Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Belisol) withdrew from the Vuelta a España after a crash in the neutral zone of the tenth stage on Tuesday. Jelle and Dennis Vanendert were brought down in the same incident but fared better with both of the brothers finishing the stage. The withdrawal was a big loss for the Lotto team with de Clercq going into the stage the best placed GC rider in 20th position, only 2:33 down on then race leader Daniel Moreno (Katusha).
De Clercq continued to race but an inability to flex his knee forced his retirement.
"This is very much bad luck. The official start wasn't even given this afternoon, which makes it all the more painful," said de Clercq. "Nine times out of ten you only have some abrasions and there isn't too much damage, but now my knee must have been hit by a handlebar or a pedal. I couldn't fold my leg anymore.
"I saw my knee was swollen and that I had a bruise, but I didn't want to give up immediately. Twice I tried to get on the bike again, but I wasn't able to make rotations. There was no need to insist."
"The crash happened on a descending part," explained de Clercq. "Although we were only in the neutral zone the speed was around 50 or 60 kilometers an hour. I didn't see what caused the crash but one moment riders were crashing in front of me.
"There was panic and everybody braked, but because of the speed it wasn't possible to stand still. I tumbled over some riders and others bumped into me.
"I had hoped for a good GC and it was definitely possible to move up some places. It's very tough that one moment has changed this. This is hard."
Initial x-rays in Granada were positive, showing no fractures for de Clercq who will now return to Belgium for a full diagnosis of his injuries.
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