Pozzovivo out of Vuelta; Betancur slated for return

The Italian crashed during a training ride over the weekend and broke his leg

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The Vuelta a España lost one of its outsiders over the weekend when Italian Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) crashed heavily and broke his leg.

The 31-year-old climber crashed Sunday on a training ride, reportedly trying to avoid a cat, and suffered a displaced fracture in his tibula-fibula. Exams in the coming days will determine if he will need surgery.

Pozzovivo would have been a long shot for the final Vuelta podium in the Spanish tour’s deep field, but he was sixth in last year’s Vuelta. And he’s been riding with steady consistency all season, placing in the top-10 in every stage race start going into the Giro d’Italia, where he finished a career-best fifth overall.

Despite not racing since the Italian national championships in late June, the diminutive climber would have been a protagonist in the climb-heavy Vuelta. He also will miss the Vuelta a Burgos, which starts Wednesday in northern Spain.

With Pozzovivo’s exit, Ag2r will have to count on the wildly inconsistent Carlos Betancur, who has not raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.

Betancur is expected to leave Ag2r at season’s end, and it’s hard to imagine the mercurial Colombian will be in top condition to race for the win at the Vuelta. Betancur is slated to return to racing at the Burgos tour, starting Wednesday.

Betancur’s highly anticipated Tour de France debut was scuttled when he returned to his home in Colombia, citing personal problems, and then missed a return flight to Europe. His absence opened the door for Jean-Christophe Peraud to finish second overall, the best French result in the Tour since Richard Virenque was second in 1997.

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