The Spaniard came into stage 20 in 11th place overall, just five seconds off a spot in the top-ten. The final mountain stage before the expected bunch sprint into Madrid on Sunday provided the last opportunity for the GC riders to attack and de la Cruz duly obliged with an attack before his crash.
However on the wet descent between the penultimate climb of the Alto del Cortal and the Angliru, de la Cruz hit the deck and was forced to abandon the race – his hopes of back-to-back top-ten results in the overall standings gone.
Later scans showed no broken bones and only superficial cuts and bruises, and a decision will be made later this week as to whether de la Cruz will travel to Norway for the road race World Championships.
QuickStep’s disappointment at losing their GC card on the penultimate day at the Vuelta was slightly tempered by the ride from Enric Mas.
The 22-year-old has impressed throughout the Vuelta and went on the attack on stage 20, picking up the award for the most aggressive rider. Mas was one of the few riders able to hang onto Alberto Contador’s coattails when the Trek rider attacked and won the stage. Mas would eventually finish the stage in 17th place.
"I went into the break to help David later in the stage, but the plan changed when he crashed. It's such a pity this happened, it's tough to abandon a Grand Tour on the penultimate day, especially as he was fighting for a good result in the general classification", Mas said.
"So, when I got the news, I decided to go for the stage win and when Contador bridged over I worked with him hoping to go all the way, but I didn't have enough power to stay there at the front. But I'm happy, happy for this experience which I'm sure will help me in the future, and for the fact I could be there on the day Alberto – who was one of my mentors in cycling – bowed out from the sport."