Already behind in the opening week, Alberto Contador has said that his Vuelta a España chances ‘will be complicated’ after hitting the deck at the end of Friday’s stage of the race.
The Spaniard, who crashed twice during the Tour before withdrawing with fever, had his build-up for the Vuelta complicated by lingering injuries from the Tour. He hurt his left shoulder and side on stage one of the French race and landed on the same side again in a spill on a left hand turn inside the final kilometre.
Contador among those caught in the late crash pic.twitter.com/zIatUbwNkH
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) August 26, 2016
“Somebody hit me and this was why I fell down,” he told TV reporters after the finish. “I was taken down. The left-hand side of my body feels pretty bad. We will see. It will be complicated from now on.”
Replays showed that an overlapping line of four riders came together on the final bend. The squeezing effect saw Contador sandwiched and he and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) came together.
— CyclingHub (@CyclingHubTV) August 26, 2016
He hit the deck and slid into the barrier on the right-hand side of the road.
Although he won’t lose time under UCI rules, the injury to his body clearly demoralised him. He appeared downbeat and worried about how it might affect his form in the days ahead.
He later expanded on what had happened. “With 800m to go I was very well positioned so I told Benna [Daniele Bennati] to go for the sprint. With 400 metres to go on a left corner I was hit by someone that likes braking a lot and crashed on my left side. I took a big hit on my calf and my quad, and in general I have extensive superficial wounds on the entire left side of my body.
“It hurts a lot but it seems that there’s nothing broken. We have a long transfer to the hotel of 120km now – I will rest for the night and tomorrow morning we will assess my situation.”
Team directeur sportif Sean Yates said that there was little he could have done. “It looked like he got squeezed on the corner. He’s been caught out this season by being too far back, and today he was right up the front and still was involved, so it’s real bad luck.”
The crash resurrected long-running questions about the need for GC riders to get involved with those pushing towards the stage win. Under current rules any gaps in the peloton at the finish can result in the loss of time and, not for the first time, there are calls for this to change.
Why don't we take the time at 3km to go banner so GC riders don't have to fight with us and don't risk crashing… what's the point of this?
— Koen de Kort (@koendekort) August 26, 2016
The race continues tomorrow with a difficult summit finish to La Camperona. Contador is already on the back foot in relation to his rivals, and can’t afford to lose any more time.