Chaves and OBE survive crash strewn finale on stage five of La Vuelta a Espana

Thu 25 Aug 2016

Two heavy crashes disrupted the finale on stage five of the Vuelta a Espana today with Esteban Chaves hitting the tarmac before the line but fortunately escaping with minor cuts and bruises.

All other ORICA-BikeExchange riders finished the stage without serious injury but the incidents clearly disrupted the progress of Magnus Cort and Chaves as the race favourites got caught up in the chaotic battle for position.

Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quickstep) won the stage from a heavily reduced bunch after the day’s two-man breakaway was caught with less than 15kilometres to go.

Sport director Neil Stephens lamented the frantic finale but was pleased that the team made it through without serious harm.

“Wow, that was a hectic finish,” said Stephens. “You had the sprinters, the lead out men and the race favourites all fighting for position at high speed through the last two kilometres and the run in was extremely narrow and technical.”

“We are fortunate that we made it through ok, Esteban (Chaves) has lost some skin on his shoulder and suffered some bruising, but as he said – it is part of the job.

“Objectively we went into the stage with the priority being Esteban and not to lose anytime and it’s a shame for Magnus (Cort) that the finish unfolded the way it did because he didn’t get the chance to compete for the sprint."

Chaves is 38seconds back in fifth place on the general classification going into tomorrow’s hilly stage six.

How it happened:

A cloudy start to stage five saw most teams preparing for rain as the riders made their way through the neutral zone with 171.3kilometres ahead.

Sure enough the anticipated rain began to fall heavily in the first hour of racing. Two riders went clear after ten kilometres had been covered and began to develop a reasonable advantage.

Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Julien Morice (Direct-Energie) were the duo that formed the breakaway and after 75kilometres of racing had nearly seven minutes on the BMC-led peloton.

The clouds began to part with 70kilometres to go and the advantage of the front two wasmback down to the three minutes 30seconds.

Machado decided to push on alone and promptly dropped Morice with a swift acceleration as he tried to once more to increase his lead.

The gap stood at five minutes as Machado hit the base of the day's solitary categorised climb, the Puerto de Marco de Alvare, which was 11.8kilometres long at an average of 3.6%.

Trek-Segafredo, Etixx-Quickstep and Giant-Alpecin started to come together at the front of the peloton halfway up the Alvare climb with Machado now at five minutes.

An injection of speed from the peloton with 37kilometres remaining brought Machado to within two minutes, but the catch did not want to be made too soon and the bunch eased off.

Hovering between one and two minutes for the next 20kilometres Machado was finally caught with 13kilometres to go. ORICA-BikeExchange pushed through the middle of the field as the battle for position started to intensify.

The technical finish caused some chaos across the field with the narrow roads twisting and turning and inadvertently stringing out the bunch.

With two kilometres to go Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) attacked on the incline and split the finishing group but could not hold the advantage.

Two heavy crashes also disrupted the finale as Meersman went on to win the stage from a heavily reduced bunch.

Tomorrow's stage six covers 163.2kilometres from Monteforte de Lemos-Luintra to Ribeira Sacra, a mid-mountain stage that is filled with short technical climbs and the second category Alto Alenza before a technical descent to the finish.

Vuelta a Espana stage five results:

1. Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quickstep) 04:16:42
2. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) ST
3. Kevin Reza (FDJ) ST
27. Simon Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:01:02 

General classification after stage five:

1. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) 17:40:20
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:00:28
3. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 00:00:32
5. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:00:38