Stage 4 – May 13: Pizzo Calabro – Catanzaro-Lungomare, 183km
Swirling grey skies met the peloton today, threatening rain for the ensuing 183km, with one rated climb, the Passo Di Pietra Spada hitting the riders at about 23k and giving for quite a while.
Joining the Hard Luck Wagon along with Dave Zabriskie, were Bradley McGee and Stuart O’Grady of CSC, both enjoying broken collarbones after yesterday’s fracas of a finish. Igor Astarloa also did not finish yesterday. And Maximiliano Richeze, of course, was shown the door due to a Hot Sauce violation prior to the race even starting.
The rest of the merry souls went on their merry way with Pellizotti of Liquigas resplendent in the maglia rosa, and yesterday’s winner Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) itching for perhaps a repeat performance in what looked like a sprinter’s stage from the very beginning. But throwing a spanner in the works was dear old Rik Verbrugghe, the 33 year old riding for Cofidis, who took off from the gun and built an impressive lead of almost ten minutes.
You gotta love the moxy of the old boy. Just when it looked as though he might sneak away with it, the peloton formed their temporary alliance as several teams put their chase dogs on the front, and by kilometer 163, poor old Rik was brought back into the fold.
The LPR team of Danilo Di Luca took responsibility at the front post-catch, to the point that Danilo had to ask that they lay off the gas a little bit.
And as that happened, Il Grillo, Paolo Bettini himself, launched himself away from the group, much to the Giro’s home country delight, though the sojourn seemed a leg-tester for the rest. A few others saw daylight and tried to go with the tiny man, but LPR would have none of it, and the would-be escapees were back in da club.
And seeing Mark Cavendish’s chances for a win, Team High Road went to the front around 7km to go to set the monster pace that no one would mess with. Lurking behind, your usual suspects of Bennati and Zabel et al enjoyed being towed to the line.
A huge crash with less than 2 to go broke the beak off the bird, but the business end of things contained the big names along with about 15 or so riders.
As the line loomed, Zabel, Bennati, Forster, and Cavendish were the leading quartet as Cavendish came off of Bennati’s wheel at the perfect moment to take a fine win.
The crash was at high speed and claimed a few big names, Nick Nuyns among them initially. More info on the wounded forthcoming!
A great win for the Briton, and a heroic effort by Rik Verbrugghe!
Stage 4 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) High Road
2 Robert Fцrster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas