Mathieu van der Poel, the Dutch favourite to win Olympic gold in the men’s mountain bike race, said he somersaulted over his handlebars in a painful crash on the opening lap because a ramp that had been in place in practice was removed for the race.
The crash left Van der Poel in hospital where underwent scans on his injuries. He landed hard after coming over the top of a boulder, grimmacing and clutching his right forearm and lower back in pain.
He did manage to get back on his bike, although the incident left him a minute behind the early leaders and he eventually retired from the race, which featured seven laps of an 8.5km course made up of undulating dirt track, boulders, jumps, bridges and other obstacles to test the riders.
Dutch national coach Gerben de Knegt said afterwards: “Mathieu said something about the fact that he thought the board was still there.”
Van der Poel later tweeted a picture of a wooden ramp leaning against the boulder from which he tumbled, which he said had been in place during his practice run.
“The plank was there during my reconnaissance,” he wrote. He added that he had not been told the ramp would not be there during the race.
Britain’s Tom Pidcock went on to win the race in stunning fashion, pulling away from the rest to clinch gold aged 21.
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