Giro d'Italia: The pressure stays on
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Giro d'Italia: The pressure stays on

by Steve Jones at 6:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
No rest for the weary

Alexandre VinokourovIf there is one thing that has stayed constant about the Giro d’Italia this year, it’s that you can expect the race to throw a curveball at the riders in one form or another.  Whether it’s foul weather or a challenging route – sometimes both – the 93rd edition of the Italian Grand Tour has been an epic journey so far and it hasn’t even reached the route’s many legendary climbs.

Today’s ninth stage was no different.  It was expected to be a flat stage where the overall contenders could recover, but Mother Nature again had her way and, at times, showered the battered peloton with buckets of rain, throwing in a little crosswinds for good measure.

At one point during the race the riders were forced to wade through standing water, with one Liquigas-Doimo rider mimicking a breast stroke to lighten the mood as he slopped through the section.  The formula was typical for a stage that is categorized as flat.  A small break was allowed to get clear to gobble up the time bonuses on the road, but with so few sprint opportunities left in the race, the sprinter’s teams kept the escape on a short leash.

With around 20 kilometers remaining the real racing began.  The American HTC-Columbia team went to the front and put in a concerted effort to reel in the break for their sprinter Andre Greipel.  As the pace picked up, another common storyline in this year’s Giro d’Italia began to unfold.  Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam), who was a pre-race favorite for the overall, once again had bad luck.  This time he flatted and received a slow wheel change from the neutral support, losing nearly two minutes.

It’s at the point where it’s downright painful to watch Sastre have so many difficulties along the route.  He has always been a classy rider, and it will be curious to see if he channels his frustrations out on the mountain slopes during the final week of racing.

Cadel EvansCrosswinds caused complications on the way into the finishing town of Cava de’ Tirreni, causing yet another unexpected split in the peloton.  The front group contained Maglia Rosa Alexandre Vinokourov, while behind Cadel Evans worked to close the gap.  The world champion wasn’t able to bring the front group back, but Liquigas-Doimo came to the front for Ivan Basso, and Androni Giocattoli for Michele Scarponi to bring things back together.

The 188 kilometer stage finished on a slight uphill drag and saw the world champion fighting it out with Vinokourov in the final meters.  The pair had designs on the 20 second time bonus given to the race winner.  The two were overpowered though, first by Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions), and then stage winner Matthew Goss (HTC-Columbia) and Italian champion Filippo Pozzato, who finished the day in second.

Tomorrow’s stage is expected to finish in a sprint, and will have a motivated Greipel looking to finally take a win.  The uphill today was too much for the German, who began this Giro d’Italia battling a stomach virus.  His opportunities are dwindling, but his HTC-Columbia team continues to stay motivated, so he still has a good chance for success.  Farrar will likely be the man he’ll need to beat.

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