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“I hope to know more about my future on the first rest day. But it's not too bad that I won two stages. A French team is interested but maybe next year I'm still here."

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
24.08.2016 @ 22:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) confirmed that he is one of the fastest riders in the Vuelta a Espana by continuing his dominance of the bunch sprints by coming out on top in the tricky fifth stage. Great teamwork allowed him to avoid a big crash that left just 10-15 riders to sprint it out for the win and after a perfect lead-out from Zdenek Stybar, he easily held off Fabio Felline (Trek) and Kevin Reza (FDJ) to take the second grand tour stage win of his career. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) avoided the tumble and retained the lead.

 

We have gathered a few reactions.

 

Gianni Meersman: To have won two stages in the Vuelta is not bad for future

Founded by the Celts in honor of their god Lugus and later conquered by the Romans, Lugo has been added in recent years on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as the only town in the world completely surrounded by intact Roman walls, all dating back to Late Antiquity. Integrating beauty and elegance in its architecture, Lugo was prepared on Wednesday afternoon for a different kind of visit than the ones of two millenniums ago, welcoming the Vuelta a España riders for the first time in a decade, with a finish spiced up by a short unclassified climb, averaging 3.2% over 3 kilometers.

With just two riders in the break – Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie) – the peloton was more concerned about the rain and slippery roads which led to a slow race in the first half of stage 5, when the leaders were allowed to go six minutes clear. Once the sun began to smile again to the riders, the chasers picked up the pace, among those to move at the front being also Etixx – Quick-Step’s Martin Velits, who worked hard to ensure everything comes back together before the last ten kilometers.

On the uphill section of the old town, Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) attacked and opened a 10-second gap, but despite their combined efforts they were soon reeled in, just before the final kilometer. The narrow road and nervous fight to find a good position after that small climb led to a crash in the peloton, which was split by the incident, leaving only a dozen riders in the mix for the win. Piloted by an incredible Zdenek Stybar, who provided a superb lead-out, Gianni Meersman out-gunned Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Kevin Reza (FDJ), sprinting to his second victory in just four days and Etixx – Quick-Step’s 44th of the year.

First Belgian rider to notch up two stages at a single Vuelta a España edition since 2012, Meersman was over the moon at the end of the day:

 

“It was already a dream come true to claim my maiden Grand Tour victory on Sunday, but to double up today leaves me without any more words. I felt really good, was confident in my legs and focused on what I had to do, and now I’m very happy to collect another win for the team and myself.”

“The race got off to a slow start, but things heated up in the last hour, when the speed increased in the peloton. The boys did a fantastic job today, they were again incredible and had trust in me, which was very important. You could see Zdenek’s lead-out was that of a man who knows his sprinter can win and it really made the difference in the final kilometer”, said Meersman, who seized the green jersey following his success in Lugo.

 

”I was extremely happy with the first victory and it gave me a lot of confidence. I started today with zero stress, everything was good but the leadout that Stybar did was incredible and then I saw the sign for 200 and I knew that if I didn’t start the other guys would come from behind. I would rather do my own sprint and then they pass me than get boxed in. In the end, they didn’t pass me.

 

”It was quite nervous, I think that some places behind me there was a crash. I hope the guys that crashed are ok.

 

”To be honest I didn’t expect this. I was dreaming of the first stage but now winning my second after four days, it's really incredible. I feel good. I want to thank the team for the confidence they give me. They did more than a good job to give me lead-out like that. I'm very thankful to everybody.

 

”The crash was just behind me. I saw nothing. I was so focused in the last 200 metres. I saw nothing.

 

”You never know how many guys are there at the end. But there were really big riders there who could have beaten me. It's OK.

 

“Tiago was riding really fast. In the climb, he took 30 or 40 seconds. But fortunately the team and other teams helped for the sprint. I'm glad we won today.

 

”The other years I was also strong. This year I really focused on being good on the Vuelta, not only 90 pc but 100 pc.

