Stage 15 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia was supposed to be a day off, the peloton recovering from the Zoncolan ahead of the queen stage the following day.
As is often the case with three-week stage races, reality had different ideas, a big crash caused by tailwinds upping the pace in the bunch to 70km/h before a crash brought the race to a stop in the opening kilometres, too many medical staff required to tend to those who'd fallen meaning there weren't enough ambulances to accompany the race up the road.
After the dust had settled, Victor Campenaerts taking his first Grand Tour stage win as race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) came home safely, the true extent of the peloton's injuries emerged.
Jumbo-Visma's Jos van Emden was the first to abandon following the crash, a subsequent trip to the hospital revealing he'd suffered five broken ribs, a lung contusion and several bumps and scrapes.
Bora-Hansgrohe's Emanuel Buchmann was the highest-profile rider forced to leave the race due to the crash, the German sitting sixth on GC, two and a half minutes down on Bernal at the start of the day.
Cofidis' Natneal Berhane could be spotted on the floor alongside Van Emden, the Eritrean having suffered a dislocated shoulder, while EF Education-Nippo's Ruben Guerreiro managed to get back on his bike but also abandoned shortly afterward.
Others, such as Deceuninck - Quick-Step's James Knox were caught up but managed to escape unscathed. "Not much luck nor fun today, [I was] part of the big pile-up at the start, but barely any damage luckily," he said.
Thomas De Gendt was the one non-starter before stage 16 but not due to the crash. He'd been suffering for the past two weeks with knee pain and finally called it a day, leaving Lotto-Soudal with only two riders left in the race.
"With tears in my eyes and pain in my knee I have to say goodbye to the Giro," he said.
"I could not perform on my normal level the last two weeks and there was no improvement. The only right decision that could be made at this moment. I’m sorry to leave my two team-mates behind."
Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali wasn't involved directly in the crash but was brought down while trying to avoid it, starting to feel pain in his chest afterwards and battling through the stage to finish.
Medical checks in the evening found he'd suffered a rib contusion, but was well enough not only to start stage 16 but get himself involved in a move up the road.
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