High drama in the high mountains today as stage 4 of the 2009 Giro came down to a mountain top sprint finish with Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) coming out on top to make it three stage wins in a row for his team.
As expected though his team mate Alessandro Petacchi who went in to today's stage in the maglia rosa won't be wearing it tonight, that honour goes to Thomas Lovkvist of Team Columbia who finished 7th.
At one point it looked like Jens Voigt (Team Saxo Bank) would win in what would have been an epic break. Going on to the final climb Voigt and Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) still clear of the main field the surviving members of what had been a five man break . With 7Km to go the German rider attacked and he still had 1:15s on the chasing pack as the road steepened for the final climb up to San Martino di Castrozza. But the chasers were not to be denied and Liquigas pushed on with high hopes of either Ivan Basso or Franco Pellizotti taking the stage and moving up the General Classification.Voigt was duly caught with 2Km to go.
There then followed a kilometre in which the contenders sized each other up for what looked likely to be a sprint finish before Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) suddenly attacked as the race entered its final kilometre and the slope steepened to 6.3 per cent.
It looked like the former Tour de France King of the Mountains would do it again but Di Luca and a bunch of chasers dug deep – the LPR rider delivering his trademark viscious acceleration to burn his rival off as they caught and passed Soler with just 100m to go to the line. Di Luca now sits in second place on the general classification and is certainly a contender to take the overall – having done it in 2007 he certainly knows what it takes to win the Giro.
The final ascent also looked to brought a little reality to any assessment of Lance Armstrong's chances of taking his first Giro win after three years on the sidelines and a recently broken collarbone. Handily placed all day he slipped back on the final climb and his team mate Levi Leipheimer no sits in 5th place on the general classification with Armstrong in 6th.
Over night leader Alessandro Petacchi was dropped as soon as things started going up hill and was already more than 10 minutes back by the time leaders approached the final climb, Mark Cavendish too suffered on the climbs.
The Giro has some bigger mountains in store for tomorrow.
Top 10 Giro Stage 4
1 Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini)
2 Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo)
3 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
4 Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
5 Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)
6 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
7 Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad)
8 Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
9 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
10 David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne)
11 Yaroslav Popovych (Astana)
12 Christopher Horner (Astana)
13 Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)
14 Damiano Cunego (Lampre - N.G.C.)
Giro 2009 Top 10 General classification after stage 4
1 Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad)
2 Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini)
3 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Astana)
5 Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
6 Lance Armstrong (Astana)
7 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
8 Damiano Cunego (Lampre - N.G.C.)
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - N.G.C.)
10 Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team)
11 Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
12 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Team Columbia - Highroad)
13 Christopher Horner (Astana)
14 Félix Cardenas (Barloworld)
15 Thomas Rohregger (Team Milram)
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