Roberto Ferrari of Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, the man whose sudden change of direction led to Mark Cavendish crashing in Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia in the Danish town of Horsens last week, today outsprinted the world champion to put paid to his hopes of winning in the Tuscan town of Montecatini Terme, close to the Team Sky rider's Italian home in Quarrata. Cavendish finished fourth, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Francesco Chicchi second and Orica GreenEdge's Thomas Vaitkus third. The Team Sky rider has the consolation of moving into the lead of the points classification, with Matt Goss not figuring in the finale. Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez retains the race leader's maglia rosa.
Cavendish had said ahead of today’s stage – at 258km the longest of this year’s race – that the final climb, on the early part of a 14.5km closing loop starting at what would later be the finish line in Montecatini, would prove tough after more than 250km in the saddle, and a hard day was made even tougher by strong headwinds that saw the time schedule fall well behind the slowest of the three predicted by organisers as the race headed from Umbria into 'Chiantishire.'
A dangerous group had formed on that climb, including Movistar’s Italian champion Giovanni Visconti who also lives nearby, and who was joined by riders such as Roman Kreuziger of Astana, defending champion Michele Scarponi of Lampre-ISD and two-time Giro d’Italia winner, Liquigas-Cannondale’s Ivan Basso. One big name missing was Frank Schleck of RadioShack Nissan, who lost three quarters of a minute to his rivals today.
Frank Schleck signs on for a bad day at work (Gian Mattia D'Alberto - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
Alert to the danger posed by that group, Team Sky, who besides Cavendish had three other riders very familiar with the roads in the closing part of today’s stage – Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard, all of whom, like the world champion, attended the British Cycling Olympic Academy in nearby Quarrata – chased hard and brought the race back together.
Last time a Giro stage finished in Montecatini, in 2003, Mario Cipollini broke Alfredo Binda’s record of Giro d’Italia stage wins, taking his 42nd victory in the race. On that day, the Tuscan rider had worn the rainbow jersey, but the current world champion proved unable to repeat that feat for what would have been his own tenth Giro d’Italia individual stage win.
In a twisting finale, he had looked well placed and was out of trouble as for the second time in three days another crash took place towards the front of the bunch on the final bend. He had nothing left to kick for the line, however, and afterwards acknowledged that Ferrari had executed “a good sprint today.”
After that Stage 3 crash in Denmark, some had said that Ferrari should have been disqualified from the race rather than simply being relegated from the stage results, but as Cavendish pointed out after today’s stage, it wasn’t the Italian himself who had made that decision that allowed him to remain in the race.
Cavendish back in the maglia rossa (Fabio Ferrari - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
The opening kilometres of today’s stage, which began in Assisi, were reportedly neutralised by race organisers after three Garmin-Barracuda riders managed to get clear at a level crossing, although the exact circumstances, including whether the crossing was open or closed, aren’t clear as yet; riding through a closed level crossing can lead to relegation from the stage standings or even disqualification from the race.
Neither the distance of the stage nor the headwind deterred a group of five escapees from jumping clear once racing resumed, including Lotto-Belisol’s giant Belgian, Olivier Kaisen, who was joined by Stefan Denifl of Vacansoleil-DCM, Saxo Bank’s Manuele Boaro, Mickaël Delage from FDJ-BigMat and the Euskaltel rider, Adrian Saez.
Stage 11 break Jeremy Hunt drives peloton on (Daniele Badolato - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
The escapees were never allowed to build too much of an advantage, however, with Team Sky and Jeremy Hunt in particular working hard to keep their lead in check, and as he had done yesterday, Cavendish also picked up the final point at the day's intermediate sprint to move within two points of Goss in the points classification. By the evening, he would be leading it.
Jeremy Hunt drives peloton on (Daniele Badolato - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
Shortly after that early preview of the finish line 14.5km from the end of the stage, the final member of the break to stay out, Boaro, was swept up at the beginning of the final climb.Lotto-Belisol’s Dennis Vanendert and Vacansoleil-DCM’s Mirko Selvaggi tried to get away on that climb, but were soon overhauled by the Visconti group.
Once the peloton was back together, BMC Racing’s Alessandro Ballan tried to get away with 2km left but was immediately brought back. Approaching the flamme rouge, Visconti came to the front again, this time acting as leadout to Francisco Ventoso, but the stage seemed set for Cavendish to take his third victory of this year’s race until Ferrari burst clear to take the win.
First day for Rodriguez in maglia rosa... (Gian Mattia D'Alberto - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
... and a rather younger wearer (Gian Mattia D'Alberto - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
Scarponi gets the #salvaiciclisti message across (Gian Mattia D'Alberto - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
... as does Italian champ Visconti (Gian Mattia D'Alberto - LaPresse - RCS Sport)
Giro d’Italia Stage 11 result 1 FERRARI Roberto AND 6:49:05 2 CHICCHI Francesco OPQ all at same time 3 VAITKUS Tomas OGE 4 CAVENDISH Mark SKY 5 BELLETTI Manuel ALM 6 NIZZOLO Giacomo RNT 7 SCHORN Daniel APP 8 DEMARE Arnaud FDJ 9 WYSS Danilo BMC 10 SOUPE Geoffrey FDJ 11 SABATINI Fabio LIQ 12 MAES Nikolas OPQ 13 THOMAS Geraint SKY 14 FELLINE Fabio AND 15 MEIER Christian OGE 16 RENSHAW Mark RAB 17 SELVAGGI Mirko VCD 18 BAK Lars Ytting LTB 19 VERMOTE Julien OPQ 20 SEELDRAYERS Kevin AST Overall standings after Stage 11 1 Joaquin RODRIGUEZ KAT 47:16:39 2 Ryder HESJEDAL GRM 17 3 Paolo TIRALONGO AST 32 4 Roman KREUZIGER AST 52 5 Benat INTXAUSTI MOV 52 6 Ivan BASSO LIQ 57 7 Damiano CARUSO LIQ 1:02 8 Dario CATALDO OPQ 1:03 9 Eros CAPECCHI LIQ 1:09 10 Rigoberto URAN SKY 1:10
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.