Giro d’Italia Stage 13: Contador, the king of climbers

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

Stage 13 of the Giro was the first real mountain stage, with plenty of climbing. The climbing, however, was situated more as a long climbing slogs as opposed to any steep ramps. This stage perfectly suited Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard), and his defense of the pink jersey. And defend it he did, with a repeat of how stage 9 played out, as Contador rode away from the competition with Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) to seal his lead. Rujano and Contador worked well together the last 9km, with Rujano ultimately taking the stage.

Sprinters abandon

As expected many of the sprinters abandoned after yesterday’s stage, as the mountains loomed. Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw (HTC-Columbia), Danilo Hondo and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Manuel Belletti (Colnago) and FransicoVentoso (Movistar) all abandoned before the stage started.

Big Breakaway

A big break of 16 got away relatively soon in the stage. The break included: Pablo Lastras and Branislau Samoilau (Movistar), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Robert Kiserlovski and Cayetano Sarmiento (Astana), Rafael Valls (Geox), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli), Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia), Lars Petter (Sky),  Andrea Noe (Farnese-Vini), Johnny Hoogerland (Vaconsoliel), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondial), Kristof Vandewalle (Quickstep), Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo), Alessandro Spezialetti (Lampre-ISD). Their biggest gap was 4:50, but the peloton was never content to sit up and let the break go. Euskatel-Euskadi was the most prominent on the front, working to keep the break in check to give their man Igor Anton a chance.

With the penultimate climb looming, the break was working well together, but the peloton was chasing hard behind. As the break started on the Iselsbergpass climb, Kiserlovski attacked. While there was no immediate reaction from the break, soon others tried to follow. This put the hurt on the break, and riders started to drop. Kiserlovski was able to get a lead of almost 1 minute on the chase group, but as soon as Sarmiento, Losada, Lastras, Weening, and Nordhaug caught up to him, Sarmiento and Weening attacked and the rest were dropped, soon to be swallowed up.

Fireworks

With the group back together, at 10km the fireworks really started to fly. Rujano got away, joined by Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Anton and soon passed Saarmiento and Weening, but Contador brought them back, and soon set off on his own. Only Rujano was able to hold Contador’s wheel, the two were off, and it was a repeat of stage 9.

Behind the two leaders, the remaining chase group of about 12 attacked each other back and forth. John Gadret (AG2R-La Mondiale) attacked, soon overtaking his teammate Hubert Dupont, who had attacked earlier. With 2.5km to go, Anton launched his attack and joined up with Dupont. While Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) tried to bridge across from the small chase group, Nibali and Scarponi seemed unable to make any big efforts.

In the last kilometer, the two leaders were still together and as the two approached the line, Contador made no attempt to sprint and Rujano took the stage.

Contador has well and truly put his mark on this Giro. With this stage, Nibali moved into second, but he is 3 minutes down, and with the way Contador has been climbing so far, that 3 minutes could be insurmountable. After the stage, Nibali seemed defeated, saying “We’ve got to try and come up with something but what?” It seems it has become a race for 2nd place.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Jose Rujano VEN (Androni Giocattoli)
  2. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  3. John Gadret FRA (AG2R La Mondiale)
  4. Hubert Dupont FRA (AG2R La Mondiale)
  5. Igor Anton SPA (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 3:09
  3. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD) at 3:16
  4. David Arroyo SPA (Moviestar) at 3:25
  5. Roman Kreuziger CZE (Astana) at 3:29
  6. Photo: Graham Watson/CyclingWeekly.co.uk

Giro d’Italia Stage 12: Cav takes win two

It was a badly kept secret that after today most of the sprinters would head home, as the road headed directly upwards in stage 13, as it climbed Mt. Etna. And sprint they did, with Mark Cavendish taking his 2nd win of the race.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Mark Cavendish GRB (HTC-Highroad)
  2. Davide Appollonio ITA (Sky)
  3. Alessandro Petacchi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  4. Roberto Ferrari ITA (Androni Giocattoli
  5. Gerald Ciolek GER (Quickstep)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 59 sec
  3. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 1:21
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:28
  5. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD) at s.t.

Giro d’Italia Stage 11: Gadret sneaks in a win

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

Today, the riders of the Giro were treated to a lumpy, lumpy stage. While it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t easy either and while there was potential for a breakaway to succeed on this stage, the lone breakaway rider to last until the end, Daniel Morano (Katusha), was overtaken in the last 100 meters by John Gadret (AG2R-La Mondiale).

Frequent attacks

The start of the stage saw a lot of riders, from all over the GC, attacking all over the place. A big group of riders escaped right away, but owing to the presence of names like Kiryienka, Ventoso, De Clercq, Petacchi, Brutt, it was not allowed to stay away for long. Another group of 12 tried to get away on the first climb, with no success. Finally, with only 80km to go, another 10 tried. The group, made up of Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo), Daniel Morano (Katusha), Marco Marzano (Lampre-ISD), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Carlos Alberto Betancur  and Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone), Simone Stortoni (Colnago), Ignatas Konovalovas (Movistar), Tiago Machado (RadioShack), Lars Nordhaug (Sky), and Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank), was urged on by Le Mevel to keep the pace high, and finally managed to snap the elastic.

