annemiek van vleuten
Van Vleuten at the 2022 Road World Championships time trials on Sept. 18; (photo/Con Chronis via Getty Images)

Freak Accident: Annemiek Van Vleuten Out of Cycling Worlds in Bizarre Crash

The Dutch phenom crashed hard just off the ramp at the Woolongong Road World Championships Wednesday. The incident broke her elbow and almost broke the internet.

Watching Annemiek Van Vleuten come down the ramp in a cycling race usually means one thing: you’ll see her pushing the lead at the end. But at today’s mixed team time trial relay at the Road World Championships, something else altogether happened.

Footage from the early seconds of the race in Woolongong, Australia shows Van Vleuten pedaling hard out of the gate, then wham! She’s down.

annemiek van vleuten

Watching the footage over and over (and over and over again, as a lot of cycling heads have done today), it’s hard to tell what went wrong. She wasn’t riding in a super tight pack, it doesn’t look like she ran over anything, and no random airborne object appears to hit her.

Van Vleuten received treatment on site, and later landed in a hospital with a broken elbow. Her team says it still remains within the realm of possibility that she races tomorrow.

“Annemiek is allowed to cycle with this stable fracture, but the question is of course with how much pain that will be. We will see that in the coming days. We hope that Annemiek can still start, but that has to be justified,” Dutch team coach Loes Gunnewijk told, noting the team doctor will consult on the final decision.

What happened? That’s still anybody’s guess.

The champ herself tweeted that she didn’t know what caused it, but that knowing what it was “will not help or change my situation.”

The internet raged with speculation: gear or brake lockup (see Twitter thread), a rear derailleur malfunction, a chain drop, or operator error where Van Vleuten simply lost control.

Whatever the case, we still wouldn’t count the Dutch crusher out at the Women’s Elite road race on Saturday. It’s not the first time she’s gone down in a heap. And this time, her injuries appear to give her a lot better shot to get back up swinging.

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Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.