“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot. I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there. I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.” – Steven Kruijswijk, Team LottoNL-Jumbo
The finale to Stage 5 of La Vuelta reflected the 2015 Pais Vasco, and just like Peter Stetina (then BMC) had unnecessarily crashed after unmarked poles in the road had taken him down, today saw Steven Kruijswijk forced to abandon after hitting a pole in the road. Gianni Meersman (Etixx) was able to avoid another crash in the final kilometres to take the stage win.
Kruijswijk wasn’t the first abandon of the day – Caja Rural rider Bonet had dislocated his hip after yesterday’s stage, riding to his team bus. When today’s stage had officially got underway, Machado (Katusha) and Morice (Direct Energie) had established a lead of over 4 minutes to the peloton. They were a strong breakaway with no threat to the GC yet could challenge for a stage win – however with only a 2-man power supply for 171km, this was unlikely. Machado is a determined, aggressive rider, most notably on stage 10 of the 2014 Tour de France after he crashed badly on a descent and required stitches. However with 3 mountains left to climb, he ordered his team to give him his bike back and he finished the stage, carrying on his Tour de France for NetApp-Endura.
[I had to carry on and finish the stage for the pride of my family. The team deserved it as well, so I had to do that.] – Machado after the 2014 stage.
Morice is an equally determined rider, with Direct Energie stating he has “won almost everything”. A velodrome champion in Team Pursuit and Omnium, they stated he was the “ideal breakaway partner.” Why? “Because he has a big engine.”
BMC spent a lot of the stage riding at the front of the peloton, working for red jersey leader Atapuma. Atapuma had recently suffered Grand Tour defeat for a stage win at the Giro after being beaten just meters to the line after his breakaway, by Chaves and Kruijswijk. Atapuma came close to winning a stage yesterday, beaten to the line by Calmejane, yet he has now managed to retain the leader’s jersey for two consecutive days. Despite Sánchez being BMC’s leader, Atapuma is determined to hold on to the Vuelta lead for as long as he can.
[“Samuel is the leader, of course, but the team wanted me to get in the breakaway too.” ] – Atapuma.
By the time the breakaway found themselves with just 75km to go, Machado pushed on ahead of Morice and took the intermediate sprint points before the single categorised climb of the day – Category 3 Alto de Álvare. He reached the top alone still and took the KOTM points, while 5 minutes later De Gendt took 2 points ahead of Fraile (DDD) who took the remaining one. De Gendt carried on and tried to distance the peloton towards Machado but was brought back with ease by Etixx, Trek and Giant. The surge of life from the teams at the front meant the gap to Machado decreased fast, with only a minute between them into the final 20km.
The sprinter teams dropped back to allow Movistar, Sky and Tinkoff to pick up the pace and after over 150km in the break Machado was caught. Despite being just under 15km from stage success, he had ridden himself towards the combativity award. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) took his turn on the front of the peloton in his 16th consecutive Grand Tour. Starting at the 2011 Vuelta a España, he beat Marino Lejarreta’s 10 consecutive GT record despite never intending to get this far. The teeth gritting, beer-on-mountain drinking, occasional stage winning Australian has managed to avoid any nasty crashes in Grand Tours, despite his dislocated shoulder in the 2012 Tour de France.
As the stage neared its end, legs got painful as the road got thinner. Kruijswijk was seen on the floor while just a few meters later another crash took out numerous riders. Clarke (Cannondale) and Gilbert (BMC) attempted a last ditch attempt and they were caught in the last kilometre. Once again Meersman opened his sprint early, beating Felline (Trek) and Reza (FDJ) to the line.