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Rein Taaramäe crashes but retains Vuelta a España lead

Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 4th stage El Burgo de Osma - Molina de Aragon 163,9 km - 17/08/2021 - Crash - Rein Taaramae (EST - Intermarche' - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021
Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) crashes in the final kilometres of stage 4 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Rein Taaramäe had his first taste of Grand Tour leadership on stage 4 of the Vuelta a España and was treated to the full experience, crashing as the tension increased on the run-in to Molina de Aragón. 

The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux rider, who took the red jersey with his breakaway victory atop Picón Blanco the previous afternoon, bashed his knee and trailed in behind the peloton. 

However, given the crash occurred within the safety net of the 3km-to-go banner, the Estonian was awarded the same time as the rest of the bunch and retained the red jersey for a second day. 

"I don't really know how it happened," Taaramäe said of the crash that occurred on an uphill bend with 2.2km to go. 

"It was very very nervous. One moment, on my right-hand side, one guy he made like that [a swerve], he hit me, and I crashed."

Taaramäe, who was riding in the middle of the bunch, was bumped and fell down on his left-hand side, suffering a cut below his left knee and road rash on his shin but apparently nothing more serious.

"I'm alive," he said. "I don't have many injuries. I'm a bit burnt, but I feel okay."

The incident was a sour note to his first day in red but it didn't seem to tarnish the experience as a whole. 

"It was incredible," he said. "My team rode on the front for a very long time and we really enjoyed it. We were joking together all day. We enjoyed it. It was beautiful."

Despite crossing the line a few minutes behind the sprinters and the rest of the field, Taaramäe will take the overall race lead into Wednesday's stage 5. 

With a flat profile, it should be one for the sprinters, and the Estonian should, in theory, be able to extend his spell in red to a third day. After that, the terrain becomes more complicated, with a punchy uphill finish at Cullera on stage 6 followed by a more robust summit finish on the Balcón de Alicant on stage 7. 

"If tomorrow there's no wind, it's possible also tomorrow," Taaramäe said. 

"After tomorrow, it's a 1km uphill finish, which is all about positioning. I think I have the legs to hang on, but it's case of whether I can position myself at the bottom of the climb. 

"I think two more stages, then the Alicante stage is a big battle for me but is probably too hard."

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Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 4th stage El Burgo de Osma - Molina de Aragon 163,9 km - 17/08/2021 - Crash - Rein Taaramae (EST - Intermarche' - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

Rein Taaramäe hits the tarmac 2.2km from the finish (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 4th stage El Burgo de Osma - Molina de Aragon 163,9 km - 17/08/2021 - Crash - Rein Taaramae (EST - Intermarche' - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

A Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux teammate helps Taaramäe to his feet as he waits for a bike change (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vuelta Espana 2021 - 76th Edition - 4th stage El Burgo de Osma - Molina de Aragon 163,9 km - 17/08/2021 - Crash - Rein Taaramae (EST - Intermarche' - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/BettiniPhoto©2021

Bike change for Taaramäe as he finishes stage 4 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick joined Cyclingnews after a work experience stint in 2015 and hasn't left. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.