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Peter Stuart

Riders forced to ride 6km ‘through heavy traffic and in the dark without lights’ after Vuelta TTT

Soudal-Quick Step faced dark, wet and miserable conditions

The opening team time trial at the 2023 Vuelta a España offered a dramatic start to the last Grand Tour of the season, with multiple crashes and defending Champion Remco Evenepoel calling the stage “super-dangerous”.

Amid complaints around the conditions and course itself, the arrangements for riders returning to their team buses also attracted criticism with Lotto–Dstny’s Thomas De Gendt describing a treacherous journey following the stage finish.

“We had to go back to the bus through heavy traffic and in the dark without lights. Total of 6km,” the Belgian rider explained on Twitter.

Fans at the race also shared videos of riders returning after the stage finish in complete darkness with no lights, a lapse in safety considerations that would normally land riders with fines from race organisers.

De Gendt’s comments came in reply to a critical assessment of the stage from CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés) President Adam Hansen. 

“My list of items to submit for changes is getting longer after today's TTT,” Hansen said on Twitter. “Traditionally, the Vuelta has always had these late starts to have the podium live on the news. 

“However, this was the first time with the current weather situation, creating very poor visibility...... something that was not considered before.... These riders would normally be fined, for riding in the dark without lights on. Not setting a good example to the younger generation.”

The CPA plays a role in assessing the safety of race arrangements, and Hansen met with some criticism on social media for the lack of foresight around the stage timings and conditions.

“To be honest, the first guys started in good 'raining' conditions. So, the race has started. From there, it's more the UCI and Organiser, under current ruling, has the control,” he wrote in his defence.

“CPA couldn't do much because of the situation I noted above… I also have learnt today that late start times are not a problem, only when there is heavy cloud cover.”

The stage itself saw multiple crashes and the race’s first abandon as Ineos Grenadiers’ Laurens De Plus crashed heavily during the team’s ride and left the race in an ambulance. It was later revealed that he suffered injuries to his hip.

The stage was won by Team dsm-firmenich in a result that has put Lorenzo Milesi in the race leader’s red jersey, while general classification favourites lost small margins of time in the overall standings. Remco Evenepoel’s Soudal-Quickstep team were only six seconds behind the stage winners, while Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič lost 32 seconds with Jumbo-Visma.

Stage 2 sees the riders begin in Mataró and ride to an uphill finish in Barcelona, which is likely to reorder the very top of the general classification.

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