Tirreno-Adriatico provided another tough stage that included potholes, roundabouts and speed bumps in the final circuit in Follonica, Italy, and led to riders crashing and some likely quitting.
Riders including Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale) arrived to the ambulance after the stage for treatment of injuries sustained in a crash at 6.8 kilometres to race. Others including Chris Froome (Sky) nearly hit the deck.
"I'm surprised there's not more crashes," Iljo Keisse (Quick-Step Floors) told Cycling Weekly.
He worked for Fernando Gaviria, who finished seventh in the stage won by Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin). Quick-Step helper Maximiliano Richeze fell down and still showed blood on his knee.
"Normal Italian roads? I don't know. All day s*** roads, and the final is ridiculous. It's a WorldTour race, but it's worse than a Belgian criterium.
"It can be there are some bad roads, but then you don't make three laps over the same bad roads over impossible corners, then you know things are going to go wrong."
The final 8.3-kilometre circuit took them three times around the coastal city. The race book called it "relatively wide and mostly straight urban roads ... with a series of tricky corners."
"The roads? They're great, but no for bike racing," said BMC Racing team boss, Jim Ochowicz as his rider Küng sat in the ambulance bleeding.
"I'm sure the road conditions led to his cash, there must have been 20 riders on the ground. That was not a circuit for a bike race. There were speed bumps everywhere and a lot of road furniture, the road narrowed at points. You could finish there, but not ride three or four circuits on it."
Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) hit the same pothole twice and punctured both times. Other rides including Froome and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) dealt with punctures as the stage headed south along the Tuscan coast.
"There are plenty of potholes, it's pretty normal for this part of the world that I have to be careful with all the potholes in the road," Kwiatkowski explained.
"I hit the pothole, luckily I stayed upright and I could come back, but the rest of the guys had bad luck. And I was almost involved in the crash."
Sometimes "it's normal to deal with such road conditions" anywhere in the world.
"We go from A to B, and sometimes you can't pick another road. You have to be careful not to race on too narrow tyres," Kwiatkowski added.
Froome is racing the Tirreno-Adriatico as part of his lead-up to the Giro d'Italia in May. It is race training but also offers a taste of the roads he will face in the Giro.
"I saved it, then someone hit me from behind," Froome said. "There was a big pileup, whole group of guys stopped.
"The roads were pretty sketchy, different than the normal calendar I've been doing every year. It takes a bit getting used to. It's something I need to get adjusted to, the racing style is slightly different in Italy and the road surface is different."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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