Stage 4 – Tuesday, May 12: Padova – San Martino di Castrozza, 162km
With the cycling world’s eyes on first real test this of both this Giro, the stage play was as much about Lance as the rest of the GC boys, like it or not. And even though Lance played down his chances during a pre-race interview, we all know that Lance’s legs usually have a different version of the game plan.
Don’t count Armstrong out, but he definitely looked human today.
But not today – his face in the final few kms showed a real effort and it just looked weird to see the 7-Time Tour champ not holding the pace. Sure, he only lost 15 seconds, and he’s coming back off injury, coming back off 3 years away, coming back at guys 5 -10 years his junior… but this is Lance and it just looked weird.
The ‘gentle’ slopes of the final climb did little to shake up the serious guys.
Onto The Race!
When it started to matter and the road went up, Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) were the last three alive while the group behind jettisoned sprinter after sprinter as the autobus took on more and more passengers. The names you’d expect in each group manifested themselves as the sides were chosen. Our so far splendid Petachhi bid his farewells to the business end of the group too, and began sliding backwards.
In the lead group, Jens’ typically kept the pace up when his break mates slowed. Until the KOM at Croce de Aune that is, where Belotti took his leave of the other two and dashed ahead for maximum points. De Bonis tried to sneak up and swipe them to no avail, and the flat-liking Jens could only muster a “sheisse” as the duo left him.
Behind the big names hovered near the front on the ascent. The group was thinning, but not by much as most top climbers still had a cadre of domestiques on hand over the top.
Then a sweeping, beautiful descent on thin twisting Italian roads began. Pure beauty mixed with insane speed. The group had Liquigas on the front to ensure their captain’s safety on the 10k descent with Astana right behind. The march of the pigs had begun in earnest as they all sped towards the San Martino di Castrozzo, the final semi-beastly climb of the day.
Up ahead Jens Voigt rejoined his break mates and the three began working together as before with their gap now under 5 minutes.
It was a comforting sight to see Jens Voigt at the head of affairs again dictating the race from the break.
As the group rode the final 25km to the foot of the final climb, the principle names all came near the front, jockeying for position. LPR put a few dudes on the front of the ribbon of riders before beginning the ascent, followed by Liquigas and Astana as the gap between the main group and the escapees was slowly being whittled away. Soon Lampre joined en masse as well, with Cunego tucked into the slipstream.
All at once, the Dolomites arrived in pure grandeur.
Up front, Voigt pushed the pace again and dropped De Bonis. Behind, the group whittled to a fine point and began the climb in earnest. The gap was now under 2 minutes. Voight then pushed again heroically and punched it, dropping Belotti for good. It was clear Jens was vying for a glorious solo victory.
There was not much of a separation between the favorites today.
With 6k to go, Voigt really had his teeth in it and was pressing for home.
Behind, the group was still rather large. And finally someone lit the touch paper; as Barloworld’s Soler took a dig and had a small gap for a short bit and then the group tracked him down, notably Lokvist did the work as Rogers was seemingly everyone’s favorite to be in pink by the end of the day.
Together again and side to side, looking at each other, the group went up.
Ahead, the HMS Voigt steamed for home but the gap now dropped to a precarious 35 seconds. Could he hold it?
Mauricio Soler put in a great attack at the end of the stage, but came up just short.
Liquigas now moved their remaining riders to the front and the pace became faster and steadier, keeping Basso as the pig in a blanket.
And all at once Voigt threw the anchor over the side and gave up. A valiant effort and great show as always, Jens.
It was a disconcerting sight to see Lance tailed off in the last few meters.
The group sped along, still under the impetus from Liquigas. And then Soler went again, slipping up the right side of the road along the Tifosi and immediately establishing a small gap.
The group became a ribbon again and dropped a few more guys out the back. Liquigas kept the tempo up, and no one jumped to him as he went under the 2k banner. A few others took to the front to reel him in slowly. Guys were really starting to hurt now, and even the once mighty Lance Armstrong was dropped.
The Killer was up to his killing ways today.
Only the guys who really wanted the day took up the chase, like Basso, Leipheimer, Garzelli, all lead by Di Luca, who charged through the final turns. Di Luca caught Soler’s wheel then shot by him to take the stage win followed closely by Garzelli, much to the joy of the fans at the finish who cheered the Killer on.
Columbia regained Pink after Stage 4…and Thomas Lovkvist was the happy benefactor.
Columbia’s Lovkvist stepped into the maglia rosa, with Di Luca in second, and the rest of the big names are all close enough. It was the last 3k that really provided the first glimpse into who’s strong and who isn’t. The Giro is the sleeping giant, just beginning to wake.
Results: Giro Stage 4
1 DI LUCA Danilo ITA LPR 4:15:04 0:00 20″
2 GARZELLI Stefano ITA ASA 4:15:04 0:00 12″
3 PELLIZOTTI Franco ITA LIQ 4:15:04 0:00 8″
4 SOLER Juan M. COL BAR 4:15:04 0:00
5 SIMONI Gilberto ITA SDA 4:15:04 0:00
6 LEIPHEIMER Levi USA AST 4:15:04 0:00
7 LOVKVIST Thomas SWE THR 4:15:04 0:00
8 BASSO Ivan ITA LIQ 4:15:04 0:00
9 MENCHOV Denis RUS RAB 4:15:04 0:00
10 ARROYO DURAN David ESP GCE 4:15:04 0:00
Giro 2009 GC After Stage 4
1 LOVKVIST Thomas SWE THR 13:05:28 0:00
2 DI LUCA Danilo ITA LPR 13:05:30 0:02
3 ROGERS Michael AUS THR 13:05:34 0:06
4 POPOVYCH Yaroslav UKR AST 13:05:54 0:26
5 LEIPHEIMER Levi USA AST 13:05:54 0:26
6 ARMSTRONG Lance USA AST 13:05:56 0:28
7 PELLIZOTTI Franco ITA LIQ 13:06:00 0:32
8 CUNEGO Damiano ITA LAM 13:06:10 0:42
9 BRUSEGHIN Marzio ITA LAM 13:06:10 0:42
10 SASTRE CANDIL Carlos ESP CTT 13:06:17 0:49
11 BASSO Ivan ITA LIQ 13:06:21 0:53
12 SIUTSOU Kanstantsin BLR THR 13:06:27 0:59
13 HORNER Christopher USA AST 13:06:28 1:00
14 CARDENAS Felix Rafael COL BAR 13:06:28 1:00
15 ROHREGGER Thomas AUT MRM 13:06:30 1:02
16 MENCHOV Denis RUS RAB 13:06:30 1:02
17 SIMONI Gilberto ITA SDA 13:06:34 1:06
18 GARZELLI Stefano ITA ASA 13:06:37 1:09
19 ARROYO DURAN David ESP GCE 13:06:39 1:11
20 AUGUSTYN John Lee RSA BAR 13:06:48 1:20