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Expectations were high for Steven Kruijswijk to vie for the overall in Spain at the Vuelta, but as was the case in May’s Giro d’Italia, his GC hopes ended with a crash. This time, instead of a snowbank, the Dutchman crashed into an exposed metal traffic bollard on the side of the road with about 2km to go in stage 5. His LottoNL – Jumbo team announced that he’d broken a collarbone.
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“My ribs and collarbone hurt a lot,” he said. “I crashed heavily into that pole. It’s terrible that I have to leave this race because of an object that shouldn’t have been there. I’m going home immediately tomorrow. This was, after the Giro d’Italia, my second big target and I’m really fed up about the way I’m leaving this Vuelta.”
The incident is eerily similar to the crash involving Peter Stetina during the 2015 Tour of the Basque Country, where a metal post used to control parking along Spanish streets was left unmarked in the final sprint to the finish line. The American suffered a traumatic knee injury.
A LottoNL team official said he did not believe that race organizers had padded the pole, which seems true, based on footage from the race.
Vuelta organizers issued a statement after the stage expressing the race’s “deepest regret for what happened.” The statement also said, “An internal investigation has been opened to determine why there were no warnings or signposts, as originally planned, to alert riders about the obstacle that finally provoked the accident.”
Unfortunately for Kruijswijik and his Dutch team, the 29-year-old was starting to come around in stage 4, after losing time in the overall on stage 3‘s steep uphill finish. “I felt better than yesterday,” Kruijswijk said Tuesday. “That’s a positive thing. I didn’t expect to stay with the best today, but it wasn’t bad at all. If I keep on improving like this, I might be able to reach the level I aimed for in this Vuelta.”
For now, Dutch fans will have to wait until next May and the Giro d’Italia, to see if one of their countrymen can win their first grand tour overall since Joop Zotemelk claimed the Tour’s yellow jersey in 1980.
Kruijswijk, however, struck an optimistic tone on Twitter later Wednesday.