Abrasions showing on his arm and leg, David Millar cut a tired figure as he explained where his maglia rosa defence went wrong after an action packed fifth stage of the Giro.
“I’m f***ed, I have really bad allergies,” he said. “I always get them in this part of Italy. It wasn’t possible [to defend the jersey].”
On a stage made difficult enough by sections of gravel road and strade bianche, he first came down while sprinting, in the innocuous pursuit of bonus seconds, against rival Angelo Vicioso.
Jettisoned 30 kilometres from the finish, the Garmin-Cervelo rider took risks to regain the front group, riding with Italian pair Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas) and Fabio Taborre (Acqua e Sapone).
However, it was curtains on the steep ramp before the finish in Orvieto, as the Briton lost nearly three minutes to stage winner and new leader Weening.
The day also saw another horror crash, sustained by Rabobank rider Tom Jelte Slagter. The Dutchman fractured his jawbone, received contusions and needed stitches for a wound, but was cleared of brain damage at Orvieto Hospital.
While peers Danilo di Luca and Alessandro Petacchi criticised the inclusion of the strade bianche in this year’s race, Millar hinted that the risk doesn’t change: “It was dangerous, but it’s like that. We had to be extra careful, but the ambulances were always near by.”
Millar’s spell in the maglia rosa was tinged with sadness after Wouter Weylandt’s death; the Briton helped to organise a tribute to him.
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Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule