Pre-race favourite Juan Ayuso crashed out of the Tour de l’Avenir on stage 4, on a day that was marred by a number of ugly spills.
The 18-year-old Spaniard came into the race as the heavy favourite after dominating the U23 Giro d’Italia, and then turning professional at WorldTour level with UAE Team Emirates, where he has signed a long-term contract.
Ayuso recently finished runner-up at the Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika and placed 18th at the Clásica San Sebastián but returned to U23 level for the Tour de l’Avenir, widely considered the best race for identifying future Tour de France contenders.
Ayuso made a solid start to the race lying 11th overall, but his hopes of overall victory ended during Tuesday’s 186km fourth stage from Proving to Bar-le-Duc. He hit the deck in a mass crash inside the final 25km, and sat on the roadside with a bloodied right shoulder.
He was taken to hospital, where scans confirmed he had no broken bones, although he did suffer “burns, bruises and serious injuries to both shoulder blades and buttocks,” according to the Spanish Federation.
“The dream is over, that’s how it is and I have to accept that,” Ayuso said.
“Although it’s tough to take, I have to look ahead and prepare myself in the best way for the end of the season. Thanks for the support. I wish the best to the rest of the Spain team.”
The incident was just one of a number of crashes on stage 4, with Jordan Santiago Rodríguez (Ecuador), Arthur Kluckers (Luxembourg) and Yuuhi Todome (Japan) all forced to abandon earlier in the day. Photos showed the former two lying on the road, with one of their wheels snapped clean in two.
Stage 3 had already seen eight riders fail to finish, after a day marked by crosswinds and crashes.
Ethan Vernon (Great Britain) won stage 4 in a sprint finish, while Mick Van Dijke leads the overall classification in an all-Dutch podium after the Netherlands won the stage 2 team time trial.
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