Adam Yates' overall chances in the Tirreno-Adriatico nearly fell apart on the Tuscan roads near Cascina on Thursday.
The British leader of team Orica-GreenEdge crashed, fell on his face and struggled to rejoin the group racing 40 kilometres an hour.
"The roads are crap in Italy! That's the difference between Tirreno and other WorldTour events I've raced,” Yates told Cycling Weekly with a laugh that pulled at the bandage on his chin.
"We were right in good position when it happened, but there's always one person who doesn't mind risking his life to move up one spot. We had four of our guys come down in that five-man crash as we were riding all together. That's bike riding sometimes, you are unlucky."
Yates, however, was lucky in the crash at 10 kilometres out, near the Vespa headquarters in Pontedera. He was able to rejoin the group speeding around and towards the finish in Cascina.
His quick legs, with the help of team-mate Michael Hepburn, kept him in the fight for the overall classification. Others involved in the crash, like Yaroslav Popovych (Trek Factory Racing), lost five minutes.
"It took us two or three kilometres," Yates said, "but you have your adrenalin flowing after something like that, which helps."
Yates stood in the sun outside the white and blue Orica bus parked on the side street next to the start of stage three. Tirreno-Adriatico is his first stage race of 2015 and offers a chance for him to demonstrate his potential.
Sports Director Matt White explained that he could race into the top 10, maybe higher, by the time the races finishes on Italy's east coast on Tuesday.
"We talked about the GC, but in the first big race of the season, I'm not sure how well I'm going," Yates said. "My numbers are good in training, so we'll see what happens. There's really only one major GC day, and a couple of hard stages.
"A top 10 in Tirreno-Adriatico would be good, but I'm not sure on my form. I'll try when we race up the Monte Terminillo on Sunday."
The 22-year-old won the Tour of Turkey and the GP Industria & Artigianato, and placed sixth overall against the Tour de France favourites in the Critérium du Dauphiné last year. In his second year, Orica wants to put the pressure on him to win some races, like in Turkey this April, and to allow him to discover himself in other races like Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour.
Chris Froome (Sky) pulled out beforehand, but Tirreno-Adriatico still features several stars like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step) and last year's winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Yates and his twin brother Simon are due to race the Tour de France starting on July 4 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. After going to the Tour of Turkey, April 26 to May 3, to defend his title, Adam will take a break to rest and prepare for the Tour via the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race.
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