The Quick-Step Floors team was hoping Fernando Gaviria could win for a second consecutive year on stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico in Montalto di Castro but the Colombian sprinter, Tom Boonen and the team's overall hope Bob Jungels were all caught up in a late crash with a kilometre to go. The team could only roll to the finish several minutes after Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) had got the better of Elia Viviani (Team Sky).
The crash occurred just inside the final kilometre. On a straight section of road, Jasper Stuyven bumped with Eduard Grosu of Nippo-Fantini Vini. Grosu went down hard, suffering some nasty road rash, with his bike somersaulting in the air in front of Gaviria, Boonen and the rest of the peloton. They tried to brake but apparently hit the fallen bike and Grosu, causing them to crash.
Fortunately neither were seriously hurt but they were angry. Teammate Matteo Trentin saw the crash and went to have a word with Andrea Palini of Androni Giocattoli after the sprint, but it is unclear if he had caused the crash.
Gaviria reached the finish with the back of his skinsuit shredded. He quickly took a drink and got directions to the team's nearby hotel from a soigneur and then rode off, preferring to shrug off the consequences of the crash and the missed chance of victory.
Boonen arrived a little later and stopped to talk to the Belgian media, who were anxious to learn of any injuries - he already crashed hard at the Tour of Oman and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Boonen had a nasty looking gash on his right knee but played down his problems.
"I don't know exactly what happened, you guys probably saw more than I saw," Boonen said. "Fortunately I don't have anything, I'm not hurt. But I lost some skin on my new skin that was on my right knee. I didn't really go down; I fell over the guy in front of me. I put my foot on his head as I was crashing."
Boonen explained the dynamic of the crash.
"We were in the top 15 positions, with Fernando well placed on my wheel, biding our time to move to the front. Suddenly, two guys crashed in front of me, and I couldn't avoid them. Fernando too went to the ground, and at that point, our stage was over. It's a real pity because we were in a good position and Fernando could have done a good sprint."
Boonen admitted he is perhaps taking risks by getting involved in the sprints but refused to hide at the back of the peloton until he retires after the Belgian Classics.
"If you are in front, if you sprint at the front, playing for the win, then, of course, there's a little more chance that you can crash or something. If you let it go and you finish in 105th position, then you don't risk things, but I want to play my role for the team," he explained.
Bob Jungels was also caught up in the crash but was given the same time as Peter Sagan because the wreck occurred in the final three kilometres. He remains sixth overall, in best young rider's white jersey, just 16 seconds behind race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC). He is determined to fight for an overall result on Saturday's big mountain stage to the ski resort of Monte Terminillo that is expected to decide the overall classification of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico.
"It was a tense final, made even more dangerous by the downhill and the strong wind. We were in a good position, but we went down in that pileup, and that was that. I'm happy this day is over," Jungels said.
"Tomorrow I'll see how I feel at the start of the stage to Monte Terminillo, which is quite a hard climb, and what I can do there."