Vuelta a España (st. 8)
Visconti takes 4th into field sprint as serious crashes -with Rojas, with a blow to his shoulder and bruises, finishing 9th in his home city- are avoided by Valverde and Quintana, now 4th and 6th overall
Race incidents overshadowed stage eight of the Vuelta a España -182km between La Puebla de Don Fadrique and Murcia, with two climbs towards the Cresta del Gallo (Cat-3)-, where the Movistar Team could take care of its leaders well before mountain finishes on Sunday (Benitatxell) and Wednesday (Andorra), yet also suffering misfortune as José Joaquín Rojas crashed while leading the stage, following the attacks on the last ascent.
Dan Martin (TCG) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) were the biggest DNFs into the group as a pile-up with 50km remaining also took down Kris Boeckmans (LTS), whose status is the biggest concern after the stage. Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana are now fourth and sixth overall, as Belgian Jasper Stuyven (TFR) took the finishing, field sprint ahead of Giovanni Visconti (4th) and José Joaquín Rojas, still 9th despite pain in his shoulder and many bruises.
Alejandro Valverde: “I was aware, as so many were, of how dangerous this stage could be. The Cresta del Gallo is fast and dangerous, especially its descent, and even though everyone could see it during the first lap, the second one was even worse. Rojillas had a very nice chance to win in front of our home crowds, but crashed into the first turn of the final descent and couldn't be there to take the win. We tried to control the race in the finale, but I couldn't take chances myself into the sprint. The peloton was of course smaller, but I didn't want to risk everything. It was a honour to race in Murcia after some years without the Vuelta stopping by this city – I really felt loved by so many people. I'm feeling pretty strong at the moment, also suffering, but everyone's doing. Extreme heat is taking its toll. Even though it might not seem like that, it was a ferocious day. We're still up-front, getting through these complicated days and crossing fingers for everything to stay like this."
Nairo Quintana: “More than the stress, the hardest thing so far in this Vuelta was the heat, really inhumane, but there's nothing we can do to change it. Fortunately, we got through most of the crashes, but Rojas' today avoided him winning the sprint. We wanted to fare well today, with Alejandro and Rojillas riding on home roads, but the race was too fast. We played our cards in the finale, trying to go after the attacks to control for José Joaquín, but it wasn't to be. Our idea for these opening days was not to lose any time, and we're into good position for the mountains. I'm feeling the wear and tear of the Tour, since it's the first time I ride both GTs and I lack that 'maturity' of those older than me, but I'm keeping up well and I hope to stay like this until Madrid. We'll see how it goes tomorrow."