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Post Stage Analysis

Franco Pellizotti attacks from a long way out and holds on; Menchov shows a slight crack; Sastre slips from 3rd to 5th on GC

9 Big Photos from Stage 17sirotti

May 27 update: Today's short stage from Chieti to the finish on the Blockhaus climb promised fireworks. And fireworks, it delivered. Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo attacked from the bottom of the Blockhaus and rode the entirety of the climb off the front alone. Pellizotti won the stage and moved up to third in the general classification. Denis Menchov of Rabobank remains the race leader, but Danilo Diluca of LPR Brakes chipped away at his lead. Diluca gained a small gap over Menchov in the sprint to the line and took the time bonus for third place. Behind the podium, the general classification reshuffled as today's difficult climb shattered the race into small groups spread out over the slopes of the mountain.

After ten kilometers of racing, the inevitable early break escaped. Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues Telecom, who has never seen a break he didn't like, attacked first. Soon a group of 10 riders formed and steadily built up an advantage over the main field. The break included: Giovanni Visconti of ISD-Neri, Felix Cardenas of Barloworld, Francesco Bono of Lampre-Ngc, Ruggero Marzoli and Giuseppe Palumbo of Acqua e Sapone, Mauro Facci of Quick Step, Dello Fernandez Cruz and Gonzalo Rabunal Rios of Xacobeo-Galicia, and Riccardo Chiarini of LPR Brakes. Chiarini did not contribute to the break, instead sitting on to mark it for his team captain Danilo Diluca. Behind the break, LPR Brakes worked on the front, and never allowed the break to gain much more than three minutes on the road. Plainly, Diluca had his sights set on a stage win on his local roads of Abruzzo.

The Giro field flew along the Adriatic Coast, the flat roads easing their progress. The teams of the top general classification riders lined up one after the other on the front, first LPR Brakes doing the work, then Rabobank, then Cervélo TestTeam. The pace of LPR Brakes kept the field strung out single file for much of the early portion of the stage. Passing through the town of Fara Fillorum Petri with just over 25 kilometers to go, the break held an advantage of 2.56. Cervélo TestTeam went to work on the front.

With 25 kilometers to race, the breakaway still held two minutes. The terrain now turned hilly, through the vineyard country at the base of the Maiella mountain range. Thomas Voeckler attacked out of the break, a move which Riccardo Chiarini quickly covered. A group of six now reformed at the front of the race which included, Voeckler, Chiarini, Cardenas, Marzoli, Fernandez Cruz, and Rubanal Rios. Behind, Cervélo continued work, while Sastre chatted on radio with sports director Jean-Paul Van Poppel. Trivia alert! Van Poppel once wore the Maglia Rosa for one day, after winning an early sprint stage. With two kilometers to ride to the base of the Blockhaus, the break now held just over a minute advantage over the main field.

Just outside 20 kilometers to go, Philip Deignan of Cervélo TestTeam crashed a right hand curve. He came into the curve a little hot, and his front wheel slid out. He soon remounted and continued, but the mishap interrupted the momentum of the Cervélo chase. With less than a minute to the break, Liquigas-Doimo began contributing to the chase.

As the group of favorites rode into the old city of Pretoro, only Cardenas remained out in front, and the Columbian climber held an advantage of only 30 seconds. The road steepened and switchbacked at the base of the Maiella mountain. From the gruppo maglia rosa came the first attack when Syvester Szmyd of Liquigas-Doimo jumped away. No immediate reaction to the attack from Szmyd came from the race favorites. Soon Carlos Sastre came to the front and began to force the tempo. Splits opened up in the field on the steep roads of Pretoro, but all the top riders in the general classification remained in the group. Still, Cardenas led on the road, followed by Szmyd with Chiarini from the early break on his wheel.

And here is where Franco Pellizotti made his race-winning move. With 14 kilometers to go to the finish, the Liquigas-Doimo rider attacked out of the field on the steep roads of Pretoro and bridged across to his team-mate Szmyd. Together Pellizotti and Szmyd soon overtook Cardenas. Then it was all Pellizotti on his own. Behind, Lance Armstrong came out of the group of favorites in an effort to bridge to Pellizotti. He never made it across.

