It was a tumultuous stage 7 in the Giro d’Italia with record-breaking speed and with multiple crashes and echelons that left teams like Australian squad Mitchelton-Scott wearily and warily assessing both the scale of the day’s damage and the positive takeaways, too.
On the definite downside, head sports directeur Matt White told reporters that Italian allrounder and domestique Edoardo Affini had suffered an injury that could send him home early. He also confirmed in a team report that Czech Tour winner Damien Howson was hurt in a crash that sent him to the pavement with Lucas Hamilton.
"There were a lot of crashes, some nervous guys and we need to see how we washed up in the end, it looks like [Edoardo] Affini has hurt his hand, Damo as well. So, we’ll have to wait for the medical team to see what the final outcome is there," White said in a team statement.
As for those wanting to see the glass as half full, both Hamilton and Simon Yates were caught behind in echelons following crashes but were able to get back on and their general classification options remain intact.
Somewhere in between those two points on a day with a first-hour speed of 55 kph, every rider who slowly made his way to the Mitchelton-Scott bus after stage 7 had been left drained by more than a fair share of tension and flat-out racing.
“We had a couple of riders involved in a crash which then did split the group, but then we had one or two guys to get him [Simon Yates] back. Once he was back in that front group there, it was all under control,” White recounted.
Yates was far from the only favourite to have a hectic first hour, with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain McLaren) and Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) all on the wrong side of early splits. Then almost no sooner than the bunch reformed mid-way through the stage, yet more crashes and echelons left riders injured and fighting to regain the front group again, nearly all the way to Brindisi.
In Mitchelton-Scott’s case, White recounted, “It looks like Affini will be out of the race with a broken bone in his hand and another guy is off to get an X-ray now, so we could be losing two riders, which is a bit of a blow for us but we can’t change that anyway.”
The Australian team have already taken a dent to their lineup after Brent Bookwalter did not start on Thursday because of a suspected lumbar vertebral fracture from a crash on stage 2.
Amid all the setbacks, White said he was relieved that the Yates' group had come back to the bunch, notwithstanding the extent of the damage to Mitchelton-Scott’s team workers.
“Lucas Hamilton [currently 17th overall] was involved in another crash and that was the last group on the road, that could have been his GC battle done for him, and fortunately that came back. We had so many crashes I can’t remember where they were, but he came back and finished in the front group," said White.
“So you win some, you lose some. It looks like we could have lost a couple of riders through injured today but at the end it looks like our two most important riders are where they need to be on GC.”
White said that given the team were not leading the overall ranking, "people are not going to be looking at us to do anything right now. Simon’s biggest helps in the mountains are going to be Hamilton and [Jack] Haig and they’re fine.
“So it’s a shame to lose anybody, but there are obviously guys who are going to play a different role to others and we have to adjust our tactics accordingly.”
Mitchelton-Scott were far from being the only team caught up in crashes on stage 7, with Harn Vanhoucke (Lotto-Soudal) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), fourth and seventh on GC respectively, caught in pile-ups.
Other star names like Filppo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team) formed part of groups which fought hard to regain contact after a multi-rider crash involving a race banner 45 kilometres from the finish.
Mitchelton-Scott were also not the only team to suffer subsequent abandons. Tony Gallopin (AG2R La Mondiale) suffered a left wrist fracture, finished 21 minutes down and dead last and will not start on Saturday, his team announced after the stage.
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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