Team Sky co-leaders Geraint Thomas Mikel Landa were caught up in a mass pile-up when Wilco Keldeman of Team Sunweb clipped a stationary police motorcycle, causing a large crash which took out most of the British team.
Adam Yates was also held up in the crash – which occurred just as Quintana’s Movistar team were driving an infernal pace ahead of the first major summit finish of the race.
With Thomas, Landa, Diego Rosa, Sebastian Henao, Vasil Kiryienka and Kenny Elissonde all going down, the Team Sky 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.
“My shoulder popped out [in the crash],” Thomas said after he crossed the finish line. “I felt good on the climb, but then crashed, race over. The moto was just stopped on the side of the road. We were all racing for position, so we fill the road. Someone crashed in front of me, and I just went straight down.
“It’s too early to think about a new goal, I’m a bit angry, we’ll have to sit down and work out what we’re going to do tomorrow.”
“These things happen in sport”, said Dave Brailsford. “You’ve just got to stay calm and not overreact. Obviously there’s emotion but my role here is to keep the guys calm, assess the situation and look at how we go on from here.
“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.”