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Giro d’Italia: Wackermann taken to hospital after TV helicopter accused of blowing barriers into the road

Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM rider Luca Wackermann has been taken to hospital after an accident in the final kilometre of stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia in Villafranca Tirrena.

The Italian and his teammate Etienne van Empel were taken out by moving barriers at around 800 metres from the line of the sprint stage, with team general manager Angelo Citracca saying on Italian television post-race talk show that a helicopter had flown too low and blown the barriers across the road and into the path of the riders.

Van Empel was able to get back on his bike and finish the stage, but Wackermann was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital. Citracca suggested that he could have suffered a fractured femur or pelvis as a result of the collision, though his injuries are yet to be confirmed.

A representative of race organisers RCS Sport told Cyclingnews that the barriers at the side of the road were tied together and that the wind was low, suggesting that the RAI helicopter was to blame.  

Vini Zabù directeur sportif Francesco Frassi said that the cause has yet to be fully determined, adding that the team’s worst fears about Wackermann’s injuries are over.

“They told us that the barriers moved suddenly,” said Frassi. “We don’t know exactly why; if it was because the helicopter flew too low or if the wind picked up.

“Fortunately Luca Wackermann came around in the ambulance. I’ve spoken to him on the phone and he was okay, he was calm and so our worst fears are over. He couldn’t remember anything about what happened. He doesn’t seem to have anything broken but we’re waiting on what the checks-up in hospital reveal.”

Wackermann and Van Empel were the only two riders affected and were pictured laying on the ground besides their bikes shortly after Groupama-FDJ sprinter Arnaud Démare was confirmed as the stage winner in a photo finish.

Van Empel later took to Twitter, stating that he has only suffered “small cuts on my fingers” and adding that the barrier flew into the group he was riding with “out of nowhere”.

The loss of Wackermann represents a big blow to the Italian team, racing the Giro as wildcard entrants. The 28-year-old, who won the Tour de Limousin back in August and finished fifth on stage 2 to Agrigento, is one of the team’s top riders in Italy.

Vini Zabù will now be looking to Giovanni Visconti, who took second on Mount Etna, and the likes of Marco Frapporti, in the break on stage 4, to lead the way in the quest for a result over the next 17 days of racing.

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