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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Today's racing:

Today is the Vuelta a España's 12th stage. It's not the climbing monster the 11th stage was.

Also, the Tour of Alberta has its second stage.

Chris Froome abandons Vuelta with broken foot

This news came from Team Sky:

Chris Froome has been forced to withdraw from the Vuelta a Espana due to injuries sustained in a crash on the 11th stage.

The Brit was knocked off the road into a barrier and stone wall in the opening kilometres of Wednesday's stage, fracturing a bone in his right foot as the peloton began the climb of the Collada de Beixalis. After bravely finishing the 138-kilometre stage with the help of his team-mates, Froome was unable to put weight on his right foot. After a subsequent x-ray, an MRI scan on Thursday morning revealed a fractured navicular bone.

"I'm really gutted to be leaving the race but the injuries that I sustained on yesterday's stage were too much to continue," said Froome. "I hit my right side heavily and the main impact went on my right foot. I was desperate to dig in and finish the stage and my team-mates did brilliantly to get me through it, but as soon as I got off the bike I couldn't put any weight on my right side.

"An MRI scan has shown that I have fractured navicular bone in my right foot, so now I'll work with our medical team on making a full recovery. This is a great group of guys and I would love to have fought on with them until the end. I wish them all the best with the remainder of the race and I'll be cheering them on from home.

"I'd also like to thank the fans for all their support and get well messages. I'll be back soon!"

Chris Froome

Chris Froome finishing Vuelta stage 11 with a fractured foot

Team Sky Doctor Inigo Sarriegui confirmed: "Chris came off the bike right at the start of the stage yesterday. He went into the wall and developed pain after the first climb in his right foot. He couldn't put any pressure on it so he was basically cycling just with his left.

"After the stage we did some examinations which revealed he was very tender on his right foot around the navicular area. He had an x-ray which didn't show up a fracture, but because he still couldn't weight-bear we proceeded onto an MRI this morning which confirmed there was a fracture.

"Chris will go home today and the next step will be to get a specialist opinion on further treatment."

Sports Director Dario Cioni was full of praise for the way in which Froome battled on following the crash. He said: "After the crash it looked like Chris had gone down hard and we were all quite worried. But he was the first to say he wanted to push on. He made his way back to the bunch on the first climb and even afterwards he was saying that he felt good.

"I think once the adrenaline from the crash wore off a bit the pain increased and he began to drop back. It was a really brave effort to get over those climbs to the finish, even though he was in a lot of pain. It just showed that he wanted to give himself every chance to stay in the race."

More Vuelta a España team reports

Regarding the Tinkoff-Saxo release below this one: In the morning of the 3rd, this news release from Tinkoff-Saxo that the team would stay in the Vuelta was waiting for me:

Tinkoff-Saxo's sport directors held a meeting with the Vuelta a España race director, a UCI Commissaire and a representative of TV España. A number of concrete safety measures were discussed and agreed upon and as a result, Tinkoff-Saxo's squad took to the start of Stage 12. However, the team will immediately retire from the race if any incident similar to the ones that involved Peter Sagan and Sergio Paulinho reoccurs.

Prior to the start of Stage 12 in Andorra, Tinkoff-Saxo's sport directors held a meeting in the team bus with the Vuelta a España race director, the chief UCI Commissaire at the race and a representative of TV España. Tinkoff-Saxo presented a list of minimum requirements to safeguard the riders while the other parties offered a number of measures.

As a first step towards guaranteeing the safety of the riders, the following concrete measures are taken immediately:

- Race director will issue a radio communication to all vehicles that safety of the rider is the first and paramount objective and that no risk should be taken to get a video or photo of riders.

- The minimum safety distance between in-race motorcycles and riders is doubled from the current 5 to 10 meters.

- The organization will thoroughly review and assess the status of all drivers of motorized vehicles, including their driver licenses, qualifications and experience, in order to ensure they are fully capable of safely performing their job.

Given this first step, the Tinkoff-Saxo squad took to the start of Stage 12.

A subsequent meeting will take place after the end of today's racing in order to further discuss the remaining safety issues and concerns, and find a viable, long-term solution for the safety of the teams and the riders. Hopefully, that meeting will close this case.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s management believes that these initial measures are a sign of attention to riders’ safety and agreed to start today’s stage under the condition that the team will remain in the race as long as safety is guaranteed while it will be forced to retire from la Vuelta a España if another accident similar to the ones that involved Peter Sagan and Sergio Paulinho takes place again.

