Plenty of teams were caught in the chaos on stage six of the 2019 Vuelta a España, but it was EF Education First who suffered the most significant blow.
The peloton were hit by a high-speed descending crash just over 100km into the stage to Ares del Maestrat, when water on the road surface caused riders to slide out.
EF leader Rigoberto Urán and support rider Hugh Carthy were went down heavily in the crash, and were forced to abandon alongside former race leader Nicolas Roche (Sunweb).
But it wasn’t the end of the misfortune for the American outfit, as their rider in the day’s breakaway, Tejay van Garderen, also crashed on a descent later in the stage.
Both Urán and Carthy suffered broken left collarbones and will need surgery, while Van Garderen, who suffered heavy road rash on his right side and had significant pain in one of his fingers, was able to finish the stage but the team were unsure if he would start stage seven.
CEO of EF Education First Jonathan Vaughters said: “This has really not been a great day for the team. Now the most important thing is that we focus on making sure Rigo and Hugh and the rest of the team are healthy and we refocus the guys still racing on other objectives.”
Four EF riders went down in the Urán crash – Logan Owen needed five stitches in his right leg while Sergio Higuita was suffering from pain in his lower back.
Owen and Higuita will continue in the race, while the team said Van Garderen would undergo further assessment before stage seven and a decision would be made on whether he would race.
Sports director Juanma Gárate said: “We’re going to continue on, but we need a bit of time to recuperate.
“The moment when Tejay fell I said to the team ‘okay guys, to do this we have to do it as a team and we take strength from each other,’ and that’s what we’re going to do. It was a moment that can really demotivate everyone, but they continued on and kept their minds on what they were doing, and they did their best. Tomorrow we will make sure we take care of each other and we take it from there.”
Urán had been strong in the opening week of the Spanish Grand Tour and was sitting sixth overall on the morning of the crash, just 59 seconds down on race leader Miguel Ángel López (Astana).
The Colombian said: “Today we’ve had a really tough day, there was a crash on a descent on a corner and there were a number of riders who went down, there was no possibility to avoid the crash.
“Us riders, we are used to having these crashes so we know what it takes to recuperate from them. There’s no other option, we just have to take some time out and recover to then come back.”
Carthy, who had been a key animator of the race while riding for Urán said: “If we look at the work we’ve done this week, we can be happy. The team now can look forward and continue racing. I wish them luck.
“I’m all okay – nothing too serious. Could have been a lot worse.”