Dan Martin’s Giro d’Italia dreams were ended on the opening stage in Belfast as he suffered a serious crash.
The Irishman appeared to slip on a drain in wet conditions during the team time trial, taking three of his Garmin-Sharp team-mates with him in a dramatic pile-up.
Martin, who had made this race the focus of his season, made little attempt to get back up as he held his collar bone and waited for medical attention.
It was the most dramatic illustration of the huge role the weather played as the first Grand Tour of the season started under damp skies.
Orica GreenEdge took victory, gifting the leader’s pink jersey to birthday boy Svein Tuft, and although they had been the favourites they could be grateful for being the second team out as they benefited from dry roads.
The rain soon began to fall, costing general classification hopefuls Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriquez (Katusha) significant chunks of time against Nicolas Roche, whose Tinkoff-Saxo team held it together as the roads became more and more slippy, as well as late starters Rigoberto Uran and Cadel Evans.
The wet weather had not deterred thousands of fans from lining the Belfast roads, but the mood changed as the big screens showed Martin tumbling to the ground.
Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters reacted to the crash immediately on Twitter.
“So sad. Nothing to be done. Professional bike racing is cruel,” he wrote.
Martin’s uncle, 1987 Giro winner Stephen Roche, was also on Twitter moments after the crash.
“Absolutely gutted Dan @DanMartin86” he wrote.