Crash takes Mezgec out of La Vuelta on stage 14Sat 7 Sep 2019
After a perfectly ridden day by his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates, Slovenian Luka Mezgec is unfortunately out of La Vuelta a Espana having been caught up in a large crash in the final kilometre of stage 14.
The sprinter went down hard under the flamme rouge, with subsequent medical scans revealing the 31-year-old has a fracture to the iliac crest of his right hip.
Thankfully, Mezgec has avoided any damage near the joint and therefore doesn’t need surgery. He will be required to lay down for a period to be determined by recovery.
After taking a long time for the breakaway to establish in the previous two days, stage 14 saw a group of six riders escape the peloton in the early kilometres. The sprint teams then quickly moved to the head of bunch with the day set for a rare opportunity for the sprinters.
The gap was held at around 1’30” for the majority of the stage with Mitchelton-SCOTT assisting the sprint teams keen to keep the attackers on a tight leash. The gap briefly went up to over two minutes as the race reached 55-kilometres to go, but the bunch appeared to have everything under control.
An injection of pace in the pack saw the gap tumble to 1’20” with Australian Nick Schultz giving a turn on the front of the peloton before teammate Tsgabu Grmay took over on the climb as Mitchelton-SCOTT looked to put the pure sprinters into difficulty.
The increase in tempo halved the gap by the time the bunch hit the descent with the pack lined out as the sprinter’s teams took over the chase again. Damien Howson then moved to the head of the field with 6.5kilometres to go as the breakaway moved into sight.
The five leaders were eventually swallowed up with four-kilometres to go as Kiwi Dion Smith began to guide Mezgec into position. But disaster struck under the flamme rouge when the Slovenian fast man was caught up in a huge crash that took down 15 riders and held up the majority of the peloton.
Just a handful of riders managed to avoid the melee with Sam Bennett (BORA-Hansgrohe) going on to take the stage win.
Julian Dean – Sport director:
“Although the final kilometre wasn’t ideal, it was actually an awesome day. The boys did really well, we had a plan from the start, we wanted to control from the start and just let a small group go away.
“Then we shared the load between our riders and saved the guys like (Sam) Bewley and Dion to help Luka get a stage win.
“Cycling is a funny sport. If you’d got 100km, it can all go perfectly for 99.5 of them, and in the last 500m it can come unstuck. That’s just the nature of our sport.
“In Grand Tours, you’ve just got to try to move on from this stuff. We know Luka is alright, but we’ve got to move on and we’re sure Luka would want nothing more than the boys to move on and try to do something in the next few days.”
Matteo Beltemacchi – Team Doctor:
"Luka has fractured the iliac crest on his right hip. Thankfully he has avoided damage on the joint so it’s not considered a bad fracture.
“He will not need surgery, but will need to spend a period of time laying down, normally between one and three weeks depending on the speed of his recovery. He will not be required to spend this period in hospital, so we will transfer him home via ambulance.”
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.