A fast day at the Giro resulted in another home win as Michele Scarponi took the sprint for victory at the end of the 182Km run from Sulmona to Benevento. Today's stage started with a 2nd cat climb but thereafter it was pretty much all downhill to the finish.
If ever there was a day for escapes this was it and the bunch finished almost 4 minutes down on the winner having given up the chase on the 25 strong break with around 14Km to go. From there on it was a case of ever smaller breaks from the main one as the 25: (Popovych and Zeits (Astana), Bak and McCartney (Saxo Bank), Pate and Dean (Garmin), Bosisio (LPR), Scarponi (Diquigiovanni), Siutsou and Lovkvist (Columbia), Petrov (Katusha), Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Masciarelli (Acqua e Sapone), Cardenas (Barloworld), Voeckler (Bouygues), Deignan (Cervelo), Visconti, Grabovskyy (ISD), Gavazzi (Lampre) , Quinziato (Liquigas), Devenyns and Seeldrayers (Quick Step), Bertolini (Diquigiovanni), Ljungblad (Silence-Lotto), Vorganov (Xacobeo Galicia) became eight, then three, and finally one as Scarponi launched himself for the line ahead of Felix Gardenas (Barloworld) and Danny Pate (Garmin Slipstream).
In the race for the general classification Denis Menchov held on to the Maglia Rosa for another day and as we close on Sunday's finish his grip becomes tighter. All the big players finished toghether which with time running out did for most of them's chances of taking the overall. From here on in the likes of Sastre, Pellizotti and Basso are fighting it out for a place on the podium, but they can forget about the top step.
Today underlined, if any underlining was necessary that Danilo Di Luca is the only real threat to Menchov's chances and Di Luca is running out of options. The final time trial favours the Russian so tomorrow's lumpy stage along the Amalfi coast culminating in a 8.2 per cent average climb up Vesuvius is taking on make or break proportions for the Italian. In the Italian's favour though the penultimate stage from Naples to Anagni 203Km of relative flat with a sharp upward kick just before the finish could have been made for him.
Top 10 Giro d'Italia Stage 18
1) Michele Scarponi (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) 4.07.41 (44.088 km/h)
2) Félix Cardenas (Barloworld)
3) Danny Pate (Garmin - Slipstream)
4) Lars Ytting Bak (Team Saxo Bank)
5) Dmytro Grabovskyy (ISD) 0.06
6) Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) 0.20
7) Jason McCartney (Team Saxo Bank) 0.24
8) Giovanni Visconti (ISD) 0.37
9) Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) 0.39
10) Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) 0.42 0.42 Top 10 Giro General Classification after Stage 18 1) Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 76.36.05
2) Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) 0.26
3) Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) 2.00
4) Ivan Basso (Liquigas) 3.28
5) Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team) 3.30
6) Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 4.32
7) Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad) 7.05
8) Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo) 8.04 9) Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) 9.58
10) Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - N.G.C.) 10.33
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.