Post Stage Analysis
Post Stage 8 Analysis: Two in a Row for Columbia
9 Big Photos from Stage 8...coming — sirotti
May 16 update: A Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of a stage, today, as a big move lit up the final climb of the day, the Colle Gallo. But LPR Brakes proved too vigilant to be caught out, Danilo Di Luca actually increased his overall lead with a 3rd place time bonus at the finish. Kanstantsin Sivtsov won the stage today, making it two in a row after yesterday's win of Edvald Boasson Hagen in Chiavenna.
The break went early today, some 14 kilometers after the start. Ten riders decided to get a head start on the day, including a possible stage winner in Giovanni Visconti. The early break included: Dario Cataldo of Quick Step, Johann Tschopp of Bbox Bouygues, Eugeni Petrov of Katusha, Giovanni Visconti of ISD-Neri, David Lopez Garcia Caisse d’Épargne, Serge Pauwels of Cervélo Test Team, Carlos José Ochoa of Diquigiovanni-Androni, Jelle Vanendert of Silence-Lotto, Hector Gonzalez of Fuji-Servetto, and Eduard Vorganov of Xacobeo-Galicia. Over the first climb of the day, the Culmine di San Pietro the break held just over 3 minutes in hand.
On the descent, disaster struck for Pedro Horillo. The Rabobank rider crashed badly on the descent, dropping nearly 60 meters off the cliffside road. The steep rugged terrain complicated rescue efforts, but he was soon taken to hospital in Bergamo. The Giro organizers toned down the party atmosphere at the finish, out of respect for the gravity of his injuries. Current reports describe his condition as serious, but not life threatening. Horillo reportedly suffered multiple fractures, a head injury, and a punctured lung in the fall. All the best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
The ten rider break never received much room to ride on this stage. LPR Brakes and Lampre-Ngc both contributed to the pace-making and with 35 kilometers to go to the finish, the break held only 42 seconds in hand. LPR hoped to put Diluca in a position to pick up more time on the general classification, while Lampre went to work in hopes of setting up Damiano Cunego for the stage win.
With 30 kilometers to go, the real race began. The final climb of the day, the Colle Gallo, provided the launch pad for an escape containing a number of big name riders. Damiano Cunego of Lampre-Ngc made the opening move, a hard attack on the lower slopes of the 6 kilometer climb. The Italian is looking hard for a stage win in this Giro, after his general classification hopes evaporated on the Alpe di Siusi. Stefano Garzelli of Acque e Sapone proved quick to join Cunego, followed by Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas and Chris Horner of Astana. As their gap began to grow, Levi Leipheimer of Astana, Michael Rogers and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Columbia-High Road, and David Arroyo of Caisse d'Épargne bridged across. With two Astanas and two Columbia-High Roads, the break turned interesting and more threatening to the general classification riders still in the main field. Rogers began the day 35 seconds behind race leader Danilo Diluca, while Leipheimer sat fourth at 43 seconds down. The breakaway had the possiblitity to overturn the general classification.
LPR Brakes saw the danger clearly. At the head of the main field, which by now contained no more than 20 riders, Diluca's team went to work on the chase. Gabriele Bosisio did a huge ride for his team captain Diluca today, containing the break on the climb. With Pellizotti up the road in the breakaway, Liquigas did not contribute to the chase effort. Ivan Basso sat all tranquilo on the wheel of Diluca. Well-played tactics from Liquigas-Doimo.
Over the top of the Colle Gallo, the break split slightly, as Horner and Garzelli took turns pushing the pace. Over the top of the climb the break held 30 seconds over the LPR-led bunch. Everywhere splits opened up on the climb. From the break, Arroyo, Cunego, and Boasson Hagen fell behind, but not by much. By the end of the descent, the chasing threesome had made it back on terms with the lead riders. With 20 kilometers to ride, the gap still stood at just over 40 seconds. Diquigiovanni-Androni began to contribute to the chase, that had until then been all Bosisio, all the time. The break continued to work well together.
