Vesuvius erupts again as Sastre wins, Di Luca gains precious seconds
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Vesuvius erupts again as Sastre wins, Di Luca gains precious seconds

by Steve Jones at 12:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results

Today at the top of Mount Vesuvius Spainiard Carlo Sastre won his second stage of this year's Giro d'Italia, while in his wake the mountain experienced a different kind of eruption as Italian Danilo Di Luca left everything on the roads of the final ascent in an effort to crack the race's overall leader Denis Menchov. The Russian proved his strength once again, but Di Luca's efforts paid some dividends as he snatched the 8 second time bonus for third place with compatriot Franco Pelliozotti taking the battle for second.

Now only 18 seconds separate first and second place on the general classification, which means that Sunday's time trial in Rome between Di Luca and Menchov could be a battle for the ages.

How the race unfolded

Just 14kms into the race Mauro Facci (Quick-Step) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r) escaped from the group, and with neither rider a threat on general classification the Rabobank led race let them go.

The pair built a lead in excess of seven minutes on the tight coastal roads of the Amalfi Coast, but their freedom was challenged around the 115km to go mark as the LPR Brakes - Farense Vini team of Danilo Di Luca took control of the peloton. In just 30km the lead had come down nearly three minutes to 4:20.

The challenging terrain of the coast made it's mark on seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, as he took a tumble on one of the sharp corners the course had on offer. He was able to continue with a short chase back onto the group with the help of the teammate.

The work today was left up to the LPR Brakes team since their man Di Luca had his last real opportunity to take over the Maglia Rosa on Mount Vesuvius. With only 26 seconds separating the two overall leaders, the time bonuses on offer for the top three places (20, 12, and 8 seconds) could be a factor in the end.

Ukrainian rider Andriy Grivko (ISD) attacked on the 403 meter climb of the category 3 Picco Sant’Angelo, the 13.3km ascent was one of the last opportunities to gain mountain points, and his efforts put him in second place behind Maglia Verde leader Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone). There is still a lot of riding left, so whether it was a wasted effort or not will remain a question.

With 35km left to race the time gap was down to 2:40, very manageable considering the last 13km is the climb with a peloton full of fresh legs. Under the 15km mark the break was at 30 seconds.

At the base Mount Vesuvius the break was wiped away as the LPR Brakes led peloton powered the lower slopes. Basso was the first to attack with Garzelli following, but the Magia Verde leader was unable to hold on to his compatriot. Satstre was the next to jump from the group, closing the gap to the Italian quickly and continuing to drive an infernal pace. By the halfway point of the climb the pair had a 15 second gap.

Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) and Garzelli all tried to break loose but couldn't make anything stick with a motivated group of favorites. Meanwhile, Sastre attacked Basso repeatedly up the climb, and with 5.5km left he finally broke the Italian setting off to the finish alone.

Behind Di Luca was dishing out attack after attack to rid himself of Menchov.  His efforts swallowed up Simoni and Arroyo quickly, but he couldn't shake the Russian from his wheel. Pellizotti took advantage of the battle and countered Di Luca able to break free. Sastre continued ahead looking fast and smooth with the stage win in his sights. Basso sat up and waited to help his teammate gain some time on general classification. Knowing bonus seconds were up the road.  Di Luca continued to work hard towards the finish eventually closing the gap to a blown Basso.

In the end, Sastre took his second solo mountain top victory of this Giro d'Itaila with Pellizotti rolling across the line second, followed Di Luca punching his way to the top and taking the 8 second time bonus with Menchov clinging onto his wheel over the line.

1. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam)
2. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
3. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farensi Vini)

1. Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
2. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farensi Vini) at 0:18
3. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 1:39


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