The French champion misjudged the last left-hand corner, appearing not to even notice it as he approached with speed and from a narrow angle.
By the time he clocked it, it was too late, and a pull on the brakes was only going to lower the speed at which he crashed into the barriers in front of him.
Cavagna remounted and finished strongly but by then stage winner Filippo Ganna's time had flashed by, and he had to settle for second place. Losing out by just 12 seconds, it was clear the crash had cost him dearly.
"It’s a real pity. I did a very good time trial, but I took the last turn full gas, as I forgot about it, and went down," Cavagna said.
"I got back on my bike, but there was nothing more to do at that point, so it’s really frustrating, as I felt there was a chance for me to win today."
That said, the sense of regret was tempered by the fact that Ganna had himself been hampered late on, and by something beyond his control. The world champion punctured inside the closing kilometres, before changing his bike and stopping the clock on what would be the winning time.
"I had an advantage - you lose at least 20 seconds when you puncture. Voila, I crashed to even things out," Cavagna said, seeing the funny side.
"It is what it is. He was stronger today, I think. I'm still satisfied. The crash was quite spectacular but nothing is broken."
Cavagna will now rest up before defending his tricolour skinsuit at the French national championships in mid-June, while he could ride the Vuelta a España ahead of the World Championships.
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