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Wiggins’ GC hopes slide out of control ahead of Giro time trial

PESCARA, Italy (VN) — The general classification of the Giro d’Italia slid out of control Friday in Pescara after Sky’s Bradley Wiggins crossed the finish line almost 90 seconds behind his main rivals following a dangerous, crash-marred descent from San Silvestro in the rain.

Wiggins was already in difficulty over the top of the climb, and after his crash, on a wet right-hand turn inside seven kilometers from the finish, he visibly lost his confidence, navigating turns with the uneasy caution of a shaken rider who has lost faith in the road surface.

The Tour de France champion was far from the only rider to crash in the finale on a series of slick, wet descents; Astana’s GC leader Vincenzo Nibali also slid out at high speed inside the final 10km. However, while Nibali quickly remounted and jumped into chase group, Wiggins never truly switched back into race mode. He was seen after the finish icing his right knee.

The impact of Wiggins’ crash was felt instantly, on the classification, and will be understood further after Saturday’s critical 54.8km time trial. He slipped from sixth overall, tied on time with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and three seconds behind Nibali, to 23rd, 1:27 behind Nibali and 1:24 behind Hesjedal.

On Friday morning, Wiggins was widely viewed as a favorite to win Saturday’s TT stage, and to take the maglia rosa. After his crash and time loss, both goals have been compromised. The Sky captain will no doubt feel the effects of the fall during his race against the clock; a stage win is far from guaranteed for the Olympic time trial champion, and assuming the race lead seems even less probable.

Given that Hesjedal won last year’s Giro by 15 seconds, Wiggins’ time loss can only be seen as a major blow in his bid to become a Tour and Giro champion.

Sky boss Dave Brailsford called Friday’s stage a setback, but said that Wiggins was not injured: “Ultimately, when you have difficult conditions like these and hard racing, this type of thing can happen. It’s a setback, but Brad’s still very much in the hunt. We’ve now got to take each day as it comes, focus on fully recovering tonight and hitting the time trial hard tomorrow. We’ll see where we are tomorrow night and take stock of the situation then.”

Other than Wiggins, all of the major GC contenders — Nibali, Hesjedal, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) — finished on the same time.

“Today was a very important finish, but there are still two weeks of racing left to this Giro, and a lot can happen,” Nibali said.

And while that’s true, a lot has already happened, particularly on Friday to the Tour de France champion.

Light rain fell outside the Team Sky bus Friday night in the coastal resort town of Gabbice Mare, where the stage 8 time trial begins. The weather forecast calls for a 60-percent chance of rain, turning to thunderstorms in the afternoon, meaning plenty more can, and will, happen on Saturday.

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