It never rains but it pours for Rigoberto Urán at this Giro d'Italia. Out of sorts from the beginning of the race due to the lingering effects of bronchitis, the Etixx-QuickStep man reached the first rest day already some 2:10 off the maglia rosa of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
With 15 kilometres remaining on stage 11, as the peloton began the final lap of a finishing circuit in Imola that incorporated the storied motor racing track, Urán's Giro risked taking an even more serious downturn, as his wheels slipped from under him when the peloton passed beneath the main grandstand.
Urán was the lone faller, and it wasn't immediately clear whether he had clipped wheels with the rider in front of him or whether he had simply succumbed to a slick surface made treacherous by steady rain [he later confirmed it was the former - ed.] No matter, the effect was the same: he crashed with sufficient force to split his helmet in the incident, and he also suffered cuts to his shoulder.
Mercifully, however, Urán was able to remount quickly, and despite the scrutiny of a commissaire who waved away any team cars that lingered in front of him, he managed to latch back on to the peloton ahead of the final ascent of the Tre Monti, and prevent any further time losses.
On crossing the line, Urán rode directly to the Etixx-QuickStep team bus and climbed aboard, while a group of Colombian journalists – and a pair of concerned fans from his home country – congregated and waited for an update on his injuries.
Outside the bus, members of Etixx-QuickStep's staff marvelled as they examined Urán’s cracked helmet, which had served its purpose in bearing the brunt of his fall. Indeed, soon afterwards, Urán himself would tweet a relieved picture of his headwear.
"Rigoberto had a bad fall and this evening we’ll have to evaluate and take stock of the situation," Etixx-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati explained. "At least he managed to limit the damage on the road; he got back on and didn't lose more time to any of the favourites thanks to the help of some teammates who dropped back to help him."
Despite the blow to his head, the team said that Urán had not suffered a concussion in the incident, though Bramati said that it was difficult to assess the full extent of the injuries sustained in the immediate aftermath of the stage.
"He cracked his helmet in two, so he took a knock to the head, and maybe with the adrenaline of the last 15 kilometres he didn’t feel the pain, but we'll see," Bramati said.
Despite his ill-starred race to date, Urán remains in sixth place overall and with the 59-kilometre time trial to Valdobbiadene still to come, he retains hope of taking a third successive podium finish at the Giro – provided, of course, that his injuries do not compromise his participation in the race.
"I hope not," Bramati said, when asked if Urán's race might be in doubt. "We’ve already lost two riders to crashes in the first three stages. We'll take stock tonight, but I hope not."
In a statement released by Etixx-QuickStep later on Wednesday evening, Urán confirmed that he would not be forced out of the Giro by the effects of his crash. "A crash is not the ideal situation for the moment, and of course tomorrow I may feel a bit differently than today as sometimes you don't fully feel the effects until the next day or later," he said. "But we have to deal with the situation as it is. The Giro continues for me tomorrow."