The worry was evident among Tinkoff-Saxo staff in the moments immediately following stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia in Castiglione della Pescaia. Alberto Contador's first day in the maglia rosa had promised to be a relatively uneventful affair, right up to the fateful moment when a spectator leaned across a barrier to take a photograph, triggering a crash that saw the Spaniard among the fallers.
Contador gingerly remounted and pedalled slowly across the line, where press officer Jacinto Vidarte was on hand to escort him to a tent near the podium area. It was supposed to serve as a changing room before the presentation ceremony, but instead it became a makeshift ER, as Contador's injuries were examined at length by his team doctor.
Outside, team owner Oleg Tinkov wore a back-turned baseball cap and expression of concern, and seemed unusually subdued when a television crew pushed towards the cordon for a short interview. "Alberto just fell here, but I don't know how he is," Tinkov said distractedly. "I was in the car so I don't know how he is."
Tinkoff-Saxo's general manager Stefano Feltrin then emerged from the tent and entered into lengthy discussions with Giro race director Mauro Vegni and the RCS staff in charge of the podium presentation and press protocol.
Shortly afterwards, Contador made his way gingerly up the steps of the dais to receive a fresh race leader's jersey, though such was the pain in his left shoulder that he was unable to don the maglia rosa and though he summoned up a weak smile, he eschewed both the bottle of Prosecco and his usual "pistolero" celebration.
On descending from the rostrum, Contador made his way directly to anti-doping control, forgoing the mixed zone and press conference duties that are part of the race leaders' daily routine, while Vidarte quietly explained to a small group of reporters that he had suffered a brief dislocation of his left shoulder.
Minutes later, Contador sat carefully into the front seat of a team car, and he was driven directly to the Tinkoff-Saxo hotel at Punta Ala, a little further up the coastline, where he would be examined in further detail by the squad's doctor, Piet R Daneels before travelling to a mobile x-ray unit.
Feltrin, meanwhile, was carrying out a round of televised interviews in the mixed zone, before visiting the press centre to bring reporters up to date on Contador's situation. After a crash ended Contador's 2014 Tour de France prematurely, Feltrin admitted to a certain sense of déjà vu.
"I saw a bad film like at last year's Tour, but I hope with a different ending. He doesn't have serious pain and that’s already a good thing," Feltrin said. "He couldn't put on the jersey on the podium because he was wearing an ice pack.
"It was a full speed crash and he went down very hard, so the first thing we did was put ice on his knees and shoulders. There doesn't seem to be any big broken bone but when you have that kind of fall, you never know."
The million dollar question, of course, was whether Contador will be forced to abandon the Giro before Friday's seventh stage to Fiuggi, and Feltrin said that it was simply too soon to say.
"Clearly there's the possibility. It's impossible to say with certainty now if he can continue," Feltrin said. "Until the doctor sees him, we can't say".
Stage winner André Greipel entered the press room shortly afterwards and seemed surprised to see Feltrin sitting at the top table in place of Contador. As the German waited for his conference, Feltrin was asked what Contador had said in the minutes after the stage finish.
"Alberto's morale is still high. He's absolutely concentrated like he was at the start at the Giro and that hasn't changed," Feltrin insisted, though without conviction. "But it's clear that even he still has to wait and see what’s happened."
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