(Photo: Roberto Bettini)
Australian Simon Gerrans of Cervelo sprinted clear on the brutal final 2km climb to claim victory in the 14th stage of the Tour of Italy over 172km from Campi Bisenzio to Bologna on Saturday. Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank maintained his overall lead with a 34sec advantage over 2007 winner Danilo Di Luca.
With a short but devilish final climb it was never likely that the overall contenders would make significant inroads into each other's times but there was enough of a sting in the stage's tail that both Levi Leipheimer and Ivan Basso lost three seconds on their main rivals. Apart from that late dash, which saw the group of the pink jersey wearer come in a minute behind Gerrans, this was a fairly tranquil day for the overall race contenders.
Instead the major drama and action came in the breakaway group. With five climbs the stage always looked suitable to a breakaway and a dozen riders escaped early on. They stretched out a lead of around 4min 30sec at one point but crucially kept their lead at around 2min by the time they reached the final climb. That gave the leaders enough of a gap to the peloton to ensure that one of them would claim the victory. ISD's Andriy Grivko was the first to have a go but he came to a virtual stop on the final climb and Gerrans swept past him with Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome in tow.
They looked to be pushing clear together until Froome, who appeared to be pushing a gear that was too high, hit the wall on a climb that had sections with gradients of 16-20 percent. Gerrans then rode off into the distance to win by 12sec from Italian Rubens Bertaglioti of Diquigiovanni. Lampre's Francesco Gavazzi was third, 18sec behind. When the rapidly dwindling peloton arrived it was led by Italian Franco Pellizotti of the Liquigas team. And it was his burst that saw team-mate Basso, seventh overall, and third-placed Leipheimer of Astana lose a few seconds. Pellizotti remains fourth with Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre fifth.
Stage 14 Results:
1.Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervelo Test Team 4.16.48 (40.186 km/h)
2 .Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 0.12
3. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C. 0.18
4. Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Team Katusha 0.24
5. Philip Deignan (Irl) Cervelo Test Team 0.27
6. Christopher Froome (GBr) Barloworld 0.36
7. Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne 0.41
8. Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step 1.01
9. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) ISD 1.04
10. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
Overall after Stage 14:
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 58.33.53
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini 0.34
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0.43
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 2.00
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 2.52
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas 3.03
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 3.05
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli 5.17
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C. 5.26
10 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 6.01
11 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad 6.26
12 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale 6.54
13 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo 7.15
14 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 7.28
15 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana 8.00