Stage 14 of the Vuelta a España 2019 was supposed to be a simple transfer stage, one given to the sprinters as a reward for all of the near-vertical kilometres they’ve had to toil with over the first half of the Spanish Grand Tour.
Indeed, this was the first opportunity given to the peloton’s fast men since stage four when Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was victorious, with breakaways taking the flatter stages 11 and 12.
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However, chaos unfolded in the final kilometre of the stage. As the peloton went under the flamme rouge a touch of wheels brought the right side of the bunch down in a massive heap, leaving Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett to ease to victory from a reduced selection.
The GC riders had expected a quiet day sandwiched in between two big mountain days, but a number of contenders were caught up in the crash. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) went over his handlebars but says he is okay, with just a few cuts.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has a hurt wrist but says he doesn’t expect it to impede him too much. Race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) unclipped and took a fall, caught at the back of the bunch, but was unharmed as he took the same time as Sam Bennett due to the crash occurring within the final 3km.
Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) was less fortunate, though, and looked to be in trouble as medical staff treated him on the road before he was transferred into an ambulance, abandoning the race. At the hospital it was revealed the Slovenian had suffered a fractured hip.
Owain Doull also looked to have come off badly from the crash, with his Ineos team later confirming he had suffered mild skin loss around the hip, knee and elbow, and that their medical team would continue to monitor him.
Willie Smit looks to have been another rider who will remember stage 14 of the 2019 Vuelta longer than the rest of us, thanks to the rather gruesome physical reminder on his left knee.
Katusha Alpecin’s Enrico Battaglin seems to have gotten away with not requiring any stitches, but has a nasty cut to his knee as well as grazes up his left leg.
Former pro Damiano Cunego then shared his own photo showing a remarkably similar injury to Smit’s sustained at some point during his 17-year career, having retired in June 2018.
The Vuelta a España 2019 continues with stage 15, which features four first category climbs, the last of which is a summit finish, on what will be another testing day for the GC riders.