Nicolas Roche said abandoning the 2019 Vuelta a España is one of the biggest disappointments of his career.
Roche was involved in a huge crash on stage six to Ares del Maestrat, that forced a number of big names out of the race.
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The crashed happened as the peloton descended at rapid pace around 100km into the stage and water on the road surface cause riders to slide out, with Roche (Sunweb), Rigoberto Urán and Hugh Carthy (EF Education First) all being forced to abandon.
“There’s not much to say,” Roche said after the stage. “I think this is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had in my career. I’d worked so hard to get back to this level and it was a new opportunity to show that I was at this level again.”
The 35-year-old tried to continue the stage, but after visiting the medical car he decided to step off the bike.
He was taken to hospital in Castellón and tests showed he had not suffered any breaks, but needed 12 stitches in his left forearm and suffered a bruised right quadricep.
Roche had stolen the Vuelta lead on a surprisingly explosive stage two, holding a two second advantage over Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
He then lost the red jersey on the first mountain stage of the race on day five to Alto de Javalambre, but was still fifth overall on the morning of the crash.
Urán had also been riding strongly in the opening week and was sixth on general classification at the start of stage six, but he was forced to abandon after suffering a broken collarbone in the fall.
Sunweb coach Luke Roberts said: “It was quite a high speed all day today and unfortunately on one of the downhills there was quite a big crash involving almost all our riders.
“It’s really bad luck to have lost Nico today.”