Giro d’Italia: Francisco Ventoso sprints to stage six win as the Ale-Jet switches off his afterburners
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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Giro d’Italia: Francisco Ventoso sprints to stage six win as the Ale-Jet switches off his afterburners

by Ben Atkins at 11:24 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
Pieter Weening holds onto the maglia rosa after Rabobank controls the stage-long break

francisco ventosoFrancisco Ventoso (Movistar) won the sixth stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia between Orvieto and Fiuggi in a bunch sprint at the head of what was a much-reduced peloton. The Spanish sprinter beat Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), who suddenly sat up with 15 metres to go, with Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-CIPI) following them over in third.

The race continued its way south, across the rolling roads of the Lazio province, passing very close to the Italian capital Rome. Although officially listed as medium mountain stage, there was only one small classified climb after just 41km.

The inevitable breakaway goes, but will it be a stage-winning move?

After just 9km Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Kristof Vandewalle (Quick Step) escaped the peloton and nobody tried to stop them. 5km later, Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) set off in pursuit; they soon caught the two leaders, making a group of five up front, and by the 20km point they had built a lead of 2’55”.

Popovych was the best placed rider in the group, in 59th, 5’35” behind yesterday’s stage winner Pieter Weening (Rabobank). The Dutchman held a slim lead of just two seconds over HTC-Highroad pair Marco Pinotti and Kanstantin Sivtsov, and five seconds over Garmin-Cervélo’s Christophe Le Mével; having five men up the road to swallow up the time bonuses at the intermediate “Traguardo Volante” sprint, and even at the stage finish, meant that Weening didn’t have to fight the three of them for positions on the line.

So long as the break didn’t actually get enough time to put Popovych in the race lead, the Dutch team was happy to let them go. This also suited the Ukrainian RadioShack rider, as a successful breakaway could give him the chance to take back some of the time he lost on yesterday’s Strade Bianche stage.

Rabobank contains the overall threat and leaves the stage victory to the rest

After 63km, the five riders had slowly increased their advantage to 4’40”, and after 76km, with 140km still to race, it had risen to five minutes. This was where Rabobank decided to draw the line, with Popvych becoming a threat, and began the gradual process of closing the gap.

Over the stage’s mid section, as it passed within a few kilometres of Rome, the country’s capital, the orange and blue team slowly, and surely chipped away a minute from the group’s lead. Popvych was now under control, and Weening’s jersey safe: it was up to the other teams to bring the five back if they wanted to win the stage.

With 65km to go, Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli, evidently believing that the uphill finish would suit its Italian champion Giovanni Visconti, took over the chase and the gap began to close more rapidly. After just a few minutes, they had reduced the gap to 3’04”, with 60km to go.

Vandewalle rolled over the intermediate sprint, with 56.2km to go, without any competition from the others; the peloton was gaining on them now and the priority in the breakaway was still cooperation; the peloton was now just 2’40” behind them.

Clearly the flouro-yellow boys of Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli felt that they were closing the gap too fast though and it gradually began to creep out towards three minutes once more.

The sprinter is dropped from the break

43km to Modolo found himself unable to stay with the others; as one of the fastest sprinters in the race, eighth on stage three, he would surely have been the favourite for victory should the break stay away. The other four riders would not have been sad to see him go.

The lead was now static at 2’50”, with a number of other teams, including Alessandro Petacchi and Lampre-ISD, loitering behind the string of flouro-yellow riders at the head of the peloton. Modolo was not giving up on the breakaway, and tried manfully to catch up again, but he gradually drifted back towards the peloton.

With 30km to go, the Colnago-CSF Inox sprinter was exactly midway between them; 1’20” behind the break, with the peloton 1’20” behind him. The four men in front, still believing in their chances of making it to the finish, continued to work well together.

As the steady drag began towards the finish, a number of riders found themselves tailed off the back of the peloton in ones and twos. This included Aussie sprinters Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), who’d predicted that a breakaway would make it today; McEwen would seemingly have to wait another day to add to his total of twelve Giro stage victories.

As the finish approaches it's still touch and go

With 25km to go the gap was barely below 2’30”; using the estimation that a peloton needed 10km for every minute to take back a well organised breakaway, it looked like it would be touch and go whether the peloton would catch them before the stage finish.

