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The impact of the crash left an immediate mark on Wout van Aert, with his jersey ripped, his back ablaze with road rash and multiple fractures causing excruciating pain. It took a moment or two to register the amount of the season.

As he did so, Van Ert’s body began to shake with sobs. His broken heart didn’t need an X-ray to tell him what he already knew. The 2024 Classics campaign ended not with a victory at the Roubaix velodrome, but here on the only road outside of Ronse, 67km from the finish line of Dwars ber Vlaanderen.