For much of the afternoon, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) had appeared the strongman of the winning break but his hopes of victory on stage 7 of the Vuelta a España were dashed in an instant when his wheels slid from under him on a descent just 14 kilometres from the finish in Alcaudete.
The Canadian quickly remounted and gave chase, but by the time he caught up to his breakaway companions, Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) had soloed away to claim the stage victory.
Hesjedal eventually took second place on the stage, and immediately afterwards, he made his way to a hospital near the finish line to have his injuries assessed. An x-ray showed up no fractures.
"I’ve just got out of the hospital and I’ve no fracture but quite a bit of discomfort in the pelvis area so I just wanted to make sure there was nothing in that and it seems like that’s ok," Hesjedal told Cyclingnews. "I’ve crashed like that before but to have that kind of pain in the pelvis was new so I went straight to the hospital near the finish."
Hesjedal’s frustration at missing out on victory was exacerbated by the fact that he was at a loss to explain precisely how his crash had happened, as he had followed the same trajectory as De Marchi through the fateful corner.
"I wish I knew. We were going full gas and we’d made it through I don’t know how many sketchy corners that you get your bearings on what you can do," Hesjedal said. "I was just on De Marchi’s wheel going through the corner. He went through, I went through the same but my bike just went from underneath me so that’s pretty frustrating.
"I can’t say that I screwed up the corner or something. I was just on his wheel. When you make it that far and the bike goes from under you it’s hard to take."
In his post-stage press conference, De Marchi expressed his regret at Hesjedal’s fall, noting that he had felt from the outset that he and the Garmin-Sharp rider were the principal drivers of the winning break.
"I appreciate the compliment. We did a lot of work together on the first climb," Hesjedal said. "De Marchi was fully committed and I could tell early on that we were the guys. It could have come down to the both of us and we could have fought it out for a nice victory."
After missing the split when the race broke up in crosswinds on the road to Ronda, Hesjedal lost further time on the first summit finish above La Zubia and began Friday’s stage almost eight minutes down on general classification.
"I think I could just feel a bit the effort from the day before," he said of his showing at La Zubia. “I just didn’t have the legs to be up there in the front so I just rode up at my own pace."
Hesjedal pegged back over two minutes through his efforts on Friday, however, and sounded an optimistic note about his prospects of having a further impact on the Vuelta as the race moves northwards out of Analusia.
"I had a rough start to this race but again that’s bike racing, it’s cruel," he said. “I knew there was a good opportunity today, it was a perfect stage to be out there. We’ll see how the rest of the race goes. We’re one week in, there’s a lot that’s going to happen in this race. I’ll keep plugging away."