Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins left hospital Thursday after a training crash but in a black day for British cycling his team coach suffered head injuries in a separate accident. Wiggins, the 2012 Olympics time-trial gold medallist, was thrown off his bike on Wednesday evening when hit by a vehicle believed to have pulled out of a petrol station in Wrightington, near his home in Eccleston, northwest England. Lancashire police said the 32-year-old Team Sky rider suffered broken ribs and a wrist injury and had spent the night in hospital. The driver of the vehicle, a woman, will be interviewed by police about the accident.
“We plan to speak to the driver later today as part of our inquiries,” a spokeswoman said. British media reported that he had returned home after leaving hospital on Thursday. He gave photographers the middle finger as he was driven away from hospital. But as news broke of his release from hospital, it emerged that British Cycling team coach Shane Sutton had been involved in an unrelated accident while cycling near Levenshulme in Manchester, also in northwest England
“Shane was taken into hospital where it was identified he has suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain,” British Cycling said in a statement. “Shane was wearing a helmet. He is set to undergo more tests, and is likely to stay in hospital for the next few days,”
Australia-born Sutton, 55, led Britain’s cycling team to a string of medals at the London 2012 Olympics, including gold for Wiggins in the time-trial. Governing body British Cycling called on the government to improve conditions for cyclists.
“It is extremely rare that our riders and coaches are hurt while out cycling on the road, even rarer that two incidents should occur in a short space of time, and we wish Shane and Bradley a speedy recovery,” it said. “Cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity but there is much more to be done to improve conditions for cyclists on the roads. On the same August 1 day that Wiggins enjoyed his Olympic Games triumph, a passing cyclist was killed in a collision with a London 2012 media shuttle bus just outside the Olympic Park.
This year saw Wiggins become the first British winner in the history of the Tour de France and, barely two weeks later, he also won the time trial at London 2012 in front of his home fans for a fourth career Olympic gold medal. Wiggins, who broke his collarbone on the 2011 Tour de France, had been due to take part in a number of interviews to promote his autobiography “My Time”, which is published Thursday.
Team Sky said on its website that his injuries were “not thought to be serious and he is expected to make a full and speedy recovery”.
Garage attendant Yasmin Smith, who went to Wiggins’s aid, told the BBC: “I was in the office and I heard a screeching of tires and a bang. I ran outside and there was a gentleman on the pavement. I didn’t realize who it was at first.
“He was in a lot of pain. He actually thought he had broken his ribs. His hands looked bruised and they were curled up a bit. And then his color changed.”
Wiggins’s wife went to the scene while they were waiting for an ambulance, she added. “His wife (tried to) hug him and he said: ‘Don’t, my ribs’,” Smith said.
After the death of the cyclist near the Olympic Park in August, Wiggins commented afterwards that cyclists and drivers needed to “co-exist on the roads.” He clarified later that he was not calling for the wearing of cycle helmets to be compulsory.
“Cyclists are not ever going to go away as much as drivers moan, and as much as cyclists maybe moan about certain drivers they are never going to go away, so there’s got to be a bit of give and take,” he added. Time-trial specialist Wiggins last month all but admitted that he stands little chance of successfully defending his Tour de France title, after organizers unveiled a brutal, mountain-heavy course for the 100th edition of the race next year.
That potentially makes the race a contest between his team-mate and compatriot Chris Froome and Spain’s Alberto Contador.