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There is skill in crashing well, as odd as that may sound. Technique, even. The ability to twist oneself in the air to minimize impact and to roll instead of thud can be as important to getting through a dangerous racing season as anything.
The wind whipped up across Tuscany on Saturday, picking up Strade Bianche’s white dust and flinging it across early spring fields. It did the same to riders. The decreased grip on the gravel roads combined with tall, aerodynamic wheelsets and nasty crosswinds with predictable results.
It all led to a spectacular and disconcerting moment with 100 kilometers to go, halfway through the Lucignano d’Asso sector. Julian Alaphilippe, already on the far left edge of the road with wind whipping in from the right, was pushed further to the edge as a blast of wind hit riders to his right. He unclipped his left foot, trying to pull himself back into the harder, grippier tracks on the road. He may have saved it, but we’ll never know as an Alpecin-Fenix rider had his front wheel blown sideways by the wind, losing grip on the gravel and dropping his entire bike straight into Alaphilippe’s path.
Photographer Tim de Waele was on moto just ahead and captured the moment. It isn’t often that we get to dissect a crash so closely. And because everyone appears to be relatively unscathed, it feels like a good opportunity to see how a world-class crasher walks away from doing a mid-race front flip.
The video shows just how fast the whole thing happened.
The excellent news is that it appears Alaphilippe escaped without any major injuries. He was undoubtedly aided by the grass landing, but his ability to tuck and roll was crucial too.