Caja Rural-Seguros rider Héctor Sáez finished Stage 9 of the Vuelta a España yesterday despite suffering a blow to the head that was sufficiently severe as to destroy his helmet.
The Spaniard fell in seemingly innocuous circumstance with around 100km to go. His team later revealed that, like Geraint Thomas at the Giro d’Italia, he had fallen victim to a loose water bottle.
The crash itself was not properly captured by TV footage, but the aftermath was and the 26-year-old could be seen lying groggily at the side of the road with a huge chunk of his helmet smashed off.
🏁106 km a meta | 💥VAYA CAÍDA DE HÉCTOR SÁEZ💥
🤕El corredor de Caja rural se duele en el suelo con el casco roto
— Teledeporte (@teledeporte) October 29, 2020
He was spoken to by medics, then remounted his bike in a fresh helmet to finish the stage.
A member of team staff was later seen brandishing the broken helmet out of the window a team car so that viewers could see the scale of the damage.
“It was a hard impact in which his helmet prevented the worst," said the team in a later statement. "The Albacete rider was able to get going again and finish the day, despite suffering from abrasions to his shoulder. We'll see how it progresses."
No mention was made of whether or not Saez had undergone concussion tests.
Earlier this year, AG2R La Mondiale team boss, Vincent Lavenu, lauded Romain Bardet’s “admirable courage” after he “fought like a lion” to finish after crashing midway through Stage 13 of the Tour de France.
Footage had shown the Frenchman trying to stand up in the aftermath of the crash before immediately collapsing again. He was later pulled from the race having been diagnosed with concussion.
In 2017, Cannondale-Drapac’s Tom Skujins was helped back onto his bike after a heavy crash at the Tour of California, even though it was clear to most onlookers that he was extremely dazed.
Even more alarmingly, former Cervelo-Bigla rider Doris Schweizer said she was pressured to start a stage with concussion during the 2015 Giro Rosa.
“I could barely ride straight because I had huge problems with my vision,” she recalled. “I was miserable. I was misjudging myself with distances and speeds. Total loss of control. Somehow I managed to finish the stage.”