Unaware of the mass carnage behind him, Australia’s Matthew Goss opened GreenEDGE’s Giro account in the Danish town of Horsens on Monday.
As world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) hit the deck after some outrageously reckless sprinting from Italy’s Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocatelli), Goss was well on his way to making history in becoming GreenEDGE’s first Grand Tour stage winner since the team’s inception this January.
Following a string of second places in the recent Tour of Turkey, Goss entered the Giro with his form on the rise.
The 25-year-old came closest to beating Cavendish on the first road stage of the Giro on Sunday and so Goss entered stage three as his former HTC-Columbia team-mate’s main rival for the win.
An expert lead out by his GreenEDGE team-mates put Goss in pole position going into the final straight.
Goss didn’t disappoint, holding off Argentina’s Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank) and the American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) to take the second Giro stage win of his career – and his first major win for GreenEDGE.
Sadly for Shayne Bannen’s men, however, the story of the day wasn’t GreenEDGE’s win but Cavendish’s crash and the near-withdrawal of race leader Taylor Phinney (BMC).
Following Farrar’s wheel and spotting a small gap, Italian sprinter Ferrari veered irresponsibly to his right, giving Cavendish no room to maneouvre and swiping out the world champion’s front wheel at top speed.
A huge pile-up ensued, with Cavendish landing heavily on his left shoulder before being run over by two bright yellow Farnese Vini riders as he slid along the road, ripping his red points jersey to shreds and roadrashing his body.
In the melee of bike frames and sprawling bodies, race leader Phinney also hit the deck, landing heavily on his ankle.
While Cavendish would get up and carry his bike across the finish line, Phinney stayed down, the 21-year-old entering an ambulance for treatment before finally finishing the stage and, rather gingerly, mounting the podium to pick up a much-needed new pink jersey.
There was no podium appearance for Cavendish, however; the Team Sky lynchpin lost his red points jersey to Goss, who would surely have preferred to take the accolade in different circumstances.
Ferrari, after his hit and run, finished fourth – but the Italian was soon relegated to the back of the field by the race jury.
With Geraint Thomas, Cavendish’s team-mate, leading the calls for the explusion of Ferrari from the race on Twitter, it remains to be seen if the Italian will be part of Androni’s squad when the race resumes with a team time trial around Verona on Wednesday.
Cavendish was understandably angry with the Italian, tweeting: “Ouch! Crashing at 75kph isn’t nice! Nor is seeing Roberto Ferrari’s maneouvre. Should be ashamed to take out Pink, Red and World Champ jerseys.”
Like Thomas, Cavendish later called for Ferrari to be sent home from the race.
Australian Mark Renshaw, who rode with both Cavendish and Goss at HTC, avoided the crash to take fifth place in the sprint. Renshaw later described Ferrari’s kamikaze swerve as “one wild move” before suggesting that he himself had been sent home for less – referring to his infamous headbutting incident from the 2010 Tour de France.
Of course, ostensibly deliberate violent conduct is not viewed in the same light as reckless sprinting – even if the upshot of Renshaw’s butt was far less than the blood bath caused by Ferrari’s moment of madness.
As one respected cycling blogger said: “To put it another way, you can carve up riders at 70km/h and provoke multiple injuries and one rule applies, but pinch another rider or pull their hair and another rule applies.”
Despite the drama in Horsens, Goss was quite rightfully ecstatic with his victory. “It’s great to win here in a pure bunch sprint and I’m very happy for the team,” the Tasmanian said.
And yet can stage three’s finale be described as a pure bunch sprint? Goss certainly had the edge in the closing few hundred metres, but Cavendish, after some bad positioning, looked to be returning fast. The world champion may not have had enough road in front of him to catch Goss, but he would have pushed him right to the end.
The truth is that both sprint finishes in Denmark – Cavendish’s win in stage two and Goss’s one day later – were hampered by nasty accidents.
In what is shaping up to be an intriguing Giro, it will be interesting to see who the fastest man is once the former team-mates come head-to-head in a finish not affected by the sound of twisted metal.