There’s never a dull day so far in the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
What on paper looked like a transition stage, where the pack could take it “piano” after a hectic opening week, turned into yet another fight to the death as a heavy deluge hammered the peloton in the 187km ninth stage from Frosinone to Cave de Tirreni.
The Giro turned south past Rome, but the weather was once again a protagonist. The peloton busted up into pieces in the undulating stage, with riders such as Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) lost nearly two minutes after puncturing late in the race.
HTC-Columbia switched gears in the finale, leading out young Australian Matthew Goss for the win.
Goss swapped from lead-out duty for André Greipel to star as he held off the field two bike lengths clear of Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) to win the drag race up a gradually rising finish. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) crossed the line third to recapture the points jersey from Cadel Evans (BMC).
“There was a four-rider breakaway but we made very sure that we kept them at a manageable distance,” said HTC-Columbia sports director Tristan Hoffman said. “The weather was really bad at times, sometimes the streets were like rivers and that made it a lot harder. However, our goal was always to get a bunch sprint, and even though we had no support from other teams and had to work like crazy, the team did a brilliant job today. In the final kilometer Matt took his chance.”
Vinokourov retained the pink jersey
“Today I took advantage of the work of HTC-Columbia,” Vinokourov said. “It was a relatively quiet stage only disturbed by the heavy rain. My only concern was to not lose seconds to Evans, which is why I was in first position in the final and why I took the sprint. Everything else is fine. The maglia rosa is on my shoulders and the legs feel good.”
In fact, Evans and Vinokourov found themselves at the sharp end of the action on the rising finale as neither wanted to be caught out or risk losing time bonuses.
Wearing the red (points) jersey instead of his usual world champion stripes, Evans surprisingly found himself leading out the sprint.
“Vinokourov attacked in the last kilometer, so I followed him,” Evans said. “But with the headwind, I think he went a little early so I was left on the front and had to continue on with it.”
Evans also said there were nervous moments after his puncture with 30 km to go. “The photography motorbikes were blocking the roads and that opened up some splits in the crosswinds.”
The early break
The Giro got its second work week underway with a flurry of attacks at the start before a break got established relatively early, before the 10k mark.
- Michael Barry, Team Sky, 43rd at 23:35
- Tom Stamsnijder, Rabobank, 117th at 54:18
- Giampaolo Cheula, Footon–Servetto, 137th at 59:26
- Mikhail Ignatiev, Team Katusha, 160th at 1:07:20
Over rolling terrain that was descending slightly over the course of the day, the four beat out a gap hovering just under three minutes for the bulk of the afternoon, as Vinokourov’s Astana men took the front. Later in the day, HTC-Columbia and Garmin-Transitions felt obligated to take the front in hopes of setting up a field sprint. With those two teams sharing the chase duties, the gap was brought down to under two minutes with 60km still to go.
The roads were often wet and a few cloudbursts soaked the riders, many of whom donned rain capes and clear glasses.
The rain picked up in the final 30k, giving the break some hope that it could fend off the chase pack. But breakaways had prevented field sprints too often in this Giro, and the gap came down to under a minute with 25k to go.
As the route entered some more twisty roads on the approach, the gap went back up to over a minute, and Astana went on the attack, forcing a separation in the front of the field. Evans and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo), ninth on GC, were among those who were caught out by the attack, but soon clawed their way back to the lead chase group, which entered the final 10km with a 25-second lead.
Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam), however, had a poorly timed puncture and was unable to reconnect.
Up front, Ignatiev attacked his breakmates with 9km left. Barry was able to rejoin the Katusha man, but Stamsnijder and Cheula drifted back to the peloton. The Canadian and the Russian were only able to hold off the pack another couple of kilometers, before being sucked up with less than 5km to the line.
HTC-Columbia controlled the front in the final kilometers, keeping the pace high to prevent any opportunists attempting a flier on the short climbs coming into town.
Coming into the final kilometer, Evans started an early sprint, going after crucial time bonuses, but Vinokourov marked him before the sprinters swarmed past.
The white and yellow team had switched gears this day and worked for Goss rather than Andre Greipel. The 23-year-old Australian, who was second behind Tyler Farrar on stage 2, got it right this time, outkicking Filippo Pozzato and Farrar.
“With 400 meters to go, I told myself, ‘if André is behind me, he will overtake me. Then I lowered my head and no one came around,” Goss said. “Today’s win is the biggest of my career so far. I’m not a pure sprinter, but I am fast. Greipel is still the captain, but if the opportunity arises, I will try to win again.”
Pozzato said the surprising presence of the GC riders in the finale foiled his chances to win a stage while wearing the Italian national champion’s jersey.
“Today was also a hard stage for the rain. I liked this stage and this arrival and that’s a pity for my second place. Ignatiev went in the break, so our team don’t worked,” Pozzato said. “In the final sprint there were general classification men in front and I didn’t know what wheel I had to take for the sprint”
Tuesday’s stage 10 is another for the sprinters — albeit one with a long lead up. The 230km stage from Avellino to Bitonto crosses the foot of the Italian peninsula to Bitonto, near the Adriatic city of Bari. (Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).
- 1. Harley Goss Matthew (AUS) HTC-Columbia
- 2. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Team Katusha at 0:00
- 3. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 0:00
- 4. Robert Forster (GER) Milram at 0:00
- 5. Federico Canuti (ITA) at 0:00
- 1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) Astana
- 2. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC Racing Team at 1:12
- 3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas Doimo at 1:33
- 4. Ivan Basso (ITA) Liquigas Doimo at 1:51
- 5. Marco Pinotti (ITA) HTC-Columbia at 2:17