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Post Stage Analysis

Gerrans Escapes and Wins
An isolated LPR Brakes fails to deliver Diluca, Menchov still in Pink

9 Big Photos from Stage 14sirotti

May 23 update: Today's stage ended with a successful breakaway. Simon Gerrans of Cervélo TestTeam won the stage ahead of breakaway partners Rubens Bertogliati of Diquigiovanni-Androni and Francesco Gavazzi of Lampre-Ngc. Denis Menchov successfully defended the Maglia Rosa, and remains 34 seconds ahead of Danilo Diluca and 43 seconds ahead of Levi Leipheimer of Astana.

The clash between the general classification teams provided the main drama of the day. Looking at the stage profile, everyone knew the finishing climb, which is the finale of the Italian semi-classic Giro dell'Emilia, suited Danilo Diluca. Diluca, who held the race lead until the crono in Cinque Terre, has used his finishing speed to achieve his position in the general classification. The Italian began the day 34 seconds behind race leader Denis Menchov of Rabobank. A good ride on the final climb plus a time bonus for the stage win promised to put Diluca back in Pink. But first, he needed to get to the line. For Rabobank, a big breakaway that survived to the finish offered the best possible stage scenario. A breakaway would neutralize the time bonuses, and limit Diluca's possibilities. As soon became clear, the other general classification teams agreed wtih Rabobank: Let the break go. No one wanted to deliver Diluca to the line.

After 12 kilometers of racing, a fifteen rider group escaped off the front. Certainly, LPR Brakes could not have been happy to see such a large group go up the road. The break included: Guillaume Bonnafond of AG2R-La Mondiale (who has ridden countless early breakaways this Giro), Giampaolo Cheula of Barloworld, Christopher Froome of Barloworld, Vasil Kiryienka of Caisse d'Épargne, Phillip Deignan of Cervélo TestTeam, Simon Gerrans of Cervélo TestTeam, Giovanni Visconti of ISD-Neri, Andriy Grivko of ISD-Neri, Francesco Gavazzi of Lampre-Ngc, Francesco Reda of Quick Step, Rubens Bertogliati of Diquigiovanni-Androni, Evgeni Petrov of Katusha, Martin Müller of Milram, and Eduard Vorganov of Xacobeo-Galicia. The break soon built up a lead of 5 minutes, a situation that suited Menchov's Rabobank team just fine.

Behind the break, LPR Brakes proved the only general classification team with an interest in chasing. Liquigas, Astana, and Columbia chose not to help the team of Diluca. Cervélo TestTeam and Diquigiovanni-Androni had riders in the break, so they had no responsibility to contribute to the chase. Tactically, Sastre's Cervélo TestTeam rode a perfect stage. Two riders from the team, Gerrans and Deignan rode the break, and allowed the rest of the team to sit on. Better still, Gerrans celebrated victory in San Luca.

For LPR Brakes, it proved a less than perfect day. The four categorized climbs complicated the chase effort and wore down the team's strength. With 20 kilometers to go, the gap to the break stood at 1:35, and for a moment, it seemed that LPR would succeed in setting Diluca up for the stage win. But five kilometers later, the gap began to climb as the break gained time on the chase. At 15 kilometers to go, the gap was 1:53, at 10 kilometers to go, it grew to 2:12. With only Gabriele Bosisio and Alessandro Spezialetti left at the front, LPR had run out of legs. A breakaway victory became inevitable, and plainly, LPR Brakes had lost the tactical battle among the general classification teams.

In the flats with 4 kilometers to go, Andriy Grivko of ISD-Neri attacked out of the break in an effort to give himself a head start on the climb to the finish. Grivko is not known as a climber. With 2 kilometers to go, Grivko had a small gap over the escape, but behind him, Rubens Bertogliati had launched a counter-attack. Bertogliati rode over the top of Grivko, and enjoyed a few meters alone at the front. Bertogliati's lead proved short-lived. Christopher Froome of Barloworld with Simon Gerrans on his wheel overtook Bertogliati. The final curve to San Luca hits a gradient of 17%. Gerrans hit the steep section hard and soon had a gap on Froome. Froome's legs failed him, and he was forced to traverse the steepest section of the climb. Gerrans steadily powered away, and celebrated a solo victory on the line. Today's success by Gerrans follows a stage win in the 2008 Tour de France on the Prato Nevoso climb.

Downslope from the celebrating Gerrans, the general classification riders hit the climb together. Predictably, Danilo Diluca put in a big acceleration. Denis Menchov, Franco Pellizotti, and Stefano Garzelli followed Diluca, while Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer trailed behind. Carlos Sastre, Marzio Bruseghin, Basso, and Leipheimer soon rejoined the group, and for a brief moment, the pace slackened. Then came an attack from Pellizotti. Diluca easily jumped across to cover with Menchov following. At the line, Pellizotti, Diluca, Menchov, Sastre, and Bruseghin crossed together a few seconds ahead of the other race favorites. Basso, Scarponi, and Leipheimer finished 3 seconds behind. Michael Rogers finished 6 seconds down on the Menchov-Diluca group. Thomas Lövkvist and Gilberto Simoni suffered on this final climb, losing just over 30 seconds.

Carlos Sastre was quick to praise his team-mate Gerrans. "The stage today was very mellow for me. And I want to say thank you twice to Gerrans: First, because he won the stage for the team today and secondly, because he and Deignan made the break today, we were able to ride quietly in the field today." Thanks to the efforts of his team-mates, Sastre said he was able to ride well on the final climb of the day, and stay with the best "easily." With fresh legs, Sastre could improve his general classification position significantly, when the race heads again into the mountains.

