That professional cycling is a high risk activity is often overlooked among more celebrated concerns with athletic performance and technical excellence.
Defending champion, Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), received a brutal reminder of the dangers inherent in his sport while seemingly sat pretty just 12 seconds off the race lead.
Desperate to avoid a collision as the road narrowed on the run-in to the finish at Ardooie at the denouement of stage four, Stybar hit the barriers and flipped over the handlebars.
The stricken rider sat in the gutter as the sprint continued, and only after the run to the line had finished was he able to receive medical attention.
A spokesman for his Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team later announced that the Czech had been hospitalised to receive treatment for “deep wounds on the upper and lower lip, as well as broken teeth”.
Much is made – rightly – of the professional cyclist’s extraordinary capacity for physical suffering. Equally impressive is the sheer bravery of the men who race bicycles for a living.
Official UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti, was on hand to capture the action.