Giro d'Italia: The first mountain stage looms
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Giro d'Italia: The first mountain stage looms

by Steve Jones at 7:35 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
The Giro dishes out more surprises

Alexandre VinokourovToday’s seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia was the scene of much drama as another shake up in the overall classification took place.  Maglia Rosa Vincenzo Nibali and his Liquigas-Doimo teammate Ivan Basso crashed hard on a descent around 30 kilometers from the finish, and lost a healthy chunk of time to their rivals in the rain-soaked,technical finale.

By the time the Liquigas duo traversed the challenging gravel roads and reached the cobblestone finish in Montalcino, they had lost more than two minutes to world champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and new overall race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).  Nibali now sits 1 minute 33 seconds off the race lead, with Basso a further 18 seconds behind.

Cervelo TestTeam leader Carlos Sastre ended up hemorrhaging time to his rivals, and crossed the finish line with a deficit of more than 5 minutes to the stage winner.  The Spaniard appeared labored as he rode under the finishing banner, wearing the day’s efforts on his face.  He was involved with the crash that took down Nibali and Basso, but his loss was compounded with bad luck on the way to the finish.

"The fall had done enough damage and then my bike was not working properly - I could not go up and down through the gears,” explained the Cervelo captain after the stage.  “I couldn't change it [my bike] until late in the first stretch [of gravel] since the car had to come from behind [because it stopped for his earlier crash and lost its place]."

The team aspect of cycling is highlighted on days like today as Sastre points out:  "If not for Xavier Tondo staying at my side the whole time and doing an amazing job with helping me get to the finish, it would have been much worse," he explained.

The Giro d’Italia is far from over for Sastre.  As long as he recovers well both mentally and physically, there are plenty of mountains for the climber to pull back time for a high placing in the overall.  He’ll go to sleep this evening looking forward to the Corsa Rosa’s first day in the mountains tomorrow.

After today’s difficult stage, tomorrow could hold another big surprise.  It ends with the 15 kilometer climb up the Monte Terminillo which features an average gradient of 8 percent.  Evans and Vinokourov used a lot of energy powering over the strade bianche to hold their advantage today, but the others chasing behind were also forced to dig into their reserves so they could minimize their losses.

The key to winning a Grand Tour has a lot to do with how a rider doses their efforts and how they recover from the previous day.  Evans’ consistency in the past will put the odds in his favor for a good ride tomorrow, while Vinokourov will be a question mark as he looks to complete his first Grand Tour since winning the Vuelta a España in 2006.

Sastre and Basso are also likely to bounce back, while Nibali has also shown he can ride a good Tour.  If the climbers aiming for the overall have the legs, they will try to use the final climb to start to gain time back on Evans and Vinokourov.  Michele Scarponi (Androni-Diquigiovanni) rode well today and is one likely to start the fireworks.


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