Richard Carapaz won the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia in a galloping uphill charge, but his gallantry will have been overshadowed by the carnage left by a pair crashes back down the road, which wreaked havoc among the contenders for overall victory – and all but knocked 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin out of the race.
The first crash occurred with only about six kilometers left of a long, 235-kilometer run from Orbetello to Frascati, on the outskirts of Rome, that had until then been relatively uneventful. Salvatore Puccio of Team Ineos seemed to have been the cause, touching the back wheel of the rider in front of him as the bunch rode in tight formation. That sent riders into the ditches on either side of the road and backed up those behind, as they tried to make their way through the tangle of legs and sprockets.
The fracas, near the front of the group, allowed a small bunch of riders who had come out unscathed – including race leader Primoz Roglic – to carry on down the road. That set alarm bells ringing for the other overall contenders, but a couple of kilometers down the road this chase group had its own crash, as they navigated a roundabout. The crash was not caught by Italian broadcasters, but it seemed to have taken down favorites Simon Yates, Mikel Landa, and Dumoulin.
Meanwhile the front group – an odd assortment of Roglic, Carapaz, two sprinters (Caleb Ewan and Pascal Ackermann), and various puncheurs, prepared to duke it out at the finish line. Carapaz, a natural climber, took best to the uphill finish, leaving the group behind with about 400 meters to go. Ewan made a late effort to catch him, but he ran out of road, finishing a split-second behind the Ecuadorian.
Then the clock began to count up the time that Roglic’s stroke of fortune was putting into his rivals. The group of Yates, Vincenzo Nibali, Rafal Majka, and Bob Jungels managed to cross the line just 16 seconds after Roglic, but Landa, who had been in the crash back in the roundabout, lost a further 26 seconds.
Dumoulin’s case was far worse. The big Dutchman had reportedly been on the ground for some time before slowly remounting. When television pictures caught up with him, he was back on his bike, pedaling gingerly, with a scuffed-up arm, blood streaming down his left leg from a deep cut over his knee, and a full escort of teammates. It was clear from his pace that he thought himself out of contention for this year’s Giro. (The team later announced that an X-ray had shown no fractures, but it remains uncertain whether Dumoulin will continue.)