Matt Goss sprinted to third in a messy bunch sprint in Margherita di Savoia. The mass finish concluded another hectic Giro d’Italia finale in which several crashes complicated the final hour of racing. Svein Tuft, Brett Lancaster, Christian Meier, Luke Durbridge and Leigh Howard were all involved in pile-ups, with Howard falling heavily on his left shoulder in the largest crash of the race.
“Everyone made the best of a tense situation,” said Sport Director Neil Stephens. “We had reduced numbers to help out in the finish due to the crash.”
The day enjoyed a relaxed start as Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Jack Bobridge (Blanco) slipped away from the bunch. The two-rider breakaway established a maximum advantage of seven minutes before Argos-Shimano and Lotto Belisol committed to the chase.
As the peloton sped towards the finish circuits, they overtook Wurf and Bobridge. Shortly after, Tuft and Lancaster were involved in a small crash.
“It was a really nervous day today because of the wind,” said Stephens. “Svein crashed on his birthday. Luckily he wasn’t hurt. Brett was involved in the same incident. They both made it back to the peloton without too much trouble.”
Durbridge, Meier and Howard were involved in a larger crash as the bunch neared the finish line for the start of two 16 kilometre circuit laps. Riders jostling for position on the front of the bunch went down and blocked the road for those behind.
"I went straight over my handlebars," explained Howard. "There wasn't anything I could to do to stop myself. I landed on my left shoulder, and I'm going to get x-rays now."
“We always try to be cautious,” added Stephens. “We noticed that Leigh seemed to be having difficulty holding his bars. Our team doctor is here at the finish, and he located the x-ray ambulance that the Giro organisation has here at the finish. Leigh is having a quick wash-up and then we’ll get him checked out. We expect to have more information by the time we reach the team hotel.”
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) had punctured a few minutes prior to the crash, and his teammates had dropped back to pace him back to the peloton. Although they were behind the crash, they were unable to get past the blocked road and were forced to chase the lead group of around 75 riders that formed following the crash.
“The boys recognized immediately that both Pieter and Brett were not in the front group when the bunch split,” noted Stephens. “Luke did a great job to assist the Sky riders in bringing the two groups back together. When the two groups merged, we had all but Leigh and Christian at the front.”
“Christian initially stayed with Leigh because he was trying to help him out,” said Stephens. “As Leigh came past the car, we noticed that he wasn’t holding the bars properly. It was good and courageous that he worked as hard as he did to make it back to the front, but I dare say he wouldn’t have been much help to his teammates even if he had made it back to them.”
In the main bunch, Goss had his teammates bide their time. In the final stretch of straight road, Tuft and Weening moved to the front to keep the tempo high.
“It was a bit of a complicated situation because of the crash,” noted Goss. “The boys did a good job to make it back on, but they used energy in doing that. Rather than have them lead me out, I had them go to the front and keep things quick. I was sitting a few wheels behind them at that point.”
"I wanted [Mark] Cavendish’s (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) wheel but I didn’t want to use the energy it would require to keep [Elia] Viviani (Cannondale) off it,” Goss continued. “I was able to make a few places but not as many as I would have liked. It’s good to get a result after yesterday. It might not be the result we wanted, but we’re moving up from earlier stages.”
Cavendish won the stage and dedicated his win to the late Wouter Weylandt who died after crashing on stage three of the Giro d’Italia two years ago today. Viviani managed second and Goss held off Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) to take third.
“Yesterday is gone, and I hate to continue on about it, but it was a really significant stage for us,” said Stephens. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalise on the day. Today was just another sprint stage – not THE sprint stage – for us. It wasn’t a bad day. It’s good to see Gossy touching up his form. We’re looking forward to the last ten days of the Giro where there will more opportunities for us as well.”
Editor’s note: We know many of you are eager for an update on Howard’s condition. As soon as we have more information to share, we’ll update this report and post updates on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for all the concern and well wishes on Howard’s behalf.
Update on Leigh Howard: X-rays confirm a clean fracture of the collarbone. No surgery needed. Leigh will not start stage seven of the Giro d'Italia. He expects to take ten days off the bike to heal.
"I'm disappointed not to be lining up tomorrow, especially with a couple more sprint stages in the next two weeks. It would have been good to have a better crack at giving Gossy a better lead out to get him up for the stage win. Life goes on, and I'll look ahead to the next race." - Leigh Howard