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Ups and downs for Astana on Friday as Sanchez crashes

Friday was a good day for Astana — its Italian champ Vincenzo Nibali rode into the overall lead at Tour of Oman with a stage 4 win — but it was also a bad day, as Volta ao Algarve leader Luís León Sánchez crashed out of the stage 3 time trial, leaving the Kazakhstan team without its ace climber in Portugal.

“It was a windy day and the race route was quite open just up on the sea,” said Astana sport director Alexandr Shefer. “When we arrived to the roundabout, close to the lighthouse, a gust of wind, while Sánchez was turning on an irregular path, caused his fall.

“Unfortunately he collided with the ground, cutting his chin and losing some blood. For this reason he was forced to abandon the race.”

Prior to the crash, at the 11.2km intermediate split, Sánchez was sitting in sixth, 22 seconds behind Tony Martin’s fastest time.

Astana says that Sánchez is in OK condition at a nearby hospital. The Spaniard’s departure leaves the reins of the team to Fabio Aru, who sits 17th overall, 1:42 behind new race leader Martin with two days of racing left. Since Saturday favors a bunch finish, Aru will have to try his luck on the fifth and final stage, which features an uphill finish on Alto do Malhão. Aru was 10th in stage 2’s uphill finish.