With a large group up the road and three climbs to go on stage 7 of the Vuelta a España, Alejandro Valverde attacked the reduced peloton. He looked strong as he led Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates up the climb to Puerto El Collao until, in a split second, he was sliding across the road.
Now, Valverde is out of the race entirely with a broken collarbone.
With 42.5 km to goon Friday, as the road sloped downwards, Valverde hit a bump in the road and slid across the asphalt and over the side of a dirt drop. It was fortunate he was already on the ground and he missed hitting the metal barrier on the side of the road.
He jumped up pretty quickly and with the help of his teammate José Rojas Valverde made his way up the dirt embankment and back onto the road. Covered in dirt, Valverde held his shoulder.
With second, third, and fourth on the general classification, Movistar has had quite the opening week in Spain. Valverde himself sat in fourth when stage 7 began, just 41 seconds down from Primož Roglič.
Valverde climbed back onto his bike and two of his teammates rode beside him while the action in the red jersey group stalled. But with 35 km to go a motorbike caught the tearful scene of Valverde dismounting his bike. His longtime team director Chente García Acosta held the veteran rider while the call was made. Valverde would not finish stage 7 of the Vuelta a España.
The camera hovered over the tearful goodbye for longer than was comfortable to watch as medics swarmed around Valverde and his director.
A few hours later, Movistar said on social media that the former world champion had suffered a collarbone fracture in the crash, and will undergo surgery in his hometown of Murcia.
In January of 2021, Valverde announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2021 season, meaning this Vuelta a España would be his final Grand Tour. In June he backtracked, stating in an interview “I am not retiring, my idea is to continue in 2022. Although I have not yet spoken with Movistar, I do not think there is a problem.” Nothing has been announced officially about his 2022 season.