A pole in the final 2.5 kilometres of the Vuelta a España’s fifth stage in Lugo caused overall favourite Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) to crash. He abandoned the race and end his season with a broken left collarbone.
The Dutchman, who led the Giro d’Italia and placed fourth overall, confirmed the incident to the team’s doctor while in the Lugo hospital. The race organiser Unipublic is meeting regarding the metal pole, which was already bent at an angle facing the oncoming cyclists.
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While Kruijswijk remained on the left side of the road, Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step) went on to win the stage. Colombian Darwin Atapuma (BMC) continues to lead the race.
In another stage race last year, the Tour of the Basque Country, a similar pole left on the side of the road at 400 metres out caused Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and Peter Stetina (then with BMC) to crash and fracture bones. Stetina suffered worse, he broke his right tibia and patella and four ribs. The American said he could have died.
While not at 400 metres, the metre-high pole today was in the final kilometres, where the roads should have been cleared of any unnecessary obstacles. Photos emerged on Twitter of the pole and the crash.
José Luis De Santos, president of the Spanish riders association that oversees road saftey, said, “The Vuelta looked over it, it was a mistake and wrong, it was our fault.”
He said that he will talk to the teams association and that they will possibly take action.
Unipublic said in a statement: “In response to the accident involving riders Steven Kruijswijk (Team Lotto-NL Jumbo) and Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) during the fifth stage held today, the organisation of the 2016 Vuelta a España wishes to express its deepest regret for what happened.”
Adding: “The organisation has been in contact with the directors of both teams and with the
general manager of Team Lotto-Jumbo in order to convey its sincerest apologies, expressed also through this statement, just as it has also been in contact with the riders’ representatives in the Vuelta, with the International Cycling Team Association and with the President of the Commissioners College in the International Cycling Union.”
Unipublic also said that an internal investigation had been opened into the incident.
“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot,” Steven Kruijswijk said. “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, my season’s over. 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.”