Like so many other squads in the opening day of the 2021 Tour de France, Spanish team Movistar endured a rough day at the office as co-leader Miguel Angel Lopez crashed and lost time while two of their other top names, Marc Soler and Alejandro Valverde, both were injured. The team later announced that Soler had fractures to both arms and has abandoned the race.
Affected by both of the two big late crashes and forced to chase hard between the two as well, López finally finished 1:49 down on stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Soler, dead last on the stage and 24 minutes down, then went to the hospital for scans and was diagnosed with fractures to the radius in both arms and his left ulna and will not start stage 2.
Valverde, a dark horse for the stage win given his past success in uphill finishes, was well off the pace after being caught up in the crashes.
López, understandably, did not provide comments afterwards, but co-leader Enric Mas, fifth last year and who managed to save Movistar's day by finishing with the main group of favourites eight seconds behind Alaphilippe, reflected on what had been a hard day for the Spanish squad.
"It was a complicated day: the first stage of the Tour there are always crashes and tension," Mas said in comments forwarded by the team's press office before Soler's injuries were announced. "In my case, I was always up there and well-placed with the help of the squad. I think I was one of the last riders who didn't fall in the first crash, but Miguel Angel and Marc both went down."
"This kind of bad luck is really terrible, and let's hope that both Marc, who I think has a wrist injury and Miguel Angel can pull back time. The Tour goes on, but there are 20 days to go and it's going to be very hard."
As Mas pointed out, he and Lopez had come to the race with GC aims, in Lopez's case to try to complete his set of Grand Tour podium finishes in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España with a top three in the Tour de France. Trying to be as optimistic as possible, Mas reflected that Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) managed to regain a similar amount of time lost by Lopez last year to triumph in the overall classification.
"From the team's point of view, I don't think it changes anything. Miguel Angel was unlucky today but another day it could happen to me."
Mas' teammate Carlos Verona was one of the numerous riders who painted yet another dramatic picture of crashes and injuries following the Tour's fraught opening stage.
"These are always days where you really feel a lot of stress, we're all travelling at high speed along very narrow roads. The first crash was in the first part of the bunch, the second pretty much the same and what happened to Miguel Angel was a real blow."
"I didn't know anything about it until afterwards, personally I had a very difficult day, I got caught up in the first crash and finding a way through was really difficult. We then had the second coming into Landerneau and at first, we thought Miguel Angel had got through all right but it turned out he hadn't."
While Soler went to the hospital for a check-up on his wrist, Movistar veteran Alejandro Valverde was another crash victim, caught up in the second pile-up and suffering large scrapes as well as some nasty cuts on his right forearm. However, although Valverde lost over five and a half minutes, he was able to reach the finish without too many problems and should be able to continue.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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