Britain’s Geraint Thomas has lost the leader’s overall pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia after stage 14.
Thomas finished in the peloton 21 minutes behind the breakaway, meaning France’s Bruno Armirail has the lead.
Armirail, 29, is not expected to be a threat for victory, as Thomas and the peloton chose to conserve energy.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider, 36, also hit back at some retired riders who criticised a decision to shorten Friday’s stage 13 over safety concerns.
Thomas said: “A lot of other things happened in the ’80s and ’90s we don’t do now, which we’re proud of. They can say what they want.”
Thomas was referring to the systematic doping of riders that took place regularly in the sport up until around 15 years ago.
How did Thomas lose pink?
The 194km stage was won by Germany’s Nico Denz for Bora-Hansgrohe after an early breakaway from the peloton.
Thomas crossed the line with his main rivals, including Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma, a long way behind after taking the decision to conserve energy and reduce pressure on the whole Ineos team – who do not have to work their domestique riders as hard to dictate the race as leaders.
The stage – from Sierre to Cassano Magnago – took place in heavy rain with a category one climb and a long descent into Lombardy.
The peloton let an early breakaway of about 30 riders go, and the lead grew gradually across the stage.
Stefano Oldani and Davide Ballerini, both of Italy, and Latvia’s Toms Skujins broke away from the bigger group late on and approached the final kilometre together, ready to sprint it out.
But Denz – who took his second stage victory of this year’s three-week race – arrived in the final few metres with a further four riders, and crossed the line first in a photo finish with Canada’s Derek Gee.
This year’s Giro has been marred by appalling weather, with heavy rain causing substantial problems with illness and crashes for the riders.
Teams are taking a more cautious approach to racing until the weather improves.
Britain’s other hope for overall victory, Tao Geoghegan Hart – also of Ineos Grenadiers – crashed out of the race on stage 11, sustaining a hip fracture in a rainy crash on a descent.
So far, 44 riders have abandoned the race, many through Covid 19, including Belgium’s race favourite Remco Evenepoel of Soudal Quick Step, who left the race after stage nine.
Formula 1 called off the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this week following severe flooding in the north of Italy.
There were few incidents on Saturday’s stage, despite the rain and a step descent off the Alps.
Sunday’s 195km stage to Bergamo has one category one and three category two climbs.
1. Bruno Armirail (Fra/Groupama-FDJ) 56hrs 17mins 1sec
2. Geraint Thomas (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +1min 41secs
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 43secs
4. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 3secs
5. Andreas Leknessund (Nor/Team DSM) +2mins 23secs
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain Victorious) +3mins 09secs
7. Lennard Kamna (Ger/Bora-Hansgrohe) +3mins 33secs
8. Eddie Dunbar (Ire/Team Jayco AIula) +4mins 13secs
9. Thymen Arensman (Ned/Ineos Grenadiers) +4mins 26secs
10. Laurens De Plus (Bel/Ineos Grenadiers) +4mins 49secs