Chris Froome's difficult start to the Giro d'Italia continued as the Team Sky rider suffered another setback on Tuesday's stage 4, finding himself delayed and blocked at exactly the wrong moment in the final kilometre and losing some time to the rest of the favourites.
The Team Sky rider was caught out by what he told Cyclingnews had been "a bit of a hold up against the barriers" in the final kilometre, "at what was quite a critical moment" and finished 30th on the stage to the hilltop town of Caltagirone.
The final run-in of stage 4 was a relentless succession of narrow, urban roads, curves, short climbs and technical downhill sections, culminating with a sharp little ascent - all in all a typically fraught Giro finish.
As a result of the incident, Froome lost 21 seconds to the stage winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Fix All) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) as well as 17 seconds to Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team).
Froome is now placed 20th overall, 55 seconds down on race leader Dennis, and 54 seconds behind defending Giro d'Italia champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
"It was a tough day, the guys did a good job just keeping me at the front and unfortunately just before the final I got caught in a bit of a hold up against the barriers in the last kilometre," Froome told Cyclingnews after his post-stage warm down in a carpark on the outskirts of Caltagirone.
"I lost position at quite a critical moment so I wasn't very well placed coming into that final kick."
Overall, though, Froome says he is feeling much improved after the crash prior to the time trial on the first day.
"I'm optimistic about the days ahead, I generally feel good, feeling better and better after the crash each day, more balanced again after falling heavily on my right side. Now I'm focussed on getting through tomorrow's stage before Etna."
Talking briefly to Italian TV, Froome added that "It was a very hard stage, the roads were tough, a bit dangerous, but I'm glad to have got through without any incidents."
Asked by another to describe what he thought about the Etna, Froome said simply: "I haven't been up it."
Wednesday's stage from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa is just 153 kilometres long but has a rugged second half and there is a 13 per cent ramp, 1,500 metres from the final. But that pales in comparison with the ascent of Mount Etna on Thursday.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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