Pascal Ackermann edged Jonathan Milan in a photo finish on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, as accidents and sickness continued to force riders out.
Eight riders pulled out overnight while one of the race favourites, the 2020 champion Tao Geoghegan Hart was stretchered into an ambulance following a nasty fall with suspected breaks to his leg and pelvis.
Ackermann clung on to victory as Jonathan Milan flew level at the line for a photo finish with Mark Cavendish taking third.
“Really, really special victory for me. After my broken coccyx last year, I’m finally back,” said Ackermann.
Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers retained the overall leader’s pink jersey but not only lost Geoghegan Hart, but team sherpa Pavel Sivakov, who also went down, limped home minutes behind the peloton.
Thomas lamented the loss but was already thinking of the road ahead.
“He had great chance of winning this Giro. It would be a massive asset for the team to have two of us there, but that’s racing, things change quickly, you have to adapt,” said the 2018 Tour de France winner who has also been on the podium as second and third at the Tour.
Primoz Roglic remains second at 2sec after the 219km run from Camaiore to Tortona, in between Milan and Turin.
Just 141 of the original 176 who embarked on the Giro 12 days ago remain, making it 36 riders out so far.
Thursday’s stage 12 is a hilly one over 179km from Bra to Rivoli ahead of Friday’s run into Switzerland and the Crans Montana in the Alps.