 

”To be honest, I'll take it easy now. In the last climbs I'll be content to sit back and do the grupetto. The stages I know I can win I'll do 100 pc. So far it's been two our of two. So there's no stress. Gianluca Brambilla and David de la Cruz are also doing well and it's a motivation for them that we already won two stages.

 

The national coach will make his selection regarding the European Championships soon, I hope to be in it.

 

“I hope to know more about my future on the first rest day. But it's not too bad that I won two stages. A French team is interested but maybe next year I'm still here. I'm happy with my role here. Like you saw, they worked all day for me. They did the lead out for me. I cannot expect anything more.”

 

Stybar told Eurosport:

 

”In the breakaway there was just two guys but still Machado was going really fast. You could see that the bunch was lined out for most of the time and for maybe the last 60km Martin Velits was also pulling very hard. Then we closed it to just over a minute and it was getting really chaotic with all the turns and there were some crashes. We managed and it was a strong sprint and we can celebrate again.

 

”There were some very strong riders atacking. We expected that they would go but the pace from the bunch was still very high and we just gave everything that we had to close it down and bring Gianni first over the line.”

 

Fabio Felline takes over from Niccolo Bonifazion at the Vuelta

Fabio Felline sprinted to a magnificent second place in a finish marred by crashes Wednesday, coming across the line behind Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step) who collected his second victory.

 

It was a day destined for a bunch finish as two brave men formed the breakaway from the drop of the flag and were easily policed throughout the 171-kilometer race.

 

A late dangerous attack at the top of the rise with 2.5-kilometers to go was also smothered as the peloton roared past the final kilometer banner. Felline managed to avoid the nasty crashes in the technical finish and fought his way to Meersman's wheel in the last meters, but didn't have enough strength left to come around the Belgian before the line and settled for second.

 

"Everything was perfect until the last two to three kilometers when Gilbert and Clarke attacked," explained Felline about the difficult finale. "In the last 500 meters I was blocked, I was on the right as Gilbert came backward and lost some positions, but maybe if I were on the left I would be in the crash, and it could have been bad for me. 

 

"Meersman was strong. For me, if we had started the sprint together we would have had a good tête-à-tête, but since I started the sprint 350 meters behind, it was impossible to pass him. But a big thank you to the team because every day they work so hard to arrive to the sprint. Now we will see the next day.

 

”It was a difficult finish but when Gilbert and Clarke went we had to pick up the pace. It made it a little more complicated. We had to get to the front very quickly and that’s what I did and in the end it was about positioning and getting my sprint right.”

 

The team's plan in stage five was to work for young sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio, with Fabio Felline held in reserve for the expected sprint ending. With rain falling for a good part of the four-hour affair and the undulating terrain adding to a rough day on the bike, Bonifazio pulled the plug on his chances, handing the reins to Felline.

 

Director Dirk Demol said:

 

"The plan was to help Niccolo again for the sprint, but during the race there was a lot of bad weather, and the final had a few uphills, so we kept Fabio fresh in case Niccolo did not have the legs to pass over the last bump. But Niccolo had said already before, with 50kms to go, that he did not feel so good.  So then we decided to go for Fabio.

 

"It was not difficult to control with only two leaders. We knew today was one of our chances [for a stage win], so we took our responsibility.  Julien Bernard did a great job pulling all day with some other riders from other teams. 

 

"Riccardo (Zoidl) had a crash, but he finished and I hope it is not too bad. But in general the team did well, and we didn't have to make huge efforts. It's just a pity that we missed it by one place, but to be honest, I am satisfied with that."

 

Julien Bernard added:

 

"At the start, a few BMC riders pulled to make sure Machado did not take too much time. Afterwards, we decided that I should move to the front. I started at km 45 until 15 km from the finish line. When you only have two riders to control, it's easier ad then Machado overdid it a little in the climb. Afterwards we controlled well to bridge the gap at the best moment and Felline finished second. It's not a bad result. I enjoyed it. When you know you're pulling for victory or a podium, it's worth it. I'm going to have to recuperate in the next couple of days but I hope to do the same again, this time in a breakaway."

