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Dutch Giro stages give overall favorites some setbacks

Two days of Dutch carnage has ripped a hole into the GC at the 2010 Giro d’Italia and struck fear into any rider looking ahead to these same roads across Holland this summer for the Tour de France.

Monday’s long and windy stage to Middelburg saw a repeat of Sunday’s crash derby, but with more serious implications for the battle for the pink jersey when the Giro ends May 30 in Verona.

The Giro is just getting started, but several big-time names lost so much time that the already-thin list of GC candidates was reduced to a half-dozen contenders who’ve survived the harrowing opening three stages across Holland.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions) was the top casualty, crashing out of the Giro for the second year in a row with a likely broken collarbone in Monday’s nervous, windy and stressful 210km run from Amsterdam to Middelburg in the Giro’s third stage.

Some GC favorites and their time losses in the first three days:

  • Ivan Basso (ITA) Liquigas Doimo 14th at 0:18
  • Carlos Sastre  (ESP) Cervélo TestTeam 43rd at 1:40
  • Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre-Farnese Vini 50th at 2:07
  • Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Team Sky 55th at 4:28
  • Daniel Moreno Fernandez (ESP) Omega Pharma-Lotto 97th at 8:56
  • Gilberto Simoni (ITA) Lampre-Farnese Vini 135th at 9:24
  • Marzio Bruseghin (ITA) Caisse D’Epargne 152th at 9:41

(Complete Stage 3 results)

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) took the third leader’s jersey in as many stages after overnight leader Cadel Evans (BMC) was caught up behind a crash involving Wiggins.

“The goal was to be at the front all day. I had great help from the team today and to take the pink jersey is a big honor,” Vinokourov said briefly before heading to catch a flight to Italy. “To tell the truth, I am not sure how strong I am going in this Giro. I will have a better idea after the team time trial. With the jersey, we will be able to go last, which will be a big advantage.”

Despite a valiant chase, Evans lost 46 seconds and tumbled to 24th at 43 seconds back.

“With 10km to go, I had done everything right, I put myself everywhere (to be safe) and was relaxed and there was no wind,” Evans explained. “Then, I came around a corner and the whole Sky team was on the ground. Guys were falling on top of me. Losing 40-some seconds to my competitors isn’t something I wanted to give up.”

Carlos Sastre (Cervélo), the 2008 Tour champion, who came to the Giro with ambitions for overall victory, was feeling the effects of his crash in Sunday’s stage and couldn’t take pulls when he was gapped behind the same Wiggins crash as Evans.

Millar escape
Millar, here in stage 3, could be well positioned after the TTT

“I was really feeling some pain in my back and right leg in the final 40km as a consequence of my crash yesterday. Even though I wanted to take pulls, the truth is it was impossible,” Sastre said. “Luckily, I had two teammates with me who pulled to the maximum and helped me not lose even more time. Tomorrow we have a rest day so I hope I can recover from these blows.”

Of course, in racing, one man’s loss is another’s gain.

Joining Vinokourov near the top of the leaderboard is the Liquigas pair of Vicenzo Nibali (4th at 5 seconds back) and Ivan Basso (14th at 18 seconds back). Nibali was called by one journalist “this year’s Alberto Contador,” alluding to Nibali’s last-minute addition to replace Franco Pellizotti.

Giro d’Italia 2000 champion Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) has ridden well to slot into ninth at 15 seconds back while the enigmatic Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) is 12th at 17 seconds back. Another rider quietly in good position is Michele Scarponi (Androni) at 11th at 16 seconds back.

Wednesday’s team time trial should help riders like Evans or Sastre regain some time and could put Millar or Nibali into the pink.

Regardless of their place on GC, riders were keen to return to Italian roads and put Holland in the rear-view mirror. Or at least until July.

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