Former leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) crashed on a descent and lost valuable time. After racing through a week of soaring temperatures, exasperated riders couldn’t hide their displeasure at the line.
“I don’t know what these race organizers are thinking taking us down roads like that,” Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) told ITV at the line. “That was a bit of a sketchy final. Terrible road conditions … They want some crashes — that’s what they got.”
Kwiatkowski crashed with Sky teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Sergio Henao on the descent off the Alto de Ceal with about 12km to go. Despite chasing back as best they could, the Pole lost 25 seconds to his direct rivals. Sky’s David de la Cruz avoided crashing and finished in the front GC group.
“Tao [Geoghegan Hart], Sergio [Henao], and Kwiato [Kwiatkowski] all slipped on the same corner at the same time,” said Sky director Gabriel Rasch. “Kwiato had to change his bike but luckily the guys were just behind and gave him a bike quickly. Sergio did an amazing job after that and they almost managed to close the gap to the group ahead. It could have been worse.”
Others narrowly avoided costly setbacks. Nairo Quintana punctured but finished safely in the GC group after swapping bikes with a Movistar teammate. None of the Movistar riders crashed as Alejandro Valverde sprinted to third on the stage and climbed into second overall.
“The asphalt was really bad. On one of the descents, it was bad and then it was better, and some took risks and there was a crash,” Valverde said. “We were already warned it was going to be complicated, but it was harder than expected. The most important thing was to survive without any setbacks or crashes. It’s a shame to see a rider like Kwiatkowski lose time for a crash.”
The final 20km seemed to catch riders off-guard. The stage turned off relatively wide and well-surfaced roads onto a narrower route back toward the finish line. The road book showed little more than a rise, but the last climb and descent were on tight roads with gravel and uneven surfaces.
“It would have been nice if they swept the road,” said Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates). “It was really, really bad roads. We were on nice wide roads all day and then they throw us on this for the last 15km; it was just chaos. It’s nice for television but it’s not nice to ride on. I just hope the guys who suffered mechanicals or crashed are OK.”
Saturday’s transition stage from Linares to Almadén ends with a rising finale ideal for Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who kicked to second Friday behind stage-winner Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale). Sunday’s summit finale at La Covatilla should help clarify the overall classification before going into Monday’s rest day.