Joao Almeida extended his lead in the Giro d'Italia as Diego Ulissi triumphed on stage 13.

Ulissi claimed the eighth Giro stage win of his career as he outsprinted Almeida at the end of a 192-kilometre ride from Cervia to Monselice.

Almeida's efforts saw him pick up six bonus seconds, stretching his General Classification advantage to 40 seconds over Wilco Kelderman.

Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) was third, while Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) saw his hopes vanish.

Demare, winner of four stages this year, could not keep pace after the peloton was split into three on a short final climb and eventually finished 41 seconds off the pace.

While Demare still holds a healthy lead in the battle for the Maglia Ciclamino, he is over two minutes behind Almeida in the GC standings with eight stages to go.

Speaking after his victory, Ulissi - who also won stage two - conceded another success in this Giro had not been in his thoughts.

"We did a great job on the last climb and the team set-up me up perfectly. We dropped the sprinters and reduced the peloton to a small group," said Ulissi. 

"I was tired after doing the climb so fast but [team-mate Brandon] McNulty was fantastic in the way he led it out. I saw I'd got my wheel ahead and won. I've been on form all season. I didn't expect to win another stage but it’s a great feeling."

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) 04:22:18
2. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:00
3. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:00
4. Tao Geoghegan Hart (INEOS) +00:00
5. Mikkel Frolich Honore (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:00

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 53:43:58
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:40
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:49

Points Classification
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 221
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 184
3. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 78

King of the Mountains
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 87
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Saturday sees the riders tackle a challenging 34.1km time trial from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, which features one categorised climb and a maximum gradient of 19 per cent on the Muro di Ca' del Poggio.

Jhonatan Narvaez triumphed in difficult conditions on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia to seal a third victory of the race for Team INEOS.

Time-trial specialist Filippo Ganna has claimed two stage wins for the team and Narvaez completed the hat-trick on Thursday by attacking on the final climbs.

The Ecuadorian broke clear of the chasing pack along with Mark Padun but the Bahrain-McLaren rider had a mechanical issue with around 23 kilometres to go and needed to change bike.

Narvaez rallied for his maiden Grand Tour stage victory as he finished clear of Padun in Cesenatico, where rain fell during the majority of the 204km leg.

"This feels so good because it was a really hard stage with the cold and the rain," Narvaez said post-race.

"I'm happy because we've been working really hard before the Giro, then to try to get into the breakaway and to stay well and recover every day.

"Padun had a flat tyre and my sports director said to wait for him a little. But the race was fast and so I kept the pace. I knew the gap and kept going to the end.

"It means a lot for any professional rider to win here at the Giro d'Italia and especially so for me."

EF Pro Cycling's Simon Clarke took third place, while Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team) and Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec) completed the top five.

There was no change at the top of the general classification as Joao Almeida kept hold of the maglia rosa.

Despite being put under pressure, the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider retained his 34-second lead over Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb).

STAGE RESULT

1. Jhonatan Narvaez (Team INEOS) 05:31:24
2. Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren) +01:08
3. Simon Clarke (EF Pro Cycling) +06:50
4. Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team) +07:30
5. Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec) +07.43

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 49:21:46
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43

Points Classification
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 220
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 184
3. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 51

King of the Mountains
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Friday's stage 13 will be contested over 192km and is a sprinter's run from Cervia to Monselice, featuring some testing hurdles across a 40km stretch to the finish line.

Arnaud Demare clinched his fourth stage win of the 2020 Giro d'Italia to increase his points classification lead as he pipped Peter Sagan in a tense finish in Rimini on Wednesday.

On the unusually flat stage 11 along the Adriatic coast, Demare (Groupama-FDJ) produced a consistent performance that allowed for him to enjoy a late burst to add to his wins on stages four, six and seven.

Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had looked to be on course for a second successive stage win after his first ever in the Giro on Tuesday, but his decision making in the final stages ultimately cost him.

While he initially opted to focus on following Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) with less than 300 metres to go, Demare squeezed ahead and crossed the line a full length clear of Sagan.

Demare keeps hold of the Maglia Ciclamino, while Joao Almedia remains in control in the general classification battle with a 34-second lead, as the top three stayed out of trouble on a 182-kilometre route that was set up for the sprinters.

Frenchman Demare paid tribute to his team-mates, saying: "Impressive, really impressive. They had to bring the breakaway back and set a really high pace.

"It feels amazing. Of course, I didn't think I could get four stages here. I was looking for a stage win and I'm so happy.

"I really want to congratulate the whole team because it's their victory as well. They believed in me, everyone has worked really hard and the work is paying off."

Following Tuesday's spate of coronavirus-enforced withdrawals, there was an air of uncertainty heading into stage 11, but it was business as usual once the action started.

UAE Team Emirates and Cofidis looked dangerous in the mid-section but the latter were hamstrung shortly after the breakaway split with around 36km to go – Elia Viviani sent tumbling as a motorbike clipped him from behind.

In the latter stages Deceuninck-Quick-Step, UAE Team Emirates and INEOS Grenadiers riders came to the fore as Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal) began to flag at the front.

Demare and company arrived at the scene late on, and although they briefly lost the lead with under 2km to go, Miles Scotson and Jacopo Guarnieri expertly launched their team-mate to seal a dramatic win.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 04:03:52
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:00
3. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:00
4. Simone Consonni (Cofidis) +00:00
5. Rick Zabel (Israel Start-Up Nation) +00:00

CLASSIFICATION STANDING

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 43:41:57
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 220
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 184
3. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 51

King of the Mountains 
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers), Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Stage 12 sees the riders start and finish in the port town of Cesenatico, with the 204km route seeing them head into the mountainous hinterlands.

Peter Sagan produced a stunning solo display to win a chaotic 10th stage of the Giro d'Italia.

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider earned the first Giro stage victory of his decorated career with a daring effort on the 177-kilometre route from Lanciano to Tortoreto.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step's Joao Almeida extended his lead at the top of the general classification to 34 seconds on a day that started with a spate of coronavirus-enforced withdrawals.

It was not a happy outing for Jakob Fuglsang as he lost over a minute to Almeida, the Astana rider suffering a mechanical to fall well off the pace.

Despite Sagan's triumph, which means he has now taken stage honours at each of the Grand Tours, Arnaud Demare still has hold of the Maglia Ciclamino.

"I'm very happy, finally," said Sagan. "I've been trying since when we started the season again with Strade Bianche, San Remo, the Tour de France – I was a lot of time on the podium or top five but my last victory was last year in the Tour de France, already a long time ago.

"For sure I did not have the plan [to go solo]. When I already accepted second, third, fourth place, and I let it go and I don't try anymore – and now the victory comes. I'm very happy for that.

"Finally, I won in my style, I do the race, do some show, take the victory – it's something special."

Sagan was aggressive from the outset, leading a breakaway that was at one point five minutes ahead of the peloton.

Rain and a devilish course made for drama aplenty, but Almeida kept himself out of trouble to maintain a firm grip on his Maglia Rosa amid a chasing pack that was disrupted by sporadic breaks.

INEOS Grenadiers rider Ben Swift had been the only man to keep pace with Sagan heading into the last 20km, but the Slovakian proved too strong for the Briton.

The three-time world champion negotiated some horrendously steep climbs and a nerve-wracking descent in the wet to cross the line 19 seconds ahead of nearest rival Brandon McNulty.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 04:01:56
2. Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) +00:19
3. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:23
4. Ben Swift (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:23
5. Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) +00:23

CLASSIFICATION STANDING

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 39:38:05
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 167
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 147
3. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 51

King of the Mountains 
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3. Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers), Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

Stage 11 sees the riders continue up the Adriatic coast on a relatively flat 182km route from Porto Sant'Elpidio to Rimini.

The Giro d'Italia has been hit by a spate of coronavirus-enforced withdrawals after the Mitchelton-Scott team, Steven Kruijswijk and Michael Matthews all pulled out.

Mitchelton-Scott, who saw Adam Yates test positive before stage eight, took the decision to abandon the race after four members of staff contracted the virus.

"As a social responsibility we've made the decision to withdraw," said Mitchelton-Scott boss Brent Copeland.

It comes after 571 tests conducted over October 11-12 also showed title contender Kruijswijk had caught COVID-19, with the Jumbo-Visma rider having sat 11th, one minute and 24 seconds off the pace set by Joao Almeida.

In addition, Team Sunweb's Matthews tested positive ahead of stage 10, along with staff members at Team AG2R-La Mondiale and Team INEOS.

Ruben Guerreiro won stage nine of the Giro d'Italia in miserable conditions and Joao Almeida kept the maglia rosa on a memorable day for Portuguese cycling.

Guerreiro had enough in the tank at the end of a 208-kilometre route from San Salvo to Roccaraso to sprint away from Jonathan Castroviejo for a maiden Grand Tour stage victory.

The 26-year-old takes over as the leader of the king of the mountains battle and is only the second rider from Portugal to win a Giro stage, Acacio Da Silva having crossed the line first five times in the 1980s.

Guerreiro secured EF Pro Cycling's second stage win of the 2020 edition of the race, having been among five breakaway riders in the rain on Sunday.

He reacted when Castroviejo went on the attack and had the pace to go clear of the INEOS Grenadiers rider in an uphill finish after a tough final climb of almost 10km and won by a margin of eight seconds.

Mikkel Bjerg was third, finishing 58 seconds after Guerreiro, with Kilian Frankiny and Larry Warbasse completing the top five.

Guerreiro's compatriot Almeida continues to lead the race, but his advantage was reduced to 30 seconds.

Wilco Kelderman is up to second behind Deceuninck-Quick-Step's Almeida, who started the day with an advantage of 43 seconds over Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren).

Bilbao gained four seconds on Almeida, who will no doubt be ready for a day off on Monday, the first rest day.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 05:41:20
2. Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:08
3. Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) +00:58
4. Kilian Frankiny (Groupama–FDJ) 01:16
5. Larry Warbasse (AG2R La Mondiale) 01:16

CLASSIFICATION STANDING

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 35:35:50
2. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:30
3. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:39

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 167
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 110
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 87

King of the Mountains 
1. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) 84
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-Brado-KTM) 76
3.Jonathan Castroviejo (INEOS Grenadiers) 45

WHAT'S NEXT?

A rest day awaits the riders on Monday before they take on a 177km 10th stage from Lanciano to Tortoreto, with five sharp ascents to come in the final 65km.

Alex Dowsett secured Israel Start-Up Nation their first stage win at the Giro d'Italia with a sensational ride to Vieste on Saturday.

The Englishman pulled clear of the breakaway group and called upon his time-trial experience to sustain a clear lead to the finish line.

Dowsett, who broke track cycling's world hour record back in 2015, had endured a "nightmare" start to the day when he tweeted his disgust at having mistakenly brushed his teeth before remembering he had not finished his morning coffee, adding: "I really hope the day picks up."

His timing could not have been better out on the 200-kilometre ride from Giovinazzo to Vieste, as he attacked the front after a six-rider breakaway with around 16km to go.

Dowsett stretched his lead to close to 30 seconds at the bell and the gap was at a massive 75 seconds by the time he crossed the line for his second Giro stage win and the first for his team.

Salvatore Puccio took second ahead of Matthew Holmes and Joseph Rosskopf after a short sprint for the line.

The peloton had long since turned attention towards Sunday's stage, with the general classification standings largely unaffected by what was going on further ahead.

Joao Almeida, who finished 17th, retains a 43-second lead at the top of the GC over Pello Bilbao.

STAGE RESULT

1. Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) 04:50:09
2. Salvatore Puccio (Team INEOS) +01:15
3. Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal) same time
4. Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team) same time
5. Mathias Brandle (Israel Cycling Academy) + 02:10

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification 
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 29:52:34
2. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:48

Points Classification 
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 163
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 107
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 87

King of the Mountains 
1. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 41
2. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) 40
3. Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal) 20

WHAT'S NEXT?

Sunday's stage nine is a more arduous 208km from San Salvo to Roccaraso, which includes the steep climb to Passo Lanciano before the long ascent to the finish, as the riders move away from the coast and into the Apennine mountains.

