Kaden Groves has been left frustrated after a crash ruined his latest chance of winning a hat-trick of stages at La Vuelta a Espana - but the Australian was relieved to escape unscathed to home in on a historic points classification title at the Spanish Grand Tour.
Queenslander Groves, who showed himself to be comfortably the fastest man in the race with his double in the first week, looked well set for another win when he came down in a clash of wheels in the sprint denouement to the flat 177.5km 19th stage between La Baneza and Iscar.
Luckily, the 24-year-old didn't hit the deck, managing somewhat extraordinarily to land on his feet amid the high-speed finish that brought down four riders.
With his fortunate escape and having added another 17 points to his lead in the points competition by finishing second in an intermediate sprint, Groves was left contemplating a successful day as his grip on the green jersey is now even stronger as he leads second-placed Remco Evenepoel by 53 points.
"One and a half kilometres to go, maybe just before, I don't really know what happened with the crash but I had to stop and jump off my bike, so was unable to sprint," reported Groves.
"But no injuries, I'll need to watch it back, but I was super lucky I ended up unclipping and running off the bike almost. I was feeling good, so all in all, I'd say unlucky in the finish."
With two stages left as the race ends in Madrid this weekend, Groves now seems sure to become the first Australian ever to win the green jersey at a Vuelta, a terrific achievement for the Alpecin–Deceuninck rider.
But after he missed out, the day belonged to Alberto Dainese (Team DSM-Firmenich), who avoided the crash to sprint to victory.
American Sepp Kuss, of Jumbo-Visma, finished safely in the peloton to retain the overall lead and move ever closer to a surprise overall triumph
Filippo Ganna opened up the final sprint, but his Italian compatriot Dainese timed his sprint to perfection to edge out the time trialling maestro.
Kuss was all smiles as he retained the red jersey, leading teammates Jonas Vingegaard (17 seconds) and Slovenian Primoz Roglic (68 seconds).
"These stages are more stressful now because normally I sit at the back and go to the finish line, but now there's a bit more to lose," Kuss said with a laugh.
"Luckily I stayed out of trouble."