Having placed second on the queen stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco to move up to fifth overall, stage five to Aia was a far less successful day for Bauke Mollema (Trek) who was forced to withdraw from the race due to injuries sustained in a high speed crash.
Mollema was racing in the Basque Country in preparation for the Ardennes Classics, a big early season goal for the 28-year-old, and was displaying the same form that saw him finish second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It's never nice to crash of course, but hey that's cycling, " Mollema said. "Right now I'm really disappointed because I was still fighting for the first positions in the GC and I had a really good feeling today also. And then you lose it because of a stupid crash!
"Afterwards I spent a lot of energy to come back first and yeah, after a crash like this, you're just not the same anymore."
Trek had placed Julián Arredondo and Laurent Didier in the 30-rider breakaway but on the approach to the first ascent up to Aia, Team Sky and Katusha came to the front of the peloton which was quickly stretched out as a result. With the pace high and riders fighting for position on a descent, Mollema then Schleck hit the ground.
"In one of the descents, we were going down at 60km an hour, when the rider in front of me suddenly braked," Mollema said. "I was really close and I didn't expect him to hit the brakes because the road was totally straight. I touched his wheel and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground. Unfortunately I took Fränk with me also, but I'm very happy to see he seems okay."
Schleck added, "When Bauke fell, sadly I could not avoid him and fell over him. I'm okay but I must say I have felt better before."
Bob Jungels is now the best placed trek rider on GC, 12:16 minutes down on race leader Sergio Henao (Team Sky).
With only the 18.3km stage six time trial to come, Mollema added that to ensure he is 100% for the Ardennes Classics starting with Amstel Gold Race on April 19, he has taken an early exit from the race.
"Now, first of all I have to recover well for the classics next week. We do not want to take any risks for that, so I will concentrate on a –hopefully- speedy recovery," Mollema said.
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