94th Giro d’Italia/07-29 May 2011
Throughout the course of the Giro d’Italia, Sports Nickel’s resident Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America will offer his news and notes on the action from the first grand tour of the 2011 cycling season…
The sprinters got what might be their final two opportunities to cash in at the 2011 Giro d’Italia over the past three days, with stages into Teramo and Ravenna providing the final chances at grand-tour stage victories until summertime in France. In between we were greeted with a rolling stage to Castelfidardo that gave a veteran rider the greatest victory of a long and multifaceted career.
It truly provides a case study in contrasts, the 25-year-old who already has 25 grand-tour stage victories to his name and the man seven years his senior who craftily willed his way to his first — and what might possibly end up his only – stage victory ever. The disparity in standards of what determines success from athlete to athlete never cease to amaze me.
When Mark Cavendish won his first stage victory of this Giro, bringing his grand total to six to that point in his career and making it an even two dozen between all three of the grand tours, the prevailing trend amongst pundits and fans alike was to say that he had “finally” won his first stage of this Giro. A stage race without at least one stage victory is failure… when it comes to the Manx Missile, we expect him to cross the line first.
A guy like John Gadret, who started as a cyclocross racer and has parlayed his skills into a reliable support role for AG2R, has always been a rider who is good but not overwhelming in his successes. He’s twice been in the top-ten at the Fleche Wallone, his climbing acumen coming in handy on the final kilometers up the Mur de Huy. The Frenchman has placed amongst the top twenty at both the 2008 Vuelta and last year’s Giro — albeit finishing around 23 minutes behind the winner each time. With new riders constantly arriving on the scene, rare are the opportunities for dominating a finish line.
We all gauge our goals and aspirations differently, and those in the public eye — whether athletes or celebrities or political figures — all have a different standard those followers come to expect from them. We expect Cavendish to win and win often and become stunned when a cold spell moves in. We come to expect guys like Gadret to be there at the finish to fill out the list of finishers.
Sports provide that window into the rawest of emotions. Sometimes we are forced to confront our darkest hours, and at the very least we’re never guaranteed the result we want. But sometimes the champion tacks another scalp on his wall. And sometimes the journeyman earns his Cinderella moment. There is a place for both stories in sports, and it is rewarding to get both versions so close to one another to illuminate in their contrasts the value of each…
Stage 10: Termoli to Teramo (17 May 2011/159km)
STAGE 10 RESULTS
- Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) — 4:00:49
- Francisco Ventoso (Movistar)
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
- Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli)
- Davide Appollonio (Sky)
- Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step)
- Klaas Lodewyck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
- Sacha Modolo (Colnago)
- Alexander Kristoff (BMC)
- Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini)
It seems like nothing but bad luck has struck Mark Cavendish so far, every opportunity to this point of the race a lesson in humility. He watched as his chief rival, Alessandro Petacchi, marked his ledger right out of the gate on Stage 2. A breakaway gave Angel Vicioso the win on Stage 3. Another round of mechanical errors dropped Cavendish out of the hunt and allowed Francisco Ventoso to outduel Petacchi into Fiuggi. Oscar Gatto outwitted the field to steal Stage 8.
Only two real opportunities remained for the sprinters to battle, and Cavendish was determined not to be left behind yet again. Expertly picking his spot on his Italian rival’s wheel, he waited as Petacchi’s lead-out rider Danilo Hondo faded too early and accelerated out of the draft with 150 meters to go to win comfortably. For Petacchi it was doubly disappointing, as Ventoso once again surged past him to snag the second-place points away. Even so, third place provided more than enough points to zip past race leader Alberto Contador to reclaim the red jersey of the sprinters that was already on Petacchi’s shoulders as the deferred “leader”.
But even while he was now the legitimate maglia rosso passione, and while he’d already won a stage in this Giro (and two dozen more during his prolific career), losing is always a bitter pill to swallow. Just as we expect Cavendish to win stages, so too have we expected the same from Petacchi for the greater part of a decade. But ultimately just one man can claim the accolades, the podium kisses and the place in the history books marking the winner on that day…
Stage 11: Teramo to Castelfidardo (18 May 2011/144km)
STAGE 11 RESULTS
- John Gadret (AG2R) — 3:33:11
- Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
- Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini)
- Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli)
- Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank)
- Roman Kreuziger (Astana)
- Dario Cataldo (Quick Step)
- Michele Scarponi (Lampre)
- Pablo Lastras (Movistar)
- Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Gadret’s victory on Stage 11 was a masterstroke of timing, a well-thought attack at just the right moment to overtake the last straggler of the breakaway and stay clear of a hard-charging elite group of chasers including the maglia rosa Contador intent on earning their own taste of the winning life. But just as a Cinderella must sometimes win, it also stands that sometimes — especially in a sport like cycling, where any one of nearly two-hundred riders can be in contention at any given time — we watch a Cinderella pip a Cinderella for a moment in the sun.
