Today’s mostly flat romp to the Ligurian Coast had sprint written cautiously near the corner of the page, but no one was quite sure what would happen with the late climb of the Passo del Turchino along with its technical descent into Arenzano. The answer written in bright, bold colors along the train station wall? Big bunch sprint.
Rewind about 214 kilometers to the start in Torino at noon, and they’re all heading out save for one significant rider: Chris Horner. Horner had put together a great race so far, but came to grief on a descent, which resulted in a torn muscle behind his knee, which means no no more go go for Horner. A big loss for Astana, and an even more disappointing loss for Horner, who seemed a possible Top 10 when the race finishes in Roma in 10 stages time.
The Break Of The Day
Anyhow, another one bit the dust, but the carnival rolled on. After significantly high speeds and much suffering, a break managed to faithfully sneak away after much debate over the contents. The field grappled with the difficult decision for 65 kilometers, but no consensus could be made, then they just snuck away. There’s nothing more intriguing in bike racing (in my opinion) than that moment when everything clicks, the god-awful fast part of the early section of the day is over, and then voila the break has minutes in just a kilometer or two. The fortunate foursome of Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Xacobeo), Cameron Meyer (Garmin), Dmytro Grabovskyy (ISD) and Alessandro Donati (Acqua & Sapone) were apparently the lucky cards for the day, and off they went, and off the field went to sleep.
Levi Leipheimer did a little pavement surfing today, but he looks to be ok.
Scratch That, Just Kidding, Reshuffle
Except no, that’s not what happened at all. In one of those curious days where the script just doesn’t read right, the break never got more than a few minutes, and its lifespan was decidedly short – only 40k. The debate was apparently not over. This was not a satisfactory break thank you very much, we want a reshuffle. So they reshuffled, and out of the reshuffle came…
Vladimir Isaichev of Xacobeo. Vladimir seemed to have pulled the right draw this time, because he actually got a gap worth counting. With 80k to go, Isaichev had charged out to an 8 minute lead. The field was in full slumber, whilst Vladimir was full on two cylindering to the coast.
Not a bad view, no?
This Was Not A Day For The Breakaway
Even Isaichev’s glorious gap wasn’t made to stand the test of time, however. His gap peaked at 8, and rapidly aged to the sprightly some of, well, very little. Just under 40k after Isaichev had climaxed to 8, he was down to 2, and the murmurs of bunch sprint bunch sprint bunch sprint started to grow…but there was that pesky pass just up ahead…the Turchino.
Onward And Upward To The Turchino
The pace picked up something fierce on the mild slopes of the Turchino. The terrible slumbering force of 180+ riders was slowly coming to consciousness, and unfortunately some of the still slumbering riders were departing rearwards in the opposite direction of Arenzano. Lampre’s Marco Marzano was wide awake though, and had a go of it on the climb. He bridged up to Vladimir and dropped him, but his lot was not of glory – he too was gobbled up not long afterward. LPR initiated the high speed ascent, but it was Astana that shifted it into 6th gear.
The attacking portion of the day began in earnest from the Turchino to the line.
Over the top of the climb, Stefano Garzelli pounced out for some mountain points, while Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer took the 2nd and 3rd place points. Armstrong was prominent on the descent as he led the way down the technical drop to the sea…and still wonder: how will Armstrong fare tomorrow? I digress.
Once they hit seaside, the machine guns (or swords, this is pick your own weapon day) were unsheathed, loaded, and commenced firing. The attacks were constant and relentless…and wholly futile. This was to be a sprint today, no one was going to ruin that. No one. Not even that last gasp move that lasted to the Ultimo Chilometro.
Tyler Farrar has been putting together some great sprints so far, but hasn’t quite gotten the measure of the likes of Petacchi and Cavendish.
Columbia amassed on the front, lined up their fine looking choo choo train, clicked up through the gears, reached terminal velocity, and then set free the good ship Cavendish. He duly accelerated, and took the win, with Farrar and Petacchi following behind.
Cavendish came through with ease for Win #2 in Arenzano today.
The Important Stuff
But what about tomorrow? Indeed, the much talked about Stage 12 TT along the Cinque Terre is finally upon us. Anyone with any hopes on general classification had better do it up right tomorrow.
Stage 11 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – Highroad 4.51.17 (44.08 km/h)
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) LPR Brakes – Farnese Vini
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step
5 Sйbastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Davide Vigano (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
7 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Columbia – Highroad
8 Alexander Serov (Rus) Team Katusha
General Classification Heading Into Tomorrow’s 61k TT
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes – Farnese Vini 48.51.28
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.20
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia – Highroad 1.33
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 1.40
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 1.53
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 1.54
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas 2.03
8 Thomas Lцvkvist (Swe) Team Columbia – Highroad 2.12