This unhappy release is from Tinkoff-Saxo (received evening of the 2nd):

Can organizers of Vuelta a España guarantee a safe race? This is the question everybody involved in the sport of cycling should be asking after Sergio Paulinho was hit by a reckless TV motorcycle in the first kilometers of the Vuelta stage 11.

Exactly four days after Peter Sagan was hit and taken down by a neutral assistance motorbike, another Tinkoff-Saxo rider, Sergio Paulinho, is forced to abandon the Vuelta a España because of the reckless and unacceptable behavior of a TV motorbike.

According to Paulinho, he was alone at the front of the race as the peloton was set to tackle the first climb to the Collada de Beixalis summit, approximately three kilometers into the race. Just before the start of the ascent, Paulinho took a right turn at fast pace, rapidly approaching a TV motorbike that was in front of him, in the middle of the road, in breach of safety regulations. Just as Paulinho was reaching the motorbike, its driver did not make any apparent move to avoid the collision, continued on its course and hit Paulinho on his left leg.

Sergio Paulinho

Sergio Paulinho at the 2014 Dauphine

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider didn't fall after the impact but kept on riding, with his left leg bleeding intensely after suffering a cut. In the heat of the battle, Paulinho rode away but as the bleeding wouldn't stop, he was attended by the race doctor, approximately at the sixth kilometer of the race. Paulinho had to lie down on the road as the race doctor applied the first staples on the wound, in an effort to close it. The Portuguese rider decided to continue racing and went back on his bike, trying to make it to the top of the climb.

However, the intense pain turned the climb into an ordeal for Paulinho, who was forced to abandon a few hundred meters before the stage's first summit. He was taken to the hospital in Andorra where the doctors applied six internal and eleven external stitches. The internal stitches were needed in order to close an artery that was affected by the hit. Paulinho will undergo further medical examinations and a complete medical report will be made public as soon as possible.

Given the seriousness of the two accidents that involved riders of Tinkoff-Saxo at the Vuelta a España, the team will consider whether it is safe to continue racing under the current arrangements

A little later I got this from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka finished 6th on the killer stage 11 of Vuelta a España that was dubbed “the hardest ever” prior to its start. The day lived up to the expectations with a battle of attrition spread over 4,950 altitude meters. Spurred on by a dedicated effort from teammate Pawel Poljanski, Rafal Majka showed his improving shape and moved to 4th in the general classification.

Drained from energy after crossing the line atop Cortals d’Encamp, Rafal Majka did not show explicit satisfaction but underlined to the TV-cameras that he indeed felt satisfied with the outcome of the day.

“For sure, I’m happy for today and my result. Right now I’m simply very, very tired. It was an incredibly hard stage and I think that I did great. I lost 48 seconds to Aru and a few to Rodriguez but still I gained time on other riders such as Dumoulin, Valverde and Quintana and I’m up in the GC to 4th place. This is very good for me and for my teammates. They did a  great in the finale. I’m motivated for the next stages, there’s no doubt about that. It was no easy stage and we will have other very hard days. The Vuelta is definitely not finished yet and we have to keep trying to do the absolute best”, says Rafal Majka, who sits 4th, 1’28” down on race leader Fabio Aru, whose teammate Mikel Landa took the stage win from the breakaway.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka climbing in Vuelta stage 9

Considered by many as the mother of all Vuelta stages, Wednesday’s 138km from Andorra la Vella to Cortals d’Encamp presented no less than 4,950 meters of altitude gain. For Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director, Tristan Hoffman, it lived fully up to the expectations set prior to the stage.

“The boys did a great effort out there and Rafal was strong. He conserved his energy wisely, as we knew that this would be critical today with so many altitude meters on the stage. No doubt that this was a brutal stage and it provided a spectacular race. We’re very happy to see Rafal move to 4th place, however there are several strong riders and favorites just behind him in the GC, so we have to fight very hard. But that is why we are here. On a bad note, Paulinho unfortunately had to leave the race, as he was hit by a motorbike and suffered a deep wound on his leg that required 17 stitches. He was on the attack, when it happened to execute our plan and he has been an important part of the team throughout the race. He will return home to recover, and our remaining seven riders will have to keep fighting”, comments Tristan Hoffman before adding about the team effort:

“Pawel Poljanski did a fantastic job the whole day, and so did Jay McCarthy, who stayed with Rafal in the main group for a long time. Poljanski was really determined in the breakaway and it surely required a big effort to stay ahead of the favorite’s group until the final climb, where he pulled for Rafal at a critical moment. Rafal finished it all off by showing that he is improving day by day and in the end he took time on some very big favorites”.

