Crashes during a stage are an unwelcome but not unexpected part of racing, but riders expect to be safe from incidents once they cross the finish line. That was not the case after stage 6 of the Vuelta a Espana when a low-flying helicopter blew unsecured barriers across the road and into unsuspecting riders.
The incident was shown only briefly on television but there were plenty of fans filming and other angles of the incident have been posted on social media. Leaves and debris can be seen being blown into the air before the barriers slight from the left to the right of the road. There are people around, but nobody is able to stop them before they move into the peloton, which has just concluded a dramatic stage 6.
A few riders had a lucky escape, such as Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, but AG2R La Mondiale’s Julien Duval was not so fortunate. The Frenchman, who has been suffering in the opening days of the race and sits last in the overall classification, had made it through an earlier incident to finish in the front group. However, as he made his way to the team bus, he was taken out by the barriers. The 28-year-old required two stitches to his wound.
Duval’s teammate Tony Gallopin just made it through and can be seen in fan footage putting his foot out to prevent the barriers from knocking him over. Sergio Henao (Team Sky) was right behind Duval and was also taken off his bike by the barriers but managed to get his left foot out before hitting the tarmac.
It was not a good day for the Vuelta a Espana organisers on Thursday with the finale of stage 6 marred by two serious, but avoidable, crashes. Prior to the finish line incident, poorly-indicated and ill-protected bollards sparked a crash that would split the bunch and see Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) lose more than a minute in the overall classification.
Victor Campenaerts was the rider who hit the barriers first and also ended up with stitches – 10 in his elbow. Bollards, and the removal of them, have been a hot topic for several years, with a number of riders involved in crashes caused by them.
Despite the crashes, all riders involved were able to finish the stage and are expected to start stage 7 from Puerto Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon.