Pieter Weening of the Rabobank team became the new race leader of the Giro d'Italia yesterday when he soloed to victory at the end of stage five in Orvieto.
BMC's Martin Kohler spent most of the day alone in front before three sections of insurfaced Tuscan 'white roads' roads in the final 40km saw his lead whittled down to just under a minute with 25km to go.
These gravel sections of road caused numerous riders to crash, including Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Dario Cataldo (Quickstep), who both fell just as they closed in on the leader.
Overnight leader David Millar also hit the deck after colliding with Angel Vicioso after an intermediate sprint.
The Scot eventually regained contact with the lead group after a long chase but the effort took its toll and he lost his pink jersey to Weening when he was dropped on the final climb to the finish.
Weening, along with Ag2r rider John Gadret, bridged the gap to Kohler inside the final 10km.
Shortly after, the Dutchman left his two companions, who were swallowed up by the chase group, and soloed to the finish, taking stage victory by eight seconds.
A time bonus for winning the stage was enough to propel Weening into pink, the 30-year-old now leading by two seconds from HTC Highroad duo Marco Pinotti and Konstantin Sitsov.
"This is perfect for me," said Weening. "After a stage win at the Tour, this is the second biggest win of my career."
While Weening was celebrating victory, however, his team-mate Tom Slagter was unconscious on the road, having crashed on the final 9km-long gravel section. The youngster eventually came around before being transported to hospital, his race over.
Ireland's Philip Deignan also saw his hopes of a high overall placing dashed on the white roads when he crashed, losing almost 19 minutes. "I felt really bad today," he said. "I'm okay now but I'll have to focus on going for a stage win later in the race."
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