Primoz Roglic endured his most difficult day at the Giro d'Italia on stage 16, losing contact with his overall rivals on the steep slopes of the Mortirolo. Suffering in the cold and rain, the Slovenian lost 1:22 to Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at the finish in Ponte di Legno.
Roglic is now 2:09 down on race leader Carapaz and dropped to third overall, 22 seconds behind Nibali. But after warming up with a long spell on the rollers post-stage and a long hot shower on the Jumbo-Visma bus, Roglic managed to smile despite his overall hopes at the Giro d'Italia taking a serious hit.
"It was very hard, there's not much to say. It was also cold at the end, it was just a really, really hard day," Roglic said, the scars from his Como crash still evident on his cheek.
Roglic was unable to hold the pace when Vincenzo Nibali accelerated early on the 11.8km long, average 10.9 per cent grade Mortirolo. Nibali, Carapaz and a select few others, including Britain's Hugh Carthy (EF Education First), could see Roglic suffering as they looked back down each of the steep hairpins and they kept a painful pace that gradually opened the gap.
Roglic appeared not to take a rain jacket over the summit and suffered in the cold rain as they descended to the valley. He was eventually joined by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) as they chased to try to save their overall hopes, sparking a GC pursuit match. However, Roglic struggled to hold the wheels at times and had to fight all the way to the finish.
Roglic was shivering as he rode the rollers outside the Jumbo-Visma team bus, with staff giving him a warm drink and rubbing him to try to generate some heat. At Ponte di Legno it was 10°C with pouring rain but Roglic finished the stage in just a skinsuit.
"You don't really expect much, but I gave it all, so I have to be happy in the end," Roglic said of his defence which came two days after he crashed in the finale on stage 15 to Como on Sunday.
"For sure crashes and these kind of things don't help you but I gave it all, and it was a really hard day, at the end, I was happy to take a hot shower."
Roglic is likely to take back some time in the final 17km time trial in Verona but first has to survive in the mountain stage to Anterselva on Wednesday, San Martina di Castrozza on Friday and the big final mountain stage to Croce d'Aune/Monte Avena on Saturday.
His rivals can now smell blood but Roglic defiantly refused to admit his chances of overall victory are fading in the third week.
"We will see, of course, it was really a crucial day but still there are other days to come. You see with the Giro a lot of things can happen every day, so I try to keep to the focus and see how it goes," he said on his chances of pulling on pink in Verona, denying it was perhaps the start of the end of his overall hopes.
"Not really, for me, I'm focused more on the good things and I think still we did a good performance. I think I'm still in good position, I'm happy with it. The Giro is not finish."