Swiss cyclist Stefan Küng faced a harrowing ordeal during the elite men's time trial at the UEC European Road Championships, which took place in Emmen. This unfortunate incident occurred as the narrow road section forced riders into a challenging situation.
Küng, battling against the wind, had his head down as he approached a segment where diagonal metal barriers directed cyclists onto the other side of the median. In a heart-stopping moment, he clipped the barriers' feet and tumbled to the ground, narrowly avoiding a collision with a television motorbike trailing closely behind.
Disturbingly, there were no team or medical vehicles immediately available to assist Küng, compelling him to remount his bicycle and complete the race. Only after crossing the finish line was he attended to and evaluated under the UCI's concussion protocol.
The aftermath of the incident painted a grim picture, as Küng emerged from a tunnel into the finishing straight with his helmet in tatters, his face, chest, and shoulders splattered with blood. Fortunately, his team, Groupama-FDJ, provided reassurance that his condition was not as dire as it appeared in those distressing images, although it did signify the abrupt end of his 2023 season.
Küng's Health Update and Season Conclusion
Groupama-FDJ issued an official statement regarding Küng's condition, revealing that he suffered a minor concussion, a fractured molar bone, and a fractured hand that did not necessitate immediate surgical intervention.
While Küng remains under observation in the hospital, he is expected to return home shortly. Regrettably, this incident forced Küng to withdraw from Switzerland's mixed relay TT roster, marking the conclusion of his competitive season.
Despite this setback, the team emphasized that Küng's overall condition is stable. Küng's 2023 season, despite the crash, boasted 65 race days, including two individual time trial victories and a world title in the mixed relay team time trial from Glasgow.
He also achieved commendable top-six finishes at prestigious events like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and the World Championships road race. The UCI implemented a concussion protocol in 2021, prompted by a previous incident involving French cyclist Romain Bardet during the Tour de France, where he continued racing despite severe injuries.
The protocol mandates a thorough assessment of riders who have broken their helmets or experienced crashes that could lead to concussions, prioritizing their safety above all else.