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UCI defends Olympic road race course; van Vleuten says she'll "be fine"

Dutch rider who crashed yesterday tweets from hospital to reassure supporters

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.

> Women’s Olympic road race goes to van der Breggen

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.

> Van Avermaet wins men’s Olympic road race

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.”

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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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