We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission when you use one of the links. The company pays us for referral link sharing, which helps us run this blog and give our in-depth content to our readers for free.
In the Giro d’Italia, as in life, everything can change in an instant. On top of the Colla di Boasi, Tao Geoghegan Hart was comfortably at the front of the peloton as it sped towards the end of stage 11 in Tortona and in the heart of the battle for overall victory in Rome.
His Giro would end on the other side, where he was the worst affected of the fallers in a mass crash on the rain-slicked road. Instead of racing north to Tortona for the next hour, Geoghegan Hart was stretchered onto an ambulance and driven south to Sampierdarena Hospital on the outskirts of Genoa.
“We don’t have news,” his directeur sportif Matteo Tosatto told Cyclingnews outside the team bus at the finish in Tortona. “He was in a lot of pain, it seemed to be his leg. We said, ‘Tao, will you be able to keep going?’ and he said, ‘No, no, no, I’m in too much pain.’ We don’t have news from the hospital yet. It’s a serious loss and a big loss for us. But sport is like that.”
Ineos later announced that Geoghegan Hart had suffered a fractured hip.
Tao Geoghegan Hart abandons Giro d’Italia after stage 11 crash
Giro d’Italia abandons: The full list of riders who have left the race
Giro d’Italia 2023 contenders – Analysing the pink jersey favourites after the first week
“After further assessment, imaging confirmed that Tao had sustained a fracture of the left hip which will require surgery,” the team stated on social media.
“I’m devastated this is how my Giro ended,” Geoghegan Hart wrote on his social media page. “Thank you all for your messages and support. I was so excited about the remainder of this race and loving every minute of it.”
As Tosatto was speaking, another of his riders, Pavel Sivakov, was still riding alone and bloodied to the finish after coming down in the same crash as Geoghegan Hart. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, it looked as though the Frenchman’s Giro might also come to a halt, but he eventually set out and gingerly completed the 68km to Tortona by himself, more than 13 minutes behind the gruppo.
Sivakov wasn’t entirely alone in his endeavour, mind. A commissaire kept a close vigil on his solitary effort, swatting away any attempt from a team car to offer him a friendly slipstream to follow towards Tortona. In the Giro, as in the Divine Comedy, every circle of hell has a dedicated guardian.
“At the start, it looked like Pavel wouldn’t be able to keep going either, but he stayed with the doctor for five minutes and then he started pedalling again and that’s a good sign,” Tosatto said. “He’ll lose a lot of time, but the important thing is that he’s still in the race. We just hope it’s nothing serious for him because it would be very difficult to lose two riders like them today.”
Still, it could have been worse. In the Giro, as in life, it could always have been worse. The maglia rosa Geraint Thomas was the first of the Ineos riders to fall on the descent of the Colla di Boasi, brought down by Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates), but he had the fortune to slide on top of the Italian, whereas Geoghegan Hart and Sivakov smacked against the asphalt.
“It seems he didn’t do anything to himself, and he made it to the finish on the same bike,” Tosatto said. “When you fall, it’s never good. But he’s finished the stage and this evening, we’ll look at everything.”
A lifetime ago at the start in Camaiore, Tosatto had five of his riders in the top 11 overall, with Geoghegan Hart just five seconds off Thomas’ maglia rosa in third place. Ineos had the strongest team in the race and options for every imaginable scenario from here to Rome. Tosatto could look ahead with optimism to stage 13 to Crans-Montana, a day he reckoned would give the race its first scossone, its first big jolt.
And now? For Ineos, the scossone had come 48 hours early. It wasn’t feasible to think clearly about the coming days on Wednesday afternoon when the aftershocks of this one hadn’t yet subsided.
“It’s impossible to think about that right now,” Tosatto said. “We’ll have to reset, but this is a big shock.”
“It’s all for Geraint now”
A few metres away, manager Rod Ellingworth was reminded of the afternoon in 2011 when an on-form Bradley Wiggins was forced out of the Tour de France after breaking his collarbone on the road to Chateauroux.
“I just feel for Tao. He was pinging, wasn’t he?” Ellingworth said. “But we know with cycling you just don’t know what’s around the corner. That’s sometimes the beauty of this sport. It is a journey you go on, from the start to finish of every race. You just can never relax.”
Ellingworth has been on several of those doleful journeys over the years with Thomas, who has abandoned three Grand Tours due to crashes over the years, including his previous two Giro appearances. The Welshman is still standing here, two seconds ahead of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who also went down in the same crash as the Ineos trio.
“Fair play to Geraint, he’s a bit of a star in his own right,” Ellingworth said. “The lads will get behind him. It’s all for Geraint now.”
As Ellingworth spoke, Sivakov rolled towards the bus, his ordeal finally at an end. His teammate Laurens De Plus had just completed his warm-down, and the Belgian now stretched out a consoling hand as Sivakov grimacingly climbed the steps. “Here’s Pavel now, he went down quite hard as well,” Ellingworth said. “And he fell on the same side as yesterday, so that was his issue today.”
Later on Wednesday evening, Sivakov would revisit his crash in a video released by Ineos. “Geraint is still in pink,” he said. “That’s what brought me the motivation to get going again. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I didn’t try.”
The tenor of Ineos’ Giro changed in an instant with Geoghegan Hart’s crash, but the end goal remains unchanged. Thomas still holds the pink jersey, and the aim is to bring it to Rome. “They’re tough lads, aren’t they?” Ellingworth said. “They’ll move on.”