Matt Goss of Orica-GreenEdge today won the Australian team's first ever Grand Tour stage, beating Saxo Bank's Juan Jose Haedo and Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Barracuda, but there was high drama inside the final few hundred metres was a big crash took out Team Sky's Mark Cavendish, leader of the points competition, and BMC Racing's Taylor Phinney, wearing the maglia rosa of race leader. Initially it was thought that Phinney's race was over, but he was subsequently shown on TV in the finish area, having crossed the line and thereby retaining his position at the head of the race.
Afterwards, Jim Ochowicz, manager of Phinney's BMC Racing team, said: "Nothing appears to be broken. But he may need some stitches." Cavendish himself walking most of the couple of hundred metres to the line with his bike slung over his tight shoulder, the right hand side of his shorts and jersey ripped, road rash on his left shoulder, before remounting.
Cavendish battered after today's crash (pic: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Cavendish, winner of yesterday's Stage 2, was lying fifth and had just started his sprint on the right hand side of the bunch, following Farrar's wheel, when the incident happened.
Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela rider Roberto Ferrari, ahead of Cavendish and to his left, veered suddenly and sharply off his line and into the world champion's path, taking out his front wheel, the Team Sky rider crashing and a number of following riders coming down as well.
Cavendish (centre) hits the deck (pic: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Ferrari, who had stayed upright and crossed the line in fourth place, was relegated from the results to take the last position in the bunch that crossed the line, 192nd place. It is not clear whether and other action will be taken against the 29-year-old Italian; Geraint Thomas, second overall, compared his actions in a post on Twitter to a two-footed challenge in football, or a spear tackle in rugby, both of which would earn the perpetrator a suspension.
Mark Renshaw of Rabobank, who took fifth place today, himself went on Twitter to say that he had "got sent home for much less," a reference to his disqualification from the Tour de France in 2010 when he headbutted Garmin's Julian Dean while leading out then HTC colleague Cavendish; there is a difference between that and today's incident, however, since they are dealt with by separate UCI rules, the earlier one classed as an act of violence, while today's relates to deviating from the line in a sprint.
The crash could have been much worse for Cavendish had a couple of riders immediately behind him not employed lightning reflexes to avoid the prostrate Team Sky man, one missing him by millimetres as he swerved round him, another bunny-hopping over him. Subsequent riders did hit him, but would already have been braking as a result of the chaos ahead of them.
Quoted on the Team Sky website, team doctor Richard Freeman said: "Mark’s had a bad crash and is very uncomfortable but we’re taking care of him. We’re travelling as a team to Verona," where the race resumes with a team time trial on Wednesday after tomorrow's rest day.
Sports Director Steven de Jongh added: "The team did another good job today. Flecha was really strong and helped control the breakaway just like Ian [Stannard] did yesterday.
"In the final the guys got separated a little bit but Cav was still well positioned to contest the sprint until Roberto Ferrari veered across and took away his front wheel in those last 100 metres. He lost a lot of skin but was able to pick himself up and complete the stage.
"The rest of the guys came through okay and hopefully we’ll have a hassle-free transfer to Verona now and be able to get some good work in tomorrow in preparation for Wednesday’s team time trial."
Phinney homself was sitting on the ground receiving treatment, and initially there were fears that the 21-year-old American, leader of the Giro since Saturday's opening time trial, would not be able to continue, with initial reports amid the confusion that he had even been taken to hospital in an ambulance proving to be unfounded, although he was brought across the line in one. SInce the crash happened within the final 3km, he was awarded the same time as the group he was with.
Taylor Phinney after the Stage 3 finale (pic: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Prior to today's 190km stage, which was based on three loops around Horsens including a closing circuit of 14.3km, the peloton had paused to remember Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian rider killed during Stage 3 of last year's Giro while riding for Leopard Trek, and who 12 months previously had won Stage 3 of the 2010 race for Quick Step.
In scenes reminiscent of last year's neutralised stage to Livorno when he crossed the line arm in arm with the eight Leopard Trek riders, Garmin-Barracuda's Tyler Farrar, a close friend of Weylandt's, joined the men from the successor to that team, RadioShack Nissan, in the front line of the peloton for the minute's silence.
Remembering Wouter Weylandt (pic: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Also present at the start were Weylandt's parents, as well as his girlfirend An Sophie De Graeve, mother of his daughter, Alizée, born in September, four months after her father's death. The sombre tone to proceedings was added to by the death of the mayor of Horsens yesterday while takingpart in a ride to celebrate the Giro's arrival in the town.
Immediately from the start, six riders got away in what would be the day's break, including Garmin-Barracuda's Ramunas Navardauskus, 22 seconds off the lead this morning, plus Martijn Keizer of Vacansoleil-DCM, Alfredo Balloni from Farese Vini, the Euskaltel rider Miguel Minguez, NetApp's Reto Hollenstein (NetApp) and and Mads Christensen of Saxo Bank.
The day's break (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
The six escapees weren't allowed to build too much of a gap, however, and the last member of the group, Christensen, who had tried to stay away, was caught with 25km left.
In a repeat of yesterday's stage, almost as soon as the catch had been made, Jutland native Lars Bak of Lotto-Belisol jumped off the front of the peloton and enjoyed the cheers of the crowd as he led the Giro around the penultimate lap in Horsens.
As the bell rang to signify the start of the final lap, the Dane had barely 10 seconds advantage over the chasing peloton, with Team Sky, Liquigas-Cannondale, Lampre-ISD and RadioShack-Nissan, the latter aiming to pay tribute to Weylandt through a stage win, leading the pursuit ahead of what would prove to be a sprint that will live in the memory for the wrong reasons.
Peloton on last day in Denmark (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Danes in the pink (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.