Up-and-coming German sprinter Marcel Kittel’s first victory in a Grand Tour was overshadowed by a mass pileup in the final kilometer of the Vuelta a Espana’s 182.9km seventh stage on Friday.
Italians Vincenzo Nibali, last year’s race winner, and Michele Scarponi, Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez and Belgian Juergen Van Den Broeck fell in a crash caused when American Tyler Farrar collided with fellow sprinter Michal Golas of Poland.
One of the worst affected was this year’s Tour de France stage winner Farrar. He was unable to put any weight on his left foot and pedaled with one leg as he crossed the line.
He then clutched his left hip and needed to be held up by two Garmin-Cervelo teammates as he limped to a waiting ambulance.
Most of the riders involved suffered minor injuries, but Scarponi shouted in pain when doctors attempted to touch his left ankle, while Nibali had a nasty scrape on his left thigh.
Overall leader Sylvain Chavanel of France and 22nd-placed Briton Bradley Wiggins were two overall contenders not affected by the crash which took place so close to the line all those involved were awarded the same time.
Skil-Shimano rider Kittel said he was too far ahead in the bunch to even hear the crash as he powered to his 13th victory of the season, ahead of Slovakian Peter Sagan and Spain’s Oscar Freire.
“I only found out about the crash when I crossed the line,” first-year professional Kittel, 23, told reporters. “The team worked 120 percent for me to get this win. Winning in a Grand Tour is very different. This is much harder and more complicated than any of my previous victories but that makes it feel even better.”
The winner of Berlin’s top one-day classic and four stages on the Tour of Poland, Kittel’s total of 13 victories is only bettered by Philippe Gilbert of Belgium (16).
The German’s next opportunity for a sprint triumph will probably be stage 12 to Pontevedra, following three mountain stages and an individual time trial in Salamanca.
The eighth stage’s 177.3km trek across the sierras west of Madrid includes two second category and one first category climb and ends with a steep uphill finish in San Lorenzo De El Escorial.