General Classification Update

There were some minor reshufflings in the general classification after today's adventures, but overall the time gaps remain close. Here is the current top ten:

Denis Menchov
Danilo Diluca 0:34
Levi Leipheimer 0:43
Franco Pellizotti 2:00
Carlos Sastre 2:52
Ivan Basso 3:03
Michael Rogers 3:05
Gilberto Simoni 5:17
Marzio Bruseghin 5:26
David Arroyo 6:01

Between Diluca and Menchov, the time gap remains unchanged, but Leipheimer lost three seconds today, and is now 43 seconds behind Menchov. Basso overtook Rogers and moves up to sixth. With his good ride today, Bruseghin has inched closer to Simoni's eighth place and is now 8 seconds behind the climber from Diquigiovanni-Androni. Further down, Arroyo moves up to tenth, while Lövkvist drops to eleventh. The time gap between them remains close, though, at 25 seconds. With some significant mountain stages to come, we can expect these standings to reshuffle again soon.

Abandons. Steve Chainel, Cameron Meyer, Mark Renshaw, Mark Cavendish, and Filippo Pozzato all left the race today.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's stage should be another day for a breakaway to succeed. With four categorized climbs, the terrain will not favor the chase. The final 26 kilometers of the stage are descending or flat, so it is unlikely that anyone will make a play for the general classification. The real mountains begin again on Monday, so the general classification teams will want to save their legs for the hard roads to come.

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

Course Preview

Stage 14: Campi Bisenzio – Bologna
Date: Saturday, 13 May
Distance: 172 km.
Terrain:Hilly, with a steep, climbing finish.
GC Importance: There is opportunity here for an attacker, and there will likely be time gaps at the finish.

Passo della Collina 12.6km, 678m, 5.4%, 8%
Valico di Mediano 14.7km, 569m, avg. 3.9%, max. 12%
Valico di Tolè 14.6km, 542m, avg. 3.7%, max. 8%
Mongardino 2.1km, 135m, 6.4%, max. 12%
San Luca 2.1km, 204m, avg. 9.7%, max. 16%

With this stage, the Giro enters the Appenino, the mountains that run north-south along the center of the boot. The Giro bids adio to Toscana, rides through the across the grain of the mountains, and finishes in the ancient city of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna. Campi Bisenzio, which lies between Firenze and Prato hosts the stage start.

The finish climbs to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, which lies to the Southwest of the old city center of Bologna and sits high on the Colle della Guardia. Built in the Baroque style, the sanctuary with its richly ornamented dome shelters a sacred icon depicting the Virgin Mary. The Giro dell’Emilia uses the climb to San Luca as its finish, and the Giro has visited the Sanctuary twice previously. In 1956, Charly Gaul won a climbing time trail on this road, and in 1984, Moreno Argentin celebrated victory in a road stage finishing at the hilltop sanctuary.

Profile Details. This stage presents a jagged profile that includes five climbs. All five offer points in the mountains classification, and together they add up to a difficult day of racing. The stage begins calmly enough with 25 kilometers of flat riding. The course passes through Prato and Pistoia on the way to the first climb of the day.

The Passo della Collina begins at kilometer 27.8, and offers the perfect opportunity for an early break to escape. Certainly, the riders contesting the mountains classification will take an interest in this stage. The Passo della Collina lasts 12.5 kilometers and has an average gradient of 5.4%, a nice hors d’oeuvre to begin the day. Fun fact! The course passes through a tunnel at the summit of the Collina. From the summit, there remains 130 kilometers to race.

The riders will descend the easier side of the climb, dropping just over 400 meters in 20 kilometers. Then, the climbing begins anew. The climb to Valico di Mediano begins at kilometer 62 and lasts 14.7 kilometers. It isn’t especially steep in the main, at 3.9%, though it does boast a section of 12% in the early kilometers. The summit lies 95 kilometers from the finish.

The course descends 25 kilometers to Vergato, before beginning the third climb of the day. The climb to Valico di Tolè is 14 kilometers long, with an average gradient of 3.7%. A section of 12% comes near the summit at 746 meters above sea level. The finish is 55 kilometers distant.

Past the town of Tolè comes a brief section of flat road. At Montepastore, a 16 kilometer descent begins, dropping just over 400 meters to the town of Calderino, in the rolling hills outside Bologna. The worst of the mountains are behind the riders, now, as the terrain turns to gentle, vineyard covered hills.

The final two climbs are considerably shorter, designed to tempt an ambitious rider to go on the attack. The climb to Mongardino summits 23 kilometers from the finish. It is 2.1 kilometers long with an average gradient of 6.4%. A section of the climb pitches up to 12%. From Mongardino, the course descends steadily to the base of the final climb of the day.

The finishing climb, the colle della Guardia, offers a potentially explosive finale to this difficult stage. The climb to the sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca comes in the final 2.1 kilometers, but it is almost absurdly steep, averaging 9.7%. The maximum gradient is 16%. Certainly, gaps will open up on this final climb of the day. Expect a tough positioning battle among the riders for the general classification, as it will be easy to get caught up behind a split here.

Tactics Talk. This is breakaway country, and the team of the race leader must not lapse into complaisancy. The wrong rider up the road could cause a fair amount of trouble here. This stage also looks perfect for the classic attackers tactic of sending team-mates up the road as set-up for a later bridging effort. Danilo Diluca loves this tactic. Will he or anyone else have legs left for such ambitious plans? Impossible to know for sure.

Whether or not a break survives to the finish, the riders for the overall will need to ride well in the finale. Gaps will certainly open up on the final climb and poor positioning could lose a favorite precious time. All the same, the time gaps will not be huge, and this stage will not likely prove decisive. Instead, it will tire the legs and make the final climbing stages of the Giro Centenario that much more difficult.

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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