Giro’08 St.3: Battling Bennati Beats Bruised Bunch!
Today was billed as one of the few days for the sprinters and it didn’t disappoint! Names like McEwen, Cavendish and Zabel where the bookmaker’s choice for the win, Daniele Bennati wasn’t on the tip of many people’s tongues, but he showed the sprint specialist what it was all about on a day that staying upright was the hardest thing to do!
After yesterday’s up-hill finish today is more for the sprinters, the stage starts in Catania under the shadow of the volcanic Mount Etna, one small climb, the Maletto at 53 kilometers shouldn’t cause any problems. Then after 221 kilometers to the sea-side port of Milazzo, the finish has a sharp right hand hair-pin bend out on the harbor to come back on its self for a fast sprint finish, according to RAI TV the stage is perfect for the talents of Robbie McEwen, asked this morning (in English) “how his day would be?” He answered (in Italian) that “he would be taking his chance at the sprint and the stage would be dedicated the new-born son of the missing sprinter, Alessandro Petacchi”.
Mouthy is a word one might use to describe Signor Ricco.
Unluckiest rider yesterday, David Zabriskie (Slipstream), has cracked a vertebrae and went from equal on time with the Pink jersey to a hospital bed, also ex-world champ, Igor Astarloa (Milram) didn’t finish the stage. Stage winner Ricardo Ricco has become more unbearable telling anyone who would listen how well his condition is and how pleased he was to beat Di Luca. The Pink Jersey wearing Franco Pellizotti was also very pleased this morning and didn’t think he would lose his lead today, nice pink sunglasses too!
Pellizotti had a smooth day in the Maglia Rosa.
An early group of six riders managed to get away from a lackadaisical bunch that didn’t seem too bothered; the main group was being lead by the team of Pelizotti, Liquigas, closely watched by LPR and Dani Di Luca. As the riders wound their way down the twisting road to the coast, Italian television where more interested in showing us the fresh fish produce at the local harbor market, finding out who the six leaders are and what the gap is, maybe would be nice, instead of the up to date price of tuna, but well you have to take in the sights I guess!
The six escapees consisted of Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis), Riccardo Chiarini (LPR), Jeremy Roy (FdJ), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick-Step), Matej Jurco (Milram) and Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), they managed a gap of around 4 minutes and had been away from around the 60 kilometer mark when they were dropping down from the climb of the day, the Maletto (3rd Cat).
Nobody looked too concerned at today’s start…
Swedish and British National Champions, Backstedt and Millar could be seen near the front as the cameras watched Alberto Contador (Astana) work his way back to the back of the peleton after some treatment to his hand, without any problems, he looks good and maybe he will be riding himself into race form as only last week he didn’t think he would be riding a Grand Tour and was having dental surgery.
The bunch roll along without much of a care in the world, going back to the team cars etc. the stage will take the usual pattern of the speed lifting when the sprinters can smell the finish line and that will be the end of the day for our brave, but possibly foolhardy, six leaders. Paolo Bettini fancies his chances in a sprint, he says “things are different without Alessandro Petacchi and we will have to see what will happen with the lead out, it could be good for Bettini”, it’s always strange when people talk about themselves in the third person! With 70 kilometers to the finish he is sat at the back talking to Italian National Champion, Giovanni Visconti as a few drops of rain start to fall and so do half the bunch, riders everywhere, Ricco looks to have hurt his hand and is being pushed by two team-mates, a Silence-Lotto rider was slow to get up as was one of the High Road riders, all others got back to the fold safely.
Through the sprint at Messina the leaders had 2 minutes 56 seconds in hand as nine of the fallen riders, including Ricco with the ass hanging out of his shorts, three of his team mates and Mark Cavendish, the British sprinter from High Road, are fighting their way back. At the head of the bunch; Liquigas are now being helped by CSC and Barloworld as the crash victims regain the tail, Ricco has badly cut his left hand and hip, but the points leader is safe. It looks like a Quick-Step rider is to blame for the big crash, he threw his bottle away, but it bounced back into the riders and that’s what the first rider hit and brought down the others.
The Run-in to the Finish
The six riders up the road looked to have had their day, on a little climb with 50 kilometers to the finish in Milazzo, they were only one and a half minutes ahead, Paolo Bettini was still at the back discussing the weather conditions with one of his team riders, Andrea Tonti, it looked like the sun was going to come out again for the sprint.