The rest of the general classification riders remained together and Francesco Masciarelli of Acqua e Sapone worked on the front in an effort to control the growing gap to Pellizotti. Laurens Ten Dam of Rabobank also sat near the front, ready to take control for race leader Denis Menchov. The gap between the Menchov group and Pellizotti stood at 42 seconds. Armstrong still hung in limbo between the flying race leader and the general classification riders, including his sixth placed team mate Levi Leipheimer. There remained just over 10 kilometers to race.

With ten kilometers to go, the alarm clock went off for Danilo Diluca. The local boy attacked hard out of the gruppo maglia rosa. Stefano Garzelli, intent on protecting his lead in the mountains classification, followed Diluca. Denis Menchov then rode across with his usual appearance of ease with Ivan Basso following. Carlos Sastre could not respond to the acceleration of Diluca, and began to ride a steady tempo behind. Gilberto Simoni sat on the wheel of Sastre. The Diluca group soon overtook Armstrong, who tried to catch a wheel as they went by. No luck there, the speed was far too high for the American. The race now divided into four main groups: Pellizotti out in front; the Diluca group that included Diluca, Menchov, Basso, and Garzelli; the Sastre group, which included Simoni and Masciarelli; and the Leipheimer group that included Rogers, Bruseghin, Valjavec, and Szmyd. Armstrong soon joined the Sastre group, where Simoni and Sastre shared the work.

With 8 kilometers to go, Sastre had lost his podium position to Franco Pellizotti as the gap grew to 54 seconds between them. The Diluca group rode just 30 seconds behind Pellizotti. Levi Liepheimer, meanwhile, sat at 1:12 down on the flying race leader. Still, Armstrong sat on the Sastre group. Despite the assistance of Gilberto Simoni, Sastre continued to concede ground to the other general classification riders. Ahead, Diluca worked to minimize the gap to Pellizotti, while Menchov studiously followed his wheel. Diluca tried to attack a few times, but could not shake the Russian. Both Basso and Garzelli yo-yo'ed off the back of the Diluca group under the force of Diluca's pace-making. Cresting the Passo Lanciano with 5 kilometers still to ride, Pellizotti had the stage win and a podium position in sight, and he continued to build his advantage.

Inside 3 kilometers to go, Danilo Diluca attacked hard in an effort to distance Menchov. The Italian said later that he had thought he detected a sign of weakness in the race leader. It was not to be. Menchov again covered the furious acceleration of Diluca. Stefano Garzelli and Ivan Basso could not match the speed of the leading two and dropped off the back. Basso clearly could not ride any harder and Garzelli soon set off to bridge alone back to Diluca. Basso continued to ride his own tempo, just behind.

At the line, Franco Pellizotti had plenty of time to celebrate his stage win on the Blockhause, the first win for Liquigas-Doimo during this Giro Centenario. Today marked Pellizotti's third Giro stage win. Last year, he won the climbing time trial on the Plan de Corones and finished fourth overall at the Giro d'Italia. Pellizotti has now moved up to third in the general classification after today's exploit.

Diluca, Menchov, and Garzelli approached the finish next, and Danilo Diluca jumped hard to pick up a few seconds and the time bonus ahead of Menchov. Stefano Garzelli matched Diluca, and took the sprint for second place. Garzelli was sprinting not only for the stage placing, but also for the mountains classification which he leads by a slim margin over Diluca. The local crowd was not impressed and booed Garzelli on the podium, because they wanted the time bonus for Diluca. Menchov finished 5 seconds behind Diluca. With the time bonus for third, Diluca picked up 13 seconds on the general classification today. Ivan Basso finished 9 seconds behind Menchov. Further down, Carlos Sastre conceded 2 minutes and his podium position to Pellizotti. Sastre finished in a sizeable group that included Rogers, Bruseghin, Valjavec, Armstrong, and Leipheimer.

Here is the new general classification:

1. Denis Menchov
2. Danilo Diluca 0:26
3. Franco Pellizotti 2:00
4. Ivan Basso 3:28
5. Carlos Sastre 3:30
6. Levi Leipheimer 4:32
7. Michael Rogers 7:05
8. Stefano Garzelli 8:03
9. Tadej Valjavec 9:58
10. Marzio Bruseghin 10:33

Today, another reshuffling of the general classification. No doubt we will see it change a few more times yet before the corsa rosa reaches Roma. Denis Menchov still leads, but Danilo Diluca picked off a few seconds today. The time gap is close between them at just 26 seconds. Diluca believes he will need a minute in hand before the final time trial in Roma, so certainly he will go on the attack on the Vesuvio. He also mentioned in his post-race interview, that he might try to ride for time on the stage finishing in Anagni, which has an uphill finish.