The race had begun with a moment of silence for Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian rider whose death in a Stage 3 crash has tinged this year’s Giro with a lingering sadness. Today he was laid to rest in his hometown of Gent, and the peloton was reminded once again of his absence as has been all too evident day after day. But once the racing began, it was his competitive spirit (and, after all, he was a professional athlete who inevitably was interested in achieving results) which was honored. Attacks and counterattacks were the order of the day as riders tried to break free on the road.
Once the breakaway finally coagulated, the eleven-strong group contained a major surprise as Christophe Le Mevel, in third place just 1:19 behind Contador’s leading time, was right there alongside Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Marco Manzano (Lampre), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas), Fabio Taborre and Carlos Alberto Betancourt (Acqua & Sapone), Simone Stortoni (Colnago), Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank), Ignatas Konovalovas (Movistar), Tiago Machado (Radio Shack) and Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky). But his presence, along with the late formation and the short distance on tap for the day, never allowed the group to really settle in and carve out much time on the main field. The breakaway never got too far beyond a two-minute lead, Saxo Bank and the other teams with GC aspirations keeping the leaders on a short leash.
Moreno broke off from the breakaway at the lower slopes of the Morrovalle, trying to earn what would be the biggest victory of his career. The Spaniard lacked not in potential, but having spent his entire career on the Movistar (formerly Caisse d’Epargne) team he has always raced in the shadow of leaders like Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde. Fragments of the group he’d just left behind fought to reintegrate on the lead, but Moreno managed to consolidate his distance even as the peloton beared down on all the eleven off the front. Konovalovas would manage to bridge the gap after the intermediate sprint, and the two would work together to the final kilometer. Their advantage would be just 11 seconds when they past under the flag noting just a thousand meters remained to the end.
But it was not to be Moreno’s day, nor would Konovalovas manage to finish off his bid all the way to the line. Moreno would accelerate with 450 meters to go, dropping the Lithuanian on the uphill finale, but behind him a Frenchman was timing his own shot at the podium perfectly. Gadret would catch Moreno within 200 meters to go, blowing past and claiming the spoils as his own…
Stage 12: Castelfidardo to Ravenna (19 May 2011/184km)
STAGE 12 RESULTS
- Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) — 4:17:25
- Davide Appollonio (Sky)
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)
- Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli)
- Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step)
- Fabio Sabatini (Liquigas)
- Manuel Belletti (Colnago)
- Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil)
- Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad)
- Manuel Antonio Leal (Radio Shack)
The sprinters were back at it on Thursday, their last opportunity to open the throttle and turn their legs into nitro boosters to propel themselves toward a shot at a win. For most, it would be our last opportunity to watch them all in this year’s race. Mark Cavendish would withdraw one more victory from the Giro before cashing out his chips, Petacchi would extend his hold on the points jersey he would concede as soon as the Dolomites sent cyclists toward the heavens – and guys like Francisco Ventoso and Davide Appollonio and Oscar Gatto and Gerald Ciolek, and all the other sprint specialists in the list of those still around, were likely to bid their early arrividerci to Italy and begin the preparation for their July bonjour.
It is one of those vagaries of a stage race. Sometimes there is enough on tap for every type of rider to keep racing through the whole three weeks worthwhile. But in the Giro, more often than not, the final seven or eight stages are reserved as the sole provenance of suffering tailor-made for the climbers and to winnow out the pretenders from the contenders in the general classification battle. Without even a final-day sprint stage in Milan (like we see annually on the Champs-Elysees in Paris to conclude the Tour), the Giro organizers deciding instead on a time trial finale for the second straight year, there was literally no incentive remaining beyond Stage 12′s battle…
AFTER 12 OF 21 STAGES:
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
2011 Giro d’Italia – Rounding the Halfway Point (Stages 10-12) is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust