Hours after arriving in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, Thomas Voeckler’s arm was in a sling and his plans for the coming cycling season were in tatters.
The French cycling star broke his right collarbone in a self-described stupid training accident on Wednesday and will fly home on Thursday for treatment.
It came just 12 days after Voeckler had minor surgery on the same collarbone to remove a plate that was inserted last April.
Voeckler, 34, is unsure how long he will be out of action this time.
He flew into Adelaide on Wednesday morning for next week’s Tour and then went for a short training ride with Europcar teammates.
Voeckler clipped a car that braked suddenly near the coastal suburb of Glenelg and he knew well before X-rays later in the afternoon at Sportsmed-SA that he had busted the collarbone again.
“A pedestrian crossed the road, so the car braked very quickly,” he said.
“I didn’t have time to brake and I bumped into the car.
“I immediately understood my collarbone was broken … I know how it is.”
Voeckler also suffered a broken collarbone during the 2009 Paris-Nice race and broke his right collarbone last April at the Amstel Gold one-day classic.
He said in his 14 years as a professional cyclist, this is the first time he has collided with a car in training.
“When it’s during a race, you say to yourself ‘it’s your job, there are risks’,” Voeckler said.
“But when it’s stupid, like (today), just into a car – it’s not the car’s fault, but it’s a stupid crash, a really stupid crash.
“That happens sometimes – this time it’s happened to me.”
Voeckler said the one condition of returning to competition after having the plate removed earlier this month was that he could not afford to crash again.
“There was a small risk,” he said.
“I have to go back to France and go to the hospital – we’ll see how time it takes (before) I go back on the bike again.
“Now I have to take time to get better and we’ll see, step-by-step.
“In France you say ‘that’s the way it is’, but it is a pity.”
Voeckler was one of the top international riders in the January 19-26 Adelaide race and is well-known to Australian cycling fans.
His courageous racing style has earned him a big fan base.
Voeckler wore the yellow jersey as race leader for more than a week during the 2011 Tour de France, which Australian Cadel Evans eventually won.
“I was really happy to spend two weeks here, even if my shape is not 100 per cent,” Voeckler said of his Australian visit.
“When I’m racing somewhere, I always try to attack or take a breakaway.
“That was my goal this time.”
Europcar will not send for a replacement rider.