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Post Stage Analysis

Carlos Sastre Wins on the Vesuvio
Diluca picks up seconds, Menchov still in Pink, Decision in Roma

9 Big Photos from Stage 19sirotti

May 29 update: Today's stage, finishing on the Vesuvio volcano, provided a fitting finale to the mountain stages of this Giro Centenario. Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam won the stage and moved up to fourth in the general classification. Danilo Diluca of LPR Brakes attacked repeatedly in the effort to lose his shadow, Denis Menchov of Rabobank, but could not crack the imperturbable Russian. With the help of his team-mate Ivan Basso, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo solidified his podium position, which he should hold until Roma. It's down to the wire for this Giro Centenario, as the battle for the Maglia Rosa is not yet over. Only 18 seconds separates the two leading riders, Menchov and Diluca, with two stages to race.

The Story

After 16 kilometers of racing, two riders escaped off the front: Mauro Facci of Quick Step, who has ridden an endless succession of breakaways in this Giro d'Italia, and Yuriy Krivtsov of AG2R-La Mondiale. The main field did not feel generous today, and unlike the past few stages, they did not allow a big break to go free. To control two riders off the front presents a relatively easy task for the teams of the general classification. LPR Brakes, working for second placed Danilo Diluca did much of the pace-making, making it clear that Diluca intended to attack and hoped for a stage win. Even sprinter Alessandro Petacchi took his turn on the front for his team captain, Diluca.

Along the Amalfi Coast, the break enjoyed a gap of 4:15. The roads twisted and turned following the crenalated coast, its the steep cliffs dropping to the sea. Still, on the front, LPR Brakes continued to work. No time to enjoy the view, we've a Giro to win.

With approximately 65 kilometers to ride, Facci and Krivtsov hit the first categorized climb of the day, the Picco Sant'Angelo with their advantage at 4:38. The 13.3 kilometer climb is a frequent feature of the early season Italian stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico. As the main field hit the climb, Andriy Grivko of ISD-Neri attacked out of the main field. Grivko has constantly gone on the attack in this Giro and today, he went in search of a few mountain points and some television time. Grivko is currently a distant third to Garzelli and Diluca in the mountains classification, and neither did anything to interfere with his brief escape. From the summit of the Picco Sant'Angelo, a panoramic view of the Golfo di Napoli and the Golfi Salerno unfolded. Then, it was a sinuous descent to Sorrento. In the distance, the Vesuvio appeared on the horizon, waiting.

Passing through Castellammare di Stabia, the gap between the break and the main field stood at 2.00. On the front, Petacchi and Riccardo Chiarini did the work for LPR. One of the oldest cities in Italy, Stabia was destroyed by one of the first recorded eruptions of Vesuvio. As the break passed into Torre del Grecco, the team cars pulled out of the gap, signaling the break's time out in front was nearly over. With the gap at 37 seconds, LPR continued to work, while Denis Menchov and Rabobank sat directly behind them. Liquigas-Doimo, with third placed Franco Pellizotti followed. There could be no doubts about the heirarchy now.

In the shadow of Vesuvio, the LPR-led field caught the break. Passing through the town of Ercolano, there remained 15 kilometers to race, an all uphill ride to the volcano's cone. In Ercolano, the bunch encountered an unexpected obstacle, a stretch of uneven pavé. Undeterred, LPR continued to work away on the front, as Liquigas began to move up on the right-hand side. In recent days, Liquigas-Doimo has made no secret of their intention to attack on this final climbing stage.

The Finale: Vesuvio

On the Vesuvio, now. Vladimir Miholjevic went to the front for Liquigas-Doimo, and not soon after, the Italian team launched the first move. Valerio Agnoli, a 24 year old riding his first Giro d'Italia, made the first move on the Vesuvio. LPR Brakes, back on the front, controlled the tempo, but did not immediately react. Diluca sat in second wheel, behind him, Franco Pellizotti. From the main field came another attack, this time from Paolo Tiralongo, a climber from Lampre-Ngc. Still, the favorites remained together with 10 kilometers to go.

With 8 kilometers to go, the road steepened to 12%. Carlos Ochoa of Diquigiovanni-Androni attacked. Ivan Basso liked the look of this move, and joined. Stefano Garzelli followed. Basso and Garzelli soon dropped Ochoa, and gained a small gap over the main field. In a play for the stage win, Gilberto Simoni of Diquigiovanni-Androni attacked from the main field and bridged across to the Basso-Garzelli twosome. One LPR rider remained on the front, working for Diluca. Denis Menchov, meanwhile, remained glued to Diluca's wheel, while Franco Pellizotti sat just behind him.

