Horror accidents and nasty falls at the Bahnrad-EM: “It’s part of the sport”

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Of: Gunter Klein

There were a few falls at the European Track Cycling Championships. © IMAGO/ERIC LALMAND

That’s actually not what viewers wanted to see. The track bike competitions deliver unpleasant pictures – but the national coach appeased.

Munich – The moment after it happened, the repression begins. Announcement in the Bahnradhalle: “Please do not take any photos or videos.” Volunteers immediately jumped over with large, colorful tarpaulins to shield the scene of the accident from view. And the notice appears on the ad that further competition is being delayed – “due to track repair”. For repairs on the railway. And yes, it was actually damaged, a hole was torn in the wood high in the curve, an employee climbs up the steep face on a special ladder to plaster the spot with tape. But above all it is now about the medical treatment: At the exit of the curve, four drivers are lying on the “Cote d’Azur”, as the blue stripe is called below. When everything goes smoothly, that’s gentle irony. In a crash, it’s sheer cynicism.

At the European Track Cycling Championships in Munich’s exhibition hall C1, which ended yesterday evening, there were a few serious crashes. On Friday in the team sprint, the third rider of the British women’s sprint team touched the rear wheel of the second – both fell, both screaming in pain. One broke her shoulder, the other suffered a concussion. On Saturday in the elimination race, Italian world champion Letizia Paternoster was at the center of a mass fall – she also ended up with a broken collarbone and concussion. On Monday towards the end of the omnium race, riders became entangled – the Ukrainian Ganna Solovei and the Greek Argiro Milaki were treated by doctors at the scene of the accident for almost half an hour and taken out of the hall on stretchers and an IV. The Greek suffered a shoulder injury, and her association reported on the health status of the Ukrainian on Tuesday afternoon: “She’s fine.”

“Of course you want to know: How are those affected?” says Jan van Eijden, once a successful track cyclist himself and now national coach. He says: “This is the sport. Anyone who goes on the track knows what can happen.” He did not welcome the circumstances, but the interruption: This gave his athlete Emma Hinze, who had thrown up several times throughout the day, the opportunity before her third final run in the sprint to get a little stronger and to get her third EM gold. “Without this break, she wouldn’t have won.” But doesn’t a break and the apprehension in the velodrome also have a negative effect? “It’s bad. when there are falls. But you have to shake it off,” explains Hinze.

Do the falls in Munich have something to do with the fact that the track is only 200 meters long and not the prescribed minimum of 250 meters? Kristina Vogel, the multiple Olympic champion who has been paralyzed since a training accident, has expressed her unease. The Germans trained on the 200-meter track in Augsburg, but were “shocked when we saw the wide curves in Munich” (van Eijden). There is hardly any straight line left on the specially constructed oval.

One problem are races with 20 participants like the Omnium, where space is tight. “When you have the track to yourself, like in a time trial,” says German sprinter Marc Jurczyk, “at least you know that if you fall, it’s your own fault.” Otherwise, you’re not in control of your own destiny. “Looked at from the outside,” he says, a certain caution can be observed in Munich. “It’s not so tight, you pay attention to distances.” The reason: “In two months we still have the World Cup.” And that’s even more important. The show goes on.