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Giant-Alpecin riders recovering after auto crash

MILAN (VN) — Riders from team Giant-Alpecin this week are recovering from a head-on training crash with an automobile Saturday afternoon.

A British woman drove straight into the group of six on a small provincial road inland from the Costa Blanca. All went to the hospital, with American Chad Haga facing more surgery on his eye socket this week and John Degenkolb recovering from an operation to save his index finger.

Teammates Warren Barguil, Fredrik Ludvigsson, Ramon Sinkeldam and Max Walscheid were also involved, but were able to leave the hospital already.

“The group panicked, a car came straight at us,” Sinkeldam told Dutch news group NOS.

“There was a lot of shouting, then I lost a lot,” Sinkeldam continued. “The worst is that you talk to people, helpers who were there. You see them so emotional. Maybe I’m lucky that I didn’t experience it consciously and didn’t see the others on the ground because it’s not good if you if you look on the battlefield and you see six people from your team, your family, on the ground and almost not moving. Luckily we’re all out of danger.”

Sinkeldam’s “battlefield” comment seems appropriate given what the German team described over the last 48 hours. Frenchman Barguil, Swede Ludvigsson, Dutchman Sinkeldam and German Walscheid are travelling home with injuries that will take days to months to heal. Barguil faces six weeks recovery and possible surgery on his fractured scaphoid, Ludvigsson has multiple bruised ribs; Sinkeldam has bruises all over with stitches on his knee and chin; and Walscheid needs months to heal and a likely surgery for his fractured tibia and thumb.

Degenkolb, who aimed to rule the classics again after winning Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015, remains in Spain. “John had operations on his hand and fractured forearm, which were successful,” said the team in a statement. “He will travel to Germany in the next few days for further treatment to his arm and hand. Then he will also start his recovery process.”

Haga also remains in Spain. His mother, Delayne Griffiths Haga told VeloNews that a scan showed no internal injuries or trauma to his brain. The 27-year-old from Texas underwent surgery to repair blood vessels and after the swelling subsides, he will need another one for his fractured eye socket.

He was due to travel to the Middle East and begin his 2016 season at the Tour of Qatar with Degenkolb. Instead, he is fighting to regain his health. Some of his Giant teammate began the season already in Australia at the Tour Down Under but attention turned towards Spain. When they heard the news early Sunday morning, several called off an early morning training ride and Carter Jones, Haga’s house-mate in Spain, rode on alone.

“Obviously yesterday’s accident had a huge impact on the team,” general manager Iwan Spekenbrink said. “The recovery of the riders is the first priority, as well as the emotional processing of the event for those who were there. It is clear that the team has been set back some months. It will certainly take time for the team to return to full strength, but everybody will work hard, dedicated and closely together to get there.”