Reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) saw nearly all of his time advantage from Sunday’s team time trial erased on Tuesday when he lost contact with the front of the race late in Tuesday’s fourth stage at the Giro d’Italia. Officials docked Wiggins 17 seconds on the stage, pushing him from second overall to sixth, tied on time with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp).
Sky officials claimed that Wiggins had lost time behind a crash late in the stage. Riders delayed by a crash inside the final three kilometers of a stage that does not feature a summit finish are awarded the same time as the group with which they were riding, but the race jury ruled that the crash involving Cristiano Salerno (Cannondale) did not delay Wiggins.
“Brad was caught behind a crash. We are waiting for something from the race jury. The crash was inside three kilometers to go, so hopefully they will recognize that,” Sky director Marcus Ljungvist said in a statement on the team’s website. “It’s one of those things that happens in bike racing. It’s certainly not the end of the world.”
UCI jury president Hervé Brocque addressed the incident with the media after the stage and said that officials had looked back at transponder data to determine where the time breaks should appear in the results sheet.
“Wiggins was already behind at three kilometers [to go],” said Brocque. “After the last 3km, we had all the time checks thanks to the transponders. We saw who crashed. We had the time at the 3K and finish, and we gave back the time to those that were left behind.”
Wiggins’ teammate Rigoberto Urán moved to second overall, 17 seconds behind overall leader Luca Paolini (Katusha). Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) is third, at 26 seconds. After Tuesday’s stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is the top-placed pre-race favorite, in fourth, at 31 seconds.
“It’s one of those races where you just have to pay attention all the time,” Sky boss Dave Brailsford told Sky Sports News. “You can gain hard-earned seconds here and there and then you can lose time very quickly.
“Bradley’s in great shape mentally and physically. Ultimately, this first week is all about staying in contention and then this race will be won and lost in the time trials and the high mountains.”
Gregor Brown contributed to this report.