Simon Yates has been withdrawn from the Giro d'Italia after testing positive for COVID-19. 

The Mitchelton-Scott rider had been three minutes and 52 seconds behind Joao Almeida, who holds the maglia rosa after seven stages. 

Yates began displaying "very mild" symptoms after the seventh stage and has returned two positive tests, his team announced. 

Team doctor Matteo Beltemacchi said: "Simon displayed a very mild temperature on Friday evening during our routine temperature checks, which have been completed three times per day during the course of the Giro d'Italia. 

"Following the team's RACESAFE COVID-19 policy, he was isolated in his room and we immediately requested a rapid test using the services offering by the RCS, which has returned positive.  

"Simon's health remains our main concern and, thankfully, his symptoms remain very mild and he is otherwise in good health. We want to thank the RCS for their support in arranging the quick testing and his transport. 

"All other riders and staff have returned negative results and have been cleared to continue the race, but as a precautionary measure we will monitor the situation closely and undergo further testing in the coming days."

Arnaud Demare made it a hat-trick of Giro d'Italia stage wins with a stunning show of speed at the end of Friday's leg.

The Groupama-FDJ rider had the legs to take the sprint at the end of a rapid and eventful 143-kilometre route from Matera to Brindisi.

It tightened the Frenchman's grip on the Maglia Ciclamino, with Peter Sagan beaten into second place again, while Michael Matthews was third.

There was no change at the top of the general classification as Joao Almeida kept hold of his Maglia Rosa.

Riders had to contend with a persistent crosswind on a stage in which road furniture also played a part.

There were several crashes, with a significant one happening as the road narrowed under the banner that marked 45km to go.

It split the peloton as several riders were left lagging behind, although the race at the front was effectively neutralised to allow the chasing pack to close the gap.

The finish was similarly untidy as teams struggled to get their sprint trains in order, but Demare's rivals had no answer when he darted for the line inside the closing stretch.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 02:47:28
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) same time
4. Ben Swift (Team INEOS) same time
5. Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 24:48:29
2. Pelle Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:48

Points Classification
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 161
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 106
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 83

King of the Mountains
1. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 41
2. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) 40
3. Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) 19

WHAT'S NEXT?

Saturday's stage takes the riders on a 200km route from Giovinazzo to Vieste, with a tough climb around the midway point marking a significantly more difficult second half after a flat start.

Arnaud Demare claimed his second stage win of this year's Giro d'Italia with a clear victory on Thursday to take the Maglia Ciclamino off Peter Sagan.

The Groupama-FDJ rider launched his attack around 100m from the line and had the legs to comfortably finish ahead of Michael Matthews in second and Fabio Felline in third.

Bora-Hansgrohe's Sagan was swamped on the inside and finished down in eighth on stage six as his wait for a victory goes on.

Demare, who held off Sagan and Davide Ballerini to win stage four in a photo finish, admits he took a risk as he waited for the perfect moment to time his sprint finish.

"This is amazing. It was an incredibly hard finish," Demare said post-race. "I launched the sprint and can't believe I won it. I said if I won the first one, there'd be more.

"We tried and now we've shaken off the pressure. It was risky and I didn't think there'd be a chance for a sprint and that Bora would control the race.

"At 200m I said, ‘I'm going to go for it’, and it worked out. Thanks to the team who trusted me and lead me."

There was no change in terms of the overall race leader at the end of the 188km journey from Castrovillari to Matera, with Joao Almeida keeping hold of his Maglia Rosa.

Almeida crashed with 36km to go and veered into the road, but the bunch soon eased up and the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider made up some ground.

The Portuguese holds a 43-second lead over Bahrain-McLaren's Pello Bilbao in the general classification, while Wilco Kelderman is a further five seconds back.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 04:54:38
2. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) same time
3. Fabio Felline (Astana) same time
4. Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (UAE Team Emirates) same time
5. Davide Cimolai (Start-Up Nation) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 22:01:01
2. Pelle Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:48

Points Classification
1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 106
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 67
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 55

King of the Mountains
1. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 41
2. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) 40
3. Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) 19

WHAT'S NEXT?

Stage seven is 143km and takes the riders from Matera to Brindisi. It is the second-shortest road stage of the Corsa Rosa, with the only hill of note early on.

Filippo Ganna claimed his second stage win of this year's Giro d'Italia with a magnificent display of his climbing ability on Wednesday.

Team INEOS rider Ganna mastered the gruelling ascent of Valico di Montescuro and successfully navigated the descent to the finish line in damp conditions on stage five.

The Grand Tour debutant took the maglia rosa on the first day but lost it on stage three after dropping back to aid team leader Geraint Thomas - who subsequently withdrew from the race - following a crash in the neutral zone.

However, the 24-year-old was back in form on a 225-kilometre ride from Mileto to Camigliatello Silano, where Joao Almeida picked up four bonus seconds to extend his lead at the top of the general classification to 43 seconds.

Ganna spent the entire day in the breakaway and twice reeled in Hector Carretero on the ascent of Valico di Montescuro – a 24.4km climb at an average gradient of 5.6 per cent.

He somehow managed to stick with Einer Rubio and Thomas De Gendt, who did superbly to bridge the gap from the peloton, after the steeper middle section and then attacked with 16km remaining.

An incredible effort saw him establish a lead of just over a minute by the time he reached the summit and crossed the line 34 seconds ahead of the GC group, which saw Almeida pick up some valuable time.

Vincenzo Nibali failed to make a move after his Trek-Segafredo team-mate Pieter Weening was withdrawn due to feeling light dizziness after a crash, with Ganna moving into the maglia azzurra.

STAGE RESULT
1. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 05:59:17
2. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:34
3. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:34
4. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:34
5. Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott) +00:34

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification
1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 17:06:23
2. Pelle Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:43
3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +00:48

Points Classification
1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 57
2. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 52
3. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) 27

King of the Mountains
1. Filippo Ganna (Team INEOS) 41
2. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) 40
3. Edoardo Zardini (Vini Zabu'-Brado-KTM) 18

WHAT'S NEXT?

The sprinters will be pleased to have a flat stage on Thursday, with a 188km journey from Castrovillari to Matera on the schedule.

An Italian cyclist was left with a suspected broken back amid a nightmarish catalogue of injuries after being struck by debris said to have been blown his way by a low-flying helicopter at the Giro d'Italia.

Luca Wackermann, 28, was struck by a barrier near the end of stage four of the race, according to his team - Vini Zabu–KTM - who said the incident could have resulted in "heavier consequences".

They listed extensive injuries including blows to his nose, dental arch, chin, arms and legs. It is feared Wackermann suffered a serious back blow with a lumbosacral fracture, with further checks to be carried out to verify that damage.

Wackermann and team-mate Etienne van Empel were taken out after gusts apparently caused by a race helicopter sent barriers into their path.

Van Empel later wrote on Twitter: "I am okay. Only some small cuts on my fingers. Not really sure what happened but out of nowhere the barriers flew into our group."

But the news was miserable for Wackermann, who suffered extensive physical blows.

In a statement, his team revealed the injuries, saying: "The first report from the Universitary Hospital of Messina, where the rider has been moved after the crash, says that Wackermann suffered a concussion following a head injury, a fracture of the nasal bones, multiple contusions to the face and in the lumbosacral zone, a valid contusion to the lips and to the dental arch, lacerated wounds to the left eyebrow, on the chin and on the right knee, multiple bruises to arms and legs and a suspected lumbosacral fracture that is gonna be x-rayed again.

"Wackermann will spend the night in the hospital kept under observation and losing that chance to live a dream vanished because of an episode that could have brought some heavier consequences."

In his hospital bed, Wackermann was pictured by his team in a post on Twitter looking battered and bruised but attempting to raise a smile and giving a thumbs-up to the camera.

Arnaud Demare held off Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini to win stage four of the Giro d'Italia on the day that pre-race favourite Geraint Thomas was forced to withdraw.

Team INEOS rider Thomas sustained a pelvis fracture when riding over a drinks bottle prior to the start of stage three and announced on Tuesday he was unable to continue.

