Disaster strikes for Dennis as Gaviria strikes gold

Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) poured a bottle champagne over his head while BMC’s Rohan Dennis buried his face in a towel.

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CAGLIARI, Italy (VN) — Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) poured a bottle champagne over his head while BMC’s Rohan Dennis buried his face in a towel.

Sunday’s windy and fast run along the Sardinian coast produced a tale of many races for the main protagonists. The Colombian sprinter, rare for a country that has been a production line of lithe climbers, was slow out of the gate in the Giro’s opening two stages.

Quick-Step’s radar was up in the late-stage crosswinds, and he snuck into late-race, seven-rider move with two teammates. A former points world champion on the track, Gaviria made quick work to win his first career grand tour stage just three days into the Giro.

“This is the happiest day of my career,” Gaviria beamed, who also snagged the pink jersey. “We got the victory we deserved. Now I will enjoy what is the most important thing I’ve ever done on the bike.”

If it was ecstasy at the front of the race, despair engulfed budding GC star Dennis, who crashed with about 7km to go. Gaviria was already being hustled to the winner’s podium when a dejected Dennis crossed the line in 158th at 5:22 back.

“With that loss, his Giro is all but over,” BMC Racing sports director Max Sciandri said bluntly. “He’s pretty disappointed. He lost a big amount of time. He still has some TT’s coming up, to try to win a stage. From his side of GC, we are struggling right now. There is still a lot he can take out of this Giro.”

The setback is a blow for the 26-year-old Dennis, who starting his first Giro and putting a real focus on the GC in a grand tour. A world-class time trialist, Dennis is tapped by many as a future grand tour contender.

Things went sideways late in the stage as the speed turned up against crosswinds along Cagliari’s exposed coast. There were some suggestions it was a Bardiani rider who clipped him, but whoever it was, Dennis is largely out of the GC frame, meaning that BCM Racing will be riding firmly behind Tejay van Garderen, who emerged from three days on Sardinia unscathed.

“It’s a pity about what happened to Rohan, but I think we made it off this island pretty well,” van Garderen said. “[For Etna] Nibali will be motivated because it’s near his home. And when Nibali goes, you have to go, because you might not be able to make that time back. If one guy goes, we all have to go, and I am sure someone will decide to go.”

Dennis was the primary victim among the GC contenders on three days of nervous but exciting racing on Sardinia. The only other major losses came with a 20-second loss for Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) when he punctured before the 3km to go safe zone in Saturday’s second stage, and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), who ceded 13 seconds late in Friday’s opener.

The riders and sport directors fly to Palermo on Sunday evening, while the remainder of the Giro entourage takes an overnight ferry. Everyone will have a rest day Monday before tackling Mount Etna on Tuesday. The real Giro starts.

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