 

 

Kevin Reza hopes to save his career after third place in the Vuelta

Kevin Reza (FDJ) was third. He said:

 

"I didn't make any mistake. Felline passed me 200 metres from the line, and he closed the door on me. From then on, I couldn't go for victory. I got a little stuck in the last 10 metres. But I have no regrets. It's my best sprint this season on the World Tour and since I'm looking for a contract for next season, I'm trying to work well even though it's not the best conditions to ride your bike. I'm told that I sometimes lack a little bit of confidence, it may be true. Confidence comes with results and I didn't have the results I expected. It took me four days to really settle in this Vuelta. I struggled a bit at first but it has really started for me today."

 

Alexandre Geniez: The idea is to be good in the weekend

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) retained the mountains jersey. He said:

 

“On top of the Puerto de Marco de Alvare, Thomas De Gendt was faster than me. He had positioned well and I knew he would sprint but I understood that he would be ahead of me. I'm a little bit tired, the rain made it more difficult, it was harder and more tense and I can feel it now. The idea is now to be well in the series of summit finishes in the stages 8 to 11 and also in the third week because there are always chances. We shouldn't get carried away. Kevin Reza finished 3rd. It's good for him and I hope it will help him."

 

Luis Leon Sanchez: It was finish for me

"It was a finish right for me and I was planning to attack with 2 km to go,” said Luis Leon Sanchez. “It is shame that Gilbert and Clarke anticipated me and so I decided to stay in the small group in front.

 

"In the sprint I found myself a bit boxed in, but a fourth place is not a bad result."

 

Astana’s Michele Scarponi is 17th at 2.17 in the standings.

 

"It is another good result after a difficult Vuelta start. Miguel Angel Lopez also crashed today but fortunately without any serious consequences,” commented sport director Alexander Shefer.

 

Nikias Arndt crashes in dangerous Vuelta finale

Team Giant-Alpecin kept their place at the front of the peloton. There were multiple crashes in the final few kilometres, and Nikias Ardnt was unfortunately taken down in one of them, but he was able to finish the stage. Zico Waeytens managed to navigate a way through and sprinted to an impressive fifth on the line

 

Coach Luke Roberts said after the stage: “Our aim was to set a sprint up for Nikias today. It was a difficult final and we expected attacks in the final 3km, but the guys did a good job – all of them were neutralized and Zico and Nikias were in position for the sprint. Unfortunately Nikias crashed with 600m to go, Zico continued on for fifth which is a nice result for him, but it’s disappointing that another one of the few chances for Nikias is missed.”

 

Alejandro Valverde: I could have won the stage

The much-dreaded final stress due to finish crashes was suffered by the Movistar Team in both the Vuelta a España and the Tour du Poitou-Charentes on Wednesday. On stage 5 in the Spanish grand tour - 171km between Viveiro and Lugo - initially covered under soaking rain which later turned into a hot, sunny day, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana had to go through the two crashes happening in a lumpy, twisty, dangerous finale. Valverde got 6th in the closing sprint -with Gianni Meersman (EQS) claiming his second stage win - while Nairo Quintana finished in 13th spot, trying not to lose a single meter despite the logical time neutralisation by the race jury, which left the GC mostly as in the day prior. Atapuma (BMC) keeps the red jersey, with Valverde in 2nd and Quintana now 4th as the account of positions got him ahead of Chaves (OBE).

 

"At this finish it was key to remain in perfect position, and seeking for that, I ended up contesting the sprint", explained Valverde following stage five. "I got boxed in once the Etixx riders hit the front to bring Meersman ahead; hadn’t I been caught by that, I could have even got the win. However, I don't feel like I've lost a chance rather than getting through the day well: the only relevant thing here was avoiding crashes, and we accomplished that mission." 

 

Quintana, in turn, underlined the "strong winds at parts of the course. It was sort of a difficult day, but we got through well. Looking at all those crashes, it just makes you happy to be OK!" 

 

Thursday will be another demanding day, probably the most evident mid-mountain finale in this Vuelta: four climbs in the last 80km - only one categorized ascent, though, plus an uphill finish - of a 163km journey from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra.

