The Giro d’Italia waved a sunny goodbye today to Belgium and heads back to its namesake, but not before a little matter of 193 Wallonian kilometers are contested by what’s left of the peloton. The group was thankful to see the sun, but sad to chalk up a few more abandons before the start, most noticeable was Allesandro Petacchi, who suffered a broken kneecap in a fall with Christophe Brandt in the closing kilometers of yesterday’s wet stage. Brandt was also forced to withdraw, suffering a broken elbow in the same spill.
Stage 4 – Tuesday, May 9: Wanze – Hotton, 193 km
The race indeed heads back to Italian soil tomorrow, but only after paying homage for 4 days to the Belgian region where so many Italians sought refuge and work after the second World War. It’s clearly a special connection and a special bond between native Italians, transplants, and of course, the race itself.
In today’s affair, it could have been anyone’s game being a hilly profile. But the flat closing kms set good odds it would come back together before the end. The dynamic of the sprinting game slightly changed now, with Milram leaderless. How did it all go down?
It was a scant 10k before the first group got away, a quintet featuring Sandy Casar (FranГ§aise des Jeux), Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas), Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step-Innergetic), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), and Alessandro Bertolini (Selle Italia). Selle Italia has done well in each of the stages of the Giro so far, placing a rider in each big break of each day! Well done.
The Davitamon-Lotto team has emerged from the doldrums of a poor Spring into a bunch-sprint-guaranteeing machine. The six-man break was no match for the D-L train.
The breakaway motored hard, gaining over 6 minutes on the peloton, most likely in fear of the Davitamon-Lotto team, shepherding the now fastest man in the race – Robbie McEwen – to what could be his second stage win of this Giro. Another McEwen win would set the team up rather nice before the Team Time Trial. But inside of 30K the group had whittled the lead down to a wee bit over a minute and the break seemed doomed as the group, driven by Gerolsteiner and Davitamon-Lotto, bore down upon them. Schumacher must be enjoying his day in Pink!
At 20K to go, the front of the group became a little more flavored, with the likes of some Credit Agricole, Saunier Duval-Prodir, and T-Mobile assisting in the chase and positioning themselves and their sprinters for the finale. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Milram nosed up front too, perhaps trying to set something up for perennial lead out man Ongaratoor or maybe Lorenzetto.
The valiant break was swallowed up inside of 15K, and the fireworks began while sprinters teams muscled for position up front. All the usual suspect teams took some turns and showed some faces up front, the usual jostling going about. With 5K to go, the ever popular Jens Voigt launched a suicidal attack. I guess we’ve come to expect hard efforts from the German, and today was no different.
Once again, appearing out of nowhere inside of 100 meters, Robbie McEwen emerged from the chaos to win easily. Ale-Jet is broken and headed home – there’s no stopping Robbie Mac now…except a whole bunch of mountains.
Alas, Voigt was contained by 4K, and Quick Step, Milram, and little man Robbie McEwen were all at the front. Robbie looked set again to spoil everyone else’s party. Another doomed attack, this time Rik Verbrugghe, was thwarted. Inside of 1K it was business as usual. McEwen lurking, Bettini wise to grab his wheel.
As the group saw the line, McEwen found daylight and powered past the rest for a second stage win in this 2006 Giro. And Paolo Bettini is still looking for his first win, taking second to the Davitamon-Lotto rider.
Results Giro06 Stage 4
1. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 4.38.51
2. Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic
3. Alberto Loddo (Ita) Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni
4. Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
5. Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team
6. Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Team Milram
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux
8. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance
GC after stage 4
1. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
2. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.13
3. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.23
4. Jose Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 0.29
5.Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.31