Quintana hits the deck, loses race lead but can remain in Vuelta

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Fifth at the first intermediate time check on the stage ten time trial in the Vuelta a España, Nairo Quintana’s bid to defend his race leader’s red jersey unravelled very soon afterwards with a high speed crash on the descent of the day’s climb.

The Colombian rider was sent flying when he ran wide on a sweeping bend, clipped a roadside barrier and was hurled to the ground. He lay on the tarmac for some time, prompting concern that he was out of the race, but fortunately was able to remount and to race on to the finish.

“I was feeling great in the uphill, but at that point of the descent my bike simply did not brake enough,” he said, explaining what happened. “Before the turn, I was tightening my shoe, which was a little bit loose, but I think that didn’t have an effect on my crash.

“The thing is that I kept braking for quite long, but it wasn’t enough because the bike didn’t stop, and I crashed. Fortunately, I could avoid having a bigger crash and I did not hurt myself really badly.”

Able to complete the stage, he ended up losing a lot of time. He was a mere 82nd, four minutes and seven seconds behind the winner Tony Martin. The result saw him drop from first to 11th overall, three minutes and 25 seconds behind the new race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo). But, on the plus side, he remains in the race.

“I’m hurting in my left ankle and I also have blows all over my body, but I hope it’s nothing serious,” he said. “This is cycling. I lost some time and I might be switching to help out Alejandro so we can conquer the overall podium.”

It remains to be seen if the latter will be the case; if Quintana can get over his injuries, it may be in the team’s best interests to have him riding aggressively and trying to get time back. In addition to putting the team in a better GC position, it would also enable Valverde to sit on and to force his rivals to ride. That all depends on his recovery, though.

If the day was a bad one for Quintana, it was much more productive for his team-mate Valverde. The Spaniard has a mixed history in time trials but fared well, finishing a solid eighth, one minute and one second back.

He is now second overall, 27 seconds behind Contador.

“I’m happy with myself,” he said afterwards. “We stay in second place, really close to Alberto, but it’s a bittersweet taste with Nairo’s crash. I didn’t know anything, I was told when I finished. It’s awful to have such a crash, when you’re in the lead, clocking good times…

“Having the two of us closer in the overall would have been better for our interests, but the only important thing now is that Nairo is still racing. I’m sure he will recover well, even though I’m told it was quite a blow. We’ll keep fighting to do great in this Vuelta.”

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