With his final gregario gone, Danilo Diluca attacked hard out of the gruppo maglia rosa, in the first of many efforts to distance Denis Menchov. Menchov quickly covered Diluca's attack. Pellizotti, Levi Leipheimer, Carlos Sastre, David Arroyo, Francesco Masciarelli, and Kevin Seeldrayers all followed. Up ahead, Basso dropped Garzelli and continued alone in the hope of moving up in the general classification and winning the stage. Simoni, meanwhile, sat in no-man's land between Basso and the pink jersey group.

Then came the race-winning move. Carlos Sastre attacked from the Menchov group and quickly built up an advantage. The Spaniard had recovered the form that won him the stage on the Monte Petrano and steadily chipped away Basso's advantage. Before long, Sastre had made it across and the two former team-mates rode at the front together. Basso did not contribute to the break, because Pellizotti sat behind in the favorites group. Contributing to Sastre's advantage would place Basso at odds with Pellizotti's general classification ambitions. Behind, Serge Pauwels sat on the front of the pink jersey group and stalled the chase. Simoni still lingered in between the two groups, 20 seconds behind the Sastre-Basso group. For the pink jersey group, there remained just under 7 kilometers to race.

Not content to sit on, David Arroyo of Caisse d'Épargne and Stefano Garzelli of Acqua e Sapone attacked from the main field. Jaroslav Popovych of Astana, meanwhile, worked on the front of the pink jersey group. Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre-Ngc went out the back, while Garzelli came back to the group of favorites. Arroyo soon made it across to Simoni, and the two riders continued to work together. Up front, Sastre continued to build his advantage and held more than 40 seconds over the pink jersey group. There were three main groups on the road now: Sastre-Basso, Simoni-Arroyo, and the pink jersey group.

With 5 kilometers to go, Sastre attacked Basso, who was still not contributing to the escape. The presence of Pellizotti behind him doomed Basso's hopes for a stage win. Certainly, Sastre did not want to pull Basso to the line. Basso survived the first acceleration from Sastre, but not the second. Now, Sastre rode alone at the front, and quickly built up an 8 second advantage over Basso. On the roadside, the fuzzy white bunny-like creature appeared, a sign of the apocalypse or of the nearing finish line.

There were now two races in one on the road. Ahead, Sastre rode alone for the stage win, with Basso trailing by 8 seconds. Behind, the battle for the pink jersey intensified. Danilo Diluca attacked hard, but his shadow, the maglia rosa Denis Menchov followed. Immeidately there came a counter from Franco Pellizotti. Diluca covered. The top three in the general classification remained locked together. A brief lull in the battle, and others like Garzelli and Leipheimer came across. The battle for the stage win briefly intersected with the general classification, as Jose Serpa of Diquigiovanni-Androni jumped. Working for Sastre, Serge Pauwels covered, though Serpa soon dropped the Belgian.

Then, it was back on for the general classification battle. Franco Pellizotti attacked. Diluca covered, with "his shadow," Menchov on his wheel. The Bigs quickly distanced the rest. Now, it was Diluca's turn. Again, Diluca tried and failed to gain an advantage over Menchov. Pellizotti quickly countered as the three came back together. Stalemate. Behind, Leipheimer rode steadily with Garzelli on his wheel. Ahead, Sastre held 52 seconds in hand over the "Bigs," as he hit the most difficult gradients of the climb. Basso trailed the Cervélo TestTeam rider by 13 seconds.

With just over 2 kilometers to race, Franco Pellizotti made his fourth and final attack. Neither Diluca nor Menchov responded. Pellizotti, holding third place in the general classification, quickly built up a gap over the Diluca and Menchov, still locked together in their battle for the leader's jersey. Up the road, Basso sat up and waited for his team mate, knowing now that he would never catch Sastre for the stage win. As Pellizotti made the catch, Basso went to the front and worked for his team-mate. The two Liquigas-Doimo riders now trailed Sastre by 24 seconds, as the Spanish rider passed under the 1 kilometer to go banner.

Behind the Liquigas-Doimo duo, Diluca took another dig at Menchov, but could not dislodge the barnacle tight hold of Menchov. With Basso and Pellizotti working together up the road, Diluca now had to ride. He could not allow Pellizotti to gain too much time in the general classification.

All the favorites now passed under red kite marking 1 kilometer to go. Sastre remained clear with the stage win in sight. Leaving Basso behind, Pellizotti went ahead alone. Diluca, with Menchov in tow, soon caught Basso. Jumping again, Diluca dropped Basso, but not Menchov. The Shadow remained attached to Diluca, despite a fearsome series of accelerations in the final meters.

At the line, Carlos Sastre took the stage. Today marked the second stage win at this Giro Centenario for the 34 year old Cervélo TestTeam rider. Sastre, who won the Tour de France last year, has eight wins in his 13 year career, including last year's victory on the Alpe d'Huez, the dream stage for a climber. Sastre spent much of his career as a support rider, including riding for Ivan Basso at CSC. Now, late in his career, Sastre has found success on his own account.

Franco Pellizotti crossed 20 seconds behind Sastre and took the time bonus for second. Then came Danilo Diluca, who not suprisingly out-sprinted Denis Menchov for third. Diluca picked up another time bonus, but no time on the road today. Ivan Basso came in just behind the Diluca-Menchov duo. Levi Leipheimer had a better stage today, and finished sixth. White jersey rivals Francesco Masciarelli of Acqua e Sapone and Kevin Seeldrayers of Quick Step crossed the line together. Seeldrayers still leads the young riders' classification.

Post-Race Reactions

Interviewed after the race, Franco Pellizotti said he had tried everything. "I am content," he said. Asked about his decision to wait for Pellizotti on the road, Ivan Basso replied, "of course it was the right thing to do." Pellizotti had "priority in the general classification," Basso explained. Danilo Diluca, meanwhile, said that he tried to attack, but could not shake Menchov. The Italian admitted that the time trial in Roma favors his rival, but that he would certainly give everything on the day. Diluca also suggested that he would race for time on tomorrow's stage to Anagni, which ends with a steep uphill jump to the line. The finish should suit Diluca well. Only 18 seconds separate Diluca from the pink jersey. "Tomorrow is another day," he said.

Carlos Sastre could not climb onto the podium today, but did win his second stage of the Giro Centenario. "Diluca and Menchov were stronger than me," he said after today's stage, but "I am content." The Spanish Tour winner said he wanted very much to win this stage for his Cervélo TestTeam, especially after the team worked so hard for him on the road to the Blockhaus climb, which did not go well for him. "I am happy, because I have done the maximum to win," Sastre concluded. When asked if he thought Diluca had made any errors in this Giro, Sastre said no. Menchov is very difficult to drop, in Sastre's view.

Gilberto Simoni, who attacked early in the stage, had hoped to win the stage. "When Franco Pellizotti came by me, he was going so fast, I could barely see him," said the experienced climber. "I tried to anticipate them and I attacked," explained Simoni. The two-time Giro winner described the stage as a "battle of the gladiators," and called Sastre "impressive." "I played my hand," concluded Simoni, who is likely riding his final Giro d'Italia after a lengthy career.

Here is the current general classification:

Denis Menchov
Danilo Diluca 0:18
Franco Pellizotti 1:39
Carlos Sastre 2:40
Ivan Basso 3:33
Levi Leipheimer 4:55
Stefano Garzelli 8:48
Michael Rogers 9:32
Tadej Valjavec 10:42
Marzio Bruseghin 11:32

Danilo Diluca took the time bonus for third on the stage and now sits 18 seconds behind Maglia Rosa Denis Menchov. Pellizotti, meanwhile, picked up 20 seconds on the general classification thanks to his late attack and the time bonus for second place on the stage. After waiting on the road for Pellizotti, Ivan Basso drops to fifth behind Carlos Sastre. Sastre now holds 1:07 over Basso and should hold his advantage through the final crono.

Further down, Levi Leipheimer still sits in sixth, now 1:22 behind Basso. Garzelli, Rogers, and Valjavec hold 7th through 9th in the general classification, and with a good ride in Roma, Rogers might take back the 44 seconds necessary to pass Garzelli. Marzio Bruseghin is now tenth, 22 seconds ahead of David Arroyo.

Kevin Seeldrayers leads the white jersey competition, Stefano Garzelli wears the green jersey of mountains leader, and Danilo Diluca is the points classification leader.

Tomorrow, the stage follows a mostly flat course, with a short steep climb at the finish. Diluca has said he will ride for time here, and could pick off a time bonus at the line. Of course, Rabobank will want a big break to go up the road, as they did during the stage to San Luca.

For a detailed description and map of tomorrow's course, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 19: Avellino - Vesuvio
Date: Friday, 29 May
Distance: 164 km.
Terrain: Mountain-top finish.
GC Importance: Last chance for the climbers!

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Picco Sant’Angelo 13.3km, 403m, avg. 3%, max. 8%
Vesuvio 13km, 967m, avg. 7.4%, max. 12%

The stage begins not far from Benevento, where stage 18 finished. Drive south a short while, and voilà Avellino and the stage start. Still in Campania, the terrain around Avellino is similar to Benevento, with mountains crowding the horizon. Avellino sits just south of the Montevergine peak on a pair of Sabato river tributaries. An earthquake in 1980 destroyed much of the city’s historic buildings, which gives the city a modern look. Outside the urban center, farmers cultivate hazelnuts. Nutella lovers take note.

From Avellino, the stage heads to the coast, passing through the city of Salerno, which sits on the Irno river. Turning northwest, the course heads toward the storied Amalfi Coast. Here red-roofed towns cling to the steep cliffs, which drop steeply to the sea. The terrain is constantly rising and falling along the Golfo di Salerno, and the sandy beaches may look more inviting to the riders than the hard day of racing. For us, it’s all eye candy.

The course wraps around the peninsula to Sorrento, and the race now arrives in the province of Napoli. No time to stop for a limoncello, the lemon-flavored liquore made in Sorrento. The course follows the coastline along the northern side of the Sorrento peninsula. From here, it’s easy to see the distinctive silhouette of the final climb of the day, the Vesuvio.

Returning to the mainland, the course then heads north along the Golfo di Napoli. The terrain flanking the volcano is flat and offers a brief respite after the bumpy ride through Amalfi and Sorrento. Vesuvio presents a comic book caricature of a volcano with its hallowed out crown and lopsided summit. The stage finish lies 1000 meters above sea level.

Currently dormant, Vesuvio sits in a National Park. The name derives in a circuitous way from the Greek for “son of Zeus,” the supreme deity in Greek mythology. In 79 CE, an eruption from Vesuvio destroyed the city of Pompei, and the most recent eruption of the volcano came in 1944. The geological time scale spans millions of years, and by that measure, Vesuvio remains relatively young. In 1990, the Giro d’Italia visited Vesuvio and Eduardo Chozas celebrated the stage win.

Profile Details. From Avellino, the course races through rolling terrain to the coast. At Salerno, the riders climb 400 meters to Valico Costapiana. A quick descent to Vetri sul Mare, and then it’s westward along the rugged and storied Amalfi Coast. The course runs constantly up and down, as the roads follow the uneven coastline. There are few spots to recover, and though the view is hors catégorie, the riders will find no time to enjoy it.

Just outside Positano, after 87 kilometers of racing, comes a categorized climb, the Picco Sant’Angelo. The Picco Santa’Angelo climbs for 13.3 kilometers and gains 403 meters. The average gradient is a kind 3%, but there is a section of 8% along the road to the summit. After a steep descent, the race rolls into Sorrento. From Sorrento, there remains 52 kilometers to race.

A few small climbs follow Sorrento, as the race passes through Vico Equense and Castellammare. In the main, though, the terrain is flat here. The riders can look forward to a nice 15 kilometer jaunt across the plains to the Vesuvio.

The Vesuvio climb begins from Ercolano on the west side of the volcano. The course passes the observatory at 574 meters and finishes 1000 meters above sea level. The climb lasts 13 kilometers and averages 7.4%. The first kilometers of the climb oscillate between 4% and 5% gradients. It starts out easy.

Then the pitch steepens significantly. The maximum gradient of 12% comes at kilometer 5, and lasts about 1/4 of a kilometer. The gradient for the remainder of the climb remains relatively constant, shifting between 8% and 9%, in the main. With just over 1 kilometer to go, the gradient steepens again to nearly 11%. The final kilometer relaxes to a 9% gradient. A climber will win here, and only a small group will survive to contest the finish.

Tactics Talk. This stage is a nasty bit of bike racing and a fitting finale for the mountain stages of the Giro Centenario. Any climber who still has hopes of wearing the Pink Jersey in Roma must ride here, and his team will need to be vigilant along the tricky roads of the Amalfi coast. With the exception of the run-in to the final climb, there are few flat roads on this course, and the general classification teams will face a difficult task in keeping the race together.

But there can be no doubt that the Vesuvio will decide the day. Though the Pink Jersey may not change hands on this finish, it’s hard to imagine that the general classification will not reshuffle on this final climb of the Giro Centenario. Much depends on how the mountain stages in Abruzzo turn out and how hard the riders choose to race them. If the race is hard over the previous stages, this final climb of the Giro could open up significant time gaps. For fresh legs, this climb might not prove especially difficult. But few riders will still feel fresh by this stage. Recovery is the key to winning a stage race, especially deep in the third week of a grand tour.

This is the last chance for the climbers before the flat time trial in Roma. No doubt someone will try to overturn the general classification. We will see soon enough whether he succeeds.

Vesuvio 13km, 967m, avg. 7.4%, max. 12%
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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