Vasil Kiryienka of Movistar this afternoon won the second Giro d'Italia stage of his career, pointing skywards as he crossed the line in tribute to his late team mate Xavier Tondo, killed in an accident at home last Monday. Kiryienka had attacked from the front of a 13-man breakaway group ahead of the Colle delle Finestre and increasing his lead on the climb up to Sestriere. Jose Rujano of Androni Giocattoli, winner here the last time the Giro tackled those two ascents in 2005, was second, nearly five minutes behind the Belarus rider, with Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha finishing third and moving to fifth in the general classification. Alberto Contador has a 5 minute 18 second lead over Michele Scarponi and is set to take his second Giro overall win in Milan tomorrow.
Assuming he suffers no catastrophe tomorrow, Contador has already secured the points jersey, although Scarponi, a distant second to the Spaniard, will sport it in tomorrow’s individual time trial. Stefano Garzelli of Acqua & Sapone, meanwhile, winner of the overall title in 2000, is set to win the green jersey for the mountains classification.
Roman Kreuziger of Astana still wears the white jersey as best young rider, but had to dig deep today to limit his losses to his closest challenger, Steven Kruijswijk of Rabobank.
On a day when the top four places in the general classification remained unaltered, there was a shuffling of the order elsewhere in the top ten, with the big loser being Kanstantsin Sivstov of HTC-Highroad, who dropped from fifth to eleventh in the overall standings.
Despite today’s itinerary featuring two big climbs, race organisers threw in 200km of pretty flat riding first, making this the second longest stage of the 2011 Giro, beaten only by the 244km Stage 2 from Alba to Parma.
Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Sebastian Lang, who during that stage had taken the first intermediate sprint of this year’s race in Salsomaggiore Terme, also took the final one as the race passed through the outskirts of Turin, where the 94th edition of the Giro d’Italia had started three weeks ago.
Today, the German, who on Stage 2 had spent more than 200km on his own ahead of the race, had a dozen other riders for company as he led the escape group through that sprint point with a little under 100km still to ride.
With two exceptions – Kiryienka and Acqua & Sapone rider Carlos Betancourt, who would finish fourth today – the members of that breakaway were swallowed up by the main bunch one by one as the race headed up the Colle delle Finestre.
There, no fewer than 45 hairpin bends lay in wait for the 159 riders left in this year’s race, with Liquigas-Cannondale setting the pace at the front of the group containing the main overall contenders including their team leader Vincenzo Nibali, third overall.
For the final 8km of that climb, the asphalt road surface gave way to gravel. The last time the Giro headed up here on the way to Sestriere was in 2005, when Paolo Salvodelli just held on to help seal his overall win.
Just as he had done on that penultimate stage of the 2005 race, Rujano, then with Selle Italia Colombia, attacked off the front of the general classification group. Today, only two men were ahead of him – Betancourt, and Kiryienka, the latter cheered on by huge crowds as he crested the summit of the Colle delle Finestre alone.
Approaching the top of the climb, Nibali lost contact with the group containing both the riders ahead of him in the overall standings, Contador and Scarponi. The best descender in this year’s race, the Sicilian managed to rejoin them on the way back down from the summit, although he refrained from attacking again as the road continued to head downhill, saving his strength for the ascent to Sestriere.
On that final climb, Rodriguez attacked to move from eighth to fifth in the general classification, while both Nibali and his former team mate Kreuziger held on grimly to try and lose as little time as possible to their respective rivals.
Just one stage remains of the 2011 Giro, tomorrow’s individual time trial in Milan, which follows a shortened course of 23km from the Milan Fiera international trade fair area at Rho-Pero to Piazza Duomo in front of the city’s cathedral.
Giro d’Italia Stage 20 result 1 KIRYIENKA Vasili Movistar 6:17:03 2 RUJANO Jose Androni Giocattoli 4:43 3 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 4:50 4 BETANCOURT Carlos Acqua & Sapone 5:31 5 GADRET John AG2R 5:54 6 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 5:58 7 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 5:58 8 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 5:58 9 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 5:58 10 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 6:16 11 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale 6:20 12 DUPONT Hubert AG2R 7:17 13 BRAMBILLA Gianluca Colnago CSF-Inox 7:53 14 SAMOILAU Branislau Movistar 8:44 15 TSCHOPP Johann BMC Racing 8:44 16 JUFRE Josep Astana 8:46 17 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 8:47 18 SASTRE Carlos Geox-TMC 8:47 19 STETINA Peter Garmin-Cervelo 9:29 20 DE GREEF Francis Omega Pharma-Lotto 9:30 Giro d’Italia Overall Standings after Stage 20 1 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-Sungard 83:34:25 2 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 5:18 3 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale 6:14 4 GADRET John AG2R 7:49 5 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 9:27 6 RUJANO Jose Androni Giocattoli 10:23 7 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 10:38 8 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 10:51 9 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 12:56 10 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 12:57
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.