The 2023 Vuelta a España was hit by a second straight stage of chaos, crashes, and appalling weather on Sunday, but with the key difference that a significant proportion of riders and organisers largely agreed on measures needed to be taken to at least limit the damage.
On Saturday as rain and encroaching darkness turned the opening team time trial into what some viewed as a perilous near-farce, GC riders took matters into their own hands and opted to race as steadily as possible through the streets of Barcelona.
On Sunday on the other hand, when faced with yet more atrocious weather conditions, riders and organisers agreed for a partial suspension of the final part of the stage for the GC favourites through the twisting last nine kilometres in Montjuic Park.
This agreement wrecked the opportunity to see the favourites battling on the ultra-steep cat. 3 climb that constituted the main challenge in the last part of the 181-kilometre stage.
But it also allowed those wanting to fight for the day’s win to stay ahead and the GC contenders to concentrate on staying upright and stay safe for the upcoming overall battle – which starts as soon as Monday on the first summit finish of the race at Andorra.
This agreement did not stop the welter of crashes that ripped through the peloton in the last 70 kilometres either. Several of the main favourites, notably Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), waved at riders to slow down when Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) crashed at one roundabout, but there were multiple other fallers.
Roglič could get back in the main peloton, but race leader Lorenzo Milesi (dsm-firmenich), who also crashed badly, losing all hope of keeping the red jersey, was one notable victim, whilst his young British teammate Oscar Onley abandoned.
Amidst the fog of uncertainty that descended on a race where a large percentage of the peloton was – literally – going through the motions, some surreal situations arose.
Amongst them was the sight of all the main favourites soft-pedalling through the last 10 kilometres to the finish, minutes after a much smaller group of riders had gone through the same points, battling hard for the day’s win and honours. But the unofficial prize for Vuelta weirdness had to be when race commissaires resorted to asking roadside fans for their phone video footage of the first riders to cross the Montjuic climb to try and establish who had snapped up the time bonuses, which – inexplicably -…