Jumbo-Visma continued their dominance of the Vuelta a España with another stage win delivered by Jonas Vingegaard atop the steep summit finish at Bejes on stage 16, but the best news of the afternoon was confirmation that their teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck was awake following his involvement in a car accident earlier in the day.
The Belgian was rushed to hospital in a reported life-threatening condition and later placed in an induced coma after falling ill while driving and crashing his car into other vehicles early on Tuesday morning.
His teammates raced the bulk of the 120.1km stage with Van Hooydonck’s health hanging in the balance, but Hungarian climber Attila Valter confirmed after the stage that they were given good news on the Belgian’s condition just before they began the final climb to the line.
“It will be a day to remember because of these mixed feelings,” Valter told Eurosport moments after seeing Vingegaard take an emotional second win of the race.
“But the day turned out really well because we just heard at the bottom of the climb that Nathan is awake and that he’s pretty OK – we heard in the radio. It’s what I heard and what I hoped for.
“It was a good stage and we wanted to go for it. After what we heard we got quite mixed feelings, but we had to get through that and we thought that we give this stage to Nathan.
“I heard that he’s awake. I’m not sure if he’s already watching the Vuelta. But I hope he is soon and then I hope he’s watching that we’re all cheering for him and that this victory is for him.”
Van Hooydonck was in the car with his pregnant wife in the passenger seat when he fell ill at a junction in the town of Kalhmthout near Antwerp at 8:30 a.m., local time. This caused the car to inadvertently accelerate into traffic, sending the pair into five other vehicles.
The 27-year-old, a key part of the Jumbo-Visma spring Classics and Grand Tour setup since joining in 2021, was rushed to Antwerp University Hospital and placed in a medically-induced coma, with reports in the early afternoon improving to describe his condition as “hopeful”.
Now, it seems as though the horrifying story will move to a more positive ending with Van Hooydonck awake in hospital.
“I’m just happy to win today,” Vingegaard said after the stage. “We had some terrible news this morning and I wanted to win for my best friend today.
“Luckily now there is good news about his condition, so that’s a big relief for me and the team. I hope he will recover soon.”