Samuel Sánchez and his team-mates emerged unscathed from the massive pile-up that wreaked havoc in the peloton in the final 1000 metres of the Giro d'Italia's fifth stage on Wednesday.
Just when the sprinters were preparing to rev up their engines and sprint for glory in Matera, a 90-degree bend on slippery tarmac took down a whole bunch of riders. Argos-Shimano's John Degenkolb just about escaped the carnage to take his very first Giro win, while most of the overall contenders came through unhurt and with their pre-race goals intact - Sánchez thus remains in 19th place overall.
One Euskaltel rider who didn't make it to the line, though, was Pablo Urtasun. The combative veteran decided enough was enough after struggling with the after-effects of his stage 1-crash, abandoning the race early in today's proceedings.
"It's a shame to quit a race I've been preparing for with the utmost motivation", he says. "I've worked a lot to get here in top shape, but the sacrifices that I've made won't pay off. I won't get to see the results of the work I've laid down.
"It's a big let-down. I'm feeling flat. I took the start today as abandoning was the last thing on my mind, but it reached the stage where I couldn't pedal anymore. It's a shame for both me and the team".
Urtasun has suffered from pain in his knee, elbow and hip, but as of yet a timescale on his recovery has not been set.
In a long day of racing, the Euskaltel riders were once again up for a fight. First it was Ricardo Mestre's turn to waive the team's flag by joining the break of the day, before Robert Vrecer jumped with Ag2r's Ben Gastauer in the closing stages of the race in an attempt to scupper the plans of the teams looking for a sprint finish.
Vrecer and Gastauer were eventually joined by noted breakaway specialist Lars Ytting Bak of Lotto-Belisol, but the trio were never afforded much leeway and were relatively quickly brought to a halt.
In the end, five of the eight riders in orange still in the race came in with the first group.
Results (full results here):
- (1, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), 4:37:48)
- 53, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
- 78, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
- 79, Robert Vrecer, s.t.
- 81, Samuel Sánchez, s.t.
- 82, Gorka Verdugo, s.t.
- 130, Ioannis Tamouridis, 6:37
- 159, Ricardo Mestre, 12:40
- 183, Miguel Mínguez, s.t.
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi