MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Two cyclists were injured during a race in western Japan as nonskid mats on the course were blown into the air, possibly because of airflow from a news helicopter, police said Monday.
A helicopter operated by the Mainichi Shimbun was flying over the scene to cover the race when the accident occurred Sunday.
A male cyclist suffered serious injuries to his right hand while a female cyclist suffered minor injuries to her arms, the police said.
The newspaper said its helicopter was flying over the scene at a height of about 120 meters to avoid a light plane that was also flying over the race.
The police, as well as a Mainichi spokesman, said airflow from the helicopter might have caused the accident.
The race was held on the Nishiseto Expressway, known as the Shimanami Kaido, which links Honshu with Shikoku.
Two mats that had been laid on the course to prevent cyclists from slipping were lifted from the surface, causing the 54-year-old male cyclist and the 45-year-old female cyclist from Saitama Prefecture to tumble to the ground, the police said.
The Ehime Prefectural Police and the organizer of the cycling race, the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido International Cycling Event Executive Committee, said the two mats were each 1.8 meters long, 1.1 meters wide and weighed about 13 kg.