Alberto Contador rolled calmly across the line a minute behind stage winner Michael Matthews (Sunweb) after he couldn't avoid a late crash with 700 meters remaining in the opening day of Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).
It was an uneventful race held under sunny skies and the day's escape numbering only three. With the breakaway easily controlled, the bunch headed toward a fast finish, and when the race turned onto a narrow and undulating road for a few kilometers, the team needed to be extra attentive.
Trek-Segafredo protected Alberto without incident through the tricky parcours and back onto the main highway two kilometers from the finish.
Safely within the three-kilometer protective ruling, Contador only needed to avoid time gaps in the chaotic sprint when he crashed with two riders.
"It was in the last 700 meters," explained Contador. "Two riders went straight, and I had no choice but to go (out of the road) with them. Luckily, we fell on the grass and so without a problem because it was a crash that could have been hard.
"I was not worried about the GC because it happened in the last kilometer, and that's why I took it calmly to the finish. Thankfully, the stage has ended well, and we were saved from a major disaster."
Four-time winner of the Vuelta al País Vasco, Alberto Contador will aim for a fifth victory this week, which would set a new record. The next stages have plenty of hills, but it will be the queen stage Friday and a decisive 27.7-kilometer time trial the final day that will more than likely determine the victor.