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Lost in the controversial exclusion of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) from the Vuelta a España were a wave of important comebacks for a handful of top European pros.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who both crashed out in the Tour de France, were back in the saddle at the Vuelta. In Sunday’s Vattenfall Cyclassics, BMC Racing’s highly touted Stefan Küng saddled up for the first time since his horrific crash at the Giro d’Italia, along with Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step), who also crashed out at the Tour.
Here’s a look at how things went:
Dumoulin back from dislocated shoulder
Things went best for Dumoulin, who rode to a surprising second in the opening climbing stage at the Spanish grand tour behind Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge).
“It took me two weeks to recover after my crash in the Tour,” Dumoulin said. “From that moment, I was determined to come back even stronger. I worked really hard for this, and I am delighted that it worked out so well.”
Dumoulin dislocated his left shoulder in the same stage 3 Tour de France pileup on the road to the Mur de Huy that also saw yellow jersey Cancellara crash out in one of the inevitable crashes of the first week of the Tour.
Cancellara: Struggling with bad stomach
Things didn’t go so well Sunday for Cancellara, who suffered through the day with a bad stomach, finishing penultimate in the stage nearly 30 minutes off the pace. Cancellara, who crashed out of the Tour with a back injury similar to what took him out of the spring classics, is “day to day” going into these next few days at the Vuelta.
“Fabian can barely eat, and it was a fight of survival,” said Trek sport director Dirk Demol. “We’ll have to take it day to day. He had a fever before coming here, and he’s had many days without racing.”
Martin: Ready for TT test this week
In Germany, Martin returned to competition after crashing in stage 6 at the Tour, breaking his shoulder and not starting the next day. After finishing the Vattenfall one-day race Sunday, he will race Tuesday in the Tour de Poitou Charente, which features an important time trial test for the three-time world champion ahead of next month’s world championships in Virginia.
Kung: Swiss hope back in saddle
Also in Germany, Küng returned following his compression fracture of his T9 vertebrae when he crashed with two others on May 21, the same day teammate Philippe Gilbert won stage 12.
Many believe the 21-year-old Swiss rider can develop into a GC rider. Already the reigning world individual pursuit champion, he was a stage winner at the Tour de Romandie and the Volta Limburg Classic earlier this year.
“Rehabilitation and re-building training went well, or even perfectly. I am looking forward to the end of season,” Küng said. “I want to thank everybody who helped me on my way back. I had amazing support from family, friends, doctors, physio-therapists, and from the team. Everyone contributed to my fast return.”
Küng’s crash, coupled with another involving BMC’s Peter Stetina, prompted BMC Racing’s general manager Jim Ochowicz to promote the controversial idea of reducing the size of the peloton by limiting the number of wild-card invitations to major, UCI WorldTour races.
Other riders returning to action over the weekend were Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey, who also crashed out of the Tour in July after being involved in the stage 3 high-speed crash.