In today’s first real foray into the mountains with the legendary ascent of the Monte Grappa, Vincenzo Nibali showed first that he can climb with the best, then showed that he can descend better than the best to ride away in the most unlikely of terrains: the descent. His aggressive and technically perfect riding yielded his first ever Giro d’Italia individual stage victory.
23 seconds after Nibali triumphed in Asolo, Ivan Basso led an elite group of chasers home to make it a 1-2 for Liquigas. Diquigiovanni’s Michele Scarponi took third and World Champion, Cadel Evans, was 4th. It would be another 1:10 before Alexandre Vinokourov came in alone to complete his day.
Of course, due to the lasting effects of crazy Stage 12, none of this did a thing to alter the General Classification (at least at this point). The real battle for the Maglia Rosa was left to Saxo Bank’s Richie Porte and Caisse d’Epargne’s David Arroyo. Porte battled valiantly with teammate Chris Anker Sorensen doing everything in his capacities save for picking him up and carrying him, but still, the duo came up just short. Arroyo picked up enough time on the day to assume race leadership by 39 seconds.
After a quick start, the break of Markus Eibegger (Footon), Damien Monier (Cofidis), Steve Cummings (Sky), Alessandro Bisolti (Colnago), William Bonnet (Bbox), and Filippo Pozzato (KAT) went clear and continued to ride incredibly fast: 51 km were covered by the break by the end of the first hour.
After 75 km of racing, the group of six had a rather comfortable cushion of eight minutes, but the gigantic Monte Grappa loomed in the not so far off future.
Heading into the climb, Lampre was in control, but as the climb of the Monte Grappa began the front of the race was a sea of lime green. It was time for Liquigas to prove why they were favorites. The green pacesetting did much to whittle down the group.
Right as Maglia Rosa Richie Porte was being dispatched from the lead group, Sky’s Bradley Wiggins went in the opposite direction: straight off the front. The entire Liquigas team glared in unison as the rider in black and blue shot by.
Wiggins quickly gobbled up most of the remains of the break, picked up teammate Steve Cummings for a bit of assistance, then kept right on going. Unfortunately for Wiggins, the gap just wasn’t happening, and after a nice little foray at the front of the race, he sat up, and accepted that Liquigas would be handling the pacesetting today.
Up ahead, one rider survived from the break, Colnago’s Alessandro Bisolti. Bisolti put in a courageous effort, but his time at the fore was to come to an end as Liquigas fired off their number one stallion, Vincenzo Nibali. Nibali’s move broke whatever tenuous gap a number of riders had in the lead group and things started to get nasty. The proverbial rubber band had stretched a wee bit too far and snapping was heard round the bunch.
Four riders soon congregated at the front: Nibali, Basso, Evans, and Scarponi. This was the day’s selection.
Behind, the best of the rest were left to scrounge for anything they could to get back on terms with the quartet at the front.
Vinokourov nearly made the juncture with the riders at the front, but the work of Ivan Basso’s clenched teeth seemed to be just right to dispatch any chance of riders coming up from behind. This was a working man’s quest to gain back the vast amounts of time that had been lost in the days prior, there would be no glorious attacking, no astounding feats of bravery (well, wait a tick on that) – it was a grim mission to try to ride back into overall contention.
Over the top of the climb, the gap was settled, and Nibali suddenly had a gap, as he headed into one of his favorite terrains: the downhill.
Falling raindrops soon made the descent an even more entertaining experience, but nothing that Nibali couldn’t handle. He pushed out his gap all the way down the wonderful descent of the Monte Grappa and managed to hold off the chase of Scarponi and Evans to take the big win. Basso was of course a passenger in the chasing group, so he was more than ready to take the sprint for 2nd and dutifully did so.
Behind, the gaps were solid, not huge, but more than enough to get an idea of what’s to come in the final week.
Results Stage 14
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 4:57:51
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:23
3 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:01:33
6 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Quick Step 0:02:26
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
9 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
10 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC-Columbia
General Classification After 14 Stages
1 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 61:22:54
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:39
3 Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:02:12
4 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:35
5 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram 0:03:52
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:05:27
7 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:06:32
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:06:51