Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) suffered a serious crash in the Vuelta a Espana that left the three-times winner with a series of scrapes, cuts and bruises down the lefthand side of his body - and furious at what he felt was a crash caused by another rider.
The first sign that something was wrong with Contador at the finish of stage 7 came as Tinkoff staff stood on a roundabout after the line in Puebla de Sanabria, waiting for Contador, previously well positioned at the front of the pack right into the final kilometre, but who - for reasons initially unknown - failed to appear amongst the knots of riders coming through.
The explanation for his not being present with the other favourites came when Contador crossed the line a few minutes down, the left hand side of his kit ripped, bloodied and torn, and TV camera crews and radio reporters haring through the crowd in hot pursuit as Contador picked his way past the fans.
When he finally stopped a few hundred metres after the line, Contador was visibly furious, saying, "I was really well positioned, but suddenly somebody who doesn't like using their brakes pulled across and I went down. Right now my left side is cut up, so is my calf… things are getting really complicated."
The Tinkoff rider then pedalled on, but not - in a very rare public show of anger and frustration - before pulling a bidon out of its cage and hurling it to the ground in rage.
Contador's latest spill comes after his abandon in the Tour de France because of crashes causing injuries and after dislocating his shoulder in a bunch sprint in the Giro d'Italia last year - which he went on to win.
This crash could hardly have come in a worse moment, with the Vuelta on the point of starting three major days in the mountains. Contador had come through all the previous transition stages uninjured. Amongst those riders affected, Stephen Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) abandoned with a broken collarbone, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) quit after smashing his mouth in a crash, and Contador's team-mate Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) went home injured.
Then in what was almost the last corner of the last of those transition stages, after Tinkoff teammates Daniele Bennati and Michael Gogl had guided him safely through the last kilometres, Contador went down. Samuel Sánchez (BMC Racing) was also caught up in the crash, but later told Cyclingnews his injuries were not serious, barring a possible hurt finger.
Contador remains in 12th position overall, 1:52 down on leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing), but as Tinkoff team sports director Sean Yates said later to a small group of reporters, although no bones were broken and Contador has not needed to go to hospital, the long-term effects of such a violent crash remain to be seen.
"We saw the video and it looked like he got squeezed by a rider in red, it looked like his front wheel went. It couldn't get much worse, there's nothing broken, but he's cut up. He just doesn't get lucky."
As for why Contador was so far forward so late in the day, Yates said, "All the GC guys have been up there, they're afraid of splits and it's like in the Dauphine, there are no big sprinter teams here, so the GC teams are almost doing the leadouts and that comes with risks.
"We knew the final was tricky and the goal was to be in the right place. We've got two guys who are good at that, Bennati and Gogl and they were right up there."
TInkoff had been so far forward, too, other team sources told Cyclingnews, because there had been the risk of cross-winds in the finale.
"It's much easier to get in the right position, but you can't account for incidents," Yates said. "You try to control the controllables, be in the right place at the right time but you can't rule out crashing yourself. And if you look at the video he was kind of pinched, not exactly closed in, and he lost control of the bike."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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