trained to do now in that time. He was also very quickly at the medical car so the team may have known he would be reviewed by them.

I think there's a middle road to be found in terms of returning a rider to the peloton once they are cleared: as you say, impractical to put a rider in a car and also the nature of the race must be that every rider rides the same distance, but at least the drafting rules could be relaxed to help the rider get back on the peloton, in fact one of the commisaire motorcycles could be detailed to pace the rider back to where they were before they crashed.

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mdavidford replied to Rendel Harris | 3 days ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

the nature of the race must be that every rider rides the same distance

Although, in practice, often riders with more minor injuries (cuts, road rash, etc.) don't - they're allowed to take a tow on the medical car while they're being treated, which can sometimes be quite a distance. It doesn't seem unreasonable to consider concussion checks to be treatment and, if feasible, allow them to travel in the car while the checks are being done, or if not, to make up the ground lost afterwards.

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lesterama replied to alexuk | 3 days ago
9 likes
alexuk wrote:

Maybe he's just not a pu**y?

Luckily people nowadays understand concussion better than you. My mate suffered health problems for two years after a cycling concussion. Luke Rowe's been screwed by his.

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Boopop | 4 days ago
1 like

Red Bull gives you...?

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Rendel Harris | 4 days ago
5 likes

The visuals are very poor but to play devil's advocate what appeared to be dazed stumbling can also be interpreted, now we know the main injury, as his leg buckling  from the pain of trying to put weight on his ankle rather than balance impairment due to concussion*. We're not privy to what protocols the mechanic did with Vlasov before the cameras got on him and the race doctors saw him very shortly afterwards and didn't even make him dismount for checks, as far as I could see, so presumably they were satisfied he wasn't concussed. There should be a full investigation of what was actually said and done and hefty punishment if protocols were neglected or ignored, but not sure we have the full picture from what we saw on the screen.

*The desirability of allowing a rider to remount with a serious leg injury is of course also open to debate.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to Rendel Harris | 3 days ago
2 likes

Adrenalin. It has a minor pain numbing effect which often hides the seriousness of injuries. That said, there is a limit. It must be a "simple" fracture that doesn't seriously impede the bone (and surrounding musculoskeletal system's) structure as a compound fracture would be much more severe and nigh on impossible to ride on, even fuelled on adrenalin.

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brooksby | 4 days ago
5 likes

If a professional cyclist is unable to mount their bike following some sort of 'off', I'd suggest that they ought to sit the rest of the stage out 

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Jetmans Dad replied to brooksby | 4 days ago
6 likes

This ... 

Quote:

“His head, where he was bleeding, and his elbow, I think these are minor things,”

... shows a shocking lack of understanding of how concussion works. 

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ClimbingSimon replied to brooksby | 3 days ago
3 likes

Remounting is a critical capability in all cycling  If a pro can not do it unaided after a race incident then they really should be withdrawn. This isn't Roman gladiatorial combat, it's pro sport.

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