Sport’s inherent dangers are clear – to sanitise is merely to diminish | Richard Williams

Despite the crashes in the Rio road races, a world without unreasonable risks, and the chance to admire the people willing to take them, would seem a less appealing place to be

They were, by general consent, two of the best bike races in years. Several factors went towards making them so enthralling, but the biggest contribution of all was made by the course, which offered an unusually brutal challenge to the men and women involved in last weekend’s Olympic road races.

Too brutal for some, as TV cameras caught the leaders of both races crashing heavily on the steep, narrow, sinuous final descent towards the Rio de Janeiro seafront. As Vincenzo Nibali and Sergio Henao lay in the road, their chances in the men’s event in ruins as their rivals swept past, those who had pointed out the dangers of the course in advance could feel vindicated. Twenty-four hours later the sight of the motionless and crumpled form of Annemiek van Vleuten drew a horrified reaction that was only partially muted the following morning when the news came that she was awake and talking, her injuries restricted to three fractures of the lumbar vertebrae.

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