Stage profile: The GC contenders will be saving their legs in view of what’s still to come, while pretty much everyone else is just counting down the days. Except for two modest climbs, this short stage is all downhill from the Dolomites so should provide some respite for all save the sprinters. Mark Cavendish (Sky) will be looking for points to secure the red jersey, while local boy Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF) will be looking to spoil his party. The final 5km is straight and flat on well-paved roads – perfect for sprinting.
Top three: 1. Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), 2. Mark Cavendish (Sky), 3. Roberto Ferrai (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela).
Who was in the breakaway?: There were two breakaways today, one either side of the traguardo volante sprint. The first comprised Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Pier Paolo De Negri (Farnese Vini) and Angelo Pagani (Colnago-CSF), who had a lead of three minutes before the sprint teams, Sky in particular, brought them back so that Mark Cavendish could maximise his sprint points in defence of the red points jersey. That done, the second break went with Clement once again, this time in the company of Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM), Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) – the two most aggressive riders in the race – and Mickael Delage (FDJ-BigMat). They never gained more than a minute and everyone was back in the fold with just under 4km remaining.
How the stage was won: Farnese Vini’s dayglo-clad sprinter, 22-year old Andrea Guardini, was the last man on yesterday’s stage and has endured a fair bit of stick from European journalists and commentators as he dukes it out for the maglia nero [the black jersey awarded to the last-placed finisher – Ed] with Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). However, here he showed that he does have what it takes to win in the biggest races. What’s more he easily relegated the world’s fastest sprinter to second place, having launched his dive for the line well behind Cavendish, who was being led out by teammate Geraint Thomas, yet he finished more than a length clear. In third place was stage 11 winner Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli). The entire peloton finished together so the general classification is unchanged with Rodriguez still looking good in the maglia rosa ahead of two tough days in the mountains.
Quotes of the day: Grand Tour rookie Guardini said afterwards:
It’s a great day, I managed to do what I wanted. I wanted to anticipate the sprint because I had to do it if I wanted to win. I figured I should do it right now and everything went better than I anticipated.
And the understandably disappointed Cavendish admitted the speedy Italian had timed his sprint better than him and deserved to win the stage:
Pretty angry to be beaten when my team set me up like today. I was lazy & left the sprint 50m too late. @andreaguardini was FAST! Congrats.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) May 24, 2012
VeloVoices rider of the stage: Of course, it has to be today’s stage winner. Young Guardini let his legs answer the critics. By far the best way!
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) 77:47:38
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:30
3. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:22
4. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) +1:36
5. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +2:56
Points leader: Mark Cavendish (Sky).
King of the Mountains leader: Matteo Rabottini (Colnago-CSF).
Tomorrow: Stage 19 – Treviso to Alpe di Pampeago, 198km. In Treviso, the Giro will firstly pay its respects to Andrea Pinarello, the youngest of the Pinarello frame-building dynasty, who died in August last year after taking part in an amateur race. The route forces the riders to tackle four monstrous climbs one after the other in the final 75km. Each features long sections of double-digit inclines. First there is the 20km-plus ascent of the first category Passo Manghen, whose last 6km average 10.0%. After a long descent into Tesero, the peloton then completes a loop back into the town, cresting the Passo Pampeago (which opens with a 2.5km stretch of nearly 11%) and the Passo Lavaze (which features a middle 4km section of 11.8% and a 9.7% run near the summit). After passing back through Tesero, the race retraces its footsteps to finish on the Pampeago, but below the top of the pass – the last 3km averages 11.7% and will require the strongest of legs and the bravest of hearts to conquer it.
Link: Official website