ORVIETO, Italy (VN) – Garmin-Cervélo earned a trip to the post-stage podium presentation as the Giro d’Italia’s “super team,” but it was without top sprinter Tyler Farrar and the maglia rosa.
David Millar ceded the pink tunic to the attacking Pieter Weening after losing the wheel on the final charge up to the Orvieto hill-top finish. He arrived at the line covered in dust with a bloodied left knee after crashing with Angel Vicioso as the pair battled for a mid-race hot sprint.
Millar lost more than two minutes and tumbled to 46th at 2:36 back overall in what was a rather inglorious end to his pink jersey run that was overshadowed by the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt. Millar became the first British rider to win leader’s jerseys in all three grand tours, but he didn’t have much chance to celebrate it.
“I was really blocked because I suffer from allergies in this part of Italy. It was really hard today. I was able to come back to the front group coming out of the gravel, but it was impossible,” Millar said. “We raced today after what was an emotional day yesterday. It was almost better to get our minds back on the Giro.”
Garmin started the Giro’s return to action following Tuesday’s neutralized stage without top sprinter Farrar. Last year, Farrar won two Giro stages and expected more of the same this year.
Weylandt’s death was devastating for Farrar, however. The two were best friends and training partners in Ghent, Belgium, where Farrar has settled. Farrar rode across the finish line in tears in Tuesday’s tribute stage arm-in-arm with the Leopard-Trek team, but decided he did not want to continue racing. Farrar did not start Wednesday’s stage.
“Tyler was too shaken up to continue. He didn’t want to come down to eat. He was completely destroyed by the death of his best friend,” Millar said. “They were like brothers. So he decided to go home.”
Garmin-Cervélo management supported Farrar’s decision to leave the Giro. No decision has been made on when he might race next.
Like the rest of the peloton, Garmin-Cervélo turned its focus back to racing in Wednesday’s challenging stage across the gravel roads of Tuscany. Although Millar lost the pink jersey, GC hope Christophe Le-Mevél finished fourth in the stage and climbed to fourth overall.
Brazilian sprinter Murilo Fischer said despite the departure of Farrar he doesn’t expect to be challenging in the bunch sprints.
“It was very hard on Tyler about what happened to Wouter. He was crying. It was something horrible that happened. I respect what Tyler did. It’s a big gesture from a big man to show his support for his best friend,” Fischer said. “I can sprint OK, but not against this level of field. These guys have top-end speed much higher than me, so I will not be in mass sprints. It’s better for me to get into breakaways and try to win out of a small group.”