Montecassino was expected to play host to a bout of shadow boxing but instead some knock-out blows were delivered at the Giro d'Italia at the end of stage 6, and in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
A mass crash on the approach to that final climb, on roads made slick as oil by a sudden rain shower, saw overall contenders Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Rigobert Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Michele Scarponi (Astana) all among the fallers, while Cadel Evans (BMC) came through unscathed to gain a significant swathe of time.
Rodriguez, who broke a finger and a rib in the crash, reached the summit over eight minutes down and has lost all hopes of final overall victory in Trieste. Uran and Quintana fared somewhat better, quickly remounting and rolling home in the group that came home 49 seconds down on Evans.
Somewhere in between, both in terms of the scale of time lost and the apparent extent of his injuries, was Scarponi. The Italian reached the line in 39th place, 1:37 down on Evans, and in the overall standings, he lies in 17th, already 2:10 behind the Australian.
"I'm suffering, both because of the time loss and the crash, I'm upset," Scarponi told reporters after descending the eight-kilometre final climb in a team car. "I took a good wallop when I landed during that crash at the roundabout, and I slid a long, long way."
Confusion was general in the finale and when he reached the Astana team bus, Scarponi was unaware that two of Evans' BMC teammates had driven an eight-man group clear as the crash split the bunch, and unwilling to enter into any immediate discussion of the incident.
"BMC attacked when we crashed? I don't know what they did. I just know that I did a time trial of 15km to try and get back on afterwards," he said.
Scarponi finished that effort with something of a flourish, sprinting out of the saddle to limit his losses as best he could, and while he was unsure of the full extent of his injuries at the time, he was not among the many wounded who were listed in the initial post-stage medical bulletin released by the organisation. His teammate Janez Brajkovic, however, suffered a compound fracture of his left elbow in the mass crash.
Fabio Aru, meanwhile, managed to stay upright and finished the day in the second group on the road with Uran and Quintana. He is now Astana's best-placed rider on general classification, in eighth place, 1:51 off the pink jersey of Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and 1:30 behind Evans.
"I'm upset both for the pain I'll feel in the upcoming days and for the time I've lost," Scarponi said. "Certainly, to lose all this time to strong riders is not a good thing, it's a real shame, but the Giro is still long."
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