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A fast descent, a pothole, a double-puncture, and nowhere to go — it all happened in seconds Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
It’s rare in today’s 24-7 coverage of every race that there are no TV images or spectator videos capturing the moment the two-time Tour de France winner crashed and suffered a broken wrist that required surgery.
On Sunday, live TV coverage of the elite men’s race had yet to start and no spectator videos have emerged in the aftermath. So far, it appears no one with a smartphone was there to record it.
Based on interviews, team sources, and messages on social media, details are starting to come together about what happened Sunday.
Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost) confirmed he hit a pothole as the peloton was cranking up the speed at about 85km into the race.
According to the Danish rider, he drove straight into a pothole in a high-speed impact as the peloton carried momentum down a hill. That caused both tires to explode on impact, and the jolt sent him sprawling to the ground.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Honoré said. “I hit a pothole and crashed. Hopefully I will be OK and I look forward to getting back soon.”
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Honoré suffered a mild concussion from his spill, and he remains a bit hazy on the exact details of what happened. Despite some cuts and scrapes, luckily he was not otherwise seriously injured.
Honoré did not finish the race, and later posted a message on his social media channels expressing relief that aftermath wasn’t even worse.
“Thank you for all your messages and wishes of support after my crash at Liége,” Honoré wrote. “I spoke to [Pogačar] and wished him the best for his recovery as well.
“That’s cycling. I’m OK. I have a concussion and some road rash, but am just really happy that nothing worse happened, since it was a really high-speed crash,” he said. “I’ll now take some time to rest and recover and will get back to training when I’m fully recovered.”
According to team officials, Pogačar and his teammates were riding behind Honoré near the front of the group when the peloton zoomed down a hill at speeds up to 70kph.
Remco Evenepoel, who later won the race, recounted to Sporza that he bunny-hopped over the pothole that took down Honoré and Pogačar.
“You hope first and foremost that he is OK. I myself had to jump over the hole where Tadej fell,” Evenepoel told Sporza. “You can see that being five positions more ahead in the peloton can sometimes be an advantage. It was really a huge blow, because we were going about 60-70 kph. I really want to wish him the best and a speedy recovery.”
It appears Honoré had nowhere to go and rode directly into the pothole.
UAE Team Emirates have given an update on Tadej Pogačar following his crash in the early stages of Liège-Bastogne-Liège 💬
Get well soon, champ! ❤️👊
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) April 23, 2023
According to team officials, UAE Team Emirates teammate Vegard Stake Laengen was leading out Pogačar and was right on Honoré’s wheel, and the big Norwegian slammed on his brakes when the Dane crashed in front of him.
Pogačar was immediately behind Laengen and also had to hit the brakes, but crashed heavily on his left side.
Pogačar tried to remount the bike and chase back on, but it was soon evident he could no longer carry on.
Honoré was the only EF Education-EasyPost rider to crash, and Pogačar was immediately transported to a local hospital, where MRI scans confirmed the worst.
Pogačar also posted a message on social media, with an accompanying image of his left wrist in plaster and a big smile on his face.
“Well, shit happens. I am lucky it was just a broken wrist, considering [the] crazy crash that happened,” Pogačar wrote. “I really wish the best recovery to [Honoré] who went down way harder than me. It’s hard to describe how happy I am, to receive such a support and help from all the fans, family, friend, [UAE Team Emirates] and especially hospital staff. I am truly amazed and so grateful for that.
“I hope to see you all really soon,” he wrote. “Congrats to [Evenepoel] for the victory, our battle will wait until next time.”
A video released by UAE Team Emirates on YouTube showed Pogačar entering a team car to head to the hospital. Cuts and scrapes were visible on his shorts and jersey, and he was holding his left arm in the air in visible discomfort.
Pogačar underwent surgery with a hand and wrist specialist Sunday evening at a hospital in Genk, Belgium, and he returned home.
UAE Team Emirates officials confirmed Monday that Pogačar is expected to recover in about six weeks, a time frame that is well within the expected range of four to 12 weeks for a broken wrist.
“Tadej had a comminuted scaphoid fracture which required a small screw to realign the bone fragments. The procedure was successful and he will begin his recovery period at home,” said UAE medical director Dr. Adrian Rotunno. “Due to the nature of the injury, it’s approximately six weeks’ recovery. Though he will start with immediate rehab, and some training on an indoor trainer in the coming days.”
Team officials are hopeful Pogačar can resume training on the rollers as soon as next week.
UAE Team Emirates officials remain quietly optimistic Pogačar will be able to race the Tour.
Pogačar was scheduled for a vacation this week anyway, and there are still nearly 10 weeks until the July 1 start of the 2023 Tour.
As nearly everyone involved in the incident agrees, it could have been much worse.