Of all the surprises in Saturday’s opening team time trial at the Vuelta a España, Garmin-Sharp’s failure to finish higher up the results board was probably one of the biggest, but a big crash on a descent in the technical first third of the course dealt a major blow to the American squad’s chances of a better result.
Garmin-Sharp’s six best-placed riders, including GC contender Dan Martin, finished 1:41 back, while Koldo Fernández, who broke a rib and has a sore knee from the pile-up, was dead last.
Fernández did not start stage two on Sunday. Although he travelled to the start with his teammates, the Spaniard was suffering from dizziness on the team bus and opted to abandon the Vuelta on the advice of the team doctors.
“They overcooked it on the descent,” team manager Johnny Weltz told Cyclingnews of the Garmin crash. “I told them maybe five times there wasn’t so much to gain and a lot to lose on a descent like that, but they overcooked it, everybody got excited, somebody came round a corner too fast one slides out, another slides out and bam! Bodies everywhere.”
“Two riders actually crashed completely, Koldo and Michel [Kreder], and then it was a question of trying to regroup as best we could. Michel had a broken front wheel and we had to change that and so we had to leave him there, and then we had to do a lot.
“They did really well, everybody got over the climb, but then after the crash we had to spend time regrouping and use riders in a different order to what we had expected.”
The team finished with six riders, “so we still had a good group and we’ve got good morale. But it was the worst scenario we could have started out with.”
As for the unfortunate Fernandez, Weltz explained that “he had the same break in the same place in the same rib four years ago. So the team doctor says we can’t do anything about it. It’s frustrating, he’d been going well, he’d been training hard for this race and was in good shape.”
Weltz insists Martin’s GC options remain more than intact, however, pointing out that in a race with eleven summit finishes and where the really tough part of the Vuelta is in the second and third week, they have to look at the race long-term “If he’d broken something, then it would have been a disaster, but Dan’s in very good shape, and we can turn this around.”
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