Cadel Evans preserved his overall lead in the Giro d’Italia but lost a key teammate in a dramatic 10th stage of the grand tour cycling event.
Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni timed another sprint to perfection to win his third stage in this year’s race, finishing ahead of Italian Giacomo Nizzolo and Australian Orica-GreenEDGE rider Michael Matthews.
Pink jersey holder Evans was ninth, meaning his 57-second lead over Rigoberto Uran remained unchanged.
Evans was always close to the lead late in Wednesday’s stage, meaning he was able to avoid a large crash in the final kilometre.
However his hopes of becoming the first Australian to win the event took a slight hit when one of his BMC teammates, Yannick Eijssen, was involved in a bad fall with about 20km to go.
The young Belgian rider was put on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance with a brace around his neck.
“Hopefully he’s OK. We are going to miss him every day,” Evans said of the 24-year-old.
“He’s a young rider in his first year doing grand tours and he’s made a lot of progress to be here.
“Of course we’ll miss him but also for his career and his progression (it’s unfortunate).”
Bouhanni clocked just over four hours on the mostly-flat 173km route from Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme.
It was the FDJ.fr team rider’s eighth win this year and 28th career victory.
“The speed was very high at the end. I took Nizzolo’s wheel and was able to pass him,” Bouhanni said of his burst to the line. “My goal is the points jersey.”
Matthews, who won stage six, recovered from a crash in stage nine to claim another podium result.
The final bunch had been reduced to around 10 riders after Tyler Farrar came down on one of the many corners that littered the technical finish.
Evans came through unscathed while many of his rivals got caught behind the crash.
However with the incident coming inside the final three kilometres, no time was lost by anyone.
“As expected after a rest day, everyone is fresh and recovered both physically and mentally. It often makes a more dangerous finish,” Evans said.
Wednesday’s Stage 11 is a 249km leg from Collecchio to Savona with two minor climbs, including one shortly before the finish, while Thursday’s 41.9km time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo is expected to suit Evans.
“I think it suits me better than most of my overall rivals,” said the 2011 Tour de France winner, who is one minute and 45 seconds up on Colombian Nairo Quintana, the pre-race favourite.