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Giro d'Italia

Domenico Pozzovivo on Giro d’Italia crash, GC losses: ‘I was unlucky in that moment, my career is like that’

Intermarché-Wanty's motley crew of pick 'n' mix riders blend success and heartbreak as Hirt buries his Mortirolo miss and Pozzovivo loses time.

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Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and its motley crew of dark horses, war horses, and breakout stars had wounds to lick while it poured its podium prosecco Tuesday.

The underdog rabble of pick ‘n’ mix racers cracked the fizz for a second Giro stage victory with Jan Hirt and celebrated a second rider breaking into the upper echelons of GC.

But the bubbles tasted a touch bitter after Hirt’s team captain and Giro long-timer Domenico Pozzovivo was pushed out of pink jersey contention when pressured into a crash on the maze-like descent of the Mortirolo.

“I didn’t need that crash. I was a bit unlucky, and I had some problems with the brakes,” Pozzovivo said. “I ended up on the ground, and I lost contact. I could recuperate after chasing getting back to the front, and then I paid the price.”

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Pozzovivo was riding high at 61 seconds back Tuesday morning but was victim of a swashbuckling Vincenzo Nibali descent deep into stage 16’s mountain marathon.

A dramatic dive by the “Shark of Messina” stretched the GC group and squeezed an error out of his cool and collected yet bent and buckled elder countryman.

Pozzovivo clipped the grass verge, lost contact and suffered a long chase back to the group while receiving treatment for a pair of bloodied elbows that will add scars to a body already devastated by a long list of damage.

“I was a bit unlucky in that moment, but my career is a bit like that,” Pozzovivo said after trailing home nearly three minutes behind his GC rivals.

Pozzovivo was distanced for a second time in Tuesday’s stage by the attacking assault of Richard Carapaz, Mikel Landa and Jai Hindley and now sits sixth overall, 3:48 back. But for the 39-year-old to still be anywhere near the front is a story in itself.

A head-on collision with a car in 2019 left the veteran Italian stallion nursing persistent back pain and riding with a bent and buckled left arm and leg.

“I don’t want to count really one by one because there are maybe some more ribs, but I broke around 20 bones and I underwent 16 operations,” Pozzovivo recently told Cycling Weekly of his devastating crash.

Pozzovivo’s battered body won’t be climbing onto the podium at the end of his 16th Giro.

But at just eight seconds back on fifth-place Nibali, Pozzovivo’s dream of a Giro top-5 is still in play for a racer that some thought would never be back in the saddle.

A return to the Mortirolo Hirt locker

Jan Hirt celebrated a bit win Wednesday. (Photo: MARCO ALPOZZI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pozzovivo has been at the center of a stellar season for the WorldTour’s most over-reaching roster.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert-Matériaux’s day-glo crew amassed victories at Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, Tour of Oman, and more before the Giro rolled out of Budapest.

Hirt’s breakaway victory makes it two for the Belgian bunch after Biniam Girmay broke new ground in Jesi exactly one week before. It’s a victory count that adds to a haul of Vuelta a España red jerseys and Vuelta and Giro stage-wins in 2021 that established the team as the overlooked underdogs of the top-tier.

Intermarché’s winning streak comes from an array of riders left on the shelf by bigger teams or plucked from obscurity by canny scouts.

Also read: Girmay: ‘When you win as the first guy, there is pressure’ 

Hirt, an 11-year pro with long spells at CCC and Astana, is one of the former. Finishing second to Giulio Ciccone on a similar stage in the 2019 Giro left the perennial dark horse with business to finish Tuesday.

“I was looking forward to do something nice in this stage, because the Mortirolo has a special meaning for me. In 2019 I finished second in the queen stage which also passed the Mortirolo and in Aprica,” he said.

Kicking away from more celebrated riders like Lennard Kämna and Thymen Arensman over the Santa Cristina summit forged a stereotypical Intermarché success that pushed Hirt to ninth on GC without no one even noticing,

“A stage victory in the Giro d’Italia was my ultimate goal before today and then I could stop my career,” he said. “But now I’m here, I’m happy, I don’t want to stop.”

It don’t get much more Intermarché than that.