Sir Bradley Wiggins loses time after Giro d'Italia fall
Sir Bradley Wiggins's hopes of winning the Giro d'Italia for the first time were hit when he crashed on a seventh stage won by Australian Adam Hansen.
The Team Sky rider slipped off on a bend while descending at the end of a stage that was hit by heavy rain.
He slipped from sixth to 23rd overall, one minute and 32 seconds behind new leader, Benat Intxausti Elorriaga.
But Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "Bradley's fine. There's no physical injury."
All the drama came at the end of a testing 177km route from San Salvo and Pescara that contained hardly any flat sections.
Rain began to fall as the riders came into the final 30km, and Wiggins stayed near the back of a bunch that contained all his main rivals.
Nibali, Hesjedal and Evans had already broken away from last year's Tour de France winner on the slopes of the final climb of the day, San Silvestro, with Nibali also sliding off his bike as he tried desperately to escape that group.
Things got worse for Wiggins on the way down when he misjudged a right-hand bend and fell heavily on his right-hand side, sliding on the ground for 10 metres.
He was able to continue but rode gingerly in the final stages, struggling to keep up with his Colombian team-mates Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, who dropped back to help him.
Wiggins ended up losing a minute and 29 seconds to Hesjedal, Evans and Nibali, whom he had trailed by only three seconds at the start of the stage. Uran, who started the day in second, also fell down the standings.
Hansen, who was part of an early seven-man breakaway group stayed clear to clinch the stage win in the pouring rain.
Spanish rider Intxausti took the leader's pink jersey from Luca Paolini and has a five-second advantage over Nibali at the top of the general classification. Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal is a further three seconds back and Cadel Evans another eight seconds in arrears.
Wiggins's losses mean he will be playing catch-up in Saturday's time-trial, a 55km route from Gabicce Mare to Saltara, instead of looking to open up an advantage on his rivals.
"I think Wiggins understands now that the Giro is not the Tour,'' said 2000 Giro winner Stefano Garzelli, who is the oldest rider in this year's race at 39. "All the stages are difficult.''
Brailsford does not believe Wiggins's hopes are over, however, adding: "Ultimately when you have difficult conditions like these and hard racing this type of thing can happen. It's the Giro.
"You can have good days and bad days and you have to wait until the end to tot them all up and see where you are.
"It's a setback, but Brad's still very much in the hunt. We've now got to take each day as it comes, focus on fully recovering tonight and hitting the time trial hard on Saturday.
"We'll see where we are on Saturday night and take stock of the situation then.
"Really it's about how much balls he's got now, isn't it? Let's race."
Stage seven results
1. Adam Hansen (Australia / Lotto) 4:35:49"
2. Enrico Battaglin (Italy / Bardiani Valvole) +1:07"
3. Danilo Di Luca (Italy / Vini Fantini)
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Italy / Vini Fantini)
5. Damiano Caruso (Italy / Cannondale)
6. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing)
7. Stefano Pirazzi (Italy / Bardiani Valvole)
8. Arnold Jeannesson (France / FDJ)
9. Pieter Weening (Netherlands / Orica)
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada / Garmin)
General classification standings
1. Benat Intxausti (Spain / Movistar) 28:30:04"
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Astana) +5"
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Canada / Garmin) +8"
4. Giampaolo Caruso (Italy / Katusha) +10"
5. Mauro Santambrogio (Italy / Vini Fantini) +13"
6. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing) +16"
7. Robert Gesink (Netherlands / Blanco) +19"
8. Ivan Santaromita (Italy / BMC Racing) +28"
9. Pieter Weening (Netherlands / Orica) +29"
10. Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia / RadioShack) +34"