Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso tried to limit the time they lost to Cadel Evans (BMC) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) on the dirt roads near Montalcino during stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia, but when they reached the finish they had lost more than they had gained in the team time trial and on the stage to Middelburg in the Netherlands. In an instant, a crash had turned the Giro upside down yet again, meaning Nibali lost he maglia rosa to Vinokourov.
Nibali finished exactly two minutes behind Evans, while Basso lost 2:05. Nibali slipped to fifth overall, 1:33 behind Vinokourov, while Basso ended up in eighth overall at 1:51. They are both much closer to Evans, at 21 and 39 seconds respectively, but it is difficult to see how they regain time and get the pink jersey back from Vinokourov.
Nibali and Basso crashed on a sweeping curve, 30km from the finish and just 10km from the start of the dirt roads. Teammates Valerio Agnoli and Alessandro Vanotti also crashed, as did other overall contenders Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli).
Nibali seemed stronger than Basso as they chased, but he was a late replacement for Franco Pellizotti and is not confident of surviving in the final week of mountains of the Giro. Despite being battered and bruised, though not hurt, Nibali refused to give up hope of overall success and more time in the pink jersey.
"Losing the pink jersey because of a crash is hard to take. Until then, we were in control of the race and I felt good. I was watching my rivals and was ready to respond if they attacked. The crash ruined everything," he said.
"I'm disappointed and sorry to have lost the jersey because I could have defended it. I'm hurting after the crash but I want to look ahead to the rest of the Giro. I've lost the jersey but I'm not giving up just yet. I still want to fight and surprise people at this Giro."
Basso reminded everyone that the Giro has yet to hit the first mountain stage. That will happen on Sunday with the stage to Terminillo and with a 16km climb to the finish. "It's a pity to have lost time on Evans and Vinokourov. It was an unlucky and difficult day even if my legs felt good," he said.
"I got going again pretty quickly after the crash, but it would have been hard to catch the leaders on my own, so I waited for my teammates. We chased together but the dirt road sections didn't help us and the leaders were going hard."
"I'm honestly not too bothered by the time that I've lost, just like I didn't get carried way when he gained time. There's still a long way to go in this Giro."