Caruso hits parked car in final of Pais Vasco opener

BMC Racing's GC hopes at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco took a severe hit on stage 1 of the race with Damiano Caruso hitting a parked car and suffering a suspected dislocated shoulder. Richie Porte finished over seven minutes down on Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-Floors) and is also out of contention for the overall.

Caruso, off the back of his second place at Tirreno-Adriatico, came into the race as BMC's leader. A crash with a parked car in the finale of the stage leaves the Italian in 141st place overall 9:47 minutes down on Alaphilippe.

"I feel good now. In the final, before the last climb, it was really chaotic. There were cars on the side of the road and I hit a side mirror of one of the cars with my shoulder," said Caruso. "It was really painful at the time but it doesn't seem to be broken or anything like that. Now I have lost the chance to go for the General Classification. Tomorrow, a new race starts. I'm still motivated and feeling good. Now we will change the goal for the remaining stages."

BMC team doctor Giovanni Ruffini provided further explanation of Caruso's injury, explaining it is unlikely to stop him from continuing the six-stage race.

"Damiano hit his shoulder when he crashed into the parked car and after examination, it looks like he may have dislocated that upon impact," said Ruffini. "However, now it is okay. He does have a contusion but the pain is going down. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation but at the moment, he will be able to continue racing."

Porte hadn't raced since the Volta ao Algarve in February prior to stage 1 due to due to an upper respiratory infection with BMC announcing pre-race the Australian wouldn't be their main GC rider. Assessing the stage, Porte expressed the disappointment of losing Caruso in the battle for the GC, adding he is hoping to find better form as the race progresses.

"Today was a real shock to the system. Obviously, I haven't raced for some time now as I've been sick but the sensations at the start were good. I just didn't have it on the second to last climb. It's not a big surprise for me though and come Saturday I hope my legs are feeling better," said Porte.

"It was definitely a tough stage and the weather was quite warm, although we're not going to complain about that as it was nice. At the moment my eyes are firmly set on Tour de Romandie and trying to defend that. All in all, it was disappointing to see what happened to Damiano. He is obviously in great form and he didn't deserve what happened to him today. We will now just have to see what happens tomorrow."

Having seen its GC aspirations disappear with Caruso and Porte, sports director Valerio Piva explained the team has reset its goals and will now switch focus to stage wins.

"It was a difficult stage but we have good riders here and it was clear at the start that Damiano Caruso was our leader and Dylan Teuns wanted to try for the stage as well," said Piva. "Everyone was ok until the last climb when Damiano collided with a car with his shoulder. It was painful and he had to drop back. Dylan had to change his bike before the second to last climb and he had to chase back to the bunch so spent a lot of energy doing that. On the last climb, he was in the second group but somebody crashed in front of him causing him to unclip and put a foot on the ground, losing his momentum.

"Today was really not our day. We need to refocus now and look at the stages ahead. The General Classification won't be possible now so we will look every day for stage wins. The race is not finished." 

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