• Mark Cavendish is treated after crashing. (Getty)Source: Getty
Race ambassador Mark Cavendish abandoned the Abu Dhabi Tour yesterday following a bizarre crash in the neutral zone of stage one.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
22 Feb 2018 - 5:45 AM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2018 - 9:01 AM

Cavendish was one of four riders including Dimension Data teammate Mekseb Debesay, Leonardo Basso (Sky) and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF) involved in the rare race incident.

The 32-year-old was photographed sitting in the middle of the road after the crash but was able to ride back to the peloton. It was a short-lived venture, however, and he abandoned 5km into the 189km stage.

Cavendish was taken to hospital for assessment, with official race communication stating he sustained “contusive trauma to his cervical spine and right shoulder”.

The circumstances surrounding the crash during the stage and in the immediate aftermath of it yesterday were uncertain.

Speaking at the finish, Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond believed the stack may have been down to a touch of wheels.

“They’re always the worst crashes those slow ones, you’re not expecting them and you hit the ground pretty hard whereas high speed crashes you tend to slide as any bike rider knows,” Hammond said.

“My discussion with Mark was with the doctors - where is he injured, where does it hurt and what are we going to do about it. How it happened, the milk was already spilt, it didn’t interest us at the time.”

Dimension Data later clarified its circumstance and Cavendish’s condition in a statement.

“It seemed the race director’s car slowed suddenly as it led the peloton out of Madinat Zayed, the reaction in the peloton saw four riders, including our Manxman, go down,” the statement read.

Dimension Data team doctor Adrian Rotunno confirmed reports the sprinter suffered a concussion.

“Mark sustained a concussion and a whiplash injury after his crash today. Due to the concussion, we were not willing to risk rider safety and the call was made for Mark to stop the race. A serious neck injury has been excluded in hospital. He currently has some concussive symptoms and neck pain, but is otherwise stable,” Dr Rotunno said.

Race organisers later said automatic brakes in the director's car were accidentally activated and indirectly led to the costly touch of wheels and noted the safety feature will be turned off in race vehicles for the rest of the tour.