Stage 11, Wednesday, 18 May, Machado Finds No Level Terrain
The profile for the route, covering 144 Kilometers (89 miles) on the east coast of Italy, looked like the cutting teeth of an abused crosscut saw and probably felt like it for the racers. The jagged, irregular climbs – four category 4 mountains – kept coming and there wasn’t a level section to be had. When a break finally formed including Team RadioShack’s Tiago Machado (POR) the group spent the day either looking up into the hot sun on an incline, or down into a usually beautiful valley on a descent. A brutal stage that left only one man happy at the finish, the winner of the stage AG2R La Mondiale’s John Gadret (FRA) who accelerated at just the right moment toward the finish to take the biggest win of his life.
With Garmin-Cervelo’s Christophe Le Mevel (FRA) in the breakaway group with Tiago their hopes for success were greatly diminished, with too much attention being paid by the overall contenders in the peloton given that Le Mevel was not far down on the GC. In fact, he was in the virtual lead for most of the day until the break was finally broke. Caught near the end of the route with a good uphill ramp at the finish the stage at that point was more suited to the power and stamina of the overall general classification challengers than the pure specialists.
The big question of the day was if Contador wanted to keep the leader’s jersey because his team was wearing themselves out keeping the gap to the break reasonable with absolutely no help from any other team. Contador was seen talking to several rival teams in the peloton seemingly working a deal to relinquish the jersey if other teams would do some work. Somehow, Contador got his cake and got to eat it too. Other teams immediately started doing the chase work for Saxo Bank, but Contador still finished in maglia rosa. The top 10 on the day looked very much like the top ten in the overall GC so far, with Contador still 1-minute up and still in the pink.
Stage 12, Thursday, 19 May, Cardoso Top 10 in the Sprint Finish
This 184-kilometer (114-mile) pancake-flat stage was perfectly suited for the big sprinting stars and their teams to control things at the end and launch their top men. The small 4-man break that formed early was never allowed a big gap and must have known their chances were limited on the day, because this was the last real sprinter’s stage in the 2011 Giro and the sprint teams of HTC-Highroad, Lampre-ISD, Sky and others would not be denied this final opportunity. And that’s how it played out.
The break was caught within about 15 kilometers to go and from then on it was a strung out peloton pulled at very high speed by HTC who controlled all the action with 4 riders at the front maneuvering along a very twisting, turning and at times narrowing final course that saw some over cooked turns and crashes at the finish, one involving RadioShack’s Robbie Hunter (RSA) who looked none too happy about the fall, though apparently no injuries.
RadioShack’s Manuel Cardoso found himself in the hunt at the finale of the bunch sprint, drafting onto wheels and charging hard for most of the finish, but with the explosive acceleration of HTC’s Mark Cavendish (GBR), Sky’s Davide Appollonio (ITA), and Lampre’s Alessandro Petacchi (ITA), the top 3 for the stage, Manual wisely chose to simply stay in contact at the end to minimize any time gap rather than contest the stage. He did that, finishing with the same time as the winner with a very nicely earned top-10 finish at one of the biggest races in the sport.
So with 9 stages left, the leader board looks like this:
1. Alberto Contador (ESP) Saxo Bank-Sungard
2. Kanstantsin Sivtsou (BLR) HTC-Highroad +00:59
3. Vicenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale +01:21
4. Christophe Le Mevel (FRA) Garmin-Cervélo +01:28
5. Michele Scarponi (ITA) Lampre-ISD +01:28
6. David Arroyo (ESP) Movistar +01:37
7. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Astana +01:41
8. José Serpa (COL) Androni Giocattoli +01:47
9. Dario Cataldo (ITA) Quick Step +02:02
10. Matteo Carrara (ITA) Vacansoleil +02:21
Team RadioShack Riders:
32. Tiago Machado (POR) +09:21
71. Ivan Rovny (RUS) +39:15
80. Fumiyuki Beppu (JPN) +42:40
88. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) +46:30
90. Phillip Deignan (IRL) +49:08
138. Bjorn Selander (USA) +1:14:06
161. Robbie Hunter (RSA) +1:25:42
168. Manual Cordoso (POR) +1:29:01
By George Hurst, staff writer