Quintana loses Vuelta a España lead in near-catastrophic crash

Movistar's Nairo Quintana suffered a major fall on the stage 10 time trial of the Vuelta a España, which led to his loss of four minutes and seven seconds on the stage, dropping him out of the race lead. He is now in 11th place, 3:25 behind new leader Alberto Contador.

Crucially, Quintana was able to continue and his injuries did not wreck his race completely. But the young Colombian says he will make a major re-set of his goals in the Vuelta and that he will switch from trying to win the race to “helping Alejandro [Valverde, now second overall] and going for the podium [myself].”

The Giro d’Italia winner fell on the technical, twisting descent from the Alto de Moncayo, and ended up with cuts and bruises on his knee and left foot, as well as on his back, but his team said that none of them appear to be serious.

Quintana was 21 seconds down on Contador at the summit of the climb, shortly before falling. However, he could yet have turned things around in the 25 kilometres that followed - had he not crashed ou. It took him a good two minutes to get up and start riding again, and he visibly racing more cautiously for the remainder of the descent.

“I’m screwed,” Quintana, who was limping at the finish, said afterwards, as he admitted he had miscalculated the corner.

“I was feeling good on the ascent, but at that point the bike didn’t brake enough." He explained later that he actually braked too hard before the turn. “Just before the corner I was tightening up my shoe, but I don’t thing that was really the problem.”

“What happened was I over-braked, it wasn’t enough, and I hit the ground. Fortunately I wasn’t too badly hurt, my left knee came off the worst, and I’ve got bruises all over, but cycling is like that.”

“I’ve lost some time, but now I will try and help Alejandro [Valverde] and go for the podium.”

Quintana’s fall comes just as the race was reaching the high mountains, where he was expected to shine the most, and the day before the race reaches the summit finish of San Miguel De Aralar, the climb nearest Pamplona, his adopted home town during the race season. The race continues to swelter in extremely hot weather - not to Quintana’s liking - with temperatures predicted tomorrow to soar to 35 degrees prior to the final ascent.

The brutally difficult ten kilometre climb, combined with the heat, will make it clear whether Quintana’s injuries are indeed so severe he now has to forget the overall classification, or whether he can still count in the battle for overall classification in cycling’s third Grand Tour.

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