Fabio Aru went into meltdown after an early-stage crash in the Vuelta a España today in Ávila, north of Madrid. To make matters worse, The Italian may also face a penalty for accepting a push or hand-sling from a team-mate in the stage's finale.
After the crash, Aru lasted the remaining 66 kilometres to reach the ancient city of Ávila, where Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) attacked on the cobbled climb to the centre. Dumoulin doubled his slim three-second lead to six seconds with only one key stage left tomorrow before the flat finish in Madrid on Sunday.
With blood still on his jersey, elbows and backside, Aru managed the gap well - albeit with some help from Luis León Sánchez - but after the finish crumbled.
He yelled at a journalist before reaching his team van, where he shut himself inside and inspected his damage from the passenger's seat.
A team helper tried to manoeuvre the vehicle free, running the front right side against a railing before backing and turning it around to escape down a small side road.
Team Manager Giuseppe Martinelli directed several grand tour winners in the past 20 years, some of them fragile and some strong.
"I wouldn't say that he's still young, but he still needs to... Maybe after the race he needs a little time to deal with his nervousness," Martinelli told Cycling Weekly.
"It was probably because he lost a little bit of time today and he was upset. He was upset with himself."
Martinelli waited in another team car for his riders to arrive. Besides Aru, Astana's Diego Rosa and Alessandro Vanotti crashed.
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The incident happened with around 120 kilometres to race when Giant was racing on the front. John Degenkolb fell down and Dumoulin had a close call.
"I was in the wheel of Degenkolb, he crashed, I could just avoid it, but went into the ditch. My bike was broken, but I had nothing," Dumoulin said. "I asked if [Aru] was OK, of course he said that he was OK.
"His character? We don't talk a lot. He doesn't speak English, I don't speak Italian. But he's friendly. I'm not busy with the mental fight, just gaining seconds if it is possible."
Dumoulin delivered his blow just as the road kicked upwards and turned to cobbles. He had Daniel Moreno (Katusha) for company, but Aru drifted behind with Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale). The other favourites were further back.
"We talked about it this morning in the team," added Dumoulin. "That was a real power-house finish, there was a chance and I took it."
Besides due a general shyness, Aru escaped so that he could have quicker medical attention. He had blood under his rib section on the right, on both elbows and his left backside.
"When you crash, you're bad off. He crashed off to the side were there were rocks," Martinelli said. We'll have to control the damage well tonight."
Tonight the team may have to discuss with the race jury what appears to be a helping hand from a fellow Astana rider, reportedly Sánchez, in the last two kilometres.
It is unclear if Sánchez gave Aru hang-sling or if he pushed him, but the race and jury are looking into it..
"It's not in our hands," the race organisation said. "The jury, already at their hotel, will have a look at the video and decide."
The jury should make a decision soon, but it is not clear when it could come and what it could be.
Astana already lost a rider to a rule violation. Vincenzo Nibali was kicked out after stage two for holding on to a team car while chasing back from a crash in stage two.
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