Le Mevel, as the highest placed GC contendor in the break, was a marked man. Being in the break could mean a jump in the standings (or even take the pink jersey) if he could stay away until the end, but it could also kill his GC chances, working hard in the break all day. The gap was kept steady at around 2 minutes, which was close enough for the peloton (and the pink jersey) to feel comfortable, but far enough away to have a chance at taking the stage and the pink jersey.

Attacks in the break

Even the break wasn’t immune to multiple attacks toda. With 30km to go, Morano attacked out the break and managed to get a good gap. 15km later, Betancur attacked, followed quickly by Le Mevel, Kruijswijk, Konovalovas, Stortoni, and Marzano. Soon, however, Konovalovas attacked out of that group of chasers and quickly pulled away. He blazed up to Morano, where they started to work together. The chasers continued to work behind them, with Le Mevel trying hard to make them work together, but to no avail- the chasers soon started attacking each other. Kruijswijk and Stortoni attacked Le Mevel and the rest at 8km, and were quickly pulled back only to have Kruijswijk attack again. Le Mevel’s chances at staying away or gaining enough time to get the pink jersey were dwindling fast.

Lost gamble

Despite Le Mevel’s valiant efforts to keep the break working together and away,  by the 3km to go mark, the chasers were caught.

Within the last kilometer Morano was out of the saddle, dropping Kovovalovas and trying to keep ahead of the peloton, which was nipping at his heels. Despite one last, desperate dig by Morano, John Gadret  timed his attack out of the peloton and easy passed Morano on the uphill finish to take the stage.

While there had been talk of Contador letting the pink jersey go, in the end, Le Mevel’s gamble did not pay off, as he was not able to take the pink jersey. However, all was not lost, as he did move up to 4th in the GC, only 1’28” behind Contador.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. John Gadret FRA (AG2R La Mondiale)
  2. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver SPA (Katusha)
  3. Giovanni Visconti ITA (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)
  4. Jose Rodolfo COL (Androni Giocattoli)
  5. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 59 sec
  3. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 1:21
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervlo) at 1:28
  5. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD) at s.t.

Photo: Bettini/CyclingNews.com

Giro d’Italia, Stage 10: Cav delivers

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

During stage 10, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) finally achieved the elusive victory at the Giro. Having been pipped at the line in stage 2 by Petacchi, it is sure that Cav was happy to pay Petachhi back by beating him to the line in today’s stage, despite a 4% gradient to the finish. Fitzalan Gorman recaps the stage, which saw Contador keep the pink jersey.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Mark Cavendish GBR (HTC-Highroad)
  2. Francisco Ventoso SPA (Movistar)
  3. Alessandro Petacchi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  4. Roberto Ferrari ITA (Androni Giocattoli)
  5. Davide Appollonio ITA (Sky)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 59 sec
  3. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:19
  4. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 1:21
  5. Michele Scarponi ITA(Lampre-ISD) at 1:28

Photo: Sirotti/Cyclingfans.com

Giro d’Italia, Stage 9: Contador smokes ‘em

He brought out the finger pistol. I'm not amused.

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

In a slightly surprising turn of events, race favorite Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) made a huge move today, attacking on Mt. Etna in the last 5km. His attack allowed him to take the stage and put on the pink jersey. Read Peter Alvelais’ recap.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  2. Jose Rujano VEN (Androni Giocattoli)
  3. Stefano Garzelli ITA (Acqua & Sapone)
  4. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  5. Roman Kreuziger CZE (Astana)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 59 sec
  3. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:19
  4. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 1:21
  5. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD) at 1:28

Photo: AP

Giro d’Italia Stage 8: Gatto steals the sprint

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

Today’s relatively flat stage featured a tricky uphill finish. Those who had done their homework, researching the stage, knew that two hairpin turn close to the finish would be a place to win or lose the stage. Oscar Gatto (Farnese Fini) had clearly done this homework, and a perfectly timed attack after the hairpins was only able to be followed by Alberto Contador, who had to settle for second place.

The break got away within the first couple of kilometers, with two Italians, Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Leonardo Giordani (Farnese Vini), taking to the front for the majority of the race. Their gap was only allowed to get to 11 minutes, and was quickly brought down to 7 minutes, where they stayed to the 50km to go mark.

By this time, the peloton  started to work in earnest to bring back the two in front. Caught with only 7km to go, teams, especially those with sprinting hopes, started to jockey for position in the front of the group, as they knew they would need good positioning going into the narrow hairpin turns near the finish. Unfortunately, all the fighting for position was for naught, as Gatto had perfect positioning and legs good enough to attack and make it stick. Only Contador followed, a surprising move for a favorite. After taking the 12 second time bonus that came with second, Contador moved into 5th place on the GC. Afterwards, Contador said the attack wasn’t planned, but he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the legs to follow, so he did.

Tomorrow stage, with a double climb of Mt. Etna will either be a real corker, with lots of attacks and destroyed riders, or a real stinker, with no one taking any risks this early in the race.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Oscar Gatto ITA (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)
  2. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  3. Alessandro Petacchi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  4. Alexander Kristoff NOR (BMC)
  5. Roberto Ferrari ITA (Androni Giocattoli)
Top 5 GC
  1. Pieter Weening NED (Rabobank)
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  3. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 5 sec
  5. Alberto Contador

Photo: Bettini/Cyclingnews.com

Giro d’Italia, Stage 7: De Clerq on the summit

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Fitzalan Gorman recaps Stage 7, which featured 13 miles of climbing with Bart de Clarq (Omega Pharma Lotto) attacking in the last 10km and, holding off a last second sprint by Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), took the stage win. Weening is still in pink.

Top 5 Stage results

  1.  Bart De Clercq BEL (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
  2. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  3. Roman Kreuziger CZE (Astana)
  4. Stefano Garzelli ITA (Acqua & Sapone)
  5. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Top 5 GC
  1. Pieter Weening NED (Rabobank)
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  3. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 5 sec
  5. Michele Scarponi at 14 sec

Photo Graham Watson

Giro d’Italia Stage 6: Ventoso victorious

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

A stage that wasn’t particularly tough ended with a close sprint between Alessandro Petacchi and Francisco Ventoso. Petacchi did not have anything left in his legs to shut down Ventoso, who was able to take the win by a good margin.

So far in this race, the biggest contenders haven’t been making too much noise- but it’s still early in the race and the big mountains have yet to be ridden. Of the favorites, Vincenzo Nibali was the highest placed at the start of this stage, in 6th at 24 seconds behind. The real hills start tomorrow, so the climbers did what they could to save their legs today.

The break of the day was made up of Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma Lotto), Kristof Vandewalle (Quickstep), Yaroslav Popvych (Radioshack), Sacha Modolo (Colnago), Frederik Veunchelen (Vaconsoleil), which was formed within the first 10km. Popvych was highest placed in the GC in 59th, at 5’53”. This group was never allowed more than 5’40”, as the sprinters’ teams were on high alert.

It was a pretty calm stage until there was about 40km left. By this time, Modolo was unable to hang on anymore, and dropped off the back of the leaders. After spending a fair amount of time in purgatory, he was caught by the peloton with 22km to go. Just one kilometer down the road, Veikkanen dropped as well.

It was about this time when the sparks started to fly. Attacks started with Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago)  and didn’t stop until the finish line. Attacks were happening everywhere, initiated by everyone and every team. Nothing was able to snap the elastic, and everything was reeled back. Even though the break was doomed at this point, it didn’t stop Vandewalle from attacking out the break. With 7.5km Popvych was caught and Vandewalle was truly alone.

With 2km to go, peloton had Vandewalle in its sights, and quickly swallowed him up. Now the teams started to jostle for position, trying to get something in place for a sprint. Within the last 100 meters, Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) shot off the front in this flat finish, hoping to make it away, but Petacchi and Ventoso were hot on his heels. Ventoso lead the run to the line, with Petacchi right behind him. Petacchi tried to get around Ventoso, but a few pedal strokes after coming around him, his burst to chase down Di Luca caught up to him and he all but sat up, enabling Ventoso to take the win. After the stage, when asked why he seemed to sit up and give the win to Ventoso, Petacchi responded that there were just too many attacks to mark: “Di Luca went very hard and I took Bozic’s wheel. I thought he was the man to beat as he still had teammates up there. I let Ventoso come past initially as I had already made the effort to follow Di Luca, but then I went.” Unfortunately, he found he had nothing left in his legs to give, and quickly sat up.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Francisco Ventoso SPA (Movistar)
  2. Alessandro Petacchi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  3. Roberto Ferrari ITA (Androni Giocattoli)
  4. Danilo Di Luca ITA (Katusha)
  5. Davide Appollonio ITA (Sky)
Top 5 GC
  1. Pieter Weening NED (Rabobank)
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  3. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 5 sec
  5. Pablo Lastras SPA (Moviestar) at 22 sec

Photo Graham Watson

Giro d’Italia, Stage 5: Back to the bike

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Stage 5 saw the Giro get back to racing, as Fitzalan Gorman reports. Pieter Weening took the pink jersey from David Millar at the end of this stage.

Photo: Graham Watson

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Pieter Weening NED (Rabobank)
  2. Fabio Duarte COL (Geox-TMC)
  3. Jose Rodolfo COL (Androni Giocattoli)
  4. Christophe Le Mevel FRA (Garmin-Cervelo)
  5. Oscar Gatto ITA (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)
Top 5 GC
  1. Pieter Weening
  2. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 2 sec
  4. Christophe Le Mevel at 5 sec
  5. Pablo Lastras SPA (Movistar) at 22 sec

Giro d’Italia, Stage 4: Tribute Stage

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Peter Alvelais recaps the stage rode in tribute to to  fallen comrade, Wouter Weylandt.

Photo: AFP

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