Will Clarke's hopes of a maiden Tour de France have been shattered by a horrific crash in Belgium.
The veteran cyclist had been positioning himself healthily for a potential support role for fellow 34-year-old Tasmanian Richie Porte in the sport's biggest race before sustaining a fractured collarbone and scapula just three weeks out.
Clarke had ridden a dominant 158-kilometre fifth stage of the Baloise Belgium Tour but his breakaway group was caught in the final kilometre when the accident happened in the city of Beringen.
Belgian cycling website Wielerflits reported that Clarke fell as the leaders were launching their sprints for the stage win.
"Just at that moment some riders were already starting the final sprint," it said. "In the chaos that arose there was also a massive crash, in which Clarke fell and several riders could not avoid him."
It said Clarke "crashed hard and remained on the asphalt. He has broken his elbow and collarbone".
The Trek-Segafredo team that employs both Tasmanian WorldTour riders later confirmed: "He has a fracture of the left collarbone and left scapula. Join us in wishing him a speedy recovery."
#BaloiseBelgiumTour— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) June 16, 2019
Update on @clarkeywilbur: He rode a super strong race in the breakaway, and then crashed hard in the final meters just as the peloton was overtaking them. He has a fracture of the left collarbone and left scapula.
Join us in wishing him a speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/81CqdiiqIN
En route to hospital Clarke posted details of his ride on social media in which he said he was knocked unconscious 300m from the finish line.
The crash comes just a fortnight after Clarke completed his second Grand Tour, helping his team to a top-five finish and stage win in the Giro d'Italia.
He had ridden 8502 competitive kilometres for his new team this year in Australia, UAE, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.
Ironically, Clarke's accident happened just as his regular training partner Porte was positioning himself tidily for a ninth Tour de France.
The Launceston rider moved up to finish 11th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine after a 20th-place finish in the 113.5km final stage into Champery.
"Such a hard day but the team were great," said Porte, who also finished fifth at the Tour of California in May.
"It's not been an easy week for me with my health but it's better to get sick now than in the Tour.
"So I'm really looking forward to the next three weeks of preparation and hit the Tour in good form."
Trek-Segafredo, which plans to build its Tour team around Porte's general classification aspirations, reported: "He has put in some serious hard race miles in his tune up for July."
Porte finished fifth in the 2016 Tour but has crashed out of the last two editions on the ninth stage.
This year's Tour starts in Brussels on July 6.
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