BMC Racing lost all hope of a GC result in the Vuelta a España when Samuel Sánchez abandoned early in Saturday’s 14th stage, but the team got an unexpected boost a few hours later from stage-winner Alessandro De Marchi.
The 29-year-old Italian, who suffered with problems earlier this season with an injury to his left Achilles tendon, won the stage out of a five-man breakaway.
“I could have never imagined this victory today,” De Marchi said. “We’re having a good Vuelta, but having bad luck. Tejay crashed out, and today we lost Samuel, but we showed that we are still in the fight.”
BMC Racing came to the Vuelta aiming to push Tejay van Garderen close to the final podium, but the American crashed out in stage 8 with a broken shoulder. Marcus Burghardt also crashed out in the first week.
Sánchez was trying to pick up the slack, but the 2008 Olympic champion has been suffering with an injury to his right big toe that was worsening by the day. The toenail detached overnight, with raw skin exposed to his cleat. Sánchez started the day 20th overall, but pulled the plug early in the stage.
“Today was a sad day for me,” Sánchez said. “Yesterday I really suffered trying to make it to the finish, and today it was impossible to pedal. I changed position on the bike to try to relieve the pain, but I could not force the pedal. In a stage of 200km, it was practically impossible to withstand the pain.”
With Sánchez gone, the team turned to breakaways, and De Marchi delivered a surprise victory. He linked up with Salvatore Puccio (Sky), JJ Rojas (Movistar), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Carlos Quintero (Colombia). The GC favorites were content to let the breakaway have its chances, and the quintet held a four-minute-plus gap with 5km to go.
For De Marchi, the victory marks his second consecutive Vuelta with a win. Last year, he won stage 7 and was third in stage 16 in what was a breakout season for the Italian all-rounder.
“It was a casino to get into the break today, and to be in a group of only five riders in such a long stage, I honestly didn’t think we would have a chance to win,” De Marchi said. “I thought Cherel was the strongest in the group, but he was suffering near the top, and I could attack.”
De Marchi’s win proves just how fast a team’s fortunes can turn.
“We’ve came to this Vuelta to work for Tejay or Sánchez, but they didn’t have the luck to continue, so now we will look for the breakaways,” he continued. “Today was my chance, and this victory is the most beautiful of my career, due to the problems I had, and because I really never thought I would win.”