Aevolo's Mexican time trial champion Luis Villalobos had his Tour Colombia 2.1 abruptly ended on Thursday during stage 3 when he crashed after an incident with a race motorbike. The young rider injured his lower back and tried to carry on, but the pain was too much and he climbed off during the final lap.
The incident occurred after the third of four laps as the peloton started the climb up the category 3 Alto Nano. A Postobon Manzana neutral support moto was handing out bottles to a group of riders when a "moment's inattention" caused the riders to come too close and swerve to avoid contact. The incident involved multiple riders, and, Villalobos said, another rider landed on him when he fell.
Villalobos was not clear on whose part the inattention occurred, but he did not specifically blame the moto driver and said it was just a typical race incident.
Team Illuminate's Cameron Piper was behind the riders involved in the incident and described it for Cyclingnews.
"Riders were coming up from behind, and then the moto stopped really quickly, and I think that's what caused the crash," Piper said. "I don't know if [Villalobos] actually hit the moto or just someone who swerved off of it. That can happen all the time."
Villalobos finished eighth overall last year at the Tour of Utah and signed with EF Education First for this season, with an expected June move from his Aevolo development team to the WorldTour squad that are also in the race. Aevolo team director Mike Creed said his rider made his way back to the team car to ask for advice as he was suffering pain in his lower back and left hip.
"He was just asking me what I thought," Creed said. "He didn't seem like he wanted to continue in that moment, and I can't feel the pain for him. I asked him if he thought he would feel better tomorrow, and he didn't think so. He just basically asked for permission to quit.
"What am I going to do?" Creed said. "I can't feel the pain for him. I can't diagnose it. Best-case scenario he wakes up tomorrow and feels fine. So if that's the mistake I make, I'd rather take that mistake than ride when he's in a lot of pain.
"I wish that I had enough talent that when I crash and I mess up my back that I can still make it over the climb the next time," Creed said.
The Tour Colombia 2.1 was an important opportunity for Villalobos to ride against top-level competition without the pressure to perform that he would feel if he were already on a WorldTour team.
"It's too bad because being in the race with these guys at that age at this team, you can kind of cherry pick because you don't have the responsibility like EF does, and he can kind of sit back and prove himself at that level without the pressure. He could almost skip a step if he could pull it off. But oh well."
Creed said Villalobos rode his bike back to the nearby team hotel.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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