LA CORUNA, Spain (VN) — The grueling Vuelta a España is starting to take its collective toll on the peloton. Searing heat in the south compounded by incessant climbs in the north has sent more than a few big names home early.
Podium threat Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Spanish veteran Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) both succumbed to illness, and will not start Wednesday. Grand tour rookie Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano) packed it in over the weekend.
Urán catapulted into podium range following another superb time trial performance, but fell ill with bronchitis and asthma, dropping to 16th overall after La Farrapona climb Monday. The Giro d’Italia runner-up was unable to keep pace in the climbs of Asturias, and decided to pull the plug in order to recover in time for the world championships at the end of September.
“We were hoping my condition would improve on the rest day, but it got even worse,” Urán said. “I cannot race in these conditions. I am disappointed, but it’s the best decision to make.”
Urán will travel to Belgium to meet with team doctors for treatment, with the idea of being able to compete at full strength for the team time trial race September 19, and then in the road race the following weekend in Ponferrada. Urán cautioned that if he is not fully healthy, he might not race in Ponferrada.
Another rider exiting early who had high hopes for the Vuelta is Spanish veteran Zubeldia. Like Urán, Zubeldia was suffering with chest problems, and will leave the Vuelta without being able to punch into the top-10 as he was hoping.
Craddock, meanwhile, pulled out during Saturday’s stage to Sabero. The Texan was suffering from the heat and an early Vuelta crash, and was unable to continue. He is penciled in to race the world championships.
Fellow American and Giant teammate Chad Haga remains in the Vuelta, saying, “I have tired legs, but not dead legs, so that’s a good sign going into the third week.”
More riders will likely exit in the coming days, with one eye on the Ponferrada world championships.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and three-time defending world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma) have already left the Vuelta, with Martin saying he wanted to be “fresh” for a run at what would be a record fourth straight TT title. Oscar Gatto (Cannondale), who is expected to race for the Italian team in Ponferrada, also did not finish Monday.
A few more worlds-bound riders, such as Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma), or Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), might exit early as well, but it’s typically a choice made based on how good or bad the legs are feeling.
One rider who is hanging in there is last-place Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale). The Colombian returned to Europe in mid-August for the Vuelta a Burgos clearly overweight, but he’s been suffering at the back, and trimming up. His goal is to be ready for a run at the rainbow jersey in Ponferrada.