Team Sky's chances of overall success at Tirreno-Adriatico ended before they had even begun after a high-speed crash and other mechanical problems on the opening day team time trial meant they had to sit up and wait so they could finish with the minimum requirement of five riders.
Gianni Moscon crashed in spectacular fashion late in the 22.7km time trial after his front tri-spoke wheel collapsed under him. He later attributed the failure to hitting a hole in the road. Moscon went down hard on his right shoulder but was not seriously injured and eventually finished the stage.
Geraint Thomas explained that Diego Rosa and Mikel Landa also suffered similar problems and, due to the delays in waiting for riders to rejoin, Team Sky set a time 1:42 slower than stage winners BMC. Thomas, Rosa and Landa now face an uphill battle in the overall classification.
"It was Murphy's Law: what can go wrong, will go wrong," Thomas said dejectedly after warming down.
"We started decently steady, and on the way back, we were really starting to shift. Myself, Kawasaki [Michal Kwiatkowski] and Kiri [Vasil Kiryienka] were feeling good and riding consistently at 60-61km/h. Then we hit two holes, and three wheels just collapsed basically. And that just ended it.
"Moscon was the first one, and he took out Kiri of the back," Thomas explained. "Then it happened again, and there was only four of us left, so we had to wait. It felt like forever; we were freewheeling for a couple of kilometres. We just had to wait for the fifth guy.
"It's not ideal, but shit happens I guess," Thomas added with his usual pragmatism.
Thomas had spoken to his teammates on the bus after their ride, and they had pieced together what happened with the crashes. He thought all three riders hit holes and then their wheels broke.
Carsten Jespersen, head of technical operations at Team Sky, didn't want to comment but confirmed that three wheels had a problem. He spent 20 minutes speaking to a Shimano representative after the crash, apparently looking at the pieces of broken wheels that had been collected by a Team Sky mechanic.
Shimano also refused to make any initial comment but said they were investigating the incident.
"I'm not too sure. I think it did," Thomas said when asked if the other wheels collapsed. "Obviously Moscon's did, and from what the boys said on the bus, I think Rosa's did too. I think both had mechanicals by hitting holes in the road."
Thomas admitted that his hopes of overall success were over. He said Team Sky will now ride aggressively and chase stage victories.
"For sure, races like this or Paris-Nice are won in seconds. So to lose 1:20 is certainly not good," he said.
"There are many stages, six days to go. Now we'll race hard and just try to tackle each stage. I think we have a guy who can win on most days. We'll try to be aggressive and make up for this but I think GC is out the window now."