A crash before the official start of today's Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia has put a huge dent in Geraint Thomas's hopes of winning the overall title and perhaps even continuing in the race, with another of the pre-race favourites, Simon Yates, also distanced on the slopes of Mount Etna, where Jonathan Caicedo of EF Pro Cycling took the stage win with a solo attack on the final ascent.
João Almeida of Deceuninck-QuickStep meanwhile is the new overall leader, taking over the leadership of the race after a day that saw a massive shake-up in the general classification.
Giovanni Visconti of Vini Zabu' KTM finished second on the stage, 21 seconds behind, followed by Lotto-Soudal’s Harm Vanhoucke a further nine seconds back.
Among the riders with overall ambitions who kept their hopes intact today were Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang and two-time Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali of Trek-Segafredo, both of whom finished in a small group 51 seconds down on Caicedo.
Thomas, third overall this morning 23 seconds behind Ineos Grenadiers team mate Filippo Ganna, crashed in the neutralised zone, with the peloton waiting for him to get back on his bike before starting racing at kilometre zero on the 150km stage from Enna.
While the left-hand side of his jersey and shorts were badly ripped, the Welshman did not appear unduly uncomfortable early on, but with 28km remaining – and 10km still to ride before the final climb – he lost contact with the main group.
Ganna, the race leader and world time trial champion, dropped back to try and pace Thomas back, with Ben Swift and Rohan Dennis also supporting their team leader, but with the effects of that crash clearly worse than initially thought, he continued to lose time all the way up the final climb.
Thomas, shepherded up Mount Etna by Salvatore Puccio – a native of Sicily and past wearer of the maglia rosa – eventually crossed the line more than 12 minutes after Caicedo, and there must be a question mark over his continued participation in the race once the extent of his injuries has been assessed.
Meanwhile, an acceleration at the front of the main group with around 9km remaining put Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates in difficulty, the 2018 Vuelta winner – who earlier that year had spent a fortnight in the maglia rosa at the Giro – eventually finishing almost four and a half minutes after the stage winner.
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Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.