Benat IntxaustiBenat Intxausti of Spain wears the pink jersey of the overall leader as he sprays sparkling wine on the podium after completing the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia, Tour of Italy cycling race, from Marina San Salvo to Pescara, Friday, May 10, 2013. Australian rider Adam Hansen won the hilly and rainy seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday with a solo breakaway while Benat Intxausti of Spain took the overall leader’s pink jersey. (AP Photo/Gian Mattia D’Alberto)

By Alasdair Fotheringham

PESCARA, Italy, May 10 (Reuters) – Bradley Wiggins lost 84 seconds to his closest Giro d’Italia rivals after crashing while Spain’s Benat Intxausti became overall leader as Australian Adam Hansen won stage seven with a 147km breakaway on Friday.

Wiggins, already briefly dropped on a late climb, skidded and fell heavily on a right-hand, rain-soaked bend in the Abruzzi hills about six km from the finish in the coastal town of Pescara, losing contact with the group of overall favorites.

The Briton, despite support from his Colombian team mates Sergio Henao and Rigobert Uran to try and reduce the gap, crossed the line in 55th place, two minutes and 31 seconds adrift of Hansen and 1:24 behind the main group of leaders.

Wiggins, one of the leading pre-race favourites, dropped from sixth to 23rd overall and is 1:32 behind Intxausti on the eve of a 54.8km time trial where the 2012 Tour de France winner was top favourite and widely expected to take the lead.

“It was very, very slippery and once you fall, it takes you a bit of time to regain your composure,” said Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, who added that Wiggins was uninjured. “It was a setback but not disastrous I don’t think.

“It could have been a lot worse. There’s a lot of racing still to come and you’ve got to take your good days and your bad days and add it all up at the end and see where you’re at. It’s a long way from being over,” he told reporters.

DIFFICULT DAY

Other top riders who fell on a difficult day through the low-lying mountains of the Abruzzi region – home to some of the last wolves in western Europe – included Italian favorite Vincenzo Nibali, Croatia’s Robert Kiselovski and Uran, who toppled off riding uphill with a mechanical problem.

“I went down that last descent very, very slowly,” said Hansen, whose breakaway companion Emanuele Sella of Italy hit the tarmac twice before the Australian took off alone 20 km from the finish.

“There was more water on the last descent (where Wiggins fell) and I was lucky because I was by myself. I’d imagine trying to go down there in the peloton, with other riders around you, would have not been a good place to be.”

Hansen, whose grandparents emigrated to Australia to work in the sugar cane industry in Queensland, described his victory as “the biggest of my career. It’s my birthday tomorrow (Saturday) so now I’ve got another reason to celebrate.”

Overnight leader Luca Paolini of Italy dropped back on the final, fourth category San Silvestro climb, leaving Intxausti to take over as leader for the first time in a major Tour race.

“I’ve never defended a lead in such a long time trial before, and some very big names are here, but I’ll do my best,” the 27-year-old Basque, whose best Grand Tour finish was 10th in last year’s Tour of Spain, told reporters.

The Giro finishes in Brescia on May 26.