A spectacular 60km course along Italy’s stunning Cinque Terre lived up to expectations Thursday as Denis Menchov (Rabobank) pulled the

Menchov roars into pink; Leipheimer improves as Giro heats up

By Andrew Hood

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Menchov moves into the overall lead.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Menchov moves into the overall lead.

Photo: Graham Watson

A spectacular 60km course along Italy’s stunning Cinque Terre lived up to expectations Thursday as Denis Menchov (Rabobank) pulled the double, winning the stage and snatching away the maglia rosa from Danilo Di Luca (LPR).

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) – who had won three time trials in three starts this season ? almost walked away with the jackpot, finishing just 20 seconds slower than Menchov and climbing into third overall at 40 seconds back.

“Twenty seconds is not a lot. Menchov was better than me today, so I have to congratulate him, but 20 seconds is hard to swallow on a course like today because I wanted to win,” Leipheimer said. “Even though we lost Horner, I am confident in our team. Lance is getting better. I think we can still win it.”

2009 Giro d’Italia

Stage 12: Cinque Terre individual time trial
60.6km (37.7 miles)
Stage winner: Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Stage winner’s average speed:38.5kph (23.9 mph)
GC leader: Menchov
Points jersey: Di Luca
Climber’s jersey: Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Team GC leader: Astana
Most aggressive for the day: Menchov
Best young rider: Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia-Highroad)
Previous stage winners/GC leaders:
Stage 1: Team Columbia-Highroad/Cavendish
Stage 2: Petacchi/Cavendish
Stage 3: Petacchi/Petacchi
Stage 4: Di Luca/Lovkvist
Stage 5: Menchov/Di Luca
Stage 6: Scarponi/Di Luca
Stage 7: Boasson Hagen/Di Luca
Stage 8: Sivtsov/Di Luca
Stage 9: Cavendish/Di Luca
Stage 10: Di Luca/Di Luca
Stage 11: Cavendish/Di Luca
Up next: Stage 13
Friday’s stage from Lido di Camaiore to Florence is a nearly flat 176km (109 miles).

Menchov ? the first Russian since Pavel Tonkov to wear the famed pink tunic — erased his 1 minute, 20 second deficit to overnight leader Di Luca on the punishing, two-climb course to win in 1 hour, 34 minutes, 29 seconds (38.482kph).

“Today was one of the decisive stages of this Giro and it’s an important step in trying to win,” said Menchov, who dedicated the victory to seriously injured teammate Pedro Horrillo. “Nothing’s decided yet. There are still a lot of hard stages to come.”

The grueling time trial course — one of the longest and most difficult seen in a grand tour in a decade — tightened up the battle for the pink jersey, with the top 3 separated by just 40 seconds.

Behind them, there are four heavy hitters – Franco Pellizotti, Carlos Sastre, Michael Rogers and Ivan Basso ? still within three minutes of Menchov with the hardest week of the Giro still ahead.

“We can expect attacks. Liquigas is perhaps the strongest team with the most interest in this race, but you cannot discount the others,” Menchov said. “Perhaps the most dangerous rider now is Di Luca. You can see how motivated he is, how he’s climbing, how he sprints for the bonuses.”

Lance Armstrong (Astana) rode well in his first major time trial since retiring in 2005.

The seven-time winner of the Tour de France demonstrated his form continues to improve, stopping the clock in 1h36:55 at 2:26 off the winning pace to climb to 12th overall at 6:34 back. He left the race without speaking to reporters.

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Garzelli set the early mark, but finished third, at 1:03.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Garzelli set the early mark, but finished third, at 1:03.

Photo: Graham Watson

Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) rode well to post an early fast time and ended up third on the stage at 1:03 slower. The 2000 Giro winner is out to defend his King of the Mountains jersey and aim for a stage victory.

Favorites duke it out
Di Luca ? who held the pink jersey since stage 5 ? did his best to defend the maglia rosa, stopping the clock at 1:54 slower than Menchov.

The 2007 Giro champion slipped to second at 34 seconds back, stayed ahead of Leipheimer and widened his gap to such rivals as Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) by more than two minutes.

“I have to be content. I gave everything to defend the maglia rosa,” said Di Luca, who rode decked out in pink head-to-toe. “Menchov was super-strong today. I said the Giro starts today. There are still a lot of stages that suit me well. I want to take back the jersey as soon as possible.”

Despite the difficulty and length of the course, huge gaps were not opened up as expected by some pundits.

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Wiggins rides to seventh, at 1:59.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Wiggins rides to seventh, at 1:59.

Photo: Graham Watson

Rogers dropped from third to sixth, now 2:59 back, but otherwise there were reshufflings among the top 10 with the leading three taking important gains.

Pellizotti, Sastre and Gilberto Simoni (now 8th at 4:38 back) all moved up, while Columbia’s Thomas Lovkivist slipped from eighth to 10th, but retained the best young rider’s jersey.

Basso and Sