Vuelta a España (st. 11)
Second crash by Quintana at 20km into Aralar stage forces him to abandon; Colombian to undergo surgery after scapula fracture. Valverde 2nd today, takes 7″ back on Contador
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Bad luck ended Nairo Quintana’s chances in the 2014 Vuelta a España after another crash in the beginning of stage eleven, over 153km from Pamplona to the Cat-1 climb of San Miguel de Aralar. A pile-up after 20km into the stage, into a stressful bunch lookinf for the day’s breakaway, hurled the Colombian to the ground less than 24 hours after his fall during the Borja TT. Suffering pain in his right-hand shoulder, the telephone squad’s leader was moved by ambulance to Pamplona’s Clínica San Miguel, where X-rays confirmed a displaced fracture in his scapula, which will undergo surgery tomorrow (3pm local) by Dr. Jesús Alfaro, orthopaedic surgeon of the Navarrese hospital.
Without Nairo on course, his team-mates took their hearts out to keep going, as they relentlessly fought to dedicate him a victory on home roads. Amador, Castroviejo and a remarkable Izagirre tried it into the day’s breaks -a five-man group, including Kiryienka (SKY) as last survivor, was caught on the foot of the last ascent-; Moreno, Herrada, Malori and Erviti worked for it, pushing at the front into the Lizarraga (Cat-3) climb and protecting Valverde into the approach to Aralar; and finally, it was Alejandro’s turn to try, always doing well into the slopes and following all attacks by the favourites but one: Fabio Aru’s (AST), away by six seconds while the Spaniard took 2nd across the line. The six-second bonus over Contador (TCS), together with an additional one by winning the intermediate sprint in Tafalla, take them to just 20″ behind in the overall, still in second spot.
The Movistar riders are still on top of the teams’ classification -almost 4′ over Katusha- as Valverde stays first in the Combination classification following a more calm stage for the Vuelta bunch in one of the few flat stages left: a circuit (166km) in and around Logroño.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a ‘good’ day, in quotations. Nairo’s crash happened just to my side; he was riding just behind me. We were riding around 40th position into the bunch: Imanol, Nairo and myself. Some riders crashed in front of us – while I was able to watch them come to my side and avoid them, he just couldn’t and fell. I want to send him all my support from here, and also all my team-mates’. Things went bad for him yesterday with his crash, and many times, when such things happen, there’s almost no way to turn things around.
“Apart from that, should things go like today until the end of the Vuelta – I’d just sign next to it. I didn’t plan to sprint into the intermediate, but some kilometers before Contador attacked, I went for him and I took the bonus seconds. Aralar was a tough climb: partly because of the rought roads, but especially because the pace from the foot of the ascent was really high. Aru went for the win – he really deserved it, he did a great climb. I finished second, with another bonus, and provided that it was a mountain stage and seeing how strong Contador is doing, finishing a mountain stage with seconds won on him rather than lost is something to be happy about.
“Now we’re leading the team – one more time. I’ve spent many Grand Tours leading the squad and this doesn’t change anything for me. I don’t like that it all happened nor this new situation – I preferred how things were going before Nairo’s crash, but you have to face things. I already changed my mentality into the race: I was up-front today, I actually was up-front all Vuelta, but having Nairo by my side was way better – now we have to tackle the end of the race on my own – with my great team-mates, but it comes down to myself and I’ll keep fighting. It will be hard for me to stay away on the climbs, but I must keep strong there, and if I’m able to win some time, the more the better.”