Rigoberto Urán shipped a blow on Thursday's crash-strewn stage to Montecassino, but Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Davide Bramati has warned that the decisive rounds of this Giro d'Italia will arrive in the final week, when the cumulative effects of three weeks of sparring exact their real toll.
Urán lost 53 seconds to Cadel Evans (BMC) when he was among the many fallers in a mass crash on the approach to the final climb of Montecassino on Thursday, and he trails the Australian by 57 seconds in the overall standings on the eve of the Giro's first major summit finish at Montecopiolo.
"50 seconds are a lot," Bramati admitted to Cyclingnews. "Evans has won a grand tour in the past and he's a dangerous man, but we knew that from the start. Still, there are a lot of climbs to come and the Giro isn't over because of these 50 seconds, although if he manages to stay with the best on the climbs then those 50 seconds will be important, especially as he just found them on the roadside."
While Urán fell off on the rain-slicked roads and the by-now infamous roundabout with 11 kilometres remaining, Evans came through the carnage unscathed and found himself in an eight-man group off the front as the climb began, with two BMC teammates forcing the pace in his service.
Bramati was diplomatic when asked if he felt BMC should have slowed and waited for the fallers: "Unfortunately we were only 10 kilometres from the finish and in that moment, it was hard to take a decision. It went like that." He did note, however, that it was the QuickStep squad who were leading the peloton when the crash happened, rather than BMC or the GreenEdge team of pink jersey and eventual stage winner Michael Matthews.
"Honestly, we had four riders in front at that roundabout. We were the first ones through because we knew the finale, but when our four guys realised that Rigoberto had fallen off, we sat up and waited for our leader," he said.
"It's a pity because we had already lost three seconds on the first road stage because someone caused a gap in 20th place in the bunch. The next day we lost 11 seconds because someone caused a gap in 30th position. For me, that's not right, and I hope that the tweets I saw [claiming the gaps were caused on purpose – ed.] weren't true."
Although the Giro enters the high mountains for the first time on Saturday with the climbs of Cippo di Carpegna and Montecopiolo, Bramati believes that it is the third week in the Dolomites and atop the mighty Zoncolan where the race will ultimately be won and lost. Indeed, he was a teammate of Evans at Mapei in 2002, when the Australia cracked on the road to Folgaria and lost the maglia rosa in his debut Giro.
"I'm sorry about those 50 seconds – 53 when you add in the time bonus – but the Giro is long. I'm convinced that we'll see big things in the last week. I've done fifteen Giri d'Italia and when you do a Giro in this kind of weather, someone always suffers in the final week from the effects of all of the rain in the first half of the race," he said.
Urán finished Friday's stage to Foligno safely in the main peloton, and Bramati reported that he experienced no major consequences from his crash in the finale at Montecassino. "He's well, he slept well. He fell off like a lot of other GC riders but some of them have had worse luck than Rigoberto," he said.
Although Bramati expects Saturday's stage to Montecopiolo to be one for the pure climbers, he was coy about what precisely to expect from Urán, pointing out instead that the day was likely to finish with Evans in the pink jersey and with BMC forced to take up the burden of the race.
"Tomorrow is a good test and we'll see the men who'll be up there in the final week. the final 5 kilometres will favour the pure climbers. Let's hope Rigoberto's up there," Bramati said.
"But the important thing on Saturday will be to stay with Evans. He'll definitely take the jersey provided he doesn't have a day of crisis, and then BMC will have to start controlling the race."
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