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by Shane Stokes
May 19, 2014
The second big mountain stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia saw a breakaway make it all the way to the line, with Pieter Weening continuing the Orica GreenEdge team’s strong showing in the race with a victory over Davide Malacarne (Europcar), and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) retaining the Maglia Rosa of race leader.
Weening was part of the day’s big break and attacked just inside the final twenty kilometres, being joined by Malacarne and working with him towards the finish. They rode together up the final climb to Sestola and, after some cat and mouse tactics, the Dutchman was strong enough to take the sprint to the line.
Italian rider Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) raced in third, 42 seconds back, while Saturday’s stage winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) led in the Evans group one minute and eight seconds behind Weening.
Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma Quick Step) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) finished just ahead of Evans, who retains pink heading into Monday’s rest day.
“There’s a good atmosphere in the team. Everything we do now is something extra,” said Weening, referring to the superb Orica GreenEdge campaign which already saw the squad win the team time trial, lead the race with first Svein Tuft and then Michael Matthews, and also take a stage win two days earlier with Matthews.
“The pressure is completely off, and you often see that, after a good start in a Grand Tour, there’s no pressure and it works out perfect. Yesterday we knew that we couldn’t defend the Maglia Rosa any more, so we let it go and I tried to lose some time. If you’re only two minutes off the Maglia Rosa, they won’t let you go. So yesterday I backed off and tried to lose time so that I could get into breakaways. I got into my first breakaway today, and bingo!”
He said that he tried to get rid of Malacarne with seven kilometres to go but couldn’t shake the Italian off. As a result they had to sprint it out for the win and there a bit of tactics was played.
“We were far enough ahead to gamble a little bit. It’s always the best position to come off the wheel of the rider in front, so there was a little bit of gambling. [Malacarne] started to sprint quite early, but it was uphill and into a headwind. I had to go full gas to come past him, but then I was able to take the last 50m quite easy.”
The result follows on from his stage win three years ago, a victory which handed him the Maglia Rosa on that occasion.
Weening didn’t get a chance to take the jersey this time round, with Evans defending it without too much trouble.
He said that while Pozzovivo gained time, he will be watched more closely henceforth. “I’m not the only rider interested in winning the Giro d’italia who has to respond. He’ll certainly be more controlled in future. As for me, first I have to think of the General Classification, then I can think about stage finishes.
“For some teams, winning stages is what matters. For today, I’m happy to retain the Maglia Rosa, and I’ll worry about stage wins later.”
The day’s big move went after fifty kilometres of racing when Weening, Malacarne, Oscar Gatto (Cannondale), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Julien Berard (AG2R La Mondiale), David Tanner (Belkin), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani CSF), Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocatolli), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocatolli), Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Jonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Belisol) clipped away and built a lead of eight minutes.
Race leader Cadel Evans was content to let the move go but the Garmin-Sharp team decided to chase. They were later followed by Movistar and Lampre Merida in doing so, finally prompting the BMC Racing Team to work to keep things at a reasonable gap.
Monsalve was first to the top of the Sant’Antonio climb (km. 123.5) and then tried to break clear with 45 kilometres to go. He was hauled back and after Bandiera took the intermediate sprint, then Tanner led the move over the top of the day’s second categorised mountain, the Rocchetta Sandri (km. 148.4).
The chasing group crossed the summit under three and a half minutes and conscious the gap was coming down all the time, Weening attacked with nineteen kilometres remaining. He was caught by Malacarne and the duo rode well together to maintain a lead that would enable them to fight for the stage.
Inside the final five kilometres Ag2r La Mondiale’s Domenico Pozzovivo attacked the Evans group and got a gap. He moved into third place on the road but couldn’t get close enough to fight for the stage, eventually crossing the line 42 seconds behind Weening and Malacarne.
However he did gain time on Evans and the other main contenders, reaching the finish 26 seconds ahead of them and moving from tenth to fourth overall, one minute twenty seconds behind Evans.
The Australian holds a 57 second advantage over Uran and is one minute and ten seconds ahead of the third-placed rider, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff Saxo).
He now has a rest day to relax somewhat, then will knuckle down again in his bid to take the second Grand Tour victory of his career.
Evans said that time will tell who his big rivals will be. “After the first two days in the mountains, it’s too early to say who’ll be strongest at the end of the Giro d’Italia. I can only judge Quintana on the Tour de France last year, and his Giro so far.
“He hasn’t been going as strong as we expected, but I think he’ll get there. Pozzovivo and his team look very strong, and Aru, too, looks good.”