Geraint Thomas’ Giro d’Italia misfortunes continued on Tuesday when the British rider was forced to withdraw before the start of the fourth stage in Catania, Sicily with a fractured pelvis.
The 2018 Tour de France winner’s pink jersey ambitions were left in tatters after a heavy crash on Monday saw him lose more than 11 minutes at the arrival at Mount Etna in Sicily, to sit 53rd overall.
“It’s so frustrating,” said the 34-year-old, who fell hard on his left side after he cycled over a discarded water bottle during the pre-race parade on stage three.
The team Ineos rider has never been successful in his four Giro starts, but this is his earliest withdrawal, having also pulled out before the 13th stage in 2017, five days after a fall.
“I’d put so much work in to this race,” said the Welshman.
“I did everything I could and feel like I was in just as good, if not better shape, than when I won the Tour. I was feeling really good. So for it just to end like this is gutting.
“I was really up for starting today. I woke up and wanted to start with the boys and at least help them go for stages over the next few days, but deep down I knew something wasn’t right, so we went to get these extra scans.
“It does make the decision easier when there’s a fracture in some ways, because obviously I don’t want to do anymore damage.”
Ineos’ doctor Phil Riley said scans had “revealed a small undisplaced fracture in the lower part of the pelvis which wasn’t picked up on the X-rays yesterday”.
“As a precaution he will be withdrawn from the race as it’s an injury that could easily be aggravated.”
‘Shark’ Nibali well positioned
It was also another blow for Ineos after their disappointing Tour de France and defending Giro champion Egan Bernal’s withdrawal.
Of the potential contenders to win, Thomas had started Monday in the strongest position, sitting third overall, but finished with almost no hope of making back lost time.
“It’s still a long Giro. We have Filippo (Ganna) and Rohan (Dennis) with some good chances in the time trials,” Ineos sports director Matteo Tosatto said.
But 2020 looks set to become a write off for Ineos, formerly SKY, who dominated cycling for a decade coming into this season.
Another British rider, Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott, also had a bad day on Monday and stands at 3 minutes 46 seconds adrift of the leader.
With Thomas and Yates out of the equation focus now falls on two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang.
“I saw Thomas fall but we never expected that. Same for Yates, I’m stunned that this happened on these slopes,” said Nibali.
Nibali won the Giro in 2013 and 2016, and is sixth overall, 55 seconds behind Deceuninck’s Joao Almeida, with Fuglsang 1min 13sec behind the race leader.
Portugal’s Almeida wears the leader’s pink jersey for Tuesday’s fourth stage, a 140km run from Catania to Villafranca Tirrena, the last in Sicily before the race heads for mainland Italy.