It never rains but it pours, the saying goes, and Wilco Kelderman cut a weary, grimy figure after stage 6 of the Vuelta a España as he lost a chunk of time following a crash, a mechanical incident, compounded by a series of splits in the peloton.
Although he did not fall, Kelderman's mechanical difficulties were caused by a late crash which had split the peloton, ultimately leading to his finishing 66th on the stage and with a time loss of 1:44 on the other GC contenders.
Together with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), the Team Sunweb leader, fourth overall last September in the Vuelta, was the biggest GC victim of the echelons. Losing time through no fault of his own at the Vuelta represents the latest setback for Kelderman in an already very difficult season.
Kelderman already missed July's Tour de France after he injured his shoulder in the Dutch National Championships. He had broken his collarbone earlier this year, too, at Tirreno-Adriatico, but was adamant after stage 6 of the Vuelta that he would fight back.
"We were pretty close to the front because it was really windy," Kelderman said as he began to warm down on the rollers outside the team bus, "but we went into a village and there were some plastic poles [bollards] in the road, they crashed just in front of [Bora-Hansgrohe's Rafal] Majka and me."
Initially, Kelderman managed to stay up in the front group, having weaved his way successively past those riders who had fallen in the crash. But then he discovered that his bike had problems.
"I could brake and ride again, but my back wheel was broken and rubbing on my brake. I was still there [in the front group] and they went full gas and I can't push 1000 Watts all the time, eh?"
Sliding out of the 60-strong front peloton, Kelderman's difficulties were only just beginning as he had to change bikes whilst the race roared onwards and past him. He was happy with the support he had from his Sunweb teammates, he said, and their efforts to pull him back into contentention. But the time loss, although it could have been greater, remains there, and "I'm really disappointed with that."
Kelderman has now plummetted out of the top ten overall, from sixth at 1:07 to 17th at 2:50, but he says he will fight on in GC.
"I'm lucky I didn't crash, but I still have good legs," he argued. "The Vuelta is not over yet."
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