Alejandro Valverde had a memorable day on stage 13 of the Vuelta a España, but for the wrong reasons after the Movistar leader had a mechanical incident and then a fan’s arm caught him in the face. In the end, he retained his third place overall, but he will have to defend it without the services of veteran Pablo Lastras.
Lastras, a former Vuelta leader and stage winner in all three Grand Tours, crashed out with a broken collarbone.
"It was all going fine for us until Pablo fell off, then my bike struck something and my back wheel broke," Valverde said. "I had to ride for 30 kilometres on a teammate’s bike" - Jose Iván Guttierez - "and that was really tough going because his saddle position is very different to mine."
To add to his woes, "a spectator thwacked me in the face on the climb up the Rat Penat. I was OK, but this wasn’t a great day."
Looking ahead at the stages in the Pyrenees, Valverde gave them all equal importance in terms of hte race’s overall outcome.
"Wherever I can be up there, I will," he promised - although with victories in the Collado de la Gallina in the Vuelta last year and at Peyragudes in the Tour in 2012, there is no doubt he will be one of the favourites.
Valverde was not the only rider to have problems, as points leader Dani Moreno (Katusha) and teammate Angel Vicioso both went down when the road narrowed suddenly. "I hurt my thigh a bit, but I’m ok," Moreno, tenth overall, told Spanish television. "At least I could get back on and didn’t lose any more time."