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BMC saw its second serious crash in a row at the Tour of Beijing on Friday.
Just a day after Brent Bookwalter hit the deck in a late-stage pileup in Thursday’s stage, Belgian climber Yannick Elijssen was involved in a serious accident about 10km from the finish line.
Elijssen was knocked off his bike when a race banner was blown off a barrier by a helicopter flying too low to the peloton. The BMC rider went sprawling to the ground only to be struck by a following race motorcycle.
According to a team report, BMC team Dr. Scott Major said the first-year pro suffered some facial abrasions, including a small fracture around his upper teeth.
Elijssen was unable to continue the stage and was transported to a local hospital. X-rays revealed no other major injuries besides the fracture to his upper jaw.
It appears that the plastic banner, which was clipped to a metal race barrier, was blown off when a race helicopter was flying too low to the ground.
Elijssen returned to the team hotel Friday evening and is scheduled to fly home to Europe on Saturday.
The incident was the first major hiccup three stages into the inaugural Beijing tour.
Security has been at a premium during the race and organizers have taken extra steps to assure rider safety with wide roads, plenty of race fencing as well as a high presence of police and other officials lining the course to keep curious fans out of the way.
Bookwalter managed to finish Friday’s stage despite a heavy crash the day before on a very wide, three-lane road.
Bookwalter said he was knocked off his bike when another rider was easing off after taking a pull to position a teammate for the final sprint. Bookwalter was taking one more dig to position his BMC teammate when the other rider plowed into his handlebars.
“It was like someone pulled my handlebars out from under me,” Bookwalter told VeloNews before Friday’s stage. “I am pretty banged up, it’s not good for morale so late in the season. Thank goodness I didn’t lose any teeth because I am getting married in two weeks.”
Bookwalter, who started the stage with bandages on cuts and scrapes to his knees and elbows, managed to finish Friday’s queen stage.
“Most of my body loosened up OK,” he said in a BMC release, “but my knee became really painful throughout the race.”