MACUGNAGA, Italy (VN) — Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad) broke his right leg in a high-speed crash when he hit a traffic sign during Friday’s rainy stage across northern Italy at the Giro d’Italia.

2011 Giro d'Italia stage 16: HTC's Craig Lewis
Lewis on stage 16. Photo: Graham Watson |

TV images on RAI showed Lewis being transferred into an ambulance on stretcher while an attendant held an umbrella over Lewis’s face to protect him from rain. Giro officials said he was conscious and was moving, a good sign after such a high-speed impact.

HTC-Highroad also lost Marco Pinotti in a crash and both riders were transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Speaking to VeloNews at the finish line, HTC-Highroad sport director Valerio Piva said the sign was hard to see. The sign was protected by a hay bale, which helped to soften the impact.

“It was a small sign on a traffic island and it was hard to see. They should have someone there to warn the riders,” Piva said. “They were going full-gas on the flats before the final climb. It was raining and it was very hard to see. It appears he hit the sign at full speed.”

Piva said losing both riders ahead of Saturday’s decisive climbing is a big blow to the team’s GC hopes of Kanstanstin Sivtsov, who is fifth overall at 9:58 back.

“Craig and Marco were two important riders to help ‘Kosta’ in tomorrow’s stage up the Finestre. They were the two riders who were there to stay with him as long as possible,” Piva said. “It’s a tough blow for Marco, too, because he was the big favorite for the time trial victory on Sunday. He won the same stage a few years ago against Contador and was really focusing on winning there.”

The crash is a big blow for Lewis, who was closing in on finishing his second Giro in two years. Lewis made it through last year’s Giro and nearly won a stage in a breakaway. This year, Lewis was one of the most versatile riders on the Giro team, helping the team secure victory in the team time trial, then lending a hand for Mark Cavendish in the sprints before shifting gears for the mountain stages.

“Craig really stepped up this year. He was having a great Giro. Now we don’t know how long we will lose him,” Piva said. “He really did a great job for us in this Giro.”

Check back to VeloNews for more updates on Lewis’s condition.