 

Darwin Atapuma: I am confident that I can keep the jersey

Darwin Atapuma has secured the leader's red jersey for a second day at the Vuelta a España after a crash-marred sprint finish on stage 5.

 

Atapuma spent the day in the peloton safely tucked behind his BMC Racing Team teammates, while up the front a two-rider breakawy escaped early in the 170.3km stage.

 

BMC Racing Team controlled the situation, keeping the breakaway's advantage within five minutes, and spent most of the day at the front of the bunch, with help from the sprinters' teams in the final 50km.

 

The sprinters' trains started to form as the race came back together with 13km to go, setting the stage for a fast and furious finale.

 

Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team) attacked with 3km remaining and Philippe Gilbert jumped on his wheel to establish a gap on the peloton.

 

The duo was reeled in and a crash in the final 2km caused splits in the bunch, leaving a small group to battle for the stage which was won by Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep). 

 

Jempy Drucker contested the sprint and crossed the line in eighth place for his second top ten result this week. Although caught behind, none of BMC Racing Team's riders were involved in the crash.

 

Atapuma said:

 

"To wear the red jersey today was a dream come true. I'm so happy and the emotions are strong so I can't really express how happy I am, I can only feel it. All of the support from the fans on the side of the road was incredible, especially the Colombians. Sport is really big in Colombia, especially cycling, so for all of the Colombians that live in Spain it is really special for them to be able to share this excitement with me.

 

"The team did a great job to protect me today and keep me in red. We were lucky to have only two riders in the breakaway so that we could save energy for the following stages. I think I have a good chance of keeping the jersey tomorrow because the team is very strong and I feel good. In cycling you never know but I am confident with my form and my sensations even if it is a tough stage.

 

“I was calm because I knew that when there’s a crash like this they give us all the same time. And my crash was in the last kilometre. We had to wait a little bit on the podium but it’s OK, I’m happy to retain this jersey which means so much to my career and my team. I was a bit worried when the last crash happened because it was just in front of me and I thought that someone could crash over me from behind. And the end, everything went good and I had no problems.”

 

Samuel Sanchez: I am in a good position

Samuel Sanchez (BMC) said:

 

"At the moment I feel good. Everything is OK. Darwin Atapuma is in the red jersey, I'm in 6th position overall. But the Vuelta is long, we must see day by day. Today the finale was very complicated with the crashes and the rain at the beginning. For the moment I'm glad to be in the 6th position but the real stages with the climbs are next week, especially with the stage to the Lagos de Covadonga. That's a good climb. We'll see but the mind is good. The team is staying focused and my legs feel good for the moment."

 

Jose Goncalves: Tomorrow is a good day for

Stage 5 of Vuelta a España saw another chaotic sprint finish take place with several crashes on the final kilometers. Among those who went down was Caja Rural - Seguros RGA’s designated sprinter for the stage, Eduard Prades. Luckily, the fast Spaniard escaped without any injuries. Gianni Meersman (Etixx - Quick Step) won the stage, while José Gonçalves sprinted to 10th place.
 
Once again, Caja Rural - Seguros RGA finished the day on the podium asDavid Arroyo was awarded the Fair Play prize of the stage.
 
José Gonçalves said: 

 

“I didn’t see the crashes as they happened behind me. The last kilometer was a little bit crazy with everybody wanting to be in the best position for the sprint. At the end, I did my best to make Top10. It’s not bad, but I can do better. Tomorrow is another opportunity for me. If the legs are good, I think I can do well”.
  
Broken femur takes Lluis Mas out of the Vuelta

Further examinations at the Juan Canalejo hospital in La Coruña have shown a small fracture on the head of the femur for Lluis Mas who crashed while descending towards the team busses after concluding yesterday’s stage. The 27-year-old Spanish rider will face a recovery period of four weeks before a new assessment can be made to predict when he will return to competition.

