It was a day for an unsung hero to step into the spotlight at the Giro d’Italia a day before the big-name GC captains play their cards in Saturday’s first sortie into the major climbs.
With the Giro’s hardest climb so far on tap over the Cat. 1 Monte Grappa, the GC faves were content to let stage-hunters have their shot in the 223km run from Porto Recanati to Cesenatico, hometown of Italian hero Marco Pantani.
Giro rookie Manuel Belletti (CSF-Colnago) won out of a 17-man breakaway after Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia) saw his daring, late-stage attack run out of gas 200m from the finish line (see LINK to Lewis story).
Overnight leader Ritchie Porte (Saxo Bank) enjoyed his second full day in pink as the main pack rolled in 7:28 back, but Russian Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) went on a solo flier to claw back 2:26 on GC to climb to 14th at 10:06 back.
The day’s breakaway
A group of 17 riders cranked away from the field about 60km into the stage. The best-placed of the break was Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto), at 16:14 behind Porte. The break also contained Garmin-Transitions’ Cam Meyer (he was the worst placed rider in the break, in 167th at 2:24:41).
The break built a lead of up to 9 minutes ahead of the bunch, which was being led by Liquigas and Saxo Bank much of the day.
In the final 25km the break members began attacking each other. Mayoz made a few attempts as did Katusha’s Serguei Klimov.
Coming into the final 15k, four riders got away from the tiring break: Tom Stamsnijder (Rabobank), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) and Kalle Kriit (Cofidis).
Lewis played a patient hand and waited for Team Sky sprinter Greg Henderson to chase back on. Then the young American attacked with 1700m to go and nearly held on for the victory, getting caught with 200m to go as the sprinters surged past.
Surprising Henderson was Belletti, a young rider on the unsung Colnago-CSF team.
“When Lewis attacked, I was only afraid of Henderson, so I stayed on his wheel. I jumped his sprint, it was a desperate move, because I never thought I would win,” said Belletti, who collapsed into tears after crossing the line. “I’ve been suffering some knee pain and I just wanted to be in the break and arrive to the finish line, I couldn’t have imagined I would win.”
Belletti hails from the region near Cesenatico and followed the early attacks when the group gelled at about 65km into the stage. The victory is a huge boon for Colnago-CSF, who got the nod to start the Giro ahead of such teams as ISD and Flaminia.
“This is a team of young guys. The average age of the team is 23. This is the only full Italian team. We’ve had some bad luck. Pozzovivo pulled out today, he couldn’t even walk,” he said. “Today was a dream come true for me.”
Karpets on the run
The GC riders were content to let the break chase the victory. Cervélo and Caisse d’Epargne put their riders at the front to help Saxo Bank control the stage over the day’s two moderate climbs in the closing 85km.
The lone move came from Vladimir Karpets (Katusha), who chugged away alone that didn’t illicit much reaction from the main pack. Karpets bravely fought alone until Katusha called back one of its two men in the breakaway (Joan Horrach) to help tow him to the line.
“I felt good today and I escaped on the first climb. It wasn’t something I planned, I just followed my sensations,” Karpets said. “It took back some time, and that’s good, but I am still 10 minutes off the leaders. If my legs feel good, I hope to do well in the final week.”
Porte enjoyed a relatively easy day in the pink jersey, which he donned with matching shorts, helmet and gloves. Porte is not sure if he’ll have the pink jersey by the end of Saturday’s stage, so he wanted to enjoy the ride.
“Tomorrow is very hard, so I had two days in the pink jersey, I am very content,” he said. “I hope to keep the jersey tomorrow. I know my team is strong. I hope I am, too.”
Four riders didn’t finish, including Garmin’s David Millar. He said after the stage that he’s been feeling bad since mid-week and pulled out at the day’s first feed zone. He’ll fly back to Girona tomorrow and train with Garmin teammate Christian Vande Velde, who is already back on the bike after crashing out of the Giro’s third stage with a broken clavicle.
The mountains cometh
The 93rd Giro shifts gears Saturday’s as it turns toward the decisive final week, with an interesting profile that includes the Cat. 1 Monte Grappa some 40km from the finish line in Asolo. The climb is 18.9km long, with 1501m of climbing, with an average grade of 7.9 percent, with ramps as steep as 14 percent.
It’s stiff enough to present a challenge to everyone. Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) says it’s a chance to challenge the riders with a head-start on GC.
“It’s a hard climb with a very fast descent, so it’s important to not get gapped over the summit because it would be hard to chase back on,” Garzelli said. “(David) Arroyo is my favorite now to win this Giro. He’s a proven climber and he has a nice leader on everyone else. Basso is also spinning the pedals well, but maybe he’s too far back.”
Monte Grappa will only serve as an appetizer for Sunday’s charge up Monte Zoncolan, one of the most feared climbs in this Giro.
With riders such as Arroyo, Xavier Tondo and Carlos Sastre (both Cervélo) profiting nicely from the Wednesday breakout, riders who lost more time will have to open up the aggression.
“We can expect more surprises now that we’re going into the big mountains. Just like the other day, anything can happen in this Giro,” said Damiano Cunego (Lampre). “I’m feeling good. The goal remains to win one of the big mountain-top stages. I came here with the goal of making a good GC, but that’s become more complicated because the differences are quite big now.”
This weekend’s action should go a long way toward revealing if the winner of this Giro will come out of Wednesday’s big breakaway.
Saturday’ stage 14 is 205km from Ferrara to Asolo. The big finish loop includes the formidable Monte Grappa, which climbs through 1,501 vertical meters (4,925 feet) in 18.9km at an average grade of 7.9 percent. The summit is followed by a twisting 25km downhill and 12km of flats before a second short climb to the Asolo finish. (Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).
- 1. Manuel Belletti (ITA), Colnago-CSF, 223km in 5:27:12 (40.892kph)
- 2. Gregory Henderson (NZL) Team Sky at 0:00
- 3. Iban Mayoz Echeverria (ESP) Footon-Servetto-Fuji at 0:00
- 4. Paul Voss (GER) Milram at 0:00
- 5. Sebastian Lang (GER) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 0:00
- 6. Kalle Kriit (EST) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne at 0:00
- 7. Mathieu Claude (FRA) BBox Bouygues Telecom at 0:00
- 8. Craig Lewis (USA) HTC-Columbia at 0:00
- 9. Serguei Klimov (RUS) Team Katusha at 0:00
- 10. Cameron Meyer (AUS) Garmin-Transitions at 0:05