Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España turned into a bad day for the Omega Pharma - QuickStep team, as its general classification contender Rigoberto Uran suffered from asthma on the mountainous stage and lost 15:46, dropping out of sixth place overall into 16th, while Gianluca Brambilla was ejected from the race after getting into a fistfight with Tinkoff-Saxo's Ivan Rovny.
Brambilla took to Twitter to apologize for the incident. "I'm sorry. This situation shouldn't have happened. For my part in it, I apologize to OPQS, race organizers, and the fans," he wrote.
Uran fought to stay in the leading group with overall leader Alberto Contador, and the team had hoped that Brambilla and Wout Poels, who were part of the day's breakaway, could be there to help him in the latter part of the stage, but Uran lost contact on the penultimate climb and never regained the main group.
"I thought about stopping," Uran said. "The easiest thing to do would be to abandon the race, but I didn't do it. My teammates surrounded me and they helped me, step-by-step, catch the peloton again. I've struggled with asthmatic bronchitis for five or six days now and today it was as its worst.
"As a cyclist you have to fight through days like this. That's when you understand how hard it is to do this job. But it's part of the sport and I battled for my team, the public, and for myself. I did everything I could but on the second-to-last climb I couldn't follow the pace anymore."
Now 18:53 behind in the overall classification, Uran vowed to continue fighting for a stage win, with an eye on the final 9.7km time trial on the last day. He hopes Tuesday's rest day will help him recover.
"I really am sad because there is a difference between mistakes that cost you goals in a race, and a sickness where this is nothing more you can do. I prepared appropriately for this objective. I worked hard. But in this condition I have at this moment, you can only do so much.
"I want to stay positive despite this situation. Tomorrow is a day for me to recover. I will do everything I can to survive the next days, do as well as possible, and maybe aim for a good result in the final time trial of Santiago if I am feeling better."
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