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Post Stage Analysis

Cavendish Makes it Three
More polemica between Petacchi and Farrar, general classification unchanged

9 Big Photos from Stage 13sirotti

May 22 update: Finally, the Giro enjoyed a routine flat stage today, in which an early break went up the road, only to be caught in the final kilometers. Mark Cavendish of Columbia-High Road showed again the speed that has lately made him cycling's fastest sprinter, and won the stage in Firenze. Alessandro Petacchi of LPR Brakes finished second, Allan Davis of Quick Step was third. The standings in the general classification did not change.

The bunch rolled out of the beachside town, Lido di Camaiore, and headed North along the coast. No doubt the riders welcomed today's flat stage after the difficulty of the crono at Cinque Terre. After just 12 kilometers of racing, an adventurous threesome escaped up the road. Bjorn Schroder of Milram, Leonardo Scarselli of ISD-Neri, and Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha comprised the break. The three worked well together and the bunch deemed them unthreatening enough to let them go. After 35 kilometers of riding, the three riders had just over four minutes of advantage over the main field, which contained all the race favorites.

Just past the medieval city of Lucca, the break achieved its maximum gap of just over five minutes, but that was all the sprinters' teams were willing to grant them. Columbia-High Road and Garmin-Slipstream did the hard work of controlling the gap to the break. Michael Barry and Marcus Possoni of Columbia-High Road, in particular, spent much of the race driving the main field. Cameron Meier and Dave Zabriskie of Garmin also logged some hard kilometers today. Rabobank, the team of race leader Denis Menchov mostly left the hard work to the sprinters' teams. By 35 kilometers to go, the break had lost all but two minutes of its advantage.

Just inside 35 kilometers go go, Schroder attacked the break and quickly built up a minute advantage over his former breakaway partners. Ten kilometers later, the bunch caught Scarselli and Ignatiev, and only Schroder remained out in front. Riding strong, Schroder held a gap of 1:25 over the field, still led by Columbia and Garmin, at the 15 kilometers to go banner. All the same, Schroder's days were numbered, the catch increasingly inevitable.

At 10 kilometers to go, the gap suddenly shrank to 30 seconds, making it clear that the sprinters' teams had the situation well in hand. They feathered the gap to Schroder letting him hang in the wind. Catch the solo break too soon, and there might be counter-attacks. Let him stay out there too long, and they lose the stage win. At six kilometers to go, it was all over for Schroder.

Quick Step, Garmin and Columbia-High Road ramped up the speed. The bunch strung out now, through a series of curves which led to the straight, flat run-in. With 3 kilometers to go, Astana took a turn on the front. Perhaps they were looking for a little television time. Certainly, they don't have a rider for the sprint. Through a sweeping right hand turn, David Millar led the strung-out field. Under the red kite, Millar still drove on the front for sprinter Tyler Farrar, while Columbia-High Road moved up alongside in preparation for their lead-out of Mark Cavendish.

Inside 800 meters to go, Mark Renshaw began his furious lead-out for Cavendish. Behind, Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar battled for the wheel of the British sprinter. Indeed, quite the shoving match between the Italian and the American broke out today. Garmin, though they did hard work in the run-in, dropped their sprinter off early, leaving Farrar to battle for wheels. Unconcerned by these shenanigans, Cavendish accelerated toward the line, and won the stage by a half bike length over the late-charging Petacchi. Allan Davis, Robbie Hunter, and Tyler Farrar rounded out the top five.

After the stage came an exchange of words between Farrar and Petacchi. Watch the sprint again from the aerial view, and as he follows the acceleration of Cavendish, Petacchi comes across Farrar's front wheel. Farrar checks and twitches his bike to avoid contact with Petacchi's back wheel. This moment comes after the two sprinters had battled for the wheel of Cavendish, a battle complicated by the presence of JJ Haedo and a two rider Saxo Bank lead-out, who came up on the left. Petacchi and Farrar split to go around Haedo, then came back together to battle behind Cavendish. And here was where the near-crash between the two occured. Cavendish begins his acceleration, fading slightly right, a move which Petacchi follows. But the redirection from Petacchi to the right takes him across Farrar's front wheel, as Farrar is also readying to follow Cavendish. A dangerous business, this last kilometer.

Cooling down after his initial outburst, which took place in front of the television microphones and included a common Italian vulgarity, Petacchi said, "I did mean anything by it." "He [Farrar] said something to me, and I told him to go to hell," explained Petacchi. "I was on the wheel of Cavendish, Renshaw and Boasson Hagen who were riding at a very high speed, and I did well to finish in second place. We sprinters are going all out, it is not possible to see everything," the Italian concluded. No word yet from Garmin about Farrar's perspective on the incident.

Looking Ahead: "The Giro begins again today."

Tomorrow, the race heads out across the Appenino. The riders face a bumpy course with constant climbing. The finale is a steep uphill jump to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, which sits outside the old city center of Bologna. We can expect a battle between Rabobank and LPR Brakes, as Diluca will want to try for the stage win, whose time bonus would put him close to re-taking the Pink Jersey. Diluca is currently 34 seconds behind Menchov.

This finish will suit the explosive speed of Diluca far better than the steady strength of Menchov, and the climb is difficult enough to allow time gaps to open among the race leaders. LPR Brakes will have to work for this stage. No doubt Rabobank would much prefer to allow a harmless breakaway to win tomorrow. Either way, look for a big positioning battle at the base of the final climb as all the race favorites try to ride at the front. Diluca said after Thursday's long crono, "The Giro begins again today." A big battle for the general classification will animate the coming stages.

For a detailed preview of tomorrow's course, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 13: Lido di Camaiore – Firenze
Date: Friday, 22 May
Distance: 176 km.
Terrain:Flat, a day for the sprinters.
GC Importance:Minimal.

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Montemagno 3.1km, 130m, avg. 4.2%, max. 7%

After the drama of the Cinque Terre time trial, few in the Giro bunch will be sorry to see this day of flat racing. With this stage, the Giro Centenario visits Toscana. Toscana is the home region of Mario Cipollini and Paolo Bettini, among others, and passion for cycling runs deep.

The stage begins in Lido di Camaiore. Camaiore served as a stage stop on the Roman road and grew in importance as a stop on the road to France during the Middle Ages. Unlike Cinque Terre, where the cliffs dive into the sea, the hills sit back from the coast, and wide expanses of sandy beaches meet the Ligurian Sea. The course lingers along the coast, savoring the view, and heads North, before turning inland and doubling back on itself.

After approximately 60 kilometers of racing, the course passes Camaiore for the second time, then tracks southeast. The Giro pays a flying visit to city of Lucca. No time to visit the walled mediaeval city, as the bunch speeds southward passing through Altopascio and Santa Croce sull-Arno in the province of Pisa. At Santa Croce sull’Arno, the course makes a left turn, heading east to finish in Firenze, a frequent host to the Giro d’Italia. The Giro last visited Firenze in 2005 for a time trial, and American David Zabriskie celebrated the stage win.

Profile Details. This stage is mostly flat. The only climb of the day comes between kilometers 64 and 67 in Montemagno, just outside Pisa. Here, the Giro climbs into the coastal mountains, before heading inland toward Lucca. The road climbs 130 meters with an average gradient of 4.2%. A brief section hits 7%. There are mountains points on offer at the summit in the hilltop town of Montemagno. From there, the finish line lies 108 kilometers in the distance.

A gradual descent follows the summit, before the flats resume at kilometer 86, outside Lucca. With 56 kilometers to go, there is a short, steep climb outside Castelfranco di Sotto. But then, it’s all flat roads to the finish. The run-in to Firenze is flat, a drag race for the fast men.

Tactics Talk. This stage is for the sprinters, with only one small climb to interrupt the flat roads. The general classification teams will likely sit this one out, weary from the succession of mountain stages and the monster time trial. They will also have on their minds the upcoming mountain stages, which offer the final chances to win this Giro Centenario. The general classification riders should pass a tranquilo day in the field, while the sprinters have their fun in the ultimo kilometer.

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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