Not much more than 3 kilometers later, the advantage of the break had disappeared. The roads turned flat and wide, the terrain shifting the advantage to the chase. At 16 kilometers to go, it was gruppo compatto, thanks largely to the work of LPR Brakes. Liquigas-Doimo, benefitting from Pellizotti's presence in the break, took the day off.
Just as the race came back together, Kanstantsin Sivtsov, who lives in Bergamo, rolled off the front. This was not one of the big attacks, but a casual rolling away from the field, who did not immediately respond. Sivtsov steadily built up his advantage, though it never surpassed 30 seconds. Up the final climb of the day, Sivtsov still held a gap, and Liquigas went to work likely to keep Basso near the front and out of trouble.
Through the tunnel in the wall to the old city of Bergamo, the road twisted and turned, helping the cause of Sivtsov's escape. LPR Brakes also began working, with thoughts of a stage win and time bonuses for Diluca dancing in their heads. Inside the final 3 kilometers, Basso went to the front and drove hard, but not hard enough to bring back the Sivstov. The 26 year old Columbia-High Road rider celebrated his first ever Giro stage win, the second in a row for his American team. Sivtsov is steadily accumulating big results in his young career. He was an U23 World road race champion and won the overall at the Tour of Georgia last season.
Behind Sivstov, his team-mate Boasson Hagen took the sprint for second. It was a nice stage result for Boasson Hagen, but more importantly, he ensured that Danilo Diluca did not get the 12 second time bonus for second. Columbia-High Road very nearly swept the podium today, but Diluca managed to out-throw Rogers at the line. Diluca added 8 seconds to his lead in the general classification with his well-timed bike throw. Otherwise, the general classification remains un-changed after today's stage.
After the stage, Sivtsov commented that he expected to lose time on the final climb, and was happy to survive to the finish. Talking about his team, he praised Rogers as a "generous rider," and added to the raves about the talent of Boasson Hagen, whom he called "a complete rider." Italian Filippo Pozzato, who had hoped to chase the stage win today, praised Boasson Hagen as "fuoriclasse," and complimented Columbia-High Road on their successive stage wins. "A beautiful number," he said.
LPR Brakes directeur sportif Bardonali was happy with how things went today. He said that Diluca is "tranquilo," and commented that this is a Giro with "grande adversaries." Diluca picked up a few seconds of time bonus, though his team worked hard for the result. With a flat circuit tomorrow followed by a rest day, the riders should recover just fine in time for the tricky stage between Cuneo and Pinerolo, where a crafty general classification rider might find a way to gain some time.Carlos Sastre, meanwhile, riding quietly for the general classification is not chasing time bonuses and such just yet. The important thing in the first week of the race is "not to lose time," he said after today's stage. He also confirmed that he is a rider for the third week, and though he is riding the Tour de France in July, he is aiming for a podium placing or better at this Giro. Former professional Paolo Savoldelli described Sastre as an intelligent rider, who will go at exactly the right time. Certainly, that tactic is how he won last year's Tour de France.
Looking Ahead: Mid-Race Party
Tomorrow's stage takes place entirely in Milano, where the riders will contest a flat circuit through the old part of the city. The stage celebrates the Giro's origins and should make for a festive day of racing. This is a day for the sprinters, though the riders for the general classification will need to stay alert and out of trouble. The course has a few tricky corners, but the finish is a dead-straight, wide boulevard.
Likely winners? Certainly, Mark Cavendish will want to make it three-straight for his Columbia-High Road team. Alessandro Petacchi, meanwhile, will be freelancing, as his team protects Diluca's race lead. The Italian will look to win the stage and to steal the points jersey back from his team-mate. In the last sprint stage before the mountains, American Tyler Farrar came close to beating out Cavendish, and will no doubt try again. The American from Garmin-Slipstream did beat Cavendish earlier this season, and is showing a clear talent for the big bunch sprints. It's only a matter of time before the big win comes his way. Perhaps tomorrow will be his day.
Stage 8: Morbegno - Bergamo
The Giro is now in the Lombardia region, and stage 8 begins in the city of Morbegno, which sits in the shadow of the Alps. Franco Ballerini won a 1991 Giro stage here. From the start, it is a bumpy ride to the main climb of the day, the Culmine di San Pietro. A second significant climb, the Colle de Gallo, comes with 27 kilometers to go to the finish.
