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WATCH - Annemiek van Vleuten 'fine' after fracturing three vertebrae in horror crash in Rio road race

The Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten was in intensive care with concussion and three fractured vertebrae on Sunday night after she suffered a sickening fall at high speed whilst leading the women's cycling road race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

TV images showed the 33-year-old motionless on the ground after the heavy fall, which came on the final descent of the deliberating 137 kilometres (85 miles) race.

Amid growing concerns for her health, Van Vleuten tweeted to reassure the watching world that she "will be fine", adding that her main emotion was one of disappointment at having her race cut short.

"I am now in hospital with some injuries and fractures, but will be fine," she said. "Most of all super disappointed after best race of my career."

The cyclist was immediately rushed to hospital, and the Dutch chef de mission, Maurits Hendrikslater, later said that she had  suffered a severe concussion as well as three small fractures to her lumbar spine. She is expected to spend 24 hours in intensive care.

Hendriks added that van Vleuten was conscious when taken to hospital.

Van Vleuten skidded on a sharp right-hand bend and flipped forward over her handlebars, plunging head-first into the road and kerb. She lay motionless for a significant while until help arrived.

The crash happened on the treacherous Vista Chinesa, the same descent where the leaders of the men's race wiped out on Saturday.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who was also in frame to win a gold medal, suffered a broken collarbone. Colombia's Sergio Henao also crashed, breaking his pelvis.

Australia's Richie Porte broke a shoulder blade on the same section of the course during the penultimate descent on Saturday.

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Van Vlueten's horrific accident led Chris Boardman, who was analysing the race for the BBC, to describe the route as “too dangerous”.

"I'm actually quite angry because I looked at the road furniture and thought nobody can crash here and get up,” he said. “This was way past technical, this was dangerous."

This is not the first time that the Dutch cyclist, who was competing at her first Olympic Games, has suffered a terrible accident at high speed.

In August 2015, she suffered multiple fractures and a collapsed lung after she was hit by a car while training in Livigno, Italy.