A crash in stage four of the 15th race of the 2024 WorldTour season, Itzulia Basque Country (1-6 April), claimed numerous casualties including three high-profile team leaders – Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic…


By Rob Arnold (Photos: Sirotti)


Originally billed as a showdown between several key contenders for the 111th Tour de France (29 June-21 July) the Itzulia Basque Country boasted an impressive line-up when it began on Monday. The race started with a few strange happenings and, on day four, a mass crash has potentially thrown season-long plans into disarray.

Primoz Roglic took a wrong turn in the opening TT but still claimed victory and the yellow leader’s jersey. Remco Evenepoel crashed in stage one, wounding pride more than anything else. And the defending champion Jonas Vingegaard took fifth place, 15 seconds behind his former team-mate on April Fools Day.

The peloton waits for the restart of stage four of Itzulia Basque Country after a dramatic crash around 30km from the finish.

It was an odd beginning but the race seemed to be shaping up as a good gauge of form during spring for the key candidates for the bigger races to come in summer.

For Australian fans there was something to celebrate early, with Jay Vine finishing second to Roglic (at 0:07) in the stage one time trial. The 28-year-old sustained a fractured vertebrae and UAE Team Emirates is monitoring his condition after the crash.

Jay Vine suffered a heavy crash today during the race and sustained a cervical and two thoracic spine vertebral body fractures,” explained UAE’s medical director, Adriano Rotunno.

“Thankfully [there is] no neurological involvement,” read the team’s statement on X. “There are no other major injuries or head trauma. Jay will stay in hospital for neurological observation. We await spinal orthopaedic assessment and further management.”

Jay Vine, 2nd in the opening TT of Itzulia Basque Country, was one of 11 riders forced to abandon the race after the crash in stage four.

Meanwhile, the depth of Danish cycling was highlighted by Matthias Skjelmose’s third place in Irun. The climber, we learned, can also manage a decent TT.

On day four the mood changed dramatically when a major crash obliterated the peloton around 30km from the finish of the 157km fourth stage from Etxarri Aranatz to Legutio.

The defending champion Jonas Vingegaard won his first two races of the 2024 season, Gran Camiño in February and Tirreno-Adriatico in March, but he now has a broken collarbone and fractured ribs…

Vingegaard and Vine left the race in an ambulance, the 2023 champion later diagnosed with “a broken collarbone and several broken ribs” as later confirmed by his Jumbo-Lease A Bike team.

The race leader, Roglic, was also forced to abandon the Itzulia Basque Country along with Evenepoel, his closest GC rival after three days of racing.

Much has changed because of the crash, with a total of 11 riders denoted by a DNF on a day when the race organisers were forced to “cancel the Untzilla mountain pass and neutralise the route until the town of Aretxabaleta”.

“The fall happened on a high-speed curve where the riders involved exited the outside of the curve of the road, landing and hitting several rocks and other elements,” reads the summary on the Itzulia Basque Country site. “The race was stopped as medics and ambulances attended to the many injured.”

Eventually racing resumed but only for stage honours – to be contested by the six riders who had been on the attack before the crash, as the general classification contest was also neutralised by commissaires.

Louis Meintjes, already the leader of the mountain classification after stage three, claimed the stage win at Legutio ahead of one of Groupama-FDJ Kiwi recruits, Reuben Thompson… but there was little mood for celebration as race organisers and teams began tending to the injured while considering the broader implications of an accident that has the potential to change the nature of the 2024 season.

Skjelmose escaped harm in the crash and the 23-year-old from Lidl-Trek inherited the lead of GC from Roglic. The Danish champion took hold of the yellow jersey on the podium but didn’t put it on, out of respect for the Slovenian from Bora-Hansgrohe who won the title of the Basque race in 2018 and 2021.

It wasn’t at all how Skjelmose wanted to take the lead.

“Today is a really sad day,” says Skjelmose on his team site. “My thoughts are just for all the guys that crashed today, starting from my team-mate Natnael [Tesfazion]. I wish them all the best and a fast recovery.

“I’m now the leader of the race, but of course there’s nothing to celebrate today. It’s hard to speak or even think about the competition in days like this. I’m really not thinking about the leader jersey now.”

The Danish champion, Matthias Skjelmose, arrives at the finish of stage four… the new race leader, again in circumstances he’d surely rather forget.

Going on current form it seems likely that Skjelmose – who now leads GC with a slim advantage of four seconds over Juan Ayuso of UEA Team Emirates – is in contention for his second WorldTour stage race win, but again it’s due to unfortunate circumstances.

The Dane’s other GC victory is from the Tour de Suisse of 2023 when Ayuso was also runner-up… Skjelmose took the lead of that race after stage five, on the same day that a crash claimed the life of Gino Mäder.

The unfortunate circumstances of Skjelmose’s podium appearances are a reminder of the brutality of cycling, a sport where accidents are common and impact many, even those who haven’t been injured.

“Everything happened very fast and suddenly. Natnael crashed in front of me, I feel lucky I was not involved.

“The road was really bumpy, we were all fighting for position and unfortunately the peloton came to that turn a bit too fast. When the first rider crashed, the others just followed. They were really unlucky and it’s not anyone’s fault.”

Remco Evenepoel was 2nd on GC after stage three. He is out of the race after crashing with around 30km to go in stage four.

There are 85 days to go before the start of the Tour de France in Florence (29 June). The defending champion, Vingegaard, has fractures to mend. The reigning Giro d’Italia champion, Roglic, also has injuries after surrendering his yellow jersey in the Basque country. And another TDF title contender, Evenepoel will need to assess the damage from stage four before deciding on his next move.

Shortly after the crash Soudal-Quickstep provided an update on Evenepoel, and the news isn’t good.

“The Belgian Champion suffered a fracture to his right collarbone and his right scapula,” reads part of the brief team statement.

“Remco will travel to Belgium on Friday, where he will undergo an operation on his collarbone, and further examination, at the hospital in Herentals.”

Roglic won the opening TT and wore the yellow jersey until crashing out in stage four.

Three of the five riders who were at the top of the GC standings in Itzulia Basque Country are part of the significant casualty list, two with a fractured collarbone. There’s a new race leader and a sombre mood after misfortune changed the nature of the race, and potentially larger objectives later in the season.

The crash might not have been “anyone’s fault” but the ramifications are considerable.

A lot can happen in 85 days. There is time for recuperation but it’s not ideal preparation for several riders who have the Tour de France as their main objective of the year.



– By Rob Arnold