A massive crash close to the finish of the Vuelta a Espana’s stage four to Liege saw all bar six riders blocked in. Amongst those badly injured were Chris Horner (Astana) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo)
The pile-up took place in the final build-up to the bunch sprint in central Liege. Already shoulder to shoulder, the bunch was forced even closer together by a small roundabout, someone skidded and suddenly around two dozen riders hit the deck.
Six were lucky enough or well-positioned enough to have missed the mass pile-up, with the stage win going to Germany’s top sprinter Andre Greipel (Columbia-HTC). But the real interest of the day’s rainsoaked 225.5 kilometre trek from Venlo to Liege was in the chaos that reigned behind.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) leaned over his handlebars for a good two minutes, his head in his hands. Others disentangled themselves from the mass of bike frames and then pedalled as gently to the finish as they could.
“I just stopped, when there’s a big crash like that you can’t do much,” double Tour podium finisher Cadel Evans told Cycling Weekly.
“I’m just thankful I didn’t go down and I hope everybody’s ok.”
Like most of the rest of the field Evans and Cancellara slowly picked himself up and pedalled gingerly to the line. But not everybody was so lucky.
Astana’s Chris Horner is reported as having multiple injuries to his wrist, as well as unconfirmed injuries to his hip and leg. Ezequiel Mosquera of Xacobeo-Galicia, fourth in last year’s race, could not even pedal when he crossed the line, and has major damage to his left leg. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) fell, hurting his wrist. Croatian Robert Kiselovski (Fuji-Servetto) has a broken collarbone. And so the list goes on.
The crash took place within the last three kilometres of the stage so the overall was not affected. Cancellara said later he was all right and will continue in the lead.
But the riders have a flight tonight at 8pm and will not reach their hotel before mid-night. For most, the Vuelta’s first rest-day on Wednesday could not come soon enough.
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage four, Venlo-Liege, 225.5km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC in 5-43-05
2. Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step
3. Bert Grabsch (Ger) Columbia-HTC
4. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Columbia-HTC
5. Marco Velo (Ita) Quick Step
6. Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
7. Adam Hansen (Aus) Columbia-HTC
8. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
9. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
10. Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Milram
Overall classification after stage four
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 15-12-38
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step at 9sec
3. Bert Grabsch (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 11sec
4. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 11sec
5. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 12sec
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas at 16sec
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 17sec
8. David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 18sec
9. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 18sec
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 18sec
Andre Greipel takes the win, whilst the rest of the bunch lies on the road
four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three: Henderson takes surprise win
Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage three photo gallery, by Graham Watson
Stage two: Ciolek takes first sprint stage, Hammond third
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one: Cancellara wins Vuelta opener
Vuelta a Espana 2009, stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Cycling Weekly’s full coverage, the hub
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly’s Rider Profiles: Index