Jack Haig's hopes at the Giro shattered in the Alps
Jack Haig, Australia's last hope to defend the Giro d'Italia title, has written off his dream for another year after the problems from a crash 24 hours earlier made him suffer on a merciless, short and steep Alpine stage.
The Bahrain Victorious team leader had started Friday's 13th stage less than three minutes down on the leader Geraint Thomas in 11th place and still clinging on to hope that he could force his way towards the podium topped last year by compatriot Jai Hindley.
But Haig's hopes had been fatally weakened by the bruising fall he suffered in a freakish accident in a feed zone on Thursday and he was a shadow of himself as he lost over five minutes on the brutal, shortened stage to the Swiss resort of Crans Montana.
"Unfortunately after a heavy crash yesterday I suffered a lot today and wasn't able to stay in the GC fight," reported the 29-year-old Queenslander, who has now dropped to 15th overall 6min 38secs down on Briton Thomas.
"Thank you to everyone in the peloton who came and ask how I was.
"There is still a lot of racing left at this Giro, so I'll keep fighting and see if there's something left to grab."
After the stage had been shortened to 74.6km because of the race's continuing weather problems, immediately taking in two sharp climbs interspersed by a treacherous, wet descent, Haig was quickly dropped off the first climb but fought gamely to get back to the main bunch.
But as he succumbed again, the drama unfolded far ahead with the spoils taken by Colombian Einer Rubio, the Movistar climber who outpaced Thibaut Pinot and Jefferson Cepeda with a perfectly-timed sprint over the final kilometre to grab his maiden grand tour win.
Rubio finished six seconds clear of Pinot (Groupama–FDJ), with Cepeda (Education–EasyPost) another six seconds behind. Haig ended up 35th at 5:15 down.
At least, he fared better than compatriot Jay Vine, the UAE Team Emirates rider who appeared to have got his wish for a free hand to attack on the stage only to soon sink back and end up trailing home 117th on the day, over 21 minutes adrift.
All the talk of a possible top-10 finish, which Vine says he's doesn't care about anyway because it wouldn't bring him any monetary reward, is now irrelevant as he sits 42nd in the GC at 44:33.
It proved a surreal day for riders as they had to make their scheduled departure under heavy rain before quickly re-boarding their team buses as organisers re-routed the start of the stage to the bottom of the fearsome Croix de Coeur climb.
"Given the adverse weather conditions, especially on the Italian side, the Commission decided to meet the athletes' requests by applying the Extreme Weather Protocol," organisers explained.
There was no change to the top of the standings with Ineos Grenadiers' former Tour de France winner Thomas finishing ninth, protecting his two-second lead over Slovenian favourite Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who lurks ominously.
Joao Almeida, who Vine says he's happy to work for as UAE Team Emirates leader, is still third overall, 22 seconds behind.
Stage six winner Mads Pedersen, second in the points jersey standings, dropped out of the race after falling ill overnight, becoming the 41st rider to abandon.