Pascal Ackermann narrowly won Wednesday's stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia after former champion Tao Geoghegan Hart was forced out of the race after a freak crash on a slippery descent with around 70km remaining from the end of the 219km ride to Tortona.
British rider GeogheganHart (Ineos Grenadiers), who won the Giro in 2020, was riding with his teammates including overall leader Geraint Thomas, who also hit the deck along with race favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
Thomas and Roglic were able to re-join the peloton but Geoghegan Hart, third in the overall standings, was attended to by medics before being carried on a stretcher into an ambulance.
Crash in the bunch, @taogeoghegan and the Maglia Rosa are involved
Caduta in gruppo. @taogeoghegan e la Maglia Rosa a terra#Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/KeUeNko5eF — Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 17, 2023
"The Brit will head to hospital for checks and we will have further updates in due course," Ineos Grenadiers said on Twitter.
Shortly afterwards, Movistar rider Oscar Rodriguez suffered a crash in which he came into contact with a roadside sign and was also forced to abandon the race.
UAE Team Emirates rider Ackermann, 29, claimed his third career Giro stage win after beating Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) and Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) to the line in a photo finish at the end of the race's longest stage.
In Tortona, it all comes down to a photo-finish sprint. The Giro loses one of its protagonists.
Watch highlights of Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia 2023 ??
?? #IntimissimiUomo #Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/iqUBWjY8tl — Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 17, 2023
After another crash with less than 3km to go split the bunch coming in for the sprint, stage six winner Mads Pedersen (Trek–Segafredo) opened it up and Cavendish looked set to take his first stage win at his new team but faded in the final metres.
Milan, who won the second stage in San Salvo, fought back into contention with a late surge but the Ackermann hung on for victory. Milan and Cavendish came second and third, respectively.
"It's a very special victory for me," German rider Ackermann said. "I showed I can do it and I'm super happy today. All the sprinters are very strong and it was a very tense finish."
Welshman Thomas retained the maglia rosa after maintaining his slender two-second lead over Slovenia's Roglic. Portugal's Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) rose to third overall.
Thomas's team mate Pavel Sivakov, who was also caught in the crash earlier, dropped out of the top 10 after finishing minutes behind the peloton.
"Unfortunately Tao is badly injured," Thomas said. "It's obviously a big loss. He was going very well. He was in a really great position and it's very unfortunate to lose him this way."
?? @GeraintThomas86: “Unfortunately Tao is badly injured. It's obviously a big loss. He was going very well. He was in a really great position and it's very unfortunate to lose him this way”@INEOSGrenadiers #Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/0RJpX4MTcU — Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 17, 2023
This year's weather-affected Giro has been hit with several high-profile withdrawals with former race leader Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) having to abandon after testing positive for COVID-19.
Four of Evenepoel's team mates tested positive for the virus and withdrew from the race earlier on Wednesday.
Thursday's stage 12 is a 179-kilometre ride from Bra to Rivoli.