Colombia’s Juan Mauricio Soler has been hospitalized in St Gallen with severe brain injuries after a heavy crash during the Tour of Switzerland on Thursday.
Soler’s Movistar team issued a statement to say the 28-year-old rider had been diagnosed with bleeding on the brain, as well as “multiple fractures and hematomas”.
The race medic, Roland Kretsch, said the incident happened 7 miles into the sixth stage. Soler was unconscious and bleeding from the left ear when doctors reached him, and he was airlifted to a hospital. He was in a stable condition in intensive care, said Kretsch.
His colleague Thorsten Hammer said the main concern was Soler’s head injuries. “We can’t say at this time in which direction it will go,” the medic said.
Tour organizers were unclear about how the crash happened and whether spectators were involved. But Movistar’s press team said Soler may have hit a curb, flown over his handlebars and hit either a pole or fence. The press team also said Soler might have “impacted against a spectator”.
The tour website suggested spectators were injured in the accident.
Soler had been holding on to second place overall and was less than a minute behind the leader Damiano Cunego of Italy. He also won the second stage on Sunday and dedicated the victory to a former Movistar team-mate Xavier Tondo, who died in a freak accident last month.
Safety in cycling has been under scrutiny since Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt was killed on 9 May in a crash during the Giro d’Italia.
Weylandt’s Leopard Trek team sent a message of support to Soler on Thursday via Twitter. “We keep him, his family and his Movistar team in our thoughts,” it read.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who is competing for HTC-Highroad, tweeted: “Not nice to see Mauricio Soler crash today. Very nasty. I really hope he is ok, and wish him a speedy recovery.”
Weylandt’s was the first death at the Giro in 25 years and the first in one of the sport’s showcase tours in 16 years.