‘It went black before my eyes’ – Lars van den Berg’s scary, unexplained crash

During one of his best-ever days on the bike, the young Dutchman suddenly lost consciousness.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 07.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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The Faun-Ardèche Classic was going well for Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ). Better than well, in fact – the 25-year-old Dutchman was feeling “exceptionally good” in the early kilometres of the French one-day race, describing it later as one of his best days ever on the bike.

But with around 100 km to go, with Van den Berg well-positioned ahead of an important descent, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. 

“Suddenly I got a strange feeling in my legs and my head also became very light,” Van den Berg said this week on his podcast, Cycling Inside. “I felt bad and put my hand in the air to drop through the peloton, because I wanted to stop.”

Moments later, Van den Berg collided with a rider on his left and then, without warning, the lights went out.

“It went black before my eyes,” he said. “Just before I fell, I panicked and thought: ‘This is really going wrong.’”

Van den Berg lost consciousness while still on the bike, and crashed at somewhere between 35 and 40 km/h. When he came to, moments later, he was surrounded.

“Before you know it, you wake up and there are 10 people above you, watching you,” he said. “That was quite a shock.”

Among those to stop was Van den Berg’s compatriot and former teammate at the Metec-TKH Continental team, Sjoerd Bax (now with UAE Team Emirates).

He stopped, he saw that something was wrong,” Van den Berg said. “He waited until the race doctor was there. I saw him on Sunday and thanked him, because not everyone does that for you.”

While Van den Berg didn’t suffer any serious injuries in his fall – “I came away with a few scrapes, but that was the only thing” – he knew something wasn’t right. “I lay on the floor in a panic and felt terribly bad throughout my body,” he said on Cycling Inside. “Then it finally dawned on me and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital.”

There, Van den Berg underwent an ECG and a heart ultrasound, but there was no sign of anything abnormal. After a long day in hospital, Van den Berg was discharged at around 11:30pm and taken back to the team hotel. He’d been due to start the Faun Drôme Classic the following day but, understandably, sat the race out.

There was talk of Van den Berg undergoing further tests in France but ultimately he came home to the Netherlands on Tuesday and went straight to hospital in Amsterdam. He underwent further investigation and has since been “constantly monitored by the cardiologists”.

At this point, though, the 25-year-old still doesn’t have any concrete answers about what happened.

“We are busy trying to find out what it is,” he said. “It looks like there will be a definitive answer in the short term. I don’t have an answer yet.

“You would think that you felt bad all day or that you felt it coming, but it was one of my best days on the bike. That you suddenly become unwell makes it all the more confusing.”

Understandably, Van den Berg isn’t in a rush to get back to racing right now. But he’s certain he will be back, when it’s safe to do so.

“I am positive that I will return,” he said. “Health now comes first. You want to be 110% fit again before you participate in top sport again. I feel a lot of support from family and team and will come back stronger.”

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