Tanel Kangert had been quietly leading the line at the Giro d'Italia for an Astana team still mourning the late Michele Scarponi, and the softly-spoken Estonian set out from Valdengo on Sunday in 7th place overall. He finished the day in hospital after crashing heavily a little over 10 kilometres from the finish in Bergamo and sustaining a displaced fracture of his right elbow and a broken left humerus. With two arm fractures, his team says his season is over, and he faces six months recovery. It hardy needs saying, but cycling is a cruel business.
It had been a day littered by crashes. Alexander Edmondson (Orica-Scott) sustained cuts down his right side when he fell midway through the stage. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) overshot a corner on the descent of the Miragolo San Salvatore, but recovered to placed second on the stage. Davide Formolo, Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) and Kenny Elissonde (Sky) came down on the twisting descent of the Selvino, but both finished the stage.
Kangert's crash was the most serious. As the peloton hurtled towards the base of the final kick up towards Bergamo Alta, he attempted to hop a traffic island, but rode directly into the road sign that was planted upon it. Kangert was flung over his handlebars and though, mercifully, he was able to sit up instantly to assess his injuries, it was clear that his Giro was over.
An hour of the stage finished, Astana press officer Matteo Cavazzuti dolefully made the rounds of the sala stampa in Bergamo's Centro Congressi to provide a whispered update on Kangert's injuries to journalists on deadline. The official medical bulletin arrived shortly afterwards. As well as a broken elbow, Kangert sustained contusions to his right shoulder and back.
By then, Kangert had been taken to Bergamo's Ospedale Papà Giovanni XXIII for further assessment. Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli had been due to appear on RAI television's post-stage show with his son, the Quick-Step Floors rider Davide, but he withdrew due to Kangert's crash.
Formolo, Elissonde and Hansen
The earlier fallers were more fortunate. Formolo was able to remount immediately after his crash, and the Italian managed to finish the stage in 15th place, just 14 seconds behind winner Bob Jungels (Quick-Step). Formolo moves up to 12th overall, a little over three minutes behind Jungels in the best young rider classification.
Kenny Elissonde went down in the same incident, and though he sustained more obvious injuries, he was also able to rejoin the race and finish the stage. He rolled across the line 14:50 down on the stage, his torn jersey and shorts revealing cuts and bruises down his left side.
"I was hesitant after the crash and I took a few minutes to get going again. I don't really know how it happened," Elissonde said. The Frenchman was also a faller on the Blockhaus stage a week ago, and he will tend to injuries from a crash for the second rest day in a row.
Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) battled through stage 15 wearing a bandage on his right hand to protect a suspected fracture to a bone in his palm. The Australian was brought down by a touch of wheels as the peloton hit the cobbles in Biella at the base of the climb to Oropa on Saturday afternoon.
"It's something in the palm, it's not too good," Hansen told Australian journalist Rupert Guinness in Bergamo after completing Sunday's stage. "I have padding put in a special area, and I can hold the handlebar well."
Hansen is attempting to complete his 17th successive Grand Tour, and he jokingly dismissed the of the idea that his sequence – which stretches back to the 2011 Vuelta a España – might be in jeopardy. "No: it's my hand, not my legs," he smiled.