Chris Froome (Sky) lost the leader’s blue jersey and his chance of winning the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race today in a wet and wild stage around Porto Sant’Elpidio.
“As soon as the weather came down, conditions got even harder and trying to control a really big group up the road like that was really hard work,” Froome explained.
“I didn’t have the legs in the final. I think Vincenzo Nibali took advantage of that, he did a great ride with [Peter] Sagan to now go into the leader’s jersey.”
Froome spoke to a small group of journalists huddled under the team bus’s tent. The stage started and ended in the beachside town in Le Marche, only six hours ago it was sunny and warm.
During the 209km stage, rain hammered down as it has in almost every day of this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. The steep 27 per cent climbs in the surrounding hills became slick and unmanageable for some.
It was impossible to stand on the pedals to power up the climb given the conditions. Froome found his 36×28 gearing was not low enough to spin easily.
On the third time up the Sant’Elpidio a Mare climb, Froome’s Tirreno-Adriatico fell apart.
Nibali (Astana) attacked to catch the sole remaining escapee and powered on. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) joined. Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), at home on the steep gradients, powered clear of his rivals and bridged.
The trio gapped a chase group of four – Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel), Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). Further back, Froome chased with team-mate Sergio Henao and about eight rivals.
With local fans gathering, Froome tried to explain why he lost time.
“Just tired. Personally I felt that I was a little over-geared. I don’t think I was dressed warmly enough for the weather,” Froome continued.
“There was only really one chance to go back and get the jackets; I chose a short sleeve one and I think that was probably the wrong choice. Once it had started raining it was really too late to go back, it was going to fast to try to get back to the car.”
Froome started the day 20 seconds ahead of Nibali and Contador. He lost around a minute to Nibali, who placed second to also pick up six seconds bonus time.
Heading into tomorrow’s 9.2km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto, Froome sits in second and trails Nibali by 34 seconds. He looks likely to stay in his current overall position.
Porto Sant’Elpidio taught Froome some hard lessons.
“The lessons? Well, one, I think we can look at the gearing; two, I know I need to prepare better when it’s this cold, probably feed more when it’s cold like this,” Froome said.
“We are still second on the GC at the moment, so it’s not like it’s a huge failure. We just have to look at it and try to find the positives and try to move on.”