Crash-Marred End to Queen Stage in the Basque Country7. April 2017, Eibar-Arrate (ESP) — Road Team
Samuel Sánchez’s Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco queen stage ended in disappointment when he crashed in the closing kilometer after launching an explosive attack from the leading group of General Classification contenders.
With six categorized climbs over the 139.8km route, three of which are first category ascents, it was another battle to make it into the breakaway from the moment the flag dropped.
After 35 not-so-relaxed kilometers, and with most of the day’s flat terrain covered, 18 riders, including Amaël Moinard and Danilo Wyss, had extended an advantage of almost two minutes.
However, the peloton was determined not to let the breakaway get too far up the road. As the race hit the slopes of the third categorized climb, Puerto de Trabakua, the remaining breakaway riders were reeled in, and the bunch was back together with 54km to go.
The kilometers began to tumble, and riders were dropped off the back under the fierce pace being set at the front of the peloton. But, it wasn't until the final hike to the finish line above Eibar-Arrate, that the race saw any explosive action.
Sánchez paced the climb perfectly and remained in the thick of the action with just seven riders left at the front of the race with 2km to go.
Going under the flamme rouge, the Spaniard, who had won here on three occasions previously, attacked as the road dipped down to the finish line. However, his late effort was spoilt after a high-speed crash saw him knocked out of contention for the day's honors.
Sánchez was able to get back on the bike and crossed the line 13th place eventual stage winner, and the new race leader, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
After the stage, Sánchez was taken to hospital for observation, and an update on his condition will be provided as soon as possible.
Quotes from the Sports Director’s Car with Yvon Ledanois:
"Today definitely didn't go to plan. It was a bad day. Samuel Sánchez was looking great on the final climb. He had good speed and was keeping a consistent rhythm to bridge across to the leaders. He knows this climb well and has a huge amount of experience, and this was showing. He did a perfect job to get into the position to attack."
"He knew everything about the descent, and I am disappointed for him as, for me, the speed at which he was accelerating was enough to go all the way. With the speed of the descent, it's hard to know what happened exactly but I think the race could be finished for us. But, that is cycling, and, right now, the main thing is that we get Sánchez checked out at the hospital and hope that it is nothing bad for him."
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Stage 5: Bilbao > Eibar-Arrate, 139.8km
Top 3: 1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) 2. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) 3. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale - Drapac)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 13. Samuel Sánchez 22. Damiano Caruso 23. Nicolas Roche