Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) won the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia Monday in Frosinone. Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) finished second, with Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) third.
“Today was the sort of day for us,” said Ventoso. “The team believed in me, which was good, and I managed to win, so I’m happy. This morning I said you’d be interviewing me at the end.”
Overall leader Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) finished in the peloton to retain the maglia rosa.
A crash 400 meters from the finish sent most of the top sprinters, including points leader Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) to the tarmac.
The run-in to Frosinone was touchy, with a number of riders attacking late on the technical approach to the finish. Among them were overall contender Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol).
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia and Orica-led peloton shut all down, however, and the Aussies led into the final kilometer. A tight, left-hand bend 400 meters from the line proved too much as Orica and Farnese Vini came in too hot. Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) made contact with Goss early in the corner and the pair went down, sparking a pileup that took down a handful of riders.
“It was my fault,” Pozzato told Italian television channel RAI. “I was scared when Goss turned into the last bend and I touched the brakes. I apologise for causing the crash.
“I hope that Goss, who’s a friend, and the other riders have no serious injuries. I hurt my side and I can’t move one of my wrists, but I don’t intend to withdraw.”
Ventoso made his way past the milieu on the inside and charged hard up the left barriers to secure the win. Hesjedal also came through the corner cleanly and held onto his nine-second GC lead over Rodríguez.
“I managed to stay ahead,” said Hesjedal. “When Goss, Pozzato and other sprinters, those targeting the stage, hit the ground in the last corner, I could go on the left. This is not the first time that I find myself in front of a sprint; it happened to me in the Tour of the Basque Country (sixth of the first stage). The next step? it is mainly the bonuses that concern me. I do not have much time ahead of Rodríguez.”
Ventoso, 30, celebrated his second career stage win in the Giro, having won a stage in last year’s edition in the same region of Italy.
“In the early sprints I found it tough to stay up at the front, because the peloton is very compact and the risks are greater,” he said. “However, after a week, when the first one has been so tough as it has been in this Giro, things change. Realizing this, I decided to save my energy for the second week.
“In the final sprint I wasn’t in a very good position but when the crash occurred I saw that I could benefit from it and I launched my effort.”
A three-man breakaway of Pierre Cazaux (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Brian Bulgac (Lotto-Belisol) made a bid to pull away shortly after the departure from Giorgio del Sannio, but the Sky-led peloton managed to keep their advantage below five minutes.
Dutchman Keizer pulled away from his companions with 30km remaining but the sprint-hungry peloton reeled him in 17km from the finish.