 

David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) explained:

 

“We were already at the back of the race after we did our work and we saw all the team cars blocked by the crash. Yesterday, me and Luis Mas were descending together to the team bus. We were riding calmly, just chatting about the stage. In one right turn, he blocked his back wheel, lost control of the bike, crashed into a barrier and flew off. I wanted to know how he was and I jumped over the barriers. At the moment, you don’t realize what’s happening. You just want to calm him and tell him everything is OK, but the crash was frightening.”

 

Chris Froome narrowly dodges late Vuelta crash

Chris Froome finished stage five safely at the Vuelta a Espana after narrowly avoiding a late pile-up on the run into Lugo.

 

Missing a group of falling riders by mere inches, the Brit was one of just 16 riders to make it through after a crash blocked the road during a tight and technical run-in.

 

With the three kilometre rule ensuring all riders were given the same time, Froome retained third place overall after the hard work of his Team Sky team-mates in the closing stages.

 

Michal Golas, Michal Kwiatkowski and Pete Kennaugh strung out the bunch to place Froome in a prime position. Other GC contenders were not so lucky, with both Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) caught up in the melee.

 

BMC Racing set the pace for much of the day on behalf of leader Darwin Atapuma, who retained his red jersey advantage, 32 seconds ahead of Froome. Leopold Konig and Pete Kennaugh retained eighth and ninth overall.

 

Simon Clarke: It was good to try something different

Stage five was an unexpectedly wet day. Cannondale-Drapac riders pulled on the Castelli Gabba gear for the first time during the Vuelta. Despite the rain, it was a straightforward stage. A two rider-breakaway dominated the early action and were brought back well in time for a sprint finish.

 

With the chaotic roads, the sprinting peloton was much reduced. Knowing the roads would be hectic, #GreenArgyle Simon Clarke attempted to go clear of the rest with under 3 kilometers to go. Etixx-QuickStep, keen for sprint, led the charge to catch our Australian rouleur in the final two kilometers.

 

Clarke had this to say about the days events: “It was pretty uneventful today up until 10km to go. We got a lot more rain than we expected. We were expecting maybe a bit of wet roads in the first two hours but in the end, it rained for more than half the stage. But then the sun came out for the final. That was good.”

 

“The team came up with a plan for me to have an attack being that it was a tricky uphill finish into Lugo,” Clarke added. “I thought it was a good idea. The plan was to attack, so I attacked. It was a bit tricky with so many corners not knowing what was around the next corner to take too many risks. It was good going with Gilbert and trying something different.”

 

Michael Schwarzmann admits mistake in Vuelta sprint

BORA – ARGON 18 hit the front of the peloton with around 12k to go to position its sprinter Michael Schwarzmann. From Benedetti, Huzarski, Thwaites to Pfingsten, Mühlberger and Selig the guys were able to stay in front with their leader.

 

Luckily, no BORA – ARGON 18 rider was involved in the crash. Nevertheless, this crash blocked Michael Schwarzmann and he couldn´t take on the sprint. In the end he finished in 21th place.

 

“Today, liked the last time, the team made a great job and supported me very well. Pfingsti (Christoph Pfingsten) was amazing and worked a long time in front of the group. It was a very hard final. Unfortunaly I was a little too far back, which was my fault, and then there was a big crash 1000 metres before the finish. Therefore, I could not pass by and lost a good result,” said Michael Schwarzmann.

 

Esteban Chaves goes down in hectic Vuelta finale

Two heavy crashes disrupted the finale on stage five of the Vuelta a Espana today with Esteban Chaves hitting the tarmac before the line but fortunately escaping with minor cuts and bruises.

 

All other ORICA-BikeExchange riders finished the stage without serious injury but the incidents clearly disrupted the progress of Magnus Cort and Chaves as the race favourites got caught up in the chaotic battle for position.

 

Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quickstep) won the stage from a heavily reduced bunch after the day’s two-man breakaway was caught with less than 15kilometres to go.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens lamented the frantic finale but was pleased that the team made it through without serious harm.

 

“Wow, that was a hectic finish,” said Stephens. “You had the sprinters, the lead out men and the race favourites all fighting for position at high speed through the last two kilometres and the run in was extremely narrow and technical.

“We are fortunate that we made it through ok, Esteban (Chaves) has lost some skin on his shoulder and suffered some bruising, but as he said – it is part of the job.