The stage passes through Bergamo, makes a loop, then finishes in the Città alta, the walled old city, which sits on a hill overlooking the modern Bergamo Bassa. The old city of Bergamo is one of four walled cities in Italia. (Lucca, Grosseto and Ferrara are the other three, for those playing along at home.) An inclined railway, a funicular, connects the red-roofed Città alta with the modern city below. There is a short, steep climb within the final 4 kilometers of the stage, followed by a descent to the finish.
Bergamo has a long history of hosting Giro finishes and many famous names have celebrated victories in this northern city. Winners in Bergamo include: Diego Marabelli in 1938, Oreste Conte in 1952, Felice Gimondi (ahead of Eddy Merckx) in 1976, and Giuseppe Saronni in a semi-tappa in 1983. In 2008, the city hosted the Italian National Championship road race, which Filippo Simeoni of Ceramica Flaminia won.
Profile Details. The first climb of the day, the Culmine di San Pietro, comes after 52 kilometers of racing. The Culmine di San Pietro rises 618 meters, covers 13 kilometers, and has an average gradient of 4.8%. That sounds easy enough. Not so fast. The Culmine di San Pietro has a maximum gradient of 11%. After previewing the climb, sprinter Alessandro Petacchi of LPR Brakes Farnese Vini called it very difficult. “I was surprised by the Culmine di San Pietro. I did not expect such a difficult climb, and the descent is extremely technical,” he said. Giovanni Fidanza, the LPR team manager, expects that a break could try to escape on the climb, despite the long ride to the finish. It will be difficult for a team to control the race here, he believes. From the top of the Culmine di San Pietro, there remains 145 kilometers to ride to the finish.
The descent from the Culmine di San Pietro is interrupted by a short climb, but the descent quickly resumes. With just under 100 kilometers to ride, the course passes through Bergamo for the first time. From there, the riders will trace out a large loop, passing through the town of Sarnico and along side the lago di Iseo. The terrain is mostly flat.
With 50 kilometers to go, voilà, a short climb to Solto Collina. At only 4 kilometers and 300 meters of elevation gain, this one is just a teaser. All the same, this short bump may complicate the efforts of any team trying to keep the race together. After a short descent and 10 kilometers of flat riding, the race hits the Colle del Gallo.
Only 27 kilometers separate the summit of the Colle del Gallo and the stage finish, which makes the climb a nice springboard for an escape. The Colle del Gallo lasts 6.2 kilometers, climbs 435 meters, and has an average gradient of 7%. The maximum gradient is 11%. That should leave a mark after approximately 160 kilometers of racing, and may well provide the opportunity for the winning move.
About 10 kilometers of descending false flat follow the descent off the Colle del Gallo. If a break escapes on the Colle del Gallo, this stretch of road could become the scene of a high-speed drag race. With less than 6 kilometers to race, the course climbs up into the Città alta, the old section of Bergamo. LPR chief Fidanza estimates that the climb to the Città alta is long enough for a race-winning move. Indeed, in 2007, Stefano Garzelli attacked on this final climb and celebrated a Giro stage win. The climb summits inside 4 kilometers to go, and the stage finishes on a descent.
Tactics Talk. Numerous attacks will animate this stage, as it is perfect terrain for a breakaway to succeed. The teams hoping to contest the general classification may face some difficult choices here. How much energy should they expend to control the race here? They still have two more weeks of racing before they reach Roma. At the same time, the wrong breakaway could leave a lasting mark on the general classification. A minute here, a half minute there, these little gaps add up. Danilo Diluca, for one, knows well how to play this game of salami tactics. He may choose this stage to put team-mates in an early break and set himself up for a stage win.
The race into Bergamo will not decide the general classification, but it should be suspenseful. In 2007, the bunch splintered into three groups, each containing favorites for the general classification. Garzelli attacked on the climb to the old city, and celebrated his win with the pack coming up quickly behind him. In the end, the general classification remained unchanged, but it proved a close-run thing. A wildcard stage, for sure.— Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)