Franco Pellizotti moved up to third today, but trails Menchov by 2:00. It will take a big ride to overtake the Russian, but the Vesuvio is a harder climb than today's finish. Anything is possible, but it's hard to imagine that Pellizotti has another ride like this one left in his legs. We will see. Ivan Basso moved up to fourth today, 3:28 behind Menchov. Basso trails his team-mate by 1:28. Much depends on who has the better legs on the Vesuvio.

It was a rough day for Carlos Sastre, who clearly suffered on today's high speed stage. Sastre dropped from his podium position to fifth, but he remains just 2 seconds behind Ivan Basso. A better day on the Vesuvio and Sastre could overtake his former team-mate. Sastre is 1:30 off the podium. Can he out-ride Pellizotti on the Vesuvio? Sastre is known for his consistency and will likely ride better than he did today. But if Pellizotti holds his current form, he will be very difficult to dislodge. Vediamo.

Levi Leipheimer dropped another minute today to Menchov and now sits 4:32 back on the general classification. A minute behind Sastre, Leipheimer might advance in the final crono, but his form looks to be on the decrease. Still, Leipheimer should be a lock on his current position. Michael Rogers finished at same time on the stage with Leipheimer, but still sits 1:27 behind the American in the general classification. With another big ride like today, Stefano Garzelli could overtake Rogers, but for now, the Italian from Acqua e Sapone sits :58 seconds down on the Australian.

Rounding out the top ten are Tadej Valjavec of AG2R-La Mondiale at 9:58 and Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre-Ngc at 10:33, who passed David Arroyo of Caisse d'Épargne. Arroyo is now eleventh at 11:09 after dropping time today.

Kevin Seeldrayers of Quick Step remains in the white jersey of best young rider, though Francesco Masciarelli of Acqua e Sapone is closing fast and sits just 2:00 back.

Tomorrow, we should not see any change in the general classification. It's an odd stage profile tomorrow, with a big climb at the start, then a bumpy ride to the finish. Expect a break to go early and stay away to the finish. The next appointment of the general classification riders comes the following day on the Vesuvio.

Course Preview

Stage 17: Chieta — Blockhaus
Date: Wednesday, 27 May
Distance: 83 km.
Terrain: Nowhere to go but up. Mountain-top finish.
GC Importance: This one is a gift for the climbers, and offers them a big opportunity to take time in the general classification. In bocca al lupo!

  RAI's Stage 17 Preview: Rush finale. Dopo l'ultimo riposo si riparte (02:18 Italiano) — rai

Blockhaus 23.5km, 1630m, avg. 6.9%, max. 13%

The course follows an upside down “J” shape, and takes place in the Abruzzo region. This is Danilo Diluca country, and the former Giro winner comes from Spoleto, northwest of Chieti. It is also near l’Aquila, whose population recently suffered a disastrous earthquake. Diluca is raising money during this Giro to aid in recovery efforts.

The start town of Chieti is one of the “originals.” The Maiella and Gran Sasso mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Chieti, which has frequently played host to the Giro d’Italia. The city hosted the finish of the second stage of the 1909 Giro d’Italia, a stage that began in Bologna and covered 378 kilometers. Giovanni Cuniolo celebrated victory after a long day out. For this Giro Centenario, Chieti is the starting point for a short, difficult stage into the high coastal mountains of Abruzzo.

From Chieti, the course heads for the coast, visiting the city of Pescara. One of the administrative capitals of Abruzzo, Pescara sits at the junction of Aterno-Pescara river with the Adriatic Sea. Follow the path of the river northeast, and you reach its origins in the Monti della Laga in the seismically active, young mountains near L’Aquila. Pescara’s origins date from antiquity, though much of its history remains obscure. The use of the name Pescara dates from 1000 CE, and refers to the abundance of fish in the coastal waters.

From Pescara, the race heads south along the white beaches of the Adriatic coast, passing through the resort town of Francavilla al Mare. After approximately 20 kilometers of enjoying the ocean views, the riders will turn inland. At kilometer 48, the course passes through Fara Filiorum Petri, the gateway to the Maiella mountain range. Fara Filiorum Petri produces both Chardonnay and Coca Cola.

We are still in the Appenino, and here the mountain range ventures near to the Adriatic, sitting just over 30 kilometers from the coast. The stage finishes on the Maiella, a large chunk of limestone mountainy goodness, which towers above Pescara and the surrounding landscape. A national park, Parco nazionale della Maiella, embraces the mountains and contains 2100 species of plants, approximately a third of the varieties found in the entirety of Italy. The finish on the Blockhaus, which carries the name of a German fortification on the mountain, lies 2064 meters above sea level.

The first ever Giro d’Italia win of Eddy Merckx came on this finishing climb. The Belgian won ahead of Italo Zilioli, who lives in Cuneo and participates in the Giro organization. Zilioli won 5 Giro stages in his career, and placed 2nd in the Giro general classification on three occasions. More recently, Moreno Argentin won here in 1984 ahead of Francesco Moser, who went on to win the overall. When Argentin won, the finish came at 1600 meters in elevation. For the Giro Centenario, the finish line is considerably farther up the mountain at 2064 meters.

Profile Details. Setting out from Chieti, the course runs flat for approximately 30 kilometers. The riders will head northeast to Pescara on the Adriatic Coast and then turn South. Around kilometer 25, the course turns back inland for a straight shot into the mountains.

A short climb at Villamanga, summiting at kilometer 35, hints at the difficulties to come. This speed-bump gains less than 200 meters, and is unlikely to cause anyone much trouble. Approximately 20 kilometers of gradual climbing follows the teaser in Villamanga, as the course passes through Fara Filiorum Petri and heads inexorably upward toward the day’s finale.

At kilometer 59.5, voilà the Blockhaus, the main event, the special of the day. The Blockhaus lasts 23 kilometers, rises 1630 meters, and has an average gradient of 6.9%. There is a brief section of 13% gradient between kilometers 2.5 and 3.0, then a stretch at 11% inside 2 kilometers to go. The climb continues past the finish line, but as a consequence of heavy snow, the race organizers have shortened the course, as the roads above remain impassible.

What is there to say about a climb like this? Let’s start with the obvious: it’s hard. The Blockhaus is almost uniformly steep, with the gradient fluctuating between 6.5 and 7.5%. There is no respite. Unlike the Alpe di Siusi which included approximately 6 kilometers of mostly flat riding around the halfway point, the Blockhaus is unrelenting. There are three switchbacks on the way to the Passo Lanciano at kilometer 12, but much of the climb consists of steep straight ramps through forested terrain. Between kilometers 16 and 19, there are three more switchbacks. When the riders reach the Hotel Mamma Mia Rosa, they will know they have 5 kilometers to ride. Those final kilometers range in gradient from 8% to 11%. The finish line lies 2064 meters above sea level.

The Passo Lanciano, which tops out at 1308 on the way to the Blockhaus summit, appeared in the Giro d’Italia in 2006. Ivan Basso won that stage ahead of Damiano Cunego, who finished 30 seconds down. Danilo Diluca dropped 1:30 to Basso and finished 8th. Carlos Sastre who rode as Basso’s team-mate that year at team CSC, set a furious tempo, whittling down the field before Basso took over. This time around the former team mates will race one another. The Blockhaus summit comes 11 kilometers beyond the Passo Lanciano. Certainly, there will be time gaps. (Thanks to Cyclingnews for the trip down memory lane and the 2006 results.)

Tactics Talk. This stage closely resembles a mountain crono, with the cruise along the coast serving as a warm-up. It’s all about the final climb of the day, here, a make or break moment for the climbers to gain time, and the non-climbers to defend as best they can. The short distance complicates matters for the pure climbers, who typically ride better through a succession of harder peaks.

All the same, the climbers should find plenty of road here, and by this stage of the race, there will be many tired legs in the field. For the riders who have been sitting quietly, waiting for the third week of this Giro to make their big move, well, there’s no time like the present. The Blockhaus is the perfect place for a big move from a climber. Paging Carlos Sastre. Sastre, a quiet climber, won the 2008 Tour de France on one big throw of the dice on the Alpe d’Huez. If he has thoughts of winning this Giro with a similar tactic, the Blockhaus may offer his best chance. This climb is longer and more difficult than the Alpe d’Huez, and could well overturn the general classification yet again.

Stage 17 Start Time: Wednesday 14:50 CET ();
Earliest live video: 14:45 CET ();
See all the live video, audio and text options
Approximate Finish: 17:20 CET ()

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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