Dan Martin's dreams of a top result in the Vuelta a España overall were shattered by a major pile-up late on stage 8 on Saturday, with the Irish rider forced to quit because of injuries from the crash.
It had all been going so well for the Irishman as he built steadily towards what could have been another top result in the Vuelta. 13th in the 2011 Vuelta and seventh in 2014, Martin was lying third overall prior to the crash and was clearly in excellent shape, having attacked on several of the earlier summit finish stages and taken second on the stage to Cazorla and fourth at El Caminito del Rey on stage 2. For those fans asking themselves how he would cope with riding a second Grand Tour so close to racing in the Tour de France this summer, Martin's answer so far in the Vuelta had been - very nicely thank you.
But on a hugely fraught and crash-ridden stage 8, it all went awry for Martin when the Cannondale-Garmin rider was caught up in the major pile-up some 50 kilometres from the line. The crash poleaxed numerous riders, and in Martin's case the impact of the fall took him spinning onto a roadside tramway. Eyewitness report said the trams were - fortunately - stopped soon afterwards, but Martin was in no shape to continue racing.
Team sports director Johnny Weltz later told Cyclingnews that as a result of the crash, Martin has a shoulder injury. A first checkup in hospital Saturday evening has indicated nothing appears to be broken, but doctors will need to make more tests before ascertaining the full extent of the injuries and whether an operation is required.
After crashing late on stage 7 of the 2013 Vuelta then not starting the next day's racing as a result of his injuries, this is the second time in his career that Martin has had to head home early from the Vuelta.
"Today was just about survival because dammit, tomorrow [Sunday] is a summit finish and will have been a perfect day for him," Weltz added. "He was where he had to be today. He was just unlucky. This race has been very unkind to him."
For Cannondale-Garmin in the Vuelta, Martin's abandon is a huge blow because as Weltz said, "he was coming into top shape just at the right time, he already showed he was good and a stage like tomorrow would have been perfect and then in Andorra. I have to say it was looking pretty good."
Cannondale-Garmin thankfully had no other injured riders in the Vuelta's crash-torn stage eight, although Alex Howes had a lucky escape when he crashed out on the first corner of notoriously difficult descent of the Cresta del Gallo whilst leading the race. "We had to give him another bike, but thankfully he was ok," Weltz said. "So we had a full day."