Sasha Modolo (Lampre Merida) won Stage 13 of the 98th Giro d'Italia in a sprint finish after a day in which the general classification contenders hoped to take the day off. He finished ahead of Giacomo Niizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Elia Viviani (Sky).
But all eyes were on the three riders expected to be on the podium in Milan. Race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Richie Porte (Sky).
Both Contador and Porte were caught up in the crash but Aru was better positioned and escaped the carnage; his attentiveness giving him the race lead ahead of Contador. Porte was the biggest casualty and lost more time to the leading pair. He now sits in 16th place at 5min 5sec behind Aru, with work to do to regain lost ground.
"Today was very hard, in bad weather, on a route that was flat but with lots of roundabouts and other paraphernalia," Aru said.
"I was always at the front, in a good position to avoid possible falls, and what happened, happened. Now I'm just thinking of tomorrow. It is going to be a very important stage. I will give it everything. But the Giro ends next Sunday in Milan, not before."
The 147km stage from Montecchio Maggiore to Jesolo was completely flat and a bunch sprint was predicted despite the weather conditions.
And that was exactly how it played out for the the 183 strong peloton who were content to let the fast men have their day ahead of a critical Stage 14 59.4km individual time trial.
The only non-starter was Australian Simon Gerrans, who did not line-up as a precaution after his crash on Stage 12. He returned to his home base in Monaco to prepare for July’s Tour de France.
Totally flat, and one of the shortest stages of the Giro, the largely urban stage was characterised by the usual road furniture, roundabouts, speed bumps and traffic dividers with a finishing straight that was 500 metres long.
The main points of interest for escapees Rick Zabel (BMC), Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli), Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling) as they paced themselves ahead of the peloton were the two intermediate sprints and a single unplanned stop for a set of crossing gates which closed just before the trio were about to pass.
Race commissaires were forced to reset the time gap by halting the progress of the pelolton to allow the trio to regain the time lost waiting for the boom gates to rise.
Frapporti won the first intermediate sprint and Zabel the second but from that point it was only a matter of time until they were caught - that moment coming with 17km left to go.
Tinkoff-Saxo and Sky took responsibility for driving the peloton to the finish before the sprint trains took control. The objective was to keep their respective leaders, Contador and Porte, out of trouble but that proved more difficult than anticipated.
For Modolo, an Italian winning a stage in Italy's greatest race, the day proved to be the best of his career.
"Finally I've won a stage. My great companion, colleague and friend, Max Richeze, gave me the perfect lead-out, and I just finished off the work of my team," Modolo said.
"At Fiuggi, I was disappointed with myself. At Forlì the breakaway made it so I didn't get the chance to sprint, so it was destiny that I would win my home stage. I have so many friends standing at the barriers from San Vendemiano, my home village, that this experience is unforgettable."
Stage 13: 147km, Montecchio Maggiore to Jesolo
1 Sacha Modolo (ITA) Lampre-Merida 3hr 3min 8sec
2 Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) Trek Factory Racing
3 Elia Viviani (ITA) Sky
4 Alexander Porsev (RUS) Katusha
5 Eduard Grosu (ROU) Nippo-Vini Fantini
6 Maximiliano Richeze (ARG) Lampre-Merida
7 Moreno Hofland (NED) LottoNL-Jumbo
8 Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) Bardiani
9 Luka Mezgec (SLO) Giant-Alpecin
10 Heinrich Haussler (AUS) IAM
1 Fabio Aru (ITA) Astana 54hr 20min 55sec
2 Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:19
3 Mikel Landa (ESP) Astana 0:00:14
4 Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:38
5 Dario Cataldo (ITA) Astana 0:01:49
6 Rigoberto Uran (COL) Etixx-QuickStep 0:02:02
7 Damiano Caruso (ITA) BMC 0:02:12
8 Andrey Amador (CRC) Movistar 0:02:21
9 Giovanni Visconti (ITA) Movistar 0:02:40
10 Yury Trofimov (RUS) Katusha 0:03:15