Joaquim Rodriguez has abandoned the Giro d’Italia after suffering a broken rib and a fractured thumb in the crash that marred the end of stage six.
The Spaniard was one of dozens of riders caught up in the incident, which happened on wet roads 11km from the finish in Montecassino.
The 34-year-old Katusha rider managed to remount his bike and finish – 7min 43sec behind stage winner and race leader Michael Matthews – but two breaks were subsequently confirmed at a local hospital.
Rodriguez had been one of the favourites for overall victory, but with his injuries being compounded by the fact that his general classification challenge was seemingly over, the decision was taken for him to leave the race.
“It hurts to leave the Giro, but there is no other option,” Rodriguez said. “The crashes were bad for all of us. The road was very slippery and we were going 60kmp an hour. Just touching your breaks was enough to crash. But that is a risk we always take.
"It is part of our job to try to be in the front to fight for the victory. I really cannot blame the organization or the local roads. After the crash I got back on my bike immediately, more full of agression and determination, but after a while I clearly felt what the problem was, as I could not breath anymore.”
Fellow Katusha riders Angel Vicioso and Giampaolo Caruso were also forced to abandon after being involved in the crash.
Vicioso, 37, suffered a triple break of his thigh bone and has subsequently retired from professional cycling, while Caruso had to be stretchered into an ambulance but sustained only brusing to his hip and leg.