The Vuelta a Espana's fast and fraught finale of stage 5 in Lugo ended with several crashes, with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) amongst the injured and the peloton split inside the three kilometre zone.
Kruijswijk was the first to crash, falling on the left-hand side of the road. Although conscious and able to move, he was taken to hospital for a further check up on injuries. Then an even bigger pile-up saw numerous riders go down, with Kiserlovski amongst the most seriously affected, briefly lying slumped on one side of the road. Kiserlovski was later able to complete the course, finishing more than seven minutes down, with possible mouth injuries.
The extent of both riders' injuries was unclear, with a worried LottoNL-Jumbo director Addy Engels telling a small group of reporters a few minutes after the finish, "He's now with the team doctor, the only thing I heard was that he crashed, and he's gone to the hospital. It's a real shame for him."
Engels said, "The only news I have is that he's in hospital, when I left the place he had gone into the ambulance." Engels argued that at this very early point, "He's not officially out of the Vuelta, because it was in the last three kilometres and not an uphill finish, so in theory he could start tomorrow. It will depend on [the full extent] of his injuries."
The team later confirmed that Kruijswijk had abandoned.
Speaking a few minutes after the finish, Engels was anything but optimistic about his chances of continuing, adding, "Of course the Vuelta was a big objective, he was sick after Rio, he had a big time loss on stage three although yesterday [stage 4] he was feeling a bit better." Having initially refused to rule out a top five finish in Madrid before the race, Kruiswijk was lying 31st at 3:10 after stage 4.
"He was behind, but the Vuelta was not lost. He was hoping he'd get his good legs again in the last week. For sure this is a big blow, even if he's able to start, then for sure he's not really well. It's guessing, but I have the feeling he's out. That's my feeling, though I don't know."
Whilst stage winner Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) said that he had not been affected by the second, bigger, crash, race leader Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) said that he had not crashed, "But I rode slowly to the finish because it had happened in the last kilometre." Time losses inside the last three kilometres did not count if caused by a crash.
TInkoff leader Alberto Contador's Tour de France was blighted by two big crashes early on in the race, but this time he was more fortunate. "I didn't crash, but I had to jump over another rider. I don't know what Robert has got, I just hope he's ok," Contador said.
Riding ahead with Daniele Bennati guiding him through the final kilometres, Contador said, "I was trying to avoid risks. I'm here to fight for the general. The team rode really well today; Bennati was brilliant. I could be as calm as possible. They call these transition stages, and they might have been in the past, but here people fight for every second as if it was a minute."
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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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