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LEÓN, Spain (VN) — Steven Kruijswijk and his LottoNL – Jumbo team want compensation from the Vuelta a España’s race organizer for its negligence. A metal post left in the road with 2.5 kilometers remaining in Wednesday’s stage 5 caused the Dutchman to crash and abandon the race.
Kruijswijk, who placed fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia after leading the race for several days, built the second half of his season around winning the Vuelta a España. Now, he sits at home in the Netherlands with a broken collarbone. His season is finished.
“We asked the Vuelta how they think they are going compensate Steven and the team for the loss,” general manager Richard Plugge said.
“We wasted time and money to have the team and Steven ready to come here to race this Vuelta. The riders always complain in Twitter, but nothing ever happens.”
The three-foot high pole designed to mark parking spaces sat around five-feet in from the curb. When the pack sped by at 50 to 60 kilometers an hour, it was impossible for everyone to see it and more importantly to avoid it.
“Fear a lawsuit?” race director Javier Guillen said. “There are all kinds of incidents on the road all the time and there are never lawsuits that follow.”
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, with a similar incident causing controvery in April of 2015 at the País Vasco stage race. In the final 400 meters of the first stage, a speeding bunch swung around a corner and around 10 unlucky riders crashed. Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) and Peter Stetina (then with BMC Racing) went down hard, and Stetina suffered a broken right tibia, patella, and four ribs. The American said he could have died.
“The problem’s been there for at least the last three years or so. Nothing’s changing,” BMC Racing’s general manager, Jim Ochowicz said.
Ochowicz sent out open letters and e-mails to the UCI after Stetina’s incident and a motorbike incident involving Greg Van Avermaet in the Clásica San Sebastián.
“And now it escalated,” he added. “The UCI told me on a couple occasions that it’s something that they are concerned about and they’re going to look into, but I had nothing else other than that back from them.
“There are things that have happened such as this poll and it was preventable. Someone would have noticed that when they drove the course beforehand.”
BMC Racing never took legal action against the País Vasco organizer. LottoNL appears ready to do so as its eight remaining riders, selected specifically to support Kruijswijk’s overall aim, struggle to find new goals in the remainder of the Vuelta a España.
“It’s up to the team and to the riders’ association to do something about it,” LottoNL – Jumbo’s Robert Gesink said. “Obviously, it isn’t good, but it’s already a good sign that the Vuelta organization said that it’s ‘our mistake’ [the Vuelta’s] and that’s a good start for a conversation. But we cannot be exposed to these kinds of dangers in the final.”