Mikel Landa's tumultuous relationship with Grand Tours showed no sign of ending on stage 10 of the Tour de France, as the Basque rider lost more than two minutes following a crash during the fraught finale of splits and all-out chases.
As the echelons formed late on in the crosswinds, initially both Movistar and Team Ineos were more than satisfied, as the Spanish team, like the British, had all of their main men – Landa, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana – ahead.
But then an untimely crash for Landa at 25 kilometres from the line, unintentionally caused by Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) whilst in the front group, suddenly saw Landa spinning out of the back and into a group of spectators. After remounting he finally latched onto a third group with former race leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo).
"It was a ‘shock'," Landa said in a statement released by his team. "At one moment I was on my bike, and at the very next one I was on the ground surrounded by spectators. Fortunately, I have no injuries. I was able to continue in one piece, and my teammates really helped me a lot in a difficult situation. It's 'just' a time loss – and the goal we came here for further away."
Whilst much of the local media attention centred on Thibaut Pinot's 100 seconds time loss, Landa's little group of defeated riders crossed the line even further back than the Frenchman, at 2:09 on the race leaders. As such, the Basque's Tour is by no means lost, but he has now plunged to 21st overall, 4:15 back on Alaphilippe and more than three down on Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos).
Movistar management said they believed the crash was caused indirectly by a chance touch of wheels between two riders, one of which sports director Jose Luis Arrieta initially – and incorrectly – identified as Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondial), but which Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) later admitted had been him. In struggling to regain balance after he touched wheels with race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceunink-QuickStep), Barguil accidentally swayed into Landa, who fell.
"I am sorry about Mikel Landa's fall," Barguil said in his Twitter feed. "I went off balance after I touched wheels with Julian, I touch Mikel who was coming up on my left hand side. It was very fast, it wasn't voluntary. I was lucky enough not to crash, but that wasn't the case for Mikel. I hope he's all right."
Arrieta pointed out that logically Landa, who was uninjured, but who lost his position in the front group, had had the feeling that his crash had been caused because he had been pushed, but that "the push was a result of a previous incident." He said that Movistar had no intention of taking any action over the fall.
Landa's bad luck in the Grand Tours continues apace, after his difficult Giro this May and his crashes in the Tour last year. Not only did Landa endure a rough time last July, another bad fall in San Sebastian then left him out of the Vuelta in September.
This year in the Giro, Landa had a very uneven start, with another crash and some poor form in the first week. But as Landa steadily improved, his GC options were put partially on hold given Movistar already had Richard Carapaz in the Giro d'Italia lead. Finally, he finished fourth overall in Verona, one spot off the podium of a Grand Tour for a second time in his career.
"One of these days things will turn around for him, and it will all work in his favour, I hope," Arrieta said of Landa's bad luck.
Movistar went from what looked like a good day to one where the proverbial glass was only half full. On the downside, Landa lost six places overall, slumping to 21st, but Quintana, at least, moved up six places and is now eighth on GC.
"These are difficult stages, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes not. Fortunately, luck was on my side today," Quintana said. "It was very tense out there, the route and the circumstances of the day's stage led to [the echelons] happening. The team was exactly where it needed to be, but then Mikel had his problem.
"It was a good day for me personally, but I regret what happened to Mikel with that crash."