FLORENCE, Italy (AFP) — Treacherous conditions due to heavy rain prompted several big-name retirements before the halfway point of the men’s elite race at the world road race cycling championships Sunday.
Three grand-tour champions —Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Horner — were among several riders to abandon the 272.2km race.
And the victory hopes of the contenders still in the race were boosted by the later abandons of this year’s Tour champion, Chris Froome, and Colombian climbing ace Nairo Quintana.
Heavy rain began in the early hours of the morning and despite a short respite it began to pour heavily on the 16.9km circuit, to be raced 10 times, just as the peloton had arrived in Florence after a 103.2km trek from Lucca.
Evans, a former world champion and Tour de France winner, was one of several riders to come down near the barriers as the peloton chased a five-man breakaway in the wet and slippery conditions.
Rai Sport reported later that Evans abandoned.
The official organizers also announced the retirement of 2012 Tour champion Wiggins, part of the British team that was hoping to boost the victory hopes of outside bet Froome.
Froome, however, pulled out with less than half of the 10 16.9km laps completed as rain, thunder and cold temperatures continued to plague the race — and the British team in particular.
With 90km still to race Britain had only one remaining rider from its nine-man team, Welshman Geraint Thomas, still in contention. But he, too, finally quit the race.
Horner, who won his first grand tour earlier this month, the Vuelta a España, to come into the race with hopes of a podium place, also abandoned the race.
Philippe Gilbert is the defending world champion but faces a stiff challenge from several Italian riders, Peter Sagan, Alejandro Valverde and Fabian Cancellara.