Romain Bardet managed to side step the initial crash, but he still found himself lying on the roadside seconds later, his general classification hopes at this Vuelta a España over before the race had truly begun. It was that kind of day for the Frenchman and it’s been that kind of year for his DSM team.
The exposed finale to stage 5 had been expected to provoke echelons, but while they never materialised, nervousness was general across the peloton. A mass crash occurred near the head of the peloton with 11km remaining, and Bardet was among the many fallers.
He eventually managed to remount, but by then, there was no sense in making an urgent pursuit. The front group was minutes up the road and his prospects of a high overall finish in Santiago de Compostela had already evaporated. Accompanied by teammate Chris Hamilton, Bardet rolled dolefully towards Albacete, crossing the line 12:32 down on all of the overall favourites. He now lies 93rd overall, 13:23 off new maillot rojo Kenny Elissonde.
“He actually avoided the original crash and just got through on the right-hand side and then he was just hit from behind which then took him into the side of the road,” directeur sportif Matt Winston explained afterwards.
The Briton even inserted a little product placement into his recap of the day’s events, though one imagines the minutiae of the textiles in DSM’s jersey and shorts will be of limited solace to Bardet at this juncture.
“It was lucky that once again that we had Dyneema in the kit, which has saved a lot of the injuries,” said Winston. “We’ll obviously assess him now after the race, but he was able to come across the finish line in a good way.”
While Bardet may have been saved some additional road rash on his upper body, he appeared to suffer a blow to his knee in the crash, though Winston confirmed that he had been assessed for concussion before he was allowed to remount his bike and complete the stage. Last September, Bardet, then at AG2R, completed stage 13 of the Tour de France despite suffering a concussion during a crash with 90km to go. He was eventually withdrawn from the race following the stage.
“He was in pain on the way to the line so our doctors will assess him tonight but he was safe to get the finish, that was the main thing for us,” said Winston. “We checked him properly after the crash. We made sure he wasn’t concussed or anything like that and that he could make it to the finish in a good and safe way, but we’ll keep assessing him through the evening.”
In the immediate aftermath of the stage, it was too soon to confirm whether Bardet would be fit enough to continue in the race on Thursday, even if Winston evinced optimism that he would recover sufficiently to chase stage victories later in this Vuelta.
“Obviously we don’t know the extent of the injury yet. He just crashed so he is in some pain and he’s taken an impact on the knee. Our medical team will assess him through the evening and we’ll see where we go from there,” said Winston.
“We’ve seen he’s had a few setbacks through his career, but he’s always bounced back in a good way. We’re confident that when he’s in good shape again, we can look for stage successes in week two and week three.”
Bardet warmed up for the Vuelta with stage victory at the Vuelta a Burgos, though the crash he suffered en route to that triumph perhaps ultimately cost him overall victory two days later. He looked to have recovered with a strong showing in the opening day time trial at this Vuelta, and though he conceded a handful of seconds to his rivals atop Picón Blanco two days later, his general classification ambitions were still intact before Wednesday’s crash.
“We’ve had a little bit of bad luck this season and it seems like it’s continuing a little bit, but we came here saying we wanted to go for stage success and we’ll continue to do that,” said Winston, who pointed to sprinter Alberto Dainese’s third-place finish behind Jasper Philipsen. “That his first top three in a Grand Tour, so that’s maybe a stepping stone and a bit of a silver lining.”
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