Sky leader Chris Froome safely arrived at the Team Sky bus, as did Nicolas Roche after nearly winning the stage, but Puccio failed to show up.
Roche, who placed fourth on the stage, had already warmed down on the rollers in the shade of the bus, showered and changed into clean clothes when Puccio did finally make contact with his Sky team mates.
Sports director Gabriel Rasch tried to call Puccio on the team’s two-way radios by climbing up some stairs to the next street, but no reply. The mechanic stood at the corner 300 metres after the line while other buses drove away, but he did not spot Puccio. Sky’s black bus was packed and ready to go, but waited with the motor running for Puccio.
“We don’t know where he is,” said a team helper. “The finish is mess with riders circling around for their buses.”
“It’s happened to me before,” Rasch, a former professional, added. He returned to his telephone, trying to find information on Puccio.
Puccio, with about 20 others, mistakenly rode down the finishing hill where some buses – but not Sky’s – waited for their riders. He sat there waiting and passed time with most of the Cannondale-Garmin riders, who were in the same situation.
“I wasn’t lost,” Puccio told Cycling Weekly after dinner last night.
“The police sent most of us down the hill after the climb. My radio was out of reach, and we didn’t know what to do. I really didn’t want to turn around, do the climb again after 210 kilometres. I didn’t want to add another one to the Vuelta a España that will have its share of climbing!”
Puccio waited with Cannondale and some riders from IAM Cycling and Etixx, and tried to contact Sky via some of the other team helpers waiting at the buses at the base of the climb. About 30 to 40 minutes passed before he was found.
“Some of the other teams contacted Sky for me. In the end, I had to jump in with some in of the team mechanics. The bus ended up getting stuck in traffic so I returned first to the hotel for a massage!”
Puccio is always reachable in the peloton, he is often pulling along on the flats for Froome. Today, he will be called into service as the race races towards Seville to finish in Alcalá de Guadaíra.