A crash on stage nine dealt a blow to Team Sky’s Giro d’Italia challenge with Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa both caught up in a mass pile-up.
With Thomas, Landa, Diego Rosa, Sebastian Henao, Vasil Kiryienka and Kenny Elissonde all going down, the riders were forced to regroup amid the carnage and disbelief, while the race continued ahead unabated.
Landa was quickly up but struggled as the climb ramped up. Thomas, who had to wait for a new bike, battled onwards and received help from Rosa, Henao and Philip Deignan on the first-category summit.
With attacks firing among the overall contenders up the mountain, time loss was inevitable, and a brave Thomas eventually crossed the line five minutes and seven seconds back on stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Landa eventually finished the stage over 26 minutes down.
All nine Team Sky riders were able to finish the stage and continue their transfer into the rest day. Despite no immediate obvious major injuries, all riders will be checked over by Team Sky’s medical staff and the team will be able to provide further updates in the coming days.
Far from being down in the dumps, back on the bus Thomas told TeamSky.com he is committed to battling on at the Giro.
He said: "It's just about keeping fighting. We kept fighting today and never gave up. It could have been a lot worse. We lost five minutes but I felt like I lost three or four of those on the side of the road - so the legs are obviously decent.
"I'll aim to have a good rest day tomorrow, give the TT a good bash and then see where we stand. It's obviously going to be super hard to win the overall now, but there are still stages to go for and we might still be able to move up into the top 10 or better. At the moment I just want to use the aggression, race hard and see what I can get out of it.
"I've had worse crashes. My shoulder is sore but it's nothing I can't deal with. There's a lot more racing to be had so we'll get stuck in."
It's just about keeping fighting. There's a lot more racing to be had so we'll get stuck in.
“It would have been nice to see how the guys got on today. We were pretty confident in both Mikel and G with their condition but we’ll never know. But what we will know is what we do tonight, tomorrow, the next day and for the rest of the race.
“You know the goalposts are going to move at times and you just have to react and respond properly to it. The motorbike shouldn’t have been there – I think we all see that. But I’m sure the guy riding the motorbike realises that too, and I’m sure he isn’t feeling too great about it. So we leave it at that, but I do think we need to go back and have a look at it, and ask the questions, why it happened etc. We fight on, that’s it. You’ve got to re-calibrate and keep going. That’s the nature of this sport. You get knocked down, you’ve got to get up again and keep going. That’s what we’ll do."
With the early breakaway established Movistar took up the pace setting, setting their stall out early in a bid to set up Quintana.
The Colombian was the first of the big names to attack on the climb, initially taking Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida) and Thibault Pinot (FDJ) with him, before accelerating again to go clear with 4.5km to go. Pinot and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) were next home, 24 seconds back on the new race leader.