The Spaniard, who was fighting for a top 10 overall, crashed on the final descent and was taken to the hospital.
Angliru – one of that special places in cycling where hell breaks loose – was covered in mist and rain Saturday at noon, when the Vuelta a España riders rolled out from Corvera de Asturias for the last important day of this edition. Alto de la Cobertoria, Alto del Cortal and Angliru were the three difficulties sprinkled over the route, for the first time in nearly two decades that they featured in this succession on the course of a stage, but the peloton had to pay special attention also to the slippery roads, especially in the downhills, which were very tricky and technical, making everything even more stressful.
It was on such a downhill, the last of the day, that David De La Cruz crashed badly and retired from the race, 24 hours before Madrid, where he was hoping to complete his second Vuelta a España in the top 10. The incident, which occurred just a few kilometers from the bottom of Angliru, saw the 28-year-old being taken to the hospital, where fortunately the scan didn't reveal any injuries, just some abrasions on his right shoulder, elbow and hip.
Another Spanish rider of Quick-Step Floors, Enric Mas, showed again his huge potential, with a ride arguably even more impressive than the one on stage 6, when he took third from the escape. This time, the 22-year-old neo-pro went into the break which fought hard to get a gap on the peloton and survived until the grueling ramps of Angliru (12.5km, 9.8%), where he was caught by the Trek-Segafredo duo of Alberto Contador and Jarlinson Pantano.
As Contador kept pushing, Enric matched the tempo of his fellow countryman and even traded turns on the punishing ramps of the HC climb, managing to stay with the multiple Grand Tour winner until the final four kilometers of the stage, where Contador took off on his way to claiming the stage victory. Eventually, Mas concluded the day in 17th place, but more importantly, he was rewarded for his splendid display of power, determination and outstanding effort with the most aggressive rider of the stage trophy, the second he takes home after the one in Sagunt.
"I went into the break to help David later in the stage, but the plan changed when he crashed. It's such a pity this happened, it's tough to abandon a Grand Tour on the penultimate day, especially as he was fighting for a good result in the general classification", said Enric Mas at the top of the Angliru. "So, when I got the news, I decided to go for the stage win and when Contador bridged over I worked with him hoping to go all the way, but I didn't have enough power to stay there at the front. But I'm happy, happy for this experience which I'm sure will help me in the future, and for the fact I could be there on the day Alberto – who was one of my mentors in cycling – bowed out from the sport."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele