Cycling: Julian Alaphilippe crashes out of Tour of Flanders after motorcycle collision

World champion Julian Alaphilippe has crashed out of the Tour of Flanders, after hitting a motorbike, as Dutch rider Mathieu Van der Poel beat powerful Belgian rival Wout Van Aert in a photo-finish sprint. 

Alaphilippe, 28, was part of the winning breakaway, when he hit a race motorbike 35km from the finish of the 243km one-day epic.

He tumbled head over heels, after his right elbow clipped the back of the motorbike.

Alaphilippe eventually sat up, holding his right arm and screaming in pain, before race doctors attended to him and transported him to hospital, where x-rays showed two fractures in his hand.

Riding just in front of the Frenchman, the 26-year-old Van der Poel narrowly avoided the bike on the right side of the road.

"A few motorbikes wanted to go behind us, because our gap was growing," says Van Aert. "I wanted to take profit as much as possible to go behind the moto, and I think Julian was not concentrating or something.

"It's a real pity that he hit the moto." 

The world champion's rainbow jersey hasn't brought much joy to Alaphilippe, since he claimed the title earlier this month. In his first outing with the traditional shirt, he prematurely celebrated victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, was pipped on the line by Slovenian Primoz Roglic and eventually relegated to fifth for swerving in front of another rival in the finishing straight.

A few days later at Brabantse Pijl, he again celebrated early, barely hanging on to win by less than half a wheel on the finish line. 

Van der Poel, whose father Adri won the one-day race in 1986, launched the two-man sprint and managed to just hold off Van Aert.

Norway's Alexander Kristoff took third place.

"They had already called my name twice, but I couldn't believe it," says Van der Poel. "I've asked for confirmation 10 times.

"I have no words for this. I am speechless."