Nairo Quintana’s hopes of winning his second grand tour this year took a heavy blow when he crashed and lost valuable minutes in the Spanish Vuelta on Tuesday.
Taking a downhill curve too fast, the Giro d’Italia winner chose a bad line and could not pull out in time, hitting the guard rail and flipping over to slam onto the edge of the road.
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Movistar staff arrived quickly to help him back on his bike, and he managed to finish the 10th stage more than four minutes slower than winner Tony Martin.
The damage to his overall time was done, and Quintana relinquished his mangled red leader’s jersey to Alberto Contador.
The Colombian climber entered the day knowing his three-second lead would probably vanish during the time trial made for all-terrain experts, but his spill put him 3 minutes, 25 seconds off Contador and likely out of contention.
Quintana said he would likely focus on helping teammate Alejandro Valverde, who was in second place.
”My left ankle (hurts) and I also have blows all over my body, but I hope it’s nothing serious,” Quintana said. ”This is cycling. I lost some time and I might be switching to help out Alejandro so we can conquer the overall podium.”
Quintana arrived as a strong candidate to win the three-week race with both Contador and Chris Froome nursing injuries that knocked them out of the Tour de France.
And although there are 11 stages to go, Quintana has fallen behind a formidable bunch of rivals. Former winner Valverde, fellow Colombians Rigoberto Uran and Winner Anacona, former Tour winner Froome and Spaniards Joaquim Rodriguez and Samuel Sanchez are all less than two minutes behind Contador.
After negotiating the sinewy path to exit the grounds of the Santa Maria de Veruela monastery, riders faced a category-three climb before heading downhill for the rest of the stage.
Quintana had his accident just after crowning the Alto del Moncayo peak, a third of the way through the 37-kilometer (23-mile) course. He appeared to adjust his right shoe starting downhill, and picked up too much speed as the road veered to the right.
”Before the turn, I was tightening my shoe, which was a little bit loose, but I think that didn’t have an effect on my crash,” Quintana said. ”The thing is that I kept braking for quite long, but it wasn’t enough because the bike didn’t stop, and I crashed. Fortunately, I could avoid having a bigger crash and I did not hurt myself really badly.”
Froome had a close call while accelerating on a descent that Contador called deceptively difficult.
”It’s a shame Quintana fell,” Contador said. ”You had to be extra concentrated at every moment, but even then the curves jumped out at you.”