MANON, Spain – Jesus Herrada of Spain took the overall lead of the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday, as Alexandre Geniez won a 12th stage marked by a post-race crash.
Geniez dominated the final sprint to clinch the victory after a 112.5-mile ride from Mondonedo to Estaca de Bares, the northernmost point in Spain.
The Frenchman crossed the line ahead of Dylan Van Baarle and Mark Padun for his third career stage win at the race.
“I had to be careful when the attacks started,” Geniez said. “I wanted to wait for the sprint because I figured it was my best chance.”
Geniez collided with a race organizer who could not get out of the way a few meters after the finish line. Van Baarle also could not avoid contact and fell over the man. No one was seriously injured in the crash, which prompted a complaint by the association of professional riders.
“This lack of attention from the organizers demonstrates a total lack of respect towards us that have worked hard to improve the safety at the races and a total lack of consideration towards the riders,” association president Gianni Bugno said. “We are no longer willing to accept post apologies for foreseeable accidents. The organizers must do their duty and must be penalized if they do not comply with the regulations. We are very disappointed by this latest lack of attention towards the riders and toward all the work we have been doing for months.”
Meanwhile, Durango’s Sepp Kuss finished 40th on the 12th stage. He finished 11:39 behind Geniez. The 23-year-old Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider remained in 38th place overall and is 19:15 behind the lead time.
Herrada was among the riders who made up a lot of time in the hilly stage, enough to give him the leader’s red jersey. He started nearly six minutes off the lead and now has an advantage of more than three minutes over former front-runner Simon Yates.
“One of the goals was to try and win some minutes. I already had this in my mind for a few days,” the 28-year-old Herrada said. “I was mainly thinking about the stage win but since I couldn’t get it the red jersey was a secondary goal and I’m very happy in the end. I couldn’t fight for the victory because it was a very strong breakaway. Now we’ll try to keep the jersey as long as possible. Madrid is still far and we’ll have to go day-by-day. The third week is very hard.”
Alejandro Valverde remained one second behind Yates, with Nairo Quintana still close behind. They all finished in the peloton, which crossed the line almost 10 minutes off the pace.
Herrada is the first Spanish rider to wear the red jersey since 2016.
The difficulty starts to pick up in Friday’s 13th stage, a 108.6 mile mountain route from Carreno to Sabero.