Vuelta a Espana

The Shot: Belgian “grinta” in the Spanish Vuelta

BrakeThrough Media captures the grit and toughness a pro cyclist needs to carry on racing after a scary, bloody crash at the Vuelta a Espana.

The Shot: 2016 Vuelta a España, stage 6, Monforte de Lemos to Luintra Ribeira Sacra, 163.2km

Crashes happen … They are a part of bike racing day in and day out. On stage 6 of this year’s Vuelta a España, there were more than a few out on the twisty, technical, up and down course in the searing summer heat of Spain. The stage was won in solo fashion by Simon Yates with the favorites finishing just 29 seconds after the Brit.

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Lotto – Soudal team leader Bart De Clercq crashed heavily from the favorites group with eight kilometers to go, unbeknownst to me as I was already in position on the finish line — there were no big-screens in our field of vision while we stood there awaiting the race.

Yates took the win followed closely by the remnants of his breakaway companions with the GC favorites at just under half a minute behind. I stayed on the finish line to continue shooting the arrival of hot and weary riders.

One Lotto – Soudal rider approached the line alone, and I instantly noticed the stream of blood running down his leg as he crossed the line … nothing new, nothing I haven’t shot a million times before. As I put down my telephoto lens, I looked up and saw the extent of the injuries and the fact that Bart De Clercq was about to collapse at my feet. After a quick survey of the deep lacerations to his arm and the loss of blood, I knew this was serious.

I was the only photographer around and given what I could see, this was more than just routine road rash. I stepped back to give room to his team soigneur and to allow medical staff to arrive and treat him as needed. That said, I started shooting — albeit guardedly and respectfully — focusing on his state and what was happening around him. Therein lies the story of Bart and his crash — what didn’t happen. As I moved cautiously around him to document his wounds and his condition it was apparent to me and his soigneur, along with a growing possé of photographers, that no one from the medical staff or ambulances on site were coming to his aid.

I witnessed the severity of his right arm trauma and immediately observed the pain and shock set in and the grimace and tears and screams take over as Bart started to succumb to the pain of his trauma.

It took over 11 minutes for emergency medical staff to attend to Bart. He was left on the finish straight in limbo, in a surreal bubble, but through it all he showed good old fashioned grinta — the hardened toughness that makes Belgian riders what they are in the worst of conditions.

Bart De Clercq later described his effort to reach the finish line after his crash, “Full on adrenaline, I continued the race.” There must have been little of this adrenaline left as he bit into his lower lip against the pain and exhibited a heroic sportsmanship.

After all was said and done, it should be noted that Bart finished the stage only 29 seconds behind the favorites with injuries that would make a normal athlete throw in the towel. And to top is off, he started the next morning with more than just a few stitches to carry with him as the Vuelta hit the rest day here in Austurias.

Key image specs:
Canon 1DX
Canon 35mm f1.4L II USM
Focal Length: 35mm
1/250 sec @ f/2.2 ISO 100
File format: RAW