That decision was taken shortly before an eventful leg in Villafranca Tirrena, with Groupama–FDJ's Demare sneaking in ahead of Sagan and Ballerini in a photo finish.

Bora-Hansgrohe's Sagan launched his sprint with a little under 200m to go, with Demare to his left, but he finished a matter of millimetres behind his rival.

Italian riders Ballerini, Andrea Vendrame and Elia Viviani completed the top five.

"I think it was a millimetre," Demare said in his post-race interview. "I had luck on my side. I often train for sprints behind my dad's scooter. It helped me for today.

"I wasn't sure if I had won when I crossed the line."

Joao Almeida finished the stage safely in the front group and extended his overall lead over closest challenger Jonathan Caicedo to two seconds, having taken bonus seconds on the second intermediate sprint.

The tense finish was somewhat overshadowed by a nasty crash involving Vini-Zabu riders Luca Wackermann and Etienne van Empel, who appeared to be taken out by barriers blown into their path by a low-flying race helicopter.

Geraint Thomas has abandoned the Giro d'Italia after suffering a pelvis fracture in a crash prior to the start of stage three.

Team INEOS rider Thomas was the pre-race favourite for the maglia rosa but fell on his left side after riding over a drinks bottle in the neutral zone on Monday.

The 2018 Tour de France champion returned to the bunch but was dropped by the peloton ahead of the ascent of Mount Etna, a 19-kilometre climb to the finish line.

Thomas finished over 12 minutes behind stage winner Jonathan Caicedo and lost more than 11 minutes to some of his general classification rivals.

Examinations carried out prior to stage four showed Thomas had sustained a fracture to his pelvis and would not contest the rest of the race.

"Geraint Thomas has been withdrawn from the Giro d'Italia ahead of stage four after further scans revealed a fracture of his pelvis following yesterday's crash," his team tweeted on Tuesday.

Thomas' team-mate Filippo Ganna dropped back to help guide him to the finish line and consequently relinquished the maglia rosa to Joao Almeida.

Geraint Thomas' hopes of winning the Giro d'Italia were effectively dashed as Jonathan Caicedo won a third stage that blew the general classification race wide open.

Team INEOS rider Thomas crashed in the neutral zone prior to the 150-kilometre ride that began in Enna and was dropped from the peloton prior to the gruelling 19km climb up Mount Etna to the finish.

He finished 12 minutes and 19 seconds adrift of Caicedo and more than 11 minutes behind a group of GC contenders that included Vincenzo Nibali.

Simon Yates, another candidate to triumph in Italy, finished four minutes and 22 seconds behind Caicedo, who narrowly missed out on the maglia rosa to Joao Almeida.

Thomas appeared to only suffer superficial injuries when he went down prior to the start of the race, with the crash reportedly caused by a bottle falling loose in the bunch.

Filippo Ganna, who started the day in the pink jersey, helped his INEOS team-mate Thomas fight on until the end, but losing ground at the base of Etna may well have extinguished the Welshman's hopes of winning a second grand tour.

Caicedo was a late arrival to an early break and he hung on as others wilted, dropping Giovanni Visconti with 5km to go and charging on to glory.

"I can't believe it, it's a dream come true. It just goes to show that if you believe in yourself, you can do it," said Caicedo.

"I was with a rider [Visconti] with a lot of experience and plenty of Giros behind him. I tried to pace myself and time my attack well, and I had the strength to make it to the finish line.

"I came here for stage wins. I hope my body responds well, and I'll try again on other days."

Harm Vanhoucke claimed the remaining bonus seconds before Jakob Fuglsang led Nibali, Rafal Majka, Jonathan Castroviejo and Domenico Pozzovivo across the line 51 seconds after Caicedo. Steven Kruijswijk was a further five seconds behind.

Yates fell away with 9km remaining and Mitchelton-Scott only dropped one rider back to assist him, meaning he slipped three minutes and 46 seconds adrift in a dramatic day in the GC.


STAGE RESULT

1. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) 04:02:33
2. Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu' - Brado-KTM) +00:21
3. Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) +00:30

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 07:44:25
2. Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) +00:00
3. Pello Blibao (Bahrain-McLaren) +00:37

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