Modolo was caught soon afterwards, as the steady stream of riders were detached from the back of the peloton.  Up ahead, with 21km to go, Veikannen found the steady gradient too much and had to let his companions go; and then there were three…

With 20km to go, the gap was 1’45”; it was still going to be a close run thing.

As the peloton hit the steepest part of the long drag to the finish, Visconti himself took over the front of the peloton; indicating that Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli was racing for someone else, most probably Oscar Gatto, who was fifth on stage five.

A local boy has a go himself

As the peloton passed through the town of Innesto Anticolana, Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF Inox), a local rider, attacked in pursuit of the breakaway riders. With 15km to go he was within 1’09” of them, with the peloton at 1’38”; with a gap of that size the trio’s chances were looking good.

Just as the peloton approached the 15km banner, Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) set off in pursuit of Pirazzi, but he wasn’t able to get far. The Colnago-CSF Inox rider was still out there though, closing to within a minute of Vandewalle, Popovych and Veuchelen.

The peloton was now led by Movistar and Androni Giocattoli-CIPI, and closing steadily on Pirazzi; whether they could get to the other three though, was still up for grabs as they approached the final 10km.

Suddenly Lampre-ISD and Omega Pharma-Lotto surged forward and the gap began to fall more quickly. As the three fugitives passed under the 10km banner their advantage was down to 45 seconds; all three were still doing their turns on the front, but looking much more laboured now.

Three becomes one, but can he make it?

With 9km to go, Vandewalle suddenly attacked, just as Weening had done on his way to victory the day before. The Quick Step rider had no maglia rosa to chase, since he was 11’16” behind the Rabobank rider, but he fancied a stage victory in the same manner.

Popovych and Veuchelen had no answer to the Belgian’s acceleration and, with 8km to go, he had 40 seconds on the peloton.

As the peloton caught Veuchelen, David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) attacked; the Scotsman, who lost his maglia rosa on the climb to the finish in Orvieto the day before was joined by Jan Bakelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), but the peloton was right on their tails.

The flurry of attacks barely closed the gap on Vandewalle up ahead though, who still had 33 seoncds with 6km to go.

Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) was the next rider to escape, and he managed to get a small gap; then Frank tried again, but both riders were closed down.

Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli-CIPI) then put in a huge acceleration, but he too was to be overcome by more attacking riders. This time the attacks had a huge affect on Vandewalle’s lead, suddenly slashing it to just eight seconds with 3km to go.

It's all over bar the sprinting, or is it?

The Belgian was not giving up; powering along a massive gear with his mouth wide open, sucking up as much oxygen as possible. The peloton was up to speed now though, and, led by Vacansoleil-DCM, they finally passed the Belgian with a kilometre and a half to go.

Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) led into the final corner with around 500 metres to go but, losing sight of Petacchi, the German sprinter sat up. In the resulting confusion Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) put in a fierce attack, and looked like he might make it to the line.

The sprinters composed themselves once more and steadily pulled back the 2007 Giro winner, with Movistar leading the chase.

Ventoso went from a long way out, with Petacchi on his wheel; the two of them swept past the fading Di Luca in the final 100 metres. Petacchi moved across the road, so as to come past the Spaniard, and seemed to do so almost effortlessly; just before the line though, the Ale-Jet suddenly turned off his afterburners, allowing Ventoso a simple victory.

Having controlled the break, and monitored his rivals – although Le Mével tried to go for the time bonuses on the line, but could only manage seventh – Weening finished safely in the peloton behind Ventoso and keeps his slim lead in the overall classification. The Dutchman will have a much tougher task to hang on to his pink jersey tomorrow though, as the short, sharp stage finishes atop Motevergine di Mercogliano.

Result stage 6
1. Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Movistar
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-CIPI
4. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha
5. Davide Appollonio (Ita) Team Sky
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
7. Christophe Le Mével (Fra)
8. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step
9. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana
10. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone

Standings after stage 6
1. Peiter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
2. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad @ 2s
3. Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad
4. Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Garmin-Cervélo @ 5s
5. Pablo Lastras (Spa) Movistar @ 22s
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 24s
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD @ 26s
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank @ 28s
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-SunGard @ 30s
10. Jose Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli-CIPI @ 33s


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