A tough day for Ireland's Dan Martin on the off-road sections of stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday saw the Israel Start-Up Nation leader lose over six minutes on overall leader Egan Bernal and with it a considerable part of his GC options in the race.
Previously lying eighth overall and a strong finisher on the climbs in the Giro's first week, Martin had insisted after stage six that he had no specific goals in this year's Giro other than making it to Milan.
However, a career-best fourth overall in the Vuelta a España last year had heightened interest in how Martin would fare in the GC rankings on his return to the Giro d'Italia after a seven-season absence.
As it was, Israel Start-Up Nation sports director Nicki Sørensen told Cyclingnews, Martin lost contact on the first of the sterrato sectors of stage 11 and didn't get back on terms.
"The other [top names] were just going hard on the gravel, and that cost him," Sørensen said.
"Basically that's it. He fought well, but never managed to get back after the first sector."
Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) had said before the stage that he didn't think that the sterrato sectors had a place in a Grand Tour, but Sørensen gave an even-handed response when asked if he thought they were appropriate.
Speaking before the full medical and results were released, Sørensen said, "It's difficult for me to say whether they have a place or not. As far as I know right now, I think overall that today's stage went fine, we didn't have any huge crashes, although there was masses of stress and tension on the course before we got there.
"I would say, though, that we had two gravel sectors that started on the downhill at high speed and compared to Strade Bianche there were probably maybe more technical and steep descents, too, and descending on gravel is more dangerous."
As for Martin, although Wednesday's result was anything but favourable for Martin, Sørensen is convinced that he will bounce back.
"He didn't crash, he's not sick, it's just, as I see it, that the others were better than him on that kind of terrain. But he's in good shape and we certainly haven't seen the last of Dan in this year's Giro."
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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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