Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A relaxed day in the mountains as Monier takes his first professional victory.

Glorious sunshine poured down on the peloton as they made their way along another mountainous stage. Despite the category 1 climb of Passa delle Parade around the 80km mark, today's stage was far less challenging than yesterday's tough mountain time trial.

Against a stunning scenic backdrop, 19 riders: Wyss (BMC), Ochoa (AND), Kireyev (AST), Arashiro (BTL), Amado (GCE), Stortoni (CSF)Hondo/Marzano (LAM), Moreno (OLO), Kruijswijk (RAB), Cummings (SKY), Reynes (THR), Ignatiev (KAT), Fothen (MRM) and N. Sörensen (SAX)achieved a breakaway of as much as 11 minutes at the start of the cat.1 climb.

The 12.6km run up to the summit of Passe delle Parade has an average slope of 6.8% which after yesterday's 24% max must have seemed rather gentle. By 10km into the climb, the main bunch had pulled back 2 minutes from the leading group who remained away at 9 minutes ahead. At the summit, Moreno (OLO) lead the group over, followed by Stortoni (CSF) and Marzano (LAM) who each grabbed points in the mountains competition. In contrast Reda (QST) and Canuti (CSF) were forced to abandon, bringing the total number of abandoners to 47.

Back in the chasing group, Caisse d'Epargne lead the chase down as the time came down towards 8 minutes in the last 50km, taking over the role from Liquigas who have worked hard at the front of the group on earlier stages. Down to only 4 team mates, Evans will be looking to the only two teams with no loses, Cervelo and Liguigas to help him in the remaining stages.

As the breakaway came into the last 35km the time gap was growing and at a little under 30km to go, Katusha's Ignatiev kicked away. He took the max points in the intermediate sprint, followed by Arashiro (BTL) and Sörensen (SAX). Ignatiev's solo lead was shortlived however as he was soon brougt back by the other leading men.

Little attacks came to nothing until the 15km arch when Hondo, Monier and Kruijswijk kicked away from the leading group. Moreno tried to follow but was unable to bridge the gap to the leading three. It wasn't long before Cummings and Arashiro tried to do the same but their attempt failed too. As they started to climb the Peio Terme, Lampre came to the front of the bunch, the time gap increased to almost 12 minutes. In the toughest final 3km the leading group had a minute on the remaining group from the original breakaway. With sections of 12% and an average of 9%, an attack seemed a certainty, and it was Monier of Cofidis who moved away first.

With just under 2km to go, Monier powerfully pumped pure power, Rabobanks Kruijswijk left Hondo, doing well to try to catch him. With the line in sight, Kruijswijk was hot on his wheels. But his hard work to wasn't enough to catch him, as Monier crossed the line in first place; a Frenchman breaking the Italian's string of consecutive victories, the 22 year old's first victory of his career. Hondo was quick to overtake Kruijswijk in the final 500m to come second, pushing the Ranobank ride into third. Moreno came home fourth with Sky's Cummings came fifth.

Today's stage had no effect on the GC standings. Tomorrow the peloton will travel a somewhat easier 151km from levico Terme to Brescia for a hilly Stage 18, before they tackle another series of hard mountain paases in the 195km journey from Bresica to Aprica for Stage 19 on Friday, and the toughest of them all on Saturday's penultimate stage: 138km from Bormio to Passo del Tonale. The Giro concludes Sunday with a final time trial of 15.3km across Verona.

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