If riders were hoping to catch their collective breath in Thursday’s cruise along the Adriatico coast following Wednesday’s blockbuster stage, they were wrong.
The 208km 12th stage followed the script until the pack hit a small, third-category climb with 11.5km to go. After the day’s three-man break was reeled in, some very big guns moved to the front and drilled it to the line, hoping to regain some of their dignity and perhaps gain back some of the nearly 13 minutes they lost to l’Aquila.
Filippo Pozzato won Katusha’s second-straight stage in a 10-up sprint while the likes of Ivan Basso, Vicenzo Nibali, Damiano Cunego, Alexander Vinokourov and Michele Scarponi – some of the big losers in Wednesday’s stage – got back 10 seconds on their rivals.
Pozzato held off Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) to win Italy’s first individual stage so far in this Giro.
“I am very happy to win today, especially to win in the Italian national jersey. I love the Giro and I used to watch the race by the side of the road with my father,” Pozzato said. “It was a complicated finale and I followed out the GC favorites when they attacked. That was a surprise. I had to keep a cool head in the sprint when Nibali and Vinokourov went, because I still had Pineau and Voeckler to worry about.”
How far can Porte go?
Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) finished safely in the main pack to defend the pink jersey after inheriting the pink tunic in Wednesday’s epic breakaway.
The fresh-faced Tasmanian is the big surprise of this Giro so far and will roll into the final week with a big head start on the heavy favorites.
Even Porte doesn’t know how far the neo-pro can go.
“To be honest, to have the pink jersey right now is kind of a victory in itself. This is my first grand tour, I’m in the lead at the end of the second week, that’s pretty incredible,” he said. “Let’s see what happens next week. It’s been the craziest race I’ve ever done. You can’t rule anything out, can you?”
Porte is no slouch in the mountains, having raced in Italy as an amateur, winning a time trial in last year’s Baby Giro and a mountain stage in 2008.
The dust was still settling following Wednesday’s stage. Cadel Evans (BMC) said people shouldn’t overlook his young compatriot.
“I think he is going to surprise a few, I think he is going to be a bit better than people think,” Evans said before Thursday’s start, before criticizing the performance of Astana and Liquigas. “Yeah, normally when you have the lead of the race it is your job to control it. Of course, we are all looking at Vinokourov to do that. If you don’t have the team to do that normally you start putting yourself into big groups, easy to say afterwards. You don’t know it before it is too late.”
Vincenzo Nibali – who along with Evans lost nearly 13 minutes to the breakaway group – said the only danger riders to sneak away were David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo).
“Yesterday was one of those strange days in the Giro. There’s nothing we can do about it now, we just have to deal with it,” Nibali said before the start. “I believe the Giro is still wide open. Anything can happen. We’ll have a good opportunity once the big mountains arrive.”
Farrar loses red jersey
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) ceded the red points jersey Thursday when the race jury penalized him 25 points for finishing beyond the time limit as part of the last group in Wednesday’s harrowing stage to L’Aquila.
Even before Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) sprinted to third in the stage and took it outright, Farrar already knew his days in red were numbered.
In Wednesday’s stage, Farrar finished 142nd at 46:31 behind stage-winner Evgeni Petrov (Katusha) as part of a group of 41 riders. The group was beyond the time limit, but rather than eliminating such a large group of riders, the race jury cited the horrific weather conditions and imposed a 25-point penalty on everyone in the group.
“I think it makes it impossible for me to win the points jersey,” Farrar said of the penalty. “There are too many mountain stages. The climbers are going to score a lot of points. It’s been fun having it, but I don’t think I’ll have it too much longer. The rules are the rules, so you cannot change that.”
Farrar raced Thursday in red, but his margin was knocked down considerably. He started the stage leading Evans with 59 points to Evans’ 52.
By the end of the stage, Pineau sprinted third in the stage to snag 18 points and vault into the lead with 66 points. With the breakaway taking the stage victory up the road, Farrar didn’t take any points on the stage. Pineau now leads with 66 points, tied with Farrar and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) with 59.
The late breakaway surprised the sprinters and held on to win 10 seconds ahead of the chasing bunch. Filippo Pozzato took Katusha’s second-straight victory and Katusha’s Robbie McEwen led the bunch across the line.
“It was a hard little climb. All the sprinters were kind of at the back at the top of it, and it took us awhile to get our teams organized and it was too late,” Farrar told VeloNews at the line. “It was a nice move by those guys.”
A winner of two stages so far at this Giro, Farrar said he will take the Giro “day to day” as it enters the final week.
Evans, Righi fined for late-race punches
If Thursday’s stage wasn’t wild enough, Cadel Evans (BMC) and Daniele Righi (Lampre) nearly went to blows as the pack roared in for the final sprint.
Each were fined 2,000 Swiss francs by the race jury for “unseemly behavior for the image of cycling.”
The world champion said Righi disrupted his sprint, telling La Gazzetta TV: “Righi made a mistake, he’s dangerous. He went to the front and braked. You don’t do that.”
Perhaps Evans’ nerves are starting to show. He’s down to four BMC teammates and was isolated late in the stage without friendly jerseys when the GC faves tore up the road.
“I don’t understand the sprinter teams. First they pull, then they are not there for the final,” Evans said. “I am not happy with how today’s stage went. And, yeah, I only have a few teammates.”
Righi, however, was exasperated with Evans’s reaction, saying it was the world champion’s fault, not his.
“I don’t understand what he did. I was doing my ride and then suddenly he’s swinging at me,” Righi said after the stage. “I certainly didn’t expect that. It was very dangerous because he could have caused a crash.”
Never a dull day at the Giro d’Italia.
(Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).
- 1. Filippo POZZATO (ITA) Team Katusha in 5:15:50
- 2. Thomas VOECKLER (FRA) BBox Bouygues Telecom at 0
- 3. Jérôme PINEAU (FRA) Quick Step at 0
- 4. Stefano GARZELLI (ITA) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo at 0
- 5. Alexandre VINOKOUROV (KAZ) Astana at 0