Menchov takes the win and Di Luca the Maglia Rosa
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Menchov takes the win and Di Luca the Maglia Rosa

by Steve Jones at 2:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results

Former Vuelta champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank) climbed to his first Giro d'Italia stage win today after launching a searing attack over top of a bid by reigning Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam), separating the Russian and yesterday's winner Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farense Vino) from a select group of climbers. Second on the stage, Di Luca gained enough time to once again put on the Maglia Rosa he won just two years ago. The pair were followed closely by Thomas Lövkvist followed the pair in closely behind, but in the end the young Swede's fight to defend his race lead wasn't enough pushing him down a spot on general classification.

The move of the day went on the climb of the Passo Rolle, and by the time it was over there were seven riders: Eros Capecchi (Fuji - Servetto), Mauro Facci (Quick-Step), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-N.G.C.), Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini), Jose Serpa (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Androni Giocattoli), Giovanni Visconti (ISD) and Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).

The seven worked together in between the day's major climbs and maxed out their gap at around 4:30. Team Columbia did their work to keep the gap under control to protect Lövkvist's Maglia Rosa.

The break was brought back into the fold on the last climb by a motivated Liquigas team. In the end it was team leader Ivan Basso grinding out a tempo until the group was reduced to GC contenders Di Luca, Leipheimer, Menchov, and Sastre accompanied by surprise guests - Maglia Rosa Lövkvist and Chirs Horner. With less than a kilometer to go Sastre took his chance with an attack that ended up launching Di Luca and Menchov to the finish line losing the Spaniard 19 seconds to the stage winner.

The mountain top finish of Alpe di Siusi gave some insight on who the contenders are for the final pink jersey in Rome. Menchov and Di Luca have shown they have the form to make a serious play for the overall, and Lövkvist - unproven in this situation - is likely only a surprise to the cycling world outside of the Columbia - High Road camp.

Michael Rogers (Columbia - High Road) is having a solid race, and if he doesn't run into bad luck, the Australian and his Swedish teammate could work together to get the jersey back in the hands of their American team.

Possibly the best news of the day for any single team was the ride put in by Astana's Chris Horner. Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel is a mastermind when it comes to dosing the efforts of his team over three weeks, and Horner coming back strong after being injured will help protect the interests of Astana's team leader Levi Leipheimer.

Sastre looks to have timed his form well, and Ivan Basso continues to ride solidly. It's still early days, but it looks as though Damiano Cunego has ridden himself out of contention loosing over two and a half minutes on the stage, with Garzelli so far back he'll now be looking for stage wins.

Tomorrow's 248km stage will see the riders visit Austria. It's possible that a break will get clear on the day because of tired legs from the mountains - perhaps Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt will be on the prowl again. The fact that the teams with the two top sprinters, Columbia and LPR Brakes, will now be looking after their general classification riders will certainly help the chances of an escape.


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