COSENZA, Italy (VN) — Sky leader Bradley Wiggins was philosophical on Wednesday about the Giro d’Italia race jury’s decision on Tuesday to score his finishing time 17 seconds behind the front group during a wet and dangerous stage 4 finish in Serra San Bruno.
Ordinarily, a rider is given the same time as the group with which he was riding if a crash inside the final three kilometers impedes his ability to finish. UCI officials ruled that Wiggins had been gapped off the front group prior to the final 3km marker, and that he had not been impeded by a crash inside the final 3km.
Given that Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) won last year’s Giro by just 15 seconds, it’s a decision that could ultimately have major consequences on the general classification when the race finishes in Breschia on May 26.
Wiggins said he believed he was inside 3km to go when the gap formed, but that he accepted the race jury’s decision.
“We were inside 3km, there was a crash, and it just caused a bit of a gap,” Wiggins told VeloNews at the start of stage 5 in Cosenza. “That was it, really. We came out of a roundabout at 3km to go and there were already gaps forming. It was wet, and when you are sprinting out of a roundabout, and guys are still coming into it, there are going to be actual gaps.
“It’s just an interpretation of the rule. It is what it is, now. There’s no point in moaning about it. It’s partly my own fault. I guess I could have been further in front. We came over that climb, and I just kind of slipped back a bit, because of the spray, and it was quite a fast downhill. I’d rather lose 17 seconds through slipping back than a mass pileup in one of the corners on a run-in like that. Sometimes you gamble and it pays off if you’re in the front, but fortunately we’re all still compact and together, and it’s not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things in Breschia. I think it’s difficult for the judges, because they take it as they see it. That’s just the way it is.”
Wiggins took 25 seconds over Hesjedal in the stage 2 team time trial, but has since seen that advantage erased. Hesjedal took back eight seconds with a third-place time bonus at the stage 3 finish in Marina di Ascea, and the remaining 17 seconds at the finish line in Serra San Bruno, making it a GC reset between the two; Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali holds a three-second lead over Wiggins and Hesjedal, with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) another eight seconds down.
At the start line in Cosenza, Hesjedal said Wiggins’ time loss was part of racing.
“It was a tricky final, pretty sketchy at the end, and everyone decides their own risks,” Hesjedal said. “Maybe we can look back at it at the end of the race and have a more definitive opinion. Every stage is tricky. You could see it was pretty strung out. That’s what happens.”
Wiggins said he wasn’t surprised by Hesjedal’s aggressive riding in stage 3, which saw the Canadian attack twice on the Cat. 3 Sella di Catona. The two were teammates at Garmin in 2009, and know each other well.
“It was no surprise, really,” Wiggins said. “Ryder is here to win the race. That’s his style, he rides aggressively, and I think he showed everyone straight away that he’s in great shape.”
In general terms, Wiggins said he was feeling good after four days of racing — “really good.”
“It was a good couple of first days,” Wiggins said. “It was a relief we got that stage with the big downhill [stage 3] out of the way. I managed to stay in the front group without crashing. Physically, on the climbs, I’ve felt great. We’ve got a few days until that first time trial, which should produce the first real gaps on the GC, so I’m just really looking forward to Saturday.”