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Eyewitness: High drama at Vuelta a España as Roglic crashes after attack

A shellshocked Primoz Roglic after a crash on stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana
A shellshocked Primoz Roglic after a crash on stage 16 of the Vuelta a Espana (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

With three kilometres to go, it looked as if next to nothing out of the ordinary was going to happen on stage 16 of the 2022 Vuelta a España.

A predictable two-rider breakaway of the day was caught and the sprinters' teams were cranking things up for what looked like a technical, tricky uphill bunch sprint.

Fans from the small Spanish dormitory town of Tomares, just west of the Andalusian capital, Seville, waited on either side of the steady last kilometre climb and wide finishing straight, mostly rooting for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to judge by their chants and shouts. On the broad, open boulevard where the finishing gantry and media and team officials waited some 200 metres beyond the finish line, warm sunshine streamed down with temperatures reaching well above 30 degrees for yet another day.

So far, so normal.

But in less than five minutes, the situation changed completely, with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) powering out of the pack, race leader Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) puncturing. Then Roglič, having attacked, seemingly touching wheels with Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) or Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) and spun to the ground within sight of the line.

After standing up, race kit ripped in multiple places, glasses all but torn off and visibly shocked, Roglič then remounted and, when he eased across the line in 35th place, guided by teammate Mike Teunissen, technically at least Roglič was back into competition.

But as he slumped down on the barriers, his right leg bloodied, that felt like the least important thing that mattered.

The majority of the riders, suddenly flooding into the post-finish area and grabbing recovery drinks, seemed barely aware of what happened. Wright briefly spoke to journalists, expressing concern about Roglič, but most bustled through on what had been for most, a transition stage. Jumbo-Visma staff rushed forward, but most, barring the press officer and a couple of soigneurs, attended to the remaining riders and then left. One helper wheeled Roglič's bike past, still bearing its number 1 placard and seemingly undamaged. Teunissen wheeled through without making any comments. But of Roglič himself, there was no sign.

By the time media were allowed closer to the finishing podium once the riders had left, all that remained on the ground from Roglič's crash was a large, bloodstained wad of tissues, dumped unceremoniously on the side of the road. Roglič had managed to move to a race caravan inside the podium area, out of bounds to journalists.

For long minutes, while commissaires deliberated on the decision as to whether Evenepoel or Roglič was the race leader, there was nothing but uncertainty as to how the rest of the day would unfold. Some journalists were uncertain if Evenepoel's lead was in the balance, something race officials could not confirm. Everybody was looking for news of Roglič.

An initial provisional race classification from the organisation that appeared on the Tissot Timing website had Roglic as leader, something that was later reversed even as Evenepoel, clad in red, gave a flash interview to the official race interviewer. An ambulance, lights flashing. eased towards the finish line through the soigneurs zone, although it only later emerged that the emergency services were attending another injured person, not Roglič.

As for the Slovenian, all through this, he was partially visible,  sitting on a pavement on the other side of a hospital caravan, metres away from the finishing straight, his back to the road. He was sitting there even as the speaker called out Remco Evenepoel as the leader of the day and the Belgian stepped up to claim his jersey to the usual applause. By the time Evenepoel had completed two media huddles at one end of the race podium area, Roglič and the attending Jumbo-Visma staff had gone.

Unofficial sources later suggested that he had walked round the back of the media area to a waiting team car and away from the finish. The race medical report later delivered a terse two-line diagnosis of Roglič, the only rider reported as injured during the stage, "Polycontusions. Superficial wounds on right elbow, right hip, right knee and right rib area."

At the time of writing there has been no update from the team on Roglič's condition. The final outcome of the day and its effects both on the rider and the race, therefore, remains unclear. But the dramatic events in the finale of a seemingly normal stage 16 of the  2022 Vuelta are unlikely to  be forgotten quickly.

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