Annemiek van Vleuten suffered a huge freak crash in the opening seconds of the mixed team time trial as the Dutch super squad’s hopes of gold unravelled at the Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.
Just moments after coming down the start ramp, Van Vleuten suddenly and inexplicably veered across the road and smashed into the barriers.
“Disaster! Disaster!” cried Rob Hatch on Eurosport commentary.
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Time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk almost came a cropper too, having to unclip as she took an unscheduled trip across her team-mate’s stricken bike.
Van Vleuten was left in a crumpled heap in the floor, her hands on her helmet in shock, as Van Dijk and Riejanne Markus set about salvaging the race.
“The Dutch doomed from the start. Dear, oh dear, oh dear. What on earth happened there?" continued Hatch.
“We sit in a state of shock. Annemiek van Vleuten too, she cannot believe what happened there.”
Dutch outlet ADSportwereld later confirmed the 39-year-old had a small fracture in her elbow, casting doubt over her participation in Saturday's road race.
Van Vleuten also shed light on the incident on social media, initially saying her “front tyre exploded”.
However, she then revealed that the exploding tyre was likely not responsible for the crash.
"Don't know what happened but looks [like] the tyre exploded after I hit the side of the road," she said on Twitter.
"So that was not the problem. Something caused [me to get] out of balance, but what ever caused it: it will not help or change my situation."
The Dutch arrived as huge favourites for the mixed team time trial after Van Vleuten convinced Mathieu van der Poel to join her in the Dutch squad.
But their challenge disintegrated within three minutes as Bauke Mollema suffered a mechanical in the men’s leg, leaving Van der Poel and Daan Hoole with a salvage mission.
Although the pair arrived at the changeover only 40 seconds down after an impressive ride, the Dutch’s mission improbable became mission impossible when Vleuten hit the tarmac in a shocking crash.
“I honestly don’t know what happened there,” said Michael Hutchinson on Eurosport commentary.
“It simply looked as though she lost control of the front wheel of the bike. It seems an extraordinary thing. It’s hard to believe a rider of her experience and ability would have that happen.”

Highlights: Van Vleuten horror crash as Switzerland take mixed team time trial gold

Markus and Van Dijk regrouped to finish a commendable fifth – a hugely impressive result given they only had four riders against their rivals’ six for all but three minutes of the race.
“The Dutch have had the day from hell,” concluded Hutchinson.
The mixed team time trial in Wollongong saw teams of three men complete a 14.1km circuit, with teams of three women starting the same circuit when the men finished.
Switzerland powered to team time trial gold in a dominant display, with Italy taking silver and Australia the bronze.

‘This could be a disaster!’ - Mollema drops his chain in mixed TT

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Stream the UCI Road World Championships live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk
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