Groves quits Giro as Aussie Berwick earns podium
Australia's eventful Giro d'Italia has continued with points contender Kaden Groves forced to abandon with gastro-intestinal problems, leading GC man Jack Haig falling and rising star Sebastian Berwick earning a first grand tour podium.
Sprinter Groves, winner of stage five last week, was forced to quit his last hope of taking the points jersey after starting in third overall on Thursday, finally succumbing to the illness that has dogged him over the last few days and pulling out after 35 kilometres of the slog from Bra to Rivoli.
But Queensland's Israel-Premier Tech rider Berwick got himself into a four-man breakaway in the 185km 12th stage and ended up battling it out among the final trio who diced for victory in a sprint finish.
Berwick fought back valiantly to the front two, Nico Denz and Toms Skujins, who appeared to have dropped him with 12km left after he'd made his big effort to go clear on the final climb, but his efforts just took too much out of the prospect from Wishart.
"That last climb was my last opportunity I guess but in the end, they were strong enough to stay with me," Berwick shrugged.
"I didn't have much in the sprint obviously. 58kg vs 75kg - it's a bit hard to win but I kept fighting, it's a Giro stage and I was in the hunt for the win, so you never know what happens. Steven Bradbury and all that!"
Alas, his bid to channel the short track speed skating legend didn't quite materialise as he made his hopeful push with 100 metres left only to be left shaking his head as it quickly dawned he was going to be outpaced by German winner Denz (BORA-Hansgrohe) and Latvian runner-up Skujins (Trek-Segafredo).
Still, his third place three seconds behind ensured Berwick could savour the best result of his career since finishing second on GC behind Jai Hindley in the Herald Sun Tour back home in Australia in 2020.
For Alpecin-Deceuninck's Groves, though, it was the end of four days of real struggle, having been hit by a cold, lost plenty of weight because of the stomach complaint and suffering so badly on Wednesday that he finished 10 minutes 45 seconds down on the field.
Still, although he was the 38th rider to pull out of the brutal race as two more followed later on Thursday, Groves could at least look back proudly on another breakthrough grand tour, having won the fifth stage from Atripalda to Salerno and also picked up a couple of other podium finishes last week.
He had also been at the centre of controversy when early race leader Remco Evenepoel, who'd had to pull out with COVID-19, accused Groves of causing the mass crash on the second stage with "not a nice manoeuvre", a shove that his team dismissed as a normal racing incident.
Haig remains 11th overall after taking a fall with 85km left, but he managed to remount quickly, with his sports director at Bahrain Victorious reporting that the Australian leader was okay.
Haig is still 2:58 behind race leader Geraint Thomas, who finished several minutes back in the peloton along with the remaining contenders as there proved no change to the GC.
The fight for the leader's pink jersey will really kick off in earnest again on Friday as the race hits the Alps for the first time this year, crossing the Swiss border with a summit finish at the ski resort of Crans Montana.