Tom Dumoulin has labelled the descent that caused his team-mate Steven Kruijswijk and Bora-Hansgrohe's Emanuel Buchmann to abandon the Critérium du Dauphiné "a disgrace".
The two GC riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Plain Bois, with team leader Primož Roglič also crashing later in the stage but making it to the finish and retaining the race lead.
"It was a disgrace that that descent was in a race," Dumoulin said, vexed after the finish. "The whole descent was really tricky but the first two or three kilometres were full of gravel, potholes, bumps in the road, 15 per cent drops down.
"That they still put things like this in a race is…well, I’m really angry about it and I’m pretty sorry for Stevie [Kruijswijk] that he has to go home because of this because he was in great shape. I hope he’s going to be okay for the Tour. But even if he makes it, it’s not ideal for his preparation. But this downhill should never be in a race."
Later on, reports came in that race leader Primož Roglič had also crashed, heaping misery on Jumbo-Visma after what had thus far been a near-perfect performance at the Dauphiné.
Wout van Aert says that in the aftermath of the crash he thought Roglič was going to quit the race, that he looked a bit dizzy, but the Slovenian was paced back into the bunch and lost no time as he finished safely in the GC group.
"I’d stopped for a piss and Primož was still on his bike in front of me, but when I came back up all of the cars had all stopped," Van Aert explained after the stage.
"At first I thought he was going to quit the race because he seemed really dizzy. I said, ‘come on, let’s keep on going.’ And when we got back in the bunch I could immediately see that he was clear in his head, that he was ready to race and that was really good to see. He’s a big champion and even with a few scratches he continued and kept his focus on his job."
Roglič went as far as to get into his team car, ready to abandon. "For one moment he did get into the car," Van Aert added. "Like I said, he looked a bit dizzy, a bit shocked. But I stayed with him and I think the bunch slowed down because the yellow jersey had crashed."
Jumbo-Visma coach Grischa Niermann confirmed the road where Kruijswijk crashed was "very, very bad" and that the team will have to wait before knowing the full extent of their rider's condition.
"First there was Steven’s crash on the descent from the first climb where there was a lot of gravel on the road. It was a very dangerous descent, the road was very, very bad, a bit over the top. He crashed on a corner and dislocated his shoulder and I think they could only put it back in when he got to the hospital. We have to wait and see," Niermann said.
"We knew it was a tricky descent but you’re fighting with all of the other teams to get to that downhill first," Dumoulin added, explaining the run-up to Kruijswijk's crash. "We had the lead but eventually Groupama-FDJ sprinted to the top and took over. They set an okay pace on the downhill, but there was the gravel on the road and [Kruijswijk] just slipped away.
"We know that in cycling anything can happen at any time, both positive and negative. That’s one reason why we’d like to go to the Tour with more leaders because you never know what will happen. Today showed that that strategy is not a bad one. But hopefully we can start the Tour with three leaders."
Niermann says the team will wait until tomorrow before making a decision as to whether Roglič starts and attempts to defend his race lead on the final day, before adding that maybe Ineos inadvertently made a great decision in pulling Egan Bernal out of the race before the start of stage four.
"You saw him finish the stage, he was still strong but he was also in quite a lot of pain, brushes and cuts, so we’ll have to wait and see how he is tomorrow.
"You could now say that Ineos made a brilliant move by not letting Bernal start today, but it’s always really easy to say that afterwards."
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