You hear a lot of great stories about professional athletes who have ploughed on with their trade despite serious injuries.
There’s the footballer who managed to “power through” a match after getting a graze on his knee three days earlier, the rugby player who battled through a broken nose to make a last-ditch challenge or even the tennis champion who managed to break Novak Djokovic despite being served strawberries without the cream pre-match.
The thing is, when it comes to the world of professional cycling, things get a little more hardcore. You’ve got downhill mountain bikers riding with broken fingers taped to handlebars, BMXers getting back up from slams you can hear from miles away and roadies ending up in brutal crashes in nearly every race imaginable.
Of course, being such a high-intensity, demanding race, the Tour de France often bares witness to some of the roughest incidents on the road cycling circuit.
The coveted event got underway last weekend, and there’s already been some major talking points, none moreso than the brutal high speed crash that caused a temporary halt to the race in stage three, and the chaos of which is captured in the shocking video below.
One rider involved in the carnage was Trek Factory Racing man and race leader Fabian Cancellara, who was thrown head first into a ditch and fractured two of his vertebrae.
After the crash, Fabian was seen to be holding his lower back and looked dizzy in his pain, but rode on to complete the final 55km of the race, not knowing that he had actually broken his back and required immediate medical attention.
The Swiss rider was seen grimacing in the peloton and dropping off the pace alongside several others involved in the crash, but managed to struggle up the final Mur de Huy ascent, which features gradients of up to 25 percent, and make it to the finish. If that isn’t hardcore, we don’t know what is.
— Fabian cancellara (@f_cancellara) July 6, 2015
Fabian was rushed to hospital after the stage and told that the L3 and L4 vertebrae on his right side had been fractured. He’s subsequently been forced to withdraw from the competition, saying in a statement post-race: “This is incredibly disappointing for me. The team was on a high with the yellow jersey and were very motivated to defend it.
“We have had a lot of crashes and injuries since the start of the season, and we finally had a great 24 hours but now it’s back to bad luck. One day you win, one day you lose.” And if you’re Mr. Cancellara, those losing days sound more painful than most.
The brutal stage three crash was originally caused after William Bonnet, who broke his neck and now requires surgery, touched wheels with a rider in front of him.
The race was then forced to be halted as all medical facilities were being used up at the crash site, where two other riders, Tom Dumoulin and Simon Gerrans, were also forced to immediately withdraw. South African Daryl Impey and Dmitry Kozontchuk of Russia also later abandoned the race.
Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha would go on to win the stage, and Chris Froome now takes on the yellow jersey for Team Sky, but the day will be remembered more for the tragic crash, and the painstaking heroics of Fabian Cancellara.