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Post Stage Analysis

Cavendish Again; Tomorrow, the much-anticipated Cinque Terre Crono

9 Big Photos from Stage 11sirotti

May 20 update: Today was a day for the sprinters, an abbreviated version of the Spring classic, Milano-Sanremo. Mark Cavendish of Columbia-High Road won his second stage of this Giro. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream finished second, Alessandro Petacchi of LPR Brakes reached the line third. The general classification did not change today, and Danilo Diluca again wore the pink jersey of race leader. In disappointing news for Astana, Chris Horner did not start today, due to injuries from a crash at the end of yesterday's stage. After 15 kilometeres of racing, classics talent Joaquim Rodriguez of Caisse d'Épargne also left the race.

High speeds again characterized this stage, as numerous riders tried to escape. At last, the bunch allowed Vladimir Isaichev of Xacobeo Galicia to go up the road. The 23 year old built up a maximum advantage of 8 minutes, until the sprinters' teams began to work. Quick Step, hoping to set up Allan Davis, and Katusha, for Ben Swift or Filippo Pozzato, both did significant work on the way to the main climb of the day, the Passo Turchino.

In the rolling terrain leading to the Turchino, LPR took control of the bunch, both to keep Diluca out of trouble and set up Petacchi for the stage finale. Inside 40 kilometers to ride, Isaichev held just over 2 minutes over the LPR-led bunch. On a non-categorized climb before the Turchino, Marco Marzano, a young climber from Lampre-Ngc, made a dash for freedom. With 35 kilometers to ride, the bunch reabsorbed Isaichev, but Marzano remained out in front, with 30 seconds in hand.

On the Turchino, Marzano still held a slim advantage over the bunch, now driven by LPR Brakes and Astana. Climber Janez Brajkovic did the hard work of stringing out the field on the way to the summit of the Turchino. Over the top of the climb, Stefano Garzelli sccoted up the road and scooped up the points for the mountain classification. Despite the hard work of Astana, no one dropped off the back on the twisting roads of the Turchino.

Down the descent, Astana still pushed hard on the front. It's not entirely clear why the team decided to ride so aggressively here. Perhaps, they simply wanted to stretch their legs before tomorrow's crono. In any case, as the bunch descended down into the sunshine of the Ligurian coast, it was gruppo compatto.

In the flat roads to the finish, a few riders tried to escape, weaving and grimacing for the cameras, but really, there was no hope for it, and the sprinters' teams began to line up for the inevitable. Garmin-Slipstream and Quick-Step worked to set up their sprinters, then with less than 5 kilometers to go, Columbia-High Road took over. Mark Renshaw gave Mark Cavendish an armchair ride to the line. Behind Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar fought an aggressive battle for the British sprinter's wheel. Farrar got the better of the Italian and finished second on the stage, Petacchi took third.

After the stage, Petacchi lamented that "there isn't respect in the sprint any more." The Italian has never liked to fight for wheels, but the dedication of his team to defending Diluca's maglia rosa has left Petacchi on his own in the final kilometer. From the replays, there did not appear to be anything out of the ordinary about Farrar's riding in the finale. No doubt, Petacchi was simply frustrated to miss the stage win today.

For his part, Cavendish said he wasn't sure about winning the stage today, because he worried about the Passo Turchino. In the end, he managed the climb just fine. "When you smell the finish line, it is easy to get over the climbs," he said. The British sprinter said his team "did a perfect job," and he had no idea what went on behind him between Farrar and Petacchi.

Basta with these sprinters. Let's talk time trial.

A Decisive Stage: Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore

Tomorrow comes a big day for the general classification riders, the long crono from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore. The overall standings will likely reshuffle. You will want to keep your general classification list close by tomorrow. Here, my friends, is the current top ten.

Clip and Save! General Classification Top Ten
Danilo Diluca
Denis Menchov 1:20
Michael Rogers 1:33
Levi Leipheimer 1:40
Franco Pellizotti 1:53
Carlos Sastre 1:54
Ivan Basso 2:03
Thomas Lövkivst 2:12
David Arroyo 2:35
Gilberto Simoni 2:58

Interviewed after today's stage, race leader Danilo Diluca called this time trial "one of the decisive stages" of the Giro. It is an "atypical time trial" with much climbing and descending. Diluca will not ride a crono bike tomorrow, because the aero bikes and position are not especially well-suited to the climbs. He also said a crono bike would be too slow on the technical descents. On flying form, Diluca said of his race lead, "Perhaps I can defend it, we will see." "The specialists will do well, because it is still a crono," despite the hilly course, he explained. This crono should suit Diluca's characteristics well, especially his stellar bike handling. There are many curves, descents, and two difficult climbs. Diluca may lose the jersey tomorrow, but he shouldn't drop too far out of contention for overall victory. And, there remains a chance that Diluca will finish the day with the pink jersey still securely on his back. Eight Ball says: Two stage wins, screaming form. Who are we to question?

In his interview after today's stage, Diluca called Denis Menchov the most dangerous of his rivals, because Menchov is a "complete rider." The Russian, who has twice won the Vuelta a España and won the Best Young Rider classification at the Tour de France, counts consistency among his strengths. He has the classic characteristics of a stage racer: he climbs the high mountains and rides well against the watch. Menchov has clearly come to this Giro on form, as he already celebrated a stage victory on the Alpe di Siusi. Sitting just 1:20 down on race leader Diluca, Menchov is well-positioned to take over the race lead. Eight Ball says: Looking good so far.

Sitting in third, Michael Rogers, a three time World Champion in the crono, sits 1:33 behind Diluca. Rogers fell behind a split in the run in to Pinerolo yesterday, but has shown good form this Giro. Though he has the characteristics for the grand tours, the Australian has never reached the podium. His highest finish came at the 2006 Tour de France, where he placed tenth. The day-to-day grind of the stage races seems to wear him down. Will he wear pink tomorrow? Eight Ball says: Not likely.

Levi Leipheimer, meanwhile, has shown he can ride well against the watch and has made the podium in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. This climbing crono course to Cinque Terre should suit his characteristics, though he is not known for his descending skills. What he loses on the descents, he should gain back on the climbs. At 1:40 down on Diluca, Leipheimer should come close to taking the race lead. One problem for Leipheimer: He crashed during today's stage. Leipheimer explained via Twitter that he was riding one-handed while drinking, and hit a full water bottle that someone had dropped. Predictably, the Astana rider went over the bars, and "lost a lot of skin." Leipheimer may lose some sleep tonight, but it's hard to know how much this incident will slow him down tomorrow. Eight Ball says: Good, but not great ride on the horizon. No jersey for you.

Over at Liquigas-Doimo, Franco Pellizotti and Ivan Basso are currently sharing the team leadership. Yesterday, Pellizotti made a bid to win the stage and gain time on the general classification, only to see Diluca escape in the final kilometers. Pellizotti isn't among the great crono-men, and lost his spot on the podium in last year's Giro on the final day in a race against the watch. L'ouch. The hilly nature of the course should help Pellizotti's cause, and his bike handling is not half bad. He should stay in the top ten in the general classification, and if he is on a great day, could hold his current fifth place.

For Ivan Basso, meanwhile, tomorrow is a big day. The rider from Varese has come to this Giro to win, but currently sits 2:00 down in the general classification. Tomorrow, he needs to erase at least some of that time, especially the gap to Menchov and Leipheimer, both riders with proven records in the grand tours. Though Diluca has occasionally faltered in the high mountains, especially deep in the third week of the race, Menchov and Leipheimer are known for their consistency. Basso will need to bring back some time tomorrow, if he wants to wear pink in Roma. The climbs on this course will suit him, but his descending has long been suspect. Basso pre-rode this course on two occasions earlier this season. Hopefully, he checked the descents carefully. That he dropped time yesterday on the descent off the Pra' Martino is not necessarily a good sign. Still, Basso is not a rider to underestimate. On his day, he is among the best when it comes to the grand tours, with a Giro win and a Tour podium placing to his credit. Eight Ball says: Do or die. In boca al lupo!

A rider for the third week, Carlos Sastre has quietly ridden to a sixth place in the current general classification. The Spanish climber, who won the 2008 Tour de France, is not known for his ability against the watch, but when it matters, Sastre can get it done. The hilly course should help his cause tomorrow, though if the wind blows up, a small rider like Sastre will suffer. There are three mountain top finishes in the final week of this Giro Centenario, so Sastre need only defend in this crono, not win. If the Spanish climber can limit his losses in relation to Menchov, Basso, Diluca, and Leipheimer, he will be in an excellent position to roll the dice on the Monte Petrano, Blockhaus, or Vesuvio climbs. Like Menchov, Sastre's consistency is his secret super power, and he rarely has a bad day. Eight Ball says: Will defend, but not advance tomorrow.

Looking further down the general classification, Thomas Lövkvist, who currently leads the young riders' classification, is well-known for his time trialing talents. But the young Swede has suffered in recent days, in particular, yesterday on the Pra' Martino, and has difficulty recovering from day to day in the big stage races. No doubt his capacity will improve with age, but for now, he remains a bit of a wildcard in this Giro. Halfway through a grand tour, the ability to recover does much to determine the results. Lövkvist looks good to hold his top ten in the general classification tomorrow, but may have trouble improving on his current eighth place. Eight Ball says: Kids these days, so unpredictable.

David Arroyo... Who's that? The Spanish rider from Caisse d'Épargne is riding a quietly consistent Giro so far. Has anyone noticed? Well, his mom probably has. The 29 year old has finished tenth in the Giro and thirteenth in the Tour de France. Arroyo tends to ride better in the mountains than the crono, so don't expect a huge ride tomorrow. He should hold his top ten position in the general classification, and perhaps set himself up for a run in the third week's mountains. Eight Ball says: No surprises here.