 

“Objectively we went into the stage with the priority being Esteban and not to lose anytime and it’s a shame for Magnus (Cort) that the finish unfolded the way it did because he didn’t get the chance to compete for the sprint."

 

Chaves is 38seconds back in fifth place on the general classification going into tomorrow’s hilly stage six.

 

No luck for Yukiya Arahiro in Vuelta sprint

With Zurlo out of the race after he had quit on Tuesday, Yukiya Arashiro received the task to try to fight in the sprint for LAMPRE-MERIDA. However because of the crashes he could not be in the front positions, even if he did not was not involved in the accident.
 

Arashiro was the first rider from LAMPRE-MERIDA to cross the finish line (33rd).

 

The crashes occurred in the final 3 km so the gaps were neutralized and very little changed in the general classification, where Meintjes is 28th at 3’10”.

 

Kristian Sbaragli taken out of contention by rival in hectic Vuelta finale

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka's protected rider of the day was Kristian Sbaragli and the African Team made sure Sbaragli was looked after throughout the stage.  Tyler Farrar and Jaco Venter did a lot of the early leadout work for the African Team in a fast and frantic finale. The guys were looking in good shape right until 3km to go where a technical final and a late attack by Phillipe Gilbert (BMC) and Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) caused some panic. The result was a big crash in the peloton which took many riders out of contention. Sbaragli was able to ride into the first 10 positions after that crash with just 1km to the finish.

 

As the road started to open up ahead of the punchy Italian sprinter with 600m to go, a rider rode into the back of Sbaragli which caused another mass pile up. Fortunately, Sbaragli kept his bike upright by unclipping his foot but obviously he was no longer able to participate in the sprint. 

 

Sports director JP Heynderickx said:
 

“After yesterday's break by Nathan Haas and Merhawi Kudus we went all in for Kristian to have a sprint today. The guys did a great a job and they did what was asked of them. They brought him to a good position from 7km to go and then in the last kilometer he was in a good position but at 600m to go somebody rode into the back of him. He had to stop pedalling and lost the chance to get a good result today.”

 

Tiago Machasdo shows the Katusha colours with solo break in the Vuelta

The goals for Team KATUSHA in the 71st Vuelta a España have been to go in breaks and try for stage wins. Team rider Tiago Machado decided today was the day to try something in the breakaway and the Portuguese rider ended up showing the KATUSHA jersey in front of the world for 157km and earned the award for most combative rider on Wednesday’s stage 5 after following the directions from sports director José Azevedo.

 

”José told me to go in the break and I expected some other guys to follow me. Unfortunately, only one rider followed me. It started raining and to be honest I do not like to be in the peloton when it is raining as there is tension and crashes, while in the break it’s more quiet.. I attacked from kilometer zero but only one guy came with me. When it is just two of you, you can’t really take a break because the war starts with the peloton behind you. It was not easy. This parcours was not really flat and the category 3 climb was also steep. I went by myself after the feed zone because the other guy did not have such good legs and it isn’t good to go fast-slow, fast-slow. I didn’t really attack him. There was a small bump and when I looked back he was not with me anymore. After the KOM I went at a good speed until they could catch me. I went as far as I could, but after the mountain pass there was a lot of headwind. I didn’t go beyond my limit because the Vuelta is long and there are many more days ahead of us,” said Tiago Machado.

 

In Machado’s early move, only Julien Morice (Direct Energie) joined him for the day’s adventure, but Machado.

 

“It was good today to be in the front and show the KATUSHA colors. When you are in the front alone you don’t think so much about the TV cameras there alongside you because you have to concentrate and ride your bike to do your best to win. Sometimes it’s not easy especially when there are so many in the bunch chasing. I hope I don’t feel today’s efforts too much tomorrow in my legs. If they let me, I will try again. I just want to recover my level and go step by step in this Vuelta,” explained Machado.

 

Team KATUSHA’s Sven Erik Bystrøm was involved in the crash and suffers from road rash and contusion on the hip.

