It never rains but it pours. After a flawless opening act to his Vuelta a España, Nicolas Roche (Sky) suffered his second crash in as many days on the road to Castellón on stage 10, but the Irishman reported no broken bones and remains in fourth place overall as the race breaks for its first rest day.
Roche was one of many fallers in the large crash that took place 30km into Sunday’s stage, but suffered no lasting injury and was promptly back in the peloton after a swift bike change. He endured a more trying afternoon on Monday, however, as he fell heavily on a roundabout with 50km remaining, and was forced into a desperate pursuit to latch back on ahead of the testing final climb over the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas.
Thanks in no small part to the help of Salvatore Puccio – and later Ian Boswell and Sergio Henao – Roche succeeded in his task, and he managed to hang tough, too, over a final ascent that whittled the front group down to fewer than 60 riders. So much for transition stages.
“Yesterday, I had a bit of luck and I just lost a little bit of skin. It was a small blow and the damage was limited, but if you never want to have a crash, it never does you any good,” Roche said as he soft-pedalled gingerly towards the Team Sky bus after the finish.
“Today I fell a lot harder and faster. We were going full on into a corner, on a roundabout. And this isn’t the Tour de France, unfortunately. The roads hadn’t been cleaned, so there was sand or something on the road and I went down.”
Roche fell heavily on his right side, and crossed the finish line with gashes to his elbow, hip and knee, and with his kit in shreds, but he still stopped for two separate groups of reporters to provide a quick update on his condition “Nothing broken, but I’m sore all down my right side,” Roche said. “It would be easier to tell you where it doesn’t hurt.”
It would not be the end of Sky’s travails on stage 10. Sergio Henao crashed on a sharp corner on the rapid descent of the Desierto de las Palmas, with his bike appearing to slide underneath the crash barrier and off the road.
Bloodied and battered, the Colombian remounted shortly afterwards, however, and reached Castellón almost 11 minutes down in the company of Vasil Kiryienka. Henao now slips from 14th to 26th on general classification.
Roche and Henao’s leader Chris Froome, meanwhile, appeared untroubled throughout Monday’s stage and finished safely in the front group in the same time as stage winner Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka). Froome lies in 8th place overall, 1:18 behind red jersey Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
Sky’s best-placed rider, however, remains Roche, who is 1:07 behind Dumoulin in 4th place overall. The Irishman admitted that Tuesday’s rest day – still a Monday evening trek to Andorra away – couldn’t come soon enough.
“Two crashes in two days, I think I need a rest day to give myself a better chance to recover,” Roche said. “But so as long as I can pedal, I’ll fight.”