Dimension Data's Ben O'Connor lost time to his rivals on Saturday's eighth stage from Praia a Mare to Montevergine di Mercogliano when Chris Froome crashed in front of him with just over 5km to go on the final climb, causing him to unship his chain.
What a difference a day makes. Or two days anyway. Following Thursday's sixth stage from Caltannisseta to Mount Etna, when Louis Meintjes lost time on the famous volcano, and teammate O'Connor stepped into the breach, putting himself almost three minutes ahead of Meintjes in the GC, the roles were reversed again on the road to Montevergine.
Meintjes finished at the back of the main group of favourites, seven seconds behind stage winner Richard Carapaz (Movistar). O'Connor trailed in another 21 seconds back, which leaves him exactly two minutes in arrears of Giro leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), with Meintjes 4:34 down on Yates.
O'Connor experienced the untimely mechanical problem when Team Sky leader Froome's wheel slipped away on a rain-soaked hairpin on the final climb, causing the Briton to crash, and the Australian to lose his chain.
"I had nowhere to go, so I went into a wall," O'Connor explained in a team press release. "My chain came off and got stuck in the frame, and my brake pads were out of alignment, so I lost a fair chunk of time. Ben King and Natnael Berhane were there to help me, and they did as much as they could before I had to go it alone for the last two or three kilometres.
"When I got back to the group, I was pretty cooked, and then they started sprinting to the mountain top, and I just couldn’t sprint after the effort to get back."
O'Connor had been in a good position before the bad luck struck, which gives him all the more determination to make amends on Sunday's mountainous stage 9.
"The guys did a really good job today looking after me, and when it started to rain in the finale I wanted to be near the front, and I was, with Ben King putting me in the top 20 wheels," O'Connor said. "I didn't want to stress about the slippery conditions by being in front, and the climb wasn’t too difficult either.
"With about 5km to go, Alex [Sans Vega, directeur sportif] said there were more hairpins so I wanted to move up to be even closer to the front. I was keen to try something and get that white jersey [for best young rider].
"So what happened was a bit disappointing, but tomorrow is a big day, and if I feel like I did today, I'd like to try to be in the move," he said.
The fascinating peaks and troughs of a Grand Tour reveal themselves time and again. Dimension Data, it would appear now, have a legitimate two-pronged leadership in Meintjes and O'Connor to call upon, dependent on each rider's fortunes. Sunday's ninth stage, from Pesco Sannita to the summit finish at Gran Sasso d'Italia, will reveal what happens next.
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