By Susan Westemeyer
"On the road today, things all of a sudden looked like Dancing on Ice," said Rabobank's Leon Van Bon in regards to the massive crashes the Giro's stage four. "I believe that some fifty guys fell down behind me on some cobblestones all of a sudden. That was a really horrible sound, yuck." Writing on his team's website, rabobank.nl, he noted that "It was funny to see how easy it was to spot the cyclist that had fallen. Their pants were all really dirty."
The most prominent victim was World Champion Paolo Bettini. According to qsi-cycling.com, he "bruised the left side of his chest near to his rib cage." Teammates Hubert Schwab, Addy Engels, Leonardo Scarselli and Jurgen Van de Walle also joined him on the pavement. Van de Walle was the only other one injured, coming away with a bruised right hip. Both Quickstep riders are expected to start today, "as long as their condition doesn't deteriorate overnight."
Those who were involved in the crash didn't find it quite as funny as Van Bon did. Milram's Christian Knees said that the rainfall that started during the stage was at first was welcome as it cooled the riders down on a hot day.
"But at the same time, we instantly noted that the road was becoming very slick," recalled Knees. And then the inevitable happened. "Going into a village, about 100 riders crashed. All independent of each other. I've never seen anything like it." Writing on rad-net.de, he continued, "At first I thought I would be OK and made my way for about 30 metres. But then I crashed, too. Fortunately nothing happened. Except for Alessandro [Petacchi] we all went down."
Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster was also involved, and also saw it coming, more or less. "There were some individual crashes, but I didn't really notice why they happened." Then he noticed how slick the road was, and "I thought, it's only a matter of time."
Sure enough, "I didn't need to wait long. Suddenly the whole field laid on the road in front of me, probably 100 riders. I could have avoided crashing; I was able to brake -- when someone ploughed into me from behind. Now I have a lovely impression of a chain ring on my calf," he noted on radsportnews.net.
Among those who went down were Förster's teammates Davide Rebellin, Oscar Gatto, Oliver Zaugg and Tim Klinger (again).
Klinger is rapidly developing a more intimate relationship with the Italian infrastructure than he might wish. After crashing in stages one and two, he spared himself that in stage three. To make up for that oversight, he crashed twice in stage four.
"The first crash happened on a descent shortly before a left curve. It had begun to drizzle. Thomas Fothen warned me about it and said that we should move up in order to avoid any possible crashes. I didn't get to do that, because it had already happened. When I braked for the curve, I slid away on the slick road surface and hit the road -- naturally, again on my right side where I had already hurt my elbow, knee and hip," he said on radsport-aktiv.de.
He did manage to avoid the mass crash, though, but he paid for that luck later on. "A few kilometres before the last climb, right when everyone was going all out, a dog suddenly jumped on the road. I slid away rather than crashed, and behind me someone rode right into by bike."