Poor Bradley McGee’s ever improving form came to a crashing end today with a broken collarbone.
The sprinters teams have started to move forward, Lampre (Bruseghin), Silence-Lotto (McEwen), High Road (Cavendish) and Milram (Zabel). 30 kilometers to go and the bunch can see the front runners, but they all knew it would come together before the finish and things have a habit of doing this in the Giro and it was all together at the 25 kilometer to go banner. Another crash with Backstedt (Slipstream), Brown (Rabobank) and worst off Brady McGee (CSC), the crash was caused by a Tinkoff rider missing a corner and ending up in the road, broken collar bone for McGee and a trip to the hospital.
The Last 10 Kilometers
High Road are the team who want to take control along with Tinkoff, Barloworld and Liquigas, Quick-Step send Andrea Tonti up the road, but he gains only a hand full of meters and acts as a rabbit for the hounds for a short distance. Toni Colom of Astana is next to waste his energy on a late escape on a little rise, then Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) manages a 6 second gap, but not for long as the bunch is now lifting the pace to stop anyone getting any ideas.
As things started to get nasty Danilo Hondo was bumping and pushing his way to the front, but Zabel had other ideas as he and Daniele Bennati hit the front, they were going too fast for anyone to get near them, Bennati was on the front and the “Old Man” Zabel didn’t have the speed to get round him. The other favorites were no where to be seen.
A great win from the tall Italian, but it was a day marred by crashes as Brown and Petrov both came down in the last meters. Ricco finished, but was not as talkative as yesterday, as Ed Hood would say “he had a face like a weel skelped airse!” The overall stays the same and it looks like Liquigas don’t miss the “Killer.”
Tomorrow’s fourth stage is back on the Italian mainland and is from Pizzo Calabro to Catanzaro Lungomare, which is 183 kilometers of undulating roads with one climb early on. Stay with PEZ for all the excitement!
Stage 3 Result:
1 BENNATI Daniele ITA LIQ in 5:37:01
2 ZABEL Erik GER MRM all at same time.
3 HONDO Danilo GER SDA
4 FOTHEN Thomas GER GST
5 LODDO Alberto ITA TCS
6 FERNANDEZ Koldo ESP EUS
7 DALL’ANTONIA Tiziano ITA CSF
8 PEREZ ARANGO Marlon A. COL GCE
9 CAVENDISH Mark GBR THR
10 GATTO Oscar ITA GST
11 PAGLIARINI Luciano BRA SDV
12 FORSTER Robert GER GST
13 HUTAROVICH Yauheni BLR FDJ
14 SEROV Alexander RUS TCS
15 CHEREL Mikael FRA FDJ
16 HAYMAN Mathew AUS RAB
17 JEGOU Lilian FRA FDJ
18 HESJEDAL Ryder CAN TSL
19 LEVARLET Guillaume FRA FDJ
20 PASAMONTES Luis ESP GCE
Overall After Stage 3:
1 PELLIZOTTI Franco ITA LIQ in 11:52:17
2 VANDEVELDE Christian USA TSL at 0:01
3 DI LUCA Danilo ITA LPR at 0:07
4 POSSONI Morris ITA THR at 0:08
5 NIBALI Vincenzo ITA LIQ at 0:08
6 SORENSEN Nicki DEN CSC at 0:17
7 SIUTSOU Kanstantsin BLR THR at 0:18
8 SAVOLDELLI Paolo ITA LPR at 0:19
9 NOE’ Andrea ITA LIQ at 0:22
10 GASPAROTTO Enrico ITA BAR at 0:25
11 BELLOTTI Francesco ITA BAR at 0:25
12 LARSSON Gustav Erik SWE CSC at 0:28
13 KLODEN Andreas GER AST at 0:28
14 PFANNBERGER Christian AUT BAR at 0:28
15 PINOTTI Marco ITA THR at 0:29
16 CONTADOR Alberto ESP AST at 0:30
17 BENNATI Daniele ITA LIQ at 0:32
18 RICCO’ Riccardo ITA SDV at 0:33
19 MIHOLJEVIC Vladimir CRO LIQ at 0:36
20 REBELLIN Davide ITA GST at 0:37