Currently sitting tenth in the general classification, two-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni will not enjoy this long time trial. At least it isn't totally flat. The climber from Trentino is happiest in the high mountains, and smiles at the sight of a 20% gradient. The crono? Not so much. Gibo is a fighter, though, and never one to give up short of the finish. He has a knack for technical descending, which will serve him well tomorrow. Look for him to hold his top ten, and perhaps overtake Arroyo, though former Italian national crono champion Marzio Bruseghin sits just 1:30 behind in 12th. Bruseghin may steal away Simoni's tenth place tomorrow. Eight Ball says: Wait for the mountains.

Riders likely to chase the stage win tomorrow include: David Zabriskie and Danny Pate of Garmin-Slipstream, Marco Pinotti of Columbia-High Road and Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank. All four of these crono specialists have been sighted lurking about the back of the bunch trying to save their legs for this stage. Though the route is hilly and technical, a time trial is still a time trial. Cancellara, in particular, can handle a bike like few others in the sport, and would have exceled on this course. The Swiss time trial specialist has, however, left the Giro today and will head to the Alps for a pre-Tour de France training camp. Though he hasn't been riding the autobus, former Italian national crono champion Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre-Ngc could also do a good ride tomorrow. Expect one of these specialists to take out the stage win, while the general classification riders battle for the pink jersey. Eight Ball says: Ask again later.

On a technical note, most riders have said that they will not ride time trial bikes. The significant climbing on the course, in part, explains the decision. Diluca also said that a crono bike would handle too slow for the tricky descents. We can expect to see lots of roads bikes with unusual modifications come tomorrow. Is it tomorrow yet?

Course Preview

Stage 11: Torino-Arenzano
Date: Wednesday, 20 May
Distance: 214 km.
Terrain:Flat, with one climb, the Passo del Turchino.
GC Importance:Slim to none.

Passo del Turchino 8.4km, 187m, avg. 2.2%, max. 7%

The city of Torino hosts the start of Stage 11. The course travels across the flatlands to the Passo del Turchino, then southwest along the Ligurian coast to Arenzano, which sits just outside Genova.

This stage continues the Giro Centenario’s celebration of Italian cycling history. The start city hosts the finish of Milano-Torino, which is one of Italy’s oldest races. The first-running of the one day classic occurred in 1876. Along the way, the course passes through Alessandria. The birthplace of Il Campionissimo, Fausto Coppi, lies just outside Alessandria in the town of Castellania. A Museum of the Campionissimi stands nearby in Novi Ligure. Trivia alert: Costante Girardengo was the first rider to be referred to as “Campionissimo.”

The stage also pays tribute to the Spring classic, Milano-Sanremo, the traditional start to the Italian cycling season. The Passo del Turchino is one of the iconic climbs in La Primavera. These days, the Passo del Turchino does not do much to influence the race outcome, but in the early editions of Milano-Sanremo, it saw more than one race-winning move. In 1948, Fausto Coppi, returned from his two years as a prisoner of war, attacked on the Passo del Turchino, passing alone into the light from the 50 meter tunnel at the summit. Coppi survived the 147 kilometers to Sanremo and celebrated a solo victory, a symbol of Italy’s rebirth from the years of war. “The people, tested by war, found again their hope,” wrote Gazzetta dello Sport. Sanremo lies to the Southwest of the Passo del Turchino. This Giro stage stops well short of Sanremo, finishing in Arenzano, just 20 kilometers from the summit of the Passo del Turchino.

Profile Details. The first 117 kilometers of this stage cover flat terrain. Just outside the town of Tortona, the course makes a short 200 meter hop into Castellania, the birthplace of Fausto Coppi. After a short descent, it’s back to the flats again. Between kilometer 131 and 169, the roads pass through flat countryside, planted with vineyards. The Barbera appelation of Asti lies along the route. At kilometer 169, the road turns slightly uphill, on the way to the base of the Passo del Turchino, the only significant climb of the day.

The Passo del Turchino marks gateway from the inland plains to the Ligurian coast. At kilometer 185, the riders begin the gradual ascent of the Passo del Turchino. The storied climb is 8.4 kilometers long, rises at an average gradient of 2.2%, and has a maximum gradient of 7%. For perspective, the high mountain stages included climbs whose average gradient exceeded 7%. The bunch will notice the climb, but it should not slow their progress. From the summit of the Passo del Turchino, there remains 20 kilometers to ride.

The descent down the Passo del Turchino lasts approximately 10 kilometers. Then, the course turns right when it reaches the coast. From there, it’s a flat run-in down the Ligurian coast to the finish just outside Genova.

Tactics Talk. This stage is for the sprinters, a Milano-Sanremo in miniature without the signature Cipressa and Poggio climbs before the finish. The Passo del Turchino summits with 20 kilometers to ride, which likely neutralizes its potential for the attackers. After the hard day in the mountains, the general classification teams will not have much interest in the chase. If the sprinters’ teams are not feeling up to the task, a break could survive to the finish. Sometimes, these flat stages during the second week of a grand tour yield surprising stage winners. All the same, the general classification will not change today and a sprint is the most likely outcome.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)

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