Van Genechten wins Vuelta 7th stage, Contador crashes

PUEBLA DE SANABRIA, Spain (AP) Jonas Van Genechten of Belgium sprinted to win the Spanish Vuelta's seventh stage on Friday after Alberto Contador crashed near the finish line.

Contador's front wheel caught on another bike in a tight pack making a turn, sending him and other riders into the temporary barrier marking the course's final kilometer. Contador was quickly back on his bike but had several visible scratches and tears to his jersey as he slowly pedaled across the line.

The seven-time grand tour winner, including three Vuelta titles, said his Tinkoff team would assess his health on Saturday morning.

''I was hit by someone that likes braking a lot and crashed on my left side,'' Contador said. ''I took a big hit on my calf and my quad, and in general I have extensive superficial wounds on the entire left side of my body. It hurts a lot but it seems that there's nothing broken.''

Colombian Darwin Atapuma held onto the overall lead of the grand tour, although Alejandro Valverde did chip into his advantage after picking up four bonus seconds for finishing third.

Van Genechten, 29, beat a group of sprinters to claim the 158.5-kilometer (98-mile) stage over three category-three climbs from Maceda to Puebla de Sanabria in 3 hours, 55 minutes, 44 seconds.

Van Genechten, who rides for IAM, called his first grand tour win the biggest victory of his career.

''At the Vuelta the chance for a win is very small, so we have to fight for every single chance,'' he said. ''This was one of my goals.''

Daniele Bennati crossed second.

The day's racing appeared relatively calm compared to the frantic sixth stage. That was until two-thirds of the way through when Astana charged to the front and set a punishing pace for over 20 kilometers that fractured the peloton.

Astana then launched Luis Leon Sanchez on a breakaway, and the Spaniard put on an impressive run with Simon Clarke tagging along in his wake to almost beat the peloton to the finish - only to be caught a few hundred meters (yards) from the end.

''It was a dramatic moment because we weren't expecting Astana's push, nobody was,'' Atapuma said about the attack that momentarily dropped BMC team leader Samuel Sanchez. ''We recovered from the scare and were able to arrive without problems.''

Samuel Sanchez, however, went down in the small pileup after Contador crashed. He too quickly resumed racing to complete the stage, and his BMC team said he was ''relatively unscathed.''

Atapuma leads Valverde by 24 seconds overall. Tour de France winner Chris Froome remained :32 behind, while Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves are :38 back. Contador stayed almost two minutes adrift.

Saturday's eighth stage is the first of three consecutive mountain stages, a 181.5-kilometer (112.7-mile) route from Villalpando finishing at the category-one La Camperona summit.

The three-week race ends in Madrid in Sept. 11.

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