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Post Stage Analysis

Philippe Gilbert Wins in Anagni
Menchov gains 2 seconds, Garzelli 4, Finale in Roma

9 Big Photos from Stage 20sirotti

May 30 update: The tight Pink Jersey contest between Denis Menchov and Danilo Diluca kept the early break on a tight leash today. Eight riders nonetheless tried their luck in the early kilometers of the stage to Anagni. The break included: Robert Förster of Milram, Ben Swift of Katusha, Felix Cardenas of Barloworld, Angel Gomez Gomez of Fuji-Servetto, Pablo Lastras Caisse d'Épargne, Anders Lund of Saxo Bank, Francesco De Bonis of Diquigiovanni-Androni, and Guillaume Bonnafond of AG2R-La Mondiale. LPR Brakes closely controlled the time gaps and with the intermediate sprint in Frosinone approaching, Diluca's team shut down the break.

At Frosinone, it was all back together. The intermediate sprint carried a time bonus of 6 seconds for the winner. Again playing the role of loyal team-mate, Alessandro Petacchi began to lead out Diluca for the sprint. Denis Menchov followed the wheel of Diluca. In a surprise move, the Russian anticipated the sprint, jumping ahead of Diluca. Tired after yesterday's battle on the Vesuvio, Diluca could not overtake Menchov. Petacchi accelerated, and took the maximum points, but Menchov added 2 seconds to his lead in the general classification. Now, 20 seconds separate the top two riders in the general classification with a 14.4 kilometer crono yet to ride.

With the intermediate sprint decided, a new break formed. Only two riders escaped this time, Pavel Brutt of Katusha and Markus Fothen of Milram. With 35 kilometers to race, the break held an advantage of 33 seconds. On the front of the main field, Silence-Lotto and ISD-Neri did the work of chasing. Silence-Lotto hoped to set up Philippe Gilbert for the stage win, while ISD-Neri worked for Giovanni Visconti, who has tried repeatedly without success to win a stage during this Giro.

The Brutt-Fothen move proved short-lived and with 25 kilometers to go, it was again gruppo compatto. With a lap to go on the finishing circuit, a small break escaped, driven by Sylvester Szmyd of Liquigas-Doimo. The team of third placed Franco Pellizotti plainly wanted to remove the possibility of Diluca gaining a time bonus at the finish. Behind, Petacchi drove on the front of the main field to control the race for Diluca.

Just outside 15 kilometers to go, a group of three escaped from the break. Paolo Tiralongo of Lampre-Ngc initiated the move, which Bartosz Huzarski of ISD-Neri and Anthony Charteau of Caisse d'Éparge soon joined. Into a serpentine descent, the group of three held an advantage of 11 seconds, while the field re-absorbed the remainder of the break.

Just outside 10 kilometers to go, Marco Pinotti of Columbia-High Road bridged across to the break. Now, four riders raced out in front, while Quick Step took over the pace-making on the main field in the hope of delivering Allan Davis to the sprint. Though ISD-Neri had hoped to set up Giovanni Visconti for the stage win today, they put their support behind Huzarski and he continued to contribute to the break. Pinotti, a former Italian National Champion in the crono, drove hard and the escape steadily gained ground in the flats against the Quickstep chase. With 5 kilometers to go, the break had 25 seconds in hand.

As the break hit the finishing climb, their momentum slowed markedly. With the main field only seconds behind, Paolo Tiralongo made one last attempt to stay away, but the field came up too quickly for the Lampre-Ngc climber. Just outside 2 kilometers to go, the field was all back together and a sprint looked likely.

Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto had other ideas. The Belgian classics talent, who has twice won Omloop het Nieuwsblad and once Paris-Tours, attacked with 1.5 kilometers to go. Former French National Champion Thomas Voeckler of BBox Bouygues Telecom made a valiant effort to hold his wheel. Jaroslav Popovych of Astana also tried to follow Gilbert's attack, but dropped off almost immediately. Despite his best efforts, Voeckler could not come around the Silence-Lotto rider and was steadily losing ground at the line. With plenty of time to celebrate, Philippe Gilbert won the stage in Anagni, his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win. Today also marked Gilbert's first victory of the current season. He finished on the podium at Ronde van Vlaanderen, fourth at the Amstel Gold Race, and fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

In the field sprint, Stefano Garzelli of Acqua e Sapone edged out Allan Davis of Quick Step at the line. Danilo Diluca did not contest the sprint. In the general classification, Denis Menchov picked up 2 seconds by winning the intermediate sprint, and he leads Diluca by 20 seconds. Stefano Garzelli picked up an eight second bonus for placing third on the stage. Though the time gaps shifted, the order in the general classification remains unchanged.

After the stage, Philippe Gilbert said he went "piano, piano" through the mountains and "waited for the right moment." "Today, I gave everything, and it worked out," he said with a big stage-winner smile. Alessandro Petacchi, who worked hard for Diluca today, agreed that Gilbert had fresher legs than the general classification riders. "The finish fit Gilbert, he is very explosive," explained the sprinter from LPR Brakes. Jaroslav Popovych said he tried for the stage, but it didn't work out. He predicts that Leipheimer will ride better in tomorrow's crono than Armstrong.

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General Classification Top Ten

Denis Menchov
Danilo Diluca 0:20
Franco Pellizotti 1:43
Carlos Sastre 2:44
Ivan Basso 3:37
Levi Leipheimer 4:59
Stefano Garzelli 8:44
Michael Rogers 9:36
Tadej Valjavec 10:46
Marzio Bruseghin 11:36

Tomorrow, a 14.4 kilometer time trial will decide the outcome of this Giro Centenario. The crono favors Menchov, who is known for his abilities against the watch. At the same time, the technical nature of the course will give Diluca a last chance to take back the 20 seconds that separate him from winning the Giro Centenario. Further down, Michael Rogers could overtake Garzelli, and Bruseghin could displace Valvjavec. In this short crono, it will be difficult to take back significant time, though. But as Stefano Garzelli said in his post-stage interview today, "the Giro is not over," and "everything is in play."

Current weather forecasts predict a 40% chance of rain, which is common this time of year for Italy's capital city. The course includes both modern pavement and cobbles. The stone surface of the cobbles will become very slippery, if it does in fact rain tomorrow. Then, it's anyone's race. Here's hoping for a fast and dry crono and an exciting finale for this Giro Centenario.

Course Preview

Stage 20: Napoli - Anagni
Date: Saturday, 30 May
Distance: 203 km.
Terrain: Mostly flat, with a hilly finishing circuit.
GC Importance: Probably minimal, unless the general classification is very close.

Anagni 2.7km, 126m, 4.7%, max. 8%
(Yes, there are mountain points for that. Don’t ask me, I’m just the writer.)

Profile Details. The Giro rolls out from Napoli, and the course begins with approximately 100 kilometers of flat racing along the coast. There are a few small ripples in the profile, but they shouldn’t interrupt the tranquility of the morning.

At kilometer 104, the riders will pass through Cassino. From there, the course begins to climb gradually, gaining 132 meters in just over 25 kilometers. This slight rise shows up on the profile, but won’t likely be felt in the legs. After the town of Arc Stazione, the course descends briefly to Caprano.

From Caprano to the outskirts of Anagni, the riders face a climbing false flat. The course gains 100 meters in elevation over 42 kilometers, so here again, the climbing won’t be especially noticeable. There is a short, steep bump at kilometer 157 in Frosinone, which has previously hosted a Giro finish. But in the main, the terrain is flat.

Upon reaching Anagni, the riders do a lap and a half around the finishing circuit. They will hit the climb for the first time at kilometer 182.1, and mountain points are available at the summit. The climb lasts 2.7 kilometers and has a maximum gradient of 8%. A quicky, but it’ll sting. There follows approximately 10 kilometers of descending. Then, it’s 2.7 kilometers uphill to the finish.

This finish will suit a classics-type rider, who can finish fast on a steep climb. If Philippe Gilbert has anything left in his legs at this point of the race, this stage finish is made for him. But really, it’s anyone’s guess who will find his way into the right break. Deep in the third week of a grand tour, it’s impossible to predict who will still have legs for such adventuring.

Tactics Talk. The majority of this stage is flat, and the race organizers have billed it as a stage for the sprinters. I think they were trying to lure the sprinters into sticking around for the third week, because the finishing circuit for this stage is hilly, including a section at 8% gradient. The finish is also uphill, so I doubt that the sprinters’ teams will take much interest.

The general classification teams will likely want an easy day before the crono in Roma. But this finish does suit Danilo Diluca, and Diluca does heart him some time bonuses. It’s possible that we may see LPR Brakes ride for this one. Somehow, I doubt the general classification will remain close enough for time bonuses to matter by this point. It should be all about the breakaway on this final road stage of the Giro Centenario.

Eight Ball says: A sizable early breakaway is likely here, as lots of teams will want to take one last shot at bagging a stage win. A small group should survive to contest the finish in Anagni.

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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