Geraint Thomas’ promising bid for the overall of the Giro d’Italia went up in smoke on Mount Etna on Monday after the Welshman suffered a spectacular early crash on stage 3, injuring his left leg and then lost over 12 minutes on the race’s first major summit finish.
A roadside fan’s video showed the bunch speeding down a broad city centre boulevard, with a number of bidons bouncing across the road after the peloton bumped over a culvert. The video panned around to catch Thomas hitting the bidon with his rear wheel and losing control before crashing on the right hand side of the street.
Thomas was able to get up and continue, and the race was momentarily halted until he could return to the bunch, with a shredded upper jersey. But he was dropped before the final climb to Etna, losing 12:19 on the stage.
A totally random incident has thus wrecked Thomas' bid to get back on track after his non-participation in the Tour de France, as well as Ineos hopes of reviving their flagging 2020 Grand Tour campaign in Italy.
Thomas' disappointment is all the greater following a hugely impressive opening time trial that left him as the best-placed favourite in fourth place, enjoying a hefty initial advantage over almost all his GC rivals.
On top of that, teammate Filippo Ganna had taken the opening stage and was, before Etna, expressing hopes that he could pass on the pink jersey to Thomas, who started Monday's stage 23 seconds behind him in the standings.
But after their flying start, Ganna was relegated to trying to help Thomas limit the gap as best he could, with teammates Salvatore Puccio and Rohan Dennis also trying to help limit the damage.
“After two very nice days for us, just 1.5 or two kilometres in the neutralized section a bidon went into the front wheel and he crashed,” Matteo Tosatto, Ineos' sports director said afterwards.
“Geraint was not immediately in pain in his left leg and after the start and when he was on the bike, he felt better.
“But in the last 45 kilometres when there were steeper climbs and the pain got worse, he had a bad day.
“So he just preferred to go up at his own cadence, finish the stage and wait for the doctor’s analysis.”
Thomas is no stranger to crashes in the Giro d’Italia wrecking his GC bids: in 2017 he crashed badly in a mass pile-up caused when another rider became entangled with a badly positioned police outrider’s motorbike.
As for the wider implications for the Giro, Monday was a grim day for British hopes of a second overall victory in three years as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) also lost time, and Thomas' sudden loss of his unofficial status as leading favourite leaves the race suffering a significant power vacuum.
As the best time trialist in a Grand Tour with 65 kilometres against the clock, Thomas had been the reference point for all the other favourites, but now the Giro has suddenly been flung wide open again.
pic.twitter.com/rEhVn2DIOuOctober 5, 2020
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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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