 

Alberto Contador: We fight for every second as if it were minutes

After two days of uphill finishes, the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España was another chance for the fast men to have a shot at stage victory, but a large crash in the final kilometres saw many riders out of contention. While team leader Alberto Contador managed to stay clear of the carnage, teammate Robert Kiserlovski wasn’t so lucky, coming down heavily. Further updates will follow once medical checks have been made.
 
With the race all back together, the final 10km looked set for a fast finish, but a small climb in the final saw attacks and disorder at the front of the peloton. The team did a strong job of keeping Contador at the front of the race, but as the sprinters teams vied for contention, a touch of wheels on a right hand corner saw several riders crash, leaving a small front group to contest the stage win.
 
“Kiserlovski is going to head to the hospital for some x-rays so we hope he’s OK,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh after the stage. “It was a very hectic final after a steady stage. It was raining during the stage and the temperature was down to 19 degrees from 39 yesterday, so that was hard for some guys but the team did a good job again today.
 
“At the end we tried to put Alberto in position, and they were up there but then I didn’t see what happened but Kiserlovski was involved in the crash while the others had to stop but didn’t crash. We hope for the best and will know more later.”
 
Contador gave his comments on what was a hectic stage finish:

 

“Fortunately, I was able to jump over the leg of a rider that had crashed in front of me. I had enough time to react and jump, so I was able to make it to the finish. Unfortunately, Kiserlovski crashed and I hope it isn't anything serious. This kind of finish is very dangerous.
 
“It was an easier day for me because it was a bit uphill, but for the ones that had to sprint it was complicated and in the end there was a crash. Today, even if it seemed it wouldn't be very hard, it was raining in the first 120 km so the legs got harder. In the end it was an additional effort and I hope this plays into my favour.
 
“The key today was to stay safe in the final kilometres - we are here to give our best and fight for the GC. It was risky and I have to praise the extraordinary job of the squad, Bennati was incredible. 
 
“I ticked off another day and it is now important to recover. Let's cross our fingers and hope Kiserlovski didn't suffer anything serious. In a transition day one would expect a calmer stage but this isn't the case. We now battle for a second as if it were one minute. 
 
“I still can't draw any conclusion on my form and we have to think ahead. The Vuelta is long and far from over."
 
Looking ahead to tomorrow, De Jongh said:

 

“I think it will be another day like today, with a hectic finish as the roads are quite twisty and narrow. We will look to stay out of trouble and then turn out focus to the mountians.”

 

Steven Kruijswijk out of the Vuelta with broken collarbone

Steven Kruijswijk crashed heavily during the fifth stage of the Vuelta a España today in Lugo. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader hit a metal pole in the final three kilometres and broke his left collarbone, forcing him to abandon this Vuelta. Gianni Meersman (Etixx - Quick Step) won the stage.

 

“It didn’t go the way we wanted in this race,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “The first summit finish already was a disappointment. It went a little bit better yesterday and we were positive about the possibility that Steven Kruijswijk would have been able to reach his top level during this Vuelta.

 

“This crash is an enormous setback. Steven’s general classification was the team’s main target in this race. Now, we have to change plans. We only covered five stages so far, so we need some time to get used to this scenario. It’s not something we’re immediately capable of because we were all here with the mindset to do it for Steven. We have to take a look at our options. We definitely will have some chances, because we’re here with a strong team.”

 

“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot,” Steven Kruijswijk added. “I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there. I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.”

 

Vuelta organizers apologize after crash-marred finale

The Vuelta organisers issued a communique saying “following the accident which occurred to Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) the Vuelta organisation enormously regrets what has happened.

 

"The accident came about because of an obstacle in the road. An internal investigation has been opened to find out why the obstacle which finally produced the riders’ crash and subsequent abandon of Stephen Kruijswijk was not indicated and warned about, as had been planned.

 

"The organisation has been in touch with the directors of both teams as well as the general manager of LottoNL-Jumbo to transmit their most sincere apologies, as well as maintaining contact with the rider’s representative, the head of the UCI commissaires on the race and the representative of the teams organisation."

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