Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) dropped to sixth place in the general classification after stage four of the Giro d’Italia.
British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme rider Wiggins was safely marshalled over the 244-kilometres from Policastro Bussentino to a rain soaked finish in Serra San Bruno by his Team Sky companions.
But a crash in final stages saw Wiggins on the wrong side of the split, missing the lead group as Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani) celebrated the stage win in a bunch sprint.
Wiggins now sits 17 seconds behind maglia rosa wearer Luca Paolini and three seconds adrift of GC rival Vincenzo Nibali of the Astana Pro Team.
Danilo Di Luca and Robinson Chalapud had broken clear on the final Croce Ferrata climb with nine-kilometres remaining with Di Luca charging free of his partner in the closing stages.
But just as it seemed the Vini Fantini rider could take an unlikely win he was consumed by the front of the bunch with Battaglin the strongest to the line.
Great Britain's Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) came in 16 minutes and 53 seconds behind the race winner with Wednesday's 199-kilometre flat stage from Cosenza to Matera likely to offer the Manxman another chance for victory.
“It’s one of those races where you just have to pay attention all the time," Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford told Sky Sports News. "You can gain hard-earned seconds here and there and then you can lose time very quickly.
“Bradley’s in great shape mentally and physically. Ultimately this first week is all about staying in contention and then this race will be won and lost in the time trials and the high mountains.”
Team Sky's Sports Director Marcus Ljungvist added: “Brad was caught behind a crash. We are waiting from something from the race jury. The crash was inside three kilometres to go so hopefully they will recognise that.
“It’s one of those things that happens in bike racing. It’s certainly not the end of the world
“On the last climb we wanted to stay out of trouble and hold position there. The team rode well there. Everything is good within the team. The guys are strong with the exception of Dario [Cataldo] who is still suffering a bit from his illness the last couple of days. He’s doing a really good job and hopefully he’ll come around.”
A group of seven - Julien Berard (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli), Miguel Minguez and Ioannis Tamouridis (Euskaltel), Johan Le Bon and Anthony Roux (FDJ) plus Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) – had formed the day’s early break.
The gap grew as big as seven minutes before Minguez, Le Bon and Ligthart attacked the break at the 93-kilometre to go clear with the four remaining riders soon swept up by the peloton.
As the rain began to pour on the category three Vibo Valentia, Miguel remained the only escapee but was soon brought back with 42-kilometres to race.
Frenchman Sylvain Georges arduously worked to get away on the final Croce Ferrata category two climb, but was eventually caught and passed by Di Luca and Chalapud who so nearly held on until the race’s final moments.
Stage 4 result
1. BATTAGLIN Enrico Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox 06:14:19
2. FELLINE Fabio Androni - Venezuela ,,
3. VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team ,,
4. URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling ,,
5. JEANNESSON Arnold Equipe Cycliste FDJ ,,
6. EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team ,,
7. INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team ,,
8. HESJEDAL Ryder Garmin - Sharp ,,
9. KISERLOVSKI Robert RadioShack - Leopard ,,
10. PAOLINI Luca Katusha Team ,,
48. WIGGINS Bradley Sky Procycling 00.17
1. PAOLINI Luca Katusha Team 15:18:51
2. URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 00:17
3. INTXAUSTI Benat Movistar Team 00:26
4. NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 00:31
5. HESJEDAL Ryder Garmin - Sharp 00:34
6. WIGGINS Bradley Sky Procycling ,,
7. CARUSO Giampaolo Katusha Team 00:36
8. HENAO MONTOYA Sergio Luis Sky Procycling 00:37
9. SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 00:39