Curse of the Contender
2014 really has turned out to be the year of the cursed contenders. Every Grand Tour this year has seen at least one favourite for the overall crash and abandon
First it was Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) at the Tour of Italy then Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) at the Tour de France. On today’s stage pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) sadly joined this unfortunate group after his second crash in as many days.
Today’s crash was much more serious though and after a long time sitting on the ground, TV pictures showed him in pain walking to the ambulance and abandoning.
It was later diagnosed as a broken shoulder blade which pretty much ends the Columbian’s season. This is just going to fire him up even more for next year and we wish him well and can’t wait to see him back in action in the big tours.
As far as predictable crashes go, today’s finishing circuit practically guaranteed one. The tight technical circuit had 10 corners in the last 2km with a nasty turn less than 1km from the line. Even though the bunch had been round the circuit SEVEN times already, it was inevitable that on the last lap things would be very different.
And so it was.
Overall leader Alberto Contador had his Tinkoff-Saxo team on the front to keep the pace high and him out of trouble but when practically the entire peloton came into the last kilometre together at full speed the inevitable happened and there was a crash near the front on the last corner.
It did look very odd so see the front group of about a dozen riders contest the sprint while everyone else behind held up in the crash crossed the line at an easy pace like they were finishing a leisure ride.
The best scenery so far
The Vuelta reached the Asturias region of Spain today and with that encountered the most stunning scenery so far on this year’s race. The race unfairly has a reputation as taking place on flat, featureless wide open dusty plains but today couldn’t have been any different. The lush green vegetation and rocky outcrops gave the rolling landscape an almost north European feeling.
There were also some hefty hills to conquer giving the riders a taste of what is to come over the following three stages as the race enters its toughest phase in the big mountains. Not sure if the riders appreciated the scenery as much as we did though as some of the roads were quite narrow on the fast descents.
Chris Froome (Sky) said that he would ride the next three key mountain stages starting today like three single day races and ride the climbs like a time trial at his own pace. He doesn’t like the constant accelerations and changes of pace that suit the other top climbers and prefers to ride at a steady rate until he feels ready to attack.
When the key GC men went today he was at the back and soon dropped away. The others sensing this kept attacking but Froome just rode on steady as you like until he clawed his way back up to them. Then he simply had a breather and went to the front, rode hard and even managed to drop his main rivals and gain time on the line.
In the space of a few kms he had gone from off the back to off the front and all without giving anything away in his facial expressions. His coolness under pressure is to be admired and shows how much confidence he has in his abilities.
Dan Martin’s ravine recovery
When the TV cameras switched to Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) off his bike surrounded by team mates on a wet corner we feared the worst but at least he looked okay this time. Turns out he had gone over the barrier on a descent and had to be helped up by fans and team mates. He reckons he fell about 5-6m before coming to a stop.
Adrenalin and helping hands soon had him back up and checking himself on the road. He was offered a team mates bike but unfortunately that was Johan Van Summeren who is 6’6” so Dan waited for his own. Not only that but he chased back on and finished with the leaders and moved up on GC as well.
No more please Dan, we can’t bear these crashes!
Cyclists throwing tantrums is nothing new and often happens but throwing punches especially while riding is very rare. Today’s stage saw tempers boil over in the break and in full view of the TV cameras and also the following race officials, two riders Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo) started trading blows while still pedalling.
Brambilla even went on to the grass after shoving Rovny and other riders looked on shaking their heads in disbelief. Brambilla then forged ahead with three other riders until a few kms later the race official’s car came alongside him and threw him out of the race while he was still riding.
After a discussion of sorts and lots of gesticulation Brambilla sat up. As the main group passed him, Rovny had just paced team leader Contador back to the bunch and was working away near the front when Brambilla broke the news to him that he was also disqualified. Both then rode on their own behind the race to the finish where they were officially thrown off the race.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen any rider getting disqualified while still actively riding the race so that’s a dubious honour for these two!