Jayco-AlUla entered the Vuelta a España with every reason to hope that they could deliver a solid performance on the overall while also chasing stages, though both ambitions have been hit hard with team leader Eddie Dunbar and Giro d’Italia stage winner Filippo Zana abandoning on stage 5.
It has been a tough tour for the Australian team right from the wet and dark opening team time trial when nearly the entire squad came down on a slippery corner. For Dunbar, who finished seventh overall at this year’s Giro d’Italia, that initial tumble had consequences, with his initial exacerbated further by another fall on stage 5.
“Eddie was already suffering some soreness from the crashes during the TTT on stage one and with the crash today, the impact was in a similar area to the first stage, so it was impossible for him to push, impossible for him to pedal,” said Jayco-AlUla team doctor Dani Castillo.
Jayco-AlUla said his x-ray didn’t show any bone injury, with rest and treatment what was required to recover from his crashes, the last coming before the flag had even dropped to signal the end of the neutral zone on stage 5.
“I don’t know what happened really,” said Dunbar in a team video. “ Just went round the corner and my two wheels went and that was it, game over. Three crashes in five days isn’t a good recipe to have a good Grand Tour I guess but I’ll go home, recover a bit and there is still some racing left.”
It wasn’t crashes that spelt the end of Zana’s time at the Vuelta, but was instead illness that ended the tour for the Italian rider, who on stage 18 at the Giro d’Italia delivered the team its lone Grant Tour stage victory so far of the season.
“For Filippo, he started to feel some stomach issues yesterday, we did a Covid test and it was negative,” said team doctor Castillo. “It seems like a gastrointestinal virus and he was really empty today, he tried to do his best but mid-stage he had no energy to keep riding.”
That means the Australian team is down two of its most powerful contenders in what is a young squad, with three of the riders making their Grand Tour debut.
“It’s a big loss for the team losing these two guys, especially for what is coming up in the next two weeks,” sport director Pieter Weening said of the abandons of Dunbar and Zana.
Jayco AlUla will now be facing the remaining 16 stages with six riders – from 2022 Giro d’Italia stage winner Matteo Sobrero to first-timers Felix Engelhardt, Jan Maas and Hagos Welay Berhe plus the more experienced Vuelta riders of the team, Michael Hepburn and Callum Scotson.
“We will need to adjust our plan a little bit, but we are still here with young riders that can learn a lot and for sure this Vuelta is not over yet for us,” added Weening.