Alberto Contador’s Giro d’Italia lead slipped away on the wet roads around Venice after a crash with 3.3 kilometres to go held him and Sky’s Richie Porte up.
Contador has won six grand tours to date, but has never once surrendered the jersey once he put it on – until Friday’s rain-soaked stage. Fabio Aru (Astana), who sat 17 seconds back in second place before the stage, took over the famous maglia rosa.
Aru was philosophical about his change in fortunes, following two days of relative struggles in the Italian rain.
“In 21 days, anything can happen, like a day when you are not well, how I was a couple of days ago,” said Aru when asked about taking the jersey following Contador’s misfortune.
“Anything can happen, I am sorry for Alberto, but I was up at front and not at the back where the crash happened.”
Two riders on the left side of the road touched wheels, causing a chain reaction in what was supposed to be a straight-forward 147km day. Contador and Porte were both victims.
Press and fans circled the door of Tinkoff-Saxo‘s neon yellow bus. Contador, after a shower, poked his head through the curtains to speak.
“There’s never a quiet day in the Giro,” he said. “I never thought there was going to be a fall, but sure enough, one happens just before the three-kilometre mark. I didn’t even check myself for injuries, I tried to just pick up my bike and go as fast as possible.
“The time loss is not that bad, only 35 seconds. I know that it’s hard to get those back, but what really worries me is the contusion in my left leg, the marks of a chain ring. It was not my bike, but someone else’s, that’s my main concern. I hope it’s only superficial.”
Tinkoff’s bus rolled away from the stage finish with Contador sitting shotgun in the bus, leg propped up and iced.
Sky’s bus sat still and closed, neither Porte nor Team Manager David Brailsford spoke. The Tasmanian explained at the finish line that there was little he could do to avoid the crash.
Arriving at the bus, he told the mechanic to put his time trial bike away. “I’m not doing any pedalling,” Porte said, “my knees f*cked.”
After winning three big stage races in the lead-up – Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino – his Giro hopes appear dashed.
“There’s nothing to say about the crash, we were well-placed, you can see that someone had intention to take a lot of risks,” sporting director Dario Cioni said, sitting in the team car.
“Gaining time in tomorrow’s time trial? Let’s see if we are still going for the classification. Right now, we are going to try to win the stage and then decide. With the penalty and everything, the classification gap is big.”
Porte fiddled with his bicycle for some time after the crash and eventually climbed on the one from team-mate Vasil Kiryienka. He smiled at the TV camera afterwards, perhaps thinking that he had been safe with within the three-kilometre marker to avoid time loss or perhaps acknowledging that his hopes of winning the Giro are over.
The Tasmanian sits 17th overall, 5-05 minutes down after the rain-soaked ride to Jesolo.
Dr Hutch talks us through the Giro d’Italia time trial