Giro d'Italia: Garmin determined to battle on

As the first few spots of rain began to fall on stage two of the Giro d'Italia, a determined-sounding Charly Wegelius reflected on stage one’s team time trial crash, how it had managed to give Garmin-Sharp squad’s Giro d'Italia plans the worst of batterings from the word go - but how he and the riders will soldier on regardless.

In one fell swoop, Garmin-Sharp co-leader, Dan Martin and domestique Koldo Fernandez were both injured and out of the race, two more teammates, Nathan Haas and Andre Cardoso, were injured but able to continue and the team’s co-leader, Ryder Hesjedal, is 3-26 down on stage winners Orica-GreenEDGE.

Neither Martin nor Fernandez - the latter completed the team time trial course in last place of the entire field, clutching his arm and clearly in pain - started the stage two. Both have broken collarbones.

“It’s important to allow the riders a bit of time to be disappointed,” Wegelius said, “because they work hard and they care about what they do. But after that there has to be a moment where you draw a a line in the sand and start looking forwards, look at the positive things and what projects we can still do.”

“The two riders that are still in the race that are injured” - Andre Cardoso and Nathan Haas - “they’re going to need a bit of time to work their way through it. But for the healthy riders, this is the Giro and there can be opportunities around every corner so I don’t think we need to switch off for any given amount of time. The race starts in an hour and we’ll be racing along with everybody else.”

“So there can be opportunities from today onwards and we have to be ready to take them.”

As for what actually happened, Wegelius said “from the brief images I could see online, there was a manhole cover or something on the road that Dan hit, and at that speed, with how close the other riders are, there’s not much you can do.”

“We try and control everything we can by being studious, but there are parts of racing that is just luck and that was just bad luck.”

When Garmin-Sharp’s other director Bingen Fernandez reached the scene, stopped and got out of his team car at the crash, the scene was chaotic,he told Cyclingnews with “four riders ahead, four riders down, broken bikes....”

“There were riders all over the place, I could see Dan had something broken, you’re running from one rider to another, trying to help them all, get one bike, then another...”

“There was a little rut in the road and a metal manhole cover, he says he hit one and then the other but I reckon it might have been the whole combination [that caused him to crash]. It wasn’t so bad in itself [as an obstacle] but it caught his wheel and with it being wet, he went down.”

Four riders - Hesjedal, Farrar, Thomas Dekker, and Van Baarle - were ahead of the crash, but had to wait for Fabian Wegmann, previously dropped, to complete the ttt with enough riders.

“We were lucky he [Fabian] had been dropped, because otherwise he would have been in the crash as well.”

“Just as soon as he got there, I yelled at him at the top of my voice ‘Go!, Go! Go catch them!’ And he had to go flat out, the poor guy got there [to the crash] and didn’t know what was going on, but I shouted at him and he went straight up the road to do what he could.”

As for Cardoso’s and Haas’ injuries, Wegelius said that Haas has a swollen knee and road rash in various places “from the general impact of hitting the road at 60 kmh. The Portuguese rider, who initially thought his collarbone was broken, came off with various abrasions and scrapes and actually is the least injured of the four.

As for Dan Martin and where he goes from here, Wegelius analysis was “he’s good at putting things to one side, he’s obviously disappointed, particularly because he is in Ireland and in extremely good form. But I think with time he’ll look forward and move on to the next objectives. I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that.” When asked about the Tour, though, and whether Martin might race that, Wegelius veered on the side of caution, saying it was up to the doctors to do their work first and “there was no need to make rushed decisions.”

Back at the Giro d'Italia, one obvious goal for Garmin-Sharp is to work for Farrar in the sprints. “Obviously Nathan Haas was going to be one of the riders who would help him and I can’t ask a lot of Nathan right now, [but] Tyler’s a skilled rider and Dylan Van Baarle is another good rider at getting into position [in bunch sprints] so I don’t see why we can’t look for a lot of opportunities from today.”

He disagreed radically, though, when asked if Hesjedal’s gc aspirations were over. “No, not at all, this is the Giro d’Italia, [Spain’s David] Arroyo finished second one year in the Giro d'Italia [2010] going in a 56 rider break that got half an hour’s lead, anything can happen. As far as I know, the race finishes in another 20 stages and we’ll see where Ryder’s position is after that.”

The ironic thing of such a bad crash, Wegelius pointed out, was that up until that moment the team’s Giro and experiences during the build-up in Belfast had been “great. [There are] great people [here.]”

“I even saw the sun a few times so far,” he joked briefly before pointing out on a more serious note “but the riders until then were riding extremely well. The condition in the team is there and we will have to make use of what we have.”

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