Team Dimension Data riders and chiefs were left fuming after star sprinter Mark Cavendish was forced to abandon the Abu Dhabi Tour after he was hit by an official race vehicle - prior to Wednesday's first stage even starting.
The 32-year-old Brit was floored, along with three other riders, when the race director's vehicle appeared to brake suddenly in font of them in the neutralised zone.
The Manx Missile rejoined the peloton but was forced to the side of the road after just 5km and pulled out. He was immediately taken to hospital suffering from concussion and whiplash, but a serious neck injury was avoided.
Dimension Data confirmed Cavendish fell on the same shoulder he fractured in the heavy crash with Peter Sagan which forced him to abandon the 2017 Tour de France on Stage 4.
Teammate Mekseb Debesay, Team Sky's Leonardo Basso and Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani CSF) were also caught up in the low-speed crash but all three managed to finish the race.
Dimension Data colleague Mark Renshaw said the incident didn't look good for race organisers, with Cavendish the Tour's ambassador.
"I can't say if it's his (race director's) fault or not. I hope it isn't because he's the ambassador for the race so it wouldn't look very good to take out your face of the race," said the Australian, post-race.
"I don't know what happened. I didn't see it. But I spoke to him straight after, he came back into the bunch and I asked him if he was ok and he said his head and neck were really sore.
"It must be bad if he stopped the race because he's one of the hardest guys I know."
Mark Cavendish after his crash and before withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi Tour
And Renshaw also rued the incident as it wrecks the team's plans for the rest of the Tour.
He added: "It's a massive blow for us because we came here to win one of these three stages and now we can't really do much until the time trial and Steve Cummings and then the uphill finish."
Renshaw claimed the incident in the neutralised zone prior to a race starting was not uncommon, saying: "I think the neutral zone's probably one of the most dangerous areas. Guys not concentrating, cars close to the bunch, guys moving up and down, so it's dangerous."
But his comments were in stark contrast to the team's sports director, Roger Hammond, who said: "No, it's not common, it's really rare, otherwise we'd know about them.
"We wouldn't be talking about it. That's why we're here. S*** happens, we can't beat around the bush, it's not good.
"Nobody really knows what happened. There's loads of rumours coming from the peloton. The most important thing was picking him up off the road and getting him assessed."
Hammond said Dimension Data were awaiting confirmation on the extent of Cavendish's injuries, with the Manxman scheduled to next compete in Italy at the Tirreno-Adriatico from March 7-13 and Milan-San Remo on March 17.
"I got a message at 10km to go saying they'd had scans and an X-Ray, they're just waiting for the diagnosis," added Englishman Hammond of his compatriot.
"Concussion and whiplash, that's what the doctor said, or thought it was. We're waiting for confirmation. I wouldn't be surprised as he sent me through a picture of him in a neck brace, so we're obviously worried about that. It needs to be confirmed."
UAE Team Emirates' sprinter Alexander Kristoff went on to win Stage 1 in Madinat Zayed and said Cavendish's fall and subsequent withdrawal was a shame for the race.
"I think the car in front braked and he was perhaps fixing something on his bike at the same time," said the Norwegian. "He got hit quite hard. I heard he was ok but had a headache and his vision was blurred so it's a pity. He cannot really do anything."
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