Unfortunately, a good sporting result became intertwined with another accident that forced Sergio Paulinho to withdraw from the race. Just before the start of the ascent, Paulinho took a right turn at fast pace, rapidly approaching a TV motorbike that was in front of him, in the middle of the road, in breach of safety regulations. Just as Paulinho was reaching the motorbike, its driver did not make any apparent move to avoid the collision, continued on its course and caused Paulinho to suffer a deep cut on his leg upon impact.

According to team doctor Peter Lagrou, Sergio Paulinho suffered from a serious cut on his left leg under the knee. Following the accident with the motorcycle he was brought to the hospital Nostra Senyora de Meritxell at ER. The cut was so deep that the tibia was visible, with a hematoma and several bleeding veins and an arteriole (small artery). X-Rays were made and revealed no fractures or cortical alterations. After cleaning and disinfection, stitches were applied on the bleeding veins and arteriole, in addition to subcutaneous and cutaneous to stop the bleeding and close the cut. Healing will take at least 10 days, if there are no complications, before Paulinho can continue revalidation.

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo survived the monstrous 11th stage over six climbs across Andorra in the Vuelta a España. George Bennett rode into the main breakaway along with Mikel Landa (Team Astana), the eventual winner of the queen stage. Fabio Aru (Team Astana), second in the stage, took over the leader's jersey from Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). 

The 11th stage of the Vuelta was a monster. The stage included more than 5.000 vertical metres of climbing, and the peloton was full of fear. Bennett, however, was not put off by the vertical challenge, and went on the attack. 

"It was a bitterly tough stage for the boys. It was every man for himself on the first two climbs,” said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman after the race. "There were no organized groups on the first two climbs, and therefore it was a fight man-to-man and very hard for non-climbers. At the front it was war. George Bennett fought like a lion, and he managed to make it into the right breakaway. He sat for a while in the group of favorites, but ran out of energy on the final climb. Our young men are all safe and well within the time limit.” 

Bennett was 27th in the overall standings before the stage, and built a good lead over the peloton in the breakaway. But on fourth col of the day, the strong of the New Zealander started to crack, and he was caught by a group of the favorites. Bennett held onto that group until the foot of the final climb. 

George Bennett

George Bennett heads to the start of Vuelta stage 10

"It was a very difficult stage. On the first climb I make a tactical error,” said Bennett. "I jumped too often, and thus missed the right escape. After the descent, I closed gap in the valley to the leading group. That cost a lot of energy. At the foot of the Gallina, I had a bad moment and I was dropped by the breakaway. I was caught by a large group of GC riders, but on the final climb I was completely empty. I am disappointed but also happy with the strength in my legs. I will keep my focus on the right breakaway in the coming days, and then we'll see where this ends.” 

Tomorrow is a 174-kilometer transition stage to Lleida ideal for a breakaway.  |
"The race starts downhill," Zeeman continued. "It's not so easy to be in the escape. After 40 kilometres, a climb of second category follows. We will not wait for that and will go in an early attack. Tom van Asbroeck and Dennis van Winden are fast. They can keep quiet until the final and have to sprint if the break doesn’t make it."

And here's the Vuelta news from Lampre-Merida:

The Andorra la Vella-Cortal d'Encamps, 11th stage of the Spanish race, compressed in 138 km four 1st category climbs: Collada de Beixalis just after the start, the Coll d'Ordino with summit at the 32nd km, the Coll de la Rabassa with summit at the 72nd km and the final climb to the finish at 2,095 meters.

This huge amount demanding climbing did not scare the Lampre-Merida duo Nelson Oliveira-Rubén Plaza, who joined in the early kilometers a breakaway of 19 cyclinsts and who led the race, giving much exposure to the team's colors. Plaza won the KOM of the Coll d'Ordino, Oliveira was the first rider to attack from the head group (which had been restricted to 5 riders, namely Oliveira, Landa, Boswell, Sicard and Poljanski) in the first part of the final climb.

Nelson Olivira

Nelson Oliveira

The reaction to the attack of Oliveira came from Landa, who succeeded in keeping a high pace, which gave him the victory.

Lampre-Merida's Portuguese cyclist was overtaken by the new red jersey Aru at 2.5 km to go, and he reached the finish line in 11th position (+3'04").

"We were aware that the stage was going to be very very demanding, but our riders were not scared and Oliveira and Plaza succeeded in being protagonists - sport director Maini commented - It was of main importance to be competitive just after the stage start, because there was a climb afte just a few kilometers.

Nelson and Rubén were ready and their legs gave them the opportunity to be in the breakaway. Plaza had no luck, because he was dropped from the front group because he needed a technical assistance, while Oliveira succeeded in pedaling in the breakaway and he even tried to anticipate the opponents on the last climb."

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary