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Giro’09 St.16: Sastre Slashes Off Seconds
Race Report: Carlos Sastre showed that his Tour de France victory might not have been a one-off as many have suspected with a stellar ride on the Monte Petrano today. Sastre showed that his climbing is nothing to be scoffed at, but on the line, his margin of victory wasn't nearly enough to rustle the feathers of Menchov and Di Luca. It could be a warning shot of what's to come though...

Carlos Sastre surprised even this normally imperturbable writer today. At the base of the Monte Petrano after over 6.5 hours of racing, Carlos Sastre looked like he was on his deathbed. He was at the back of the group, looking like hell, and his slighted teammate Serge Pauwels was at the front looking around for his damn team leader (probably what he was thinking). Then, somehow, the man came to, repaired some malfunction in his sputtering engine, vroom vroom vrooooooom his Porsche GT3 came to life, and off he went. He attacked, attacked again, attacked again, and then he was gone. Carlos Sastre showed why he is one of the most feared climbers in the business today, and he showed that when he's on, he's nigh near untouchable...but not by a lot.

Carlos Sastre took his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win today on the Monte Petrano.

His ride was impressive, but his gap on the line was nothing to send to the history book presses. He barely pulled off half a minute on the dueling 1st and 2nd place riders Menchov and Di Luca. Both looked to be under great duress on the climb, both looked to be headed for big time losses, but at the top - they rolled in under half a minute down. Sastre will need to take some much bigger bites out of this sandwich if he wants the overall win in Roma in a few days time.

In other news, there were a few riders that took a beating today. My top favorite heading into this Giro, Levi Leipheimer, looked decidedly pedestrian, as he had a large chunk of armor blown right off his back today. Leipheimer came limping home, battered, bruised, and weary led by none other than 7-time Tour de France champ, Lance Armstrong. Armstrong had been at the front at the beginning of the Petrano, looking close to the Lance of old, but dropped back to do a labor that was once far, far below his nearly god-like stature in a Grand Tour (it also looked he was kinda sorta dropped, but don't let that ruin the story). It was the kind of thing that brings a smile to your face, but the damage was done to Levi's GC hopes - big damage. It will take a gigantic ride for Levi to find his way to the top spot of the podium now. The podium is still within reach, but the top step floated up the road today along the slopes of the Monte Petrano.

Armstrong and Leipheimer rode right out of top spot GC contention today.

The GC after today? Menchov and Di Luca lost some valuable time to Sastre, and Sastre made a good hop, skip, and a jump into third, but Menchov and Di Luca still look to have this Giro as theirs and only theirs to squabble over. The fight for 3rd should be a grand one though - Sastre v. Pello v. Basso v. Leipheimer, with a BIG advantage going to Sastre right now. We could very well have our overall podium locked up as it is. Then again, I could be completely off. That's why they race these things I guess.

Long and hard, yes, we'll take a big serving of that. Thanks!

The Stage
Today was one of the most feared by the riders. The press hasn't said too much about the stage, but the riders have been making little notes of their fear of this day for awhile. It was rightly so.

It was really, really hot. Sharing of water was one of the nice things to be seen throughout the field today.

Of course, on a stage that will go over 7 hours of saddle time in monster heat, a break was sure to go, and so it went. It was a large break with lots of riders, but I'm not going to list them all for you. Suffice it to say that there were many, but by the penultimate climb - they were all gone save for a few: Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Yaroslav Popovych (Astana), Gabriele Bosisio (LPR), and Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni). Scarponi attacked on a small, unclassified climb and got rid of all of the rotten fruit, and together they hit the climb of the Monte Catria. On the Catria, Scarponi dies at least 14 different times trying to stay on the motoring break until he is 100%, absolutely dead, and nearly falls off his bike. That was less than pleasurable to behold, but such is the life of a bike racer.

Rabobank had a lot of work to do...again.

Anyhow, Bosisio and Cunego looked good on the climb, whilst Popo was in all sorts of difficulty, but not quite in the realm of Scarponi. Over the top, Popo manages to catch back on, and whilst catching back on, he figures, why not just ride away. So he did. He rode away. Bosisio didn't take too kindly to that and promptly fell down while turning. Cunego didn't take too kindly to it either and promptly started to go slower. Popovych somehow got his motor turning over just right and started his individual time trial to maybe possibly perhaps stage glory.

Behind, the vastly whittled down field arrive en masse at the foot of the Monte Petrano. The matches were struck, the fuses were lit, we stepped back, and the fireworks show that we all know as a mountaintop finish began. As I mentioned before, Sastre looked like a pile of rocks in the early going, Leipheimer didn't look much better, and basically everyone was dropping someone or themselves. The chaos of the early ramps soon sorted itself out, mainly with the hard work of Mr. Sastre. Sastre's attacks put picked up whatever order the front of the race had, and tossed it out the 15th story window. Eventually, Sastre was allowed a leash, so he could go for a walk on his own. No one else wanted to play with him anymore.

Alright alright already, go on, do your thing.

So, Sastre was just up the road after his umpteenth attack in 2k, and Basso, Di Luca, and Menchov were all together regaining their composure after being knocked around a little too much by the the pint-sized Spaniard.

Basso had glory in his eyes, and he set off solo for Sastre. He looked like he had the measure of the Tour champ, but that's the thing with this Sastre guy...he's sneaky. I don't know how that's possible for a Tour de France winner, but there's just something about Sastre that screams: underestimate me, I'm not really that good, no seriously, don't worry about little ol me. Then he jumps up, pulls out his Bowie knife, and slashes the throats of all comers. Spaniards are like that sometimes.

Basso gives chase.

Basso, however, is not very sneaky. He is dressed in lime green, everybody screams like teenage girls when they see him, and well, he's kind of a big deal in Italy. But Basso couldn't get hold of this Sastre guy. He probably lost sight of him since he's so unobtrusive - little guy, dressed in black, looks like he should work at your local cafe, goes uphill really fast: have you seen this man?

Behind Basso, Menchov and Di Luca formed an interesting alliance. It looks like they wish this Giro to be decided amongst themselves: Russia v. Italy for all the marbles, even the clear ones. Menchov and Di Luca combined motors and theirs was a motor to behold. They picked up the scraps of the break, pulled out their fishing pole, caught themselves a Basso, and crossed the line inside half a minute on Sastre the Underestimated.

Behind, the damage was much more entertaining to behold. Franco Pellizotti had a so-so day and lost over a minute, but he did well to keep himself in the running. Leipheimer wasn't so lucky, and got nailed for everything that he has done so far in the Giro. His chances at the overall? Poof. Like a successful magic trick.

Worthy of mention? How about Stefano Garzelli. The guy has recovered big time from a horrible run through the Dolomites, and is now showing himself as one of the best climbers in the race. Almost 10 years on from his win in 2000, Garzelli can still handle it - against a much better field no less.

Rest day tomorrow. Rest up - because the Giro has a LOT more to come: Blockhaus, Vesuvius, and a TT!

Stage 16 Results
1. Carlos Sastre 7.11.54
2. 25 Denis Menchov
3. 26 Danilo Di Luca
4. 29 Ivan Basso
5. 1.19 Stefano Garzelli
6. 1.21 Francesco Masciarelli
7. 1.21 Franco Pellizotti
8. 2.11 Tadej Valjavec
9. 2.35 Jose Serpa
10. 2.51 Lance Armstrong
11. 2.51 Levi Leipheimer

General Classification Going Into Rest Day #2
1. Denis Menchov
2. 0.39 Danilo Di Luca
3. 2.19 Carlos Sastre
4. 3.08 Franco Pellizotti
5. 3.19 Ivan Basso
6. 3.21 Levi Leipheimer
7. 5.54 Michael Rogers
8. 8.24 Stefano Garzelli

Questions, comments, thoughts, musings, offers? I'm always happy to get emails: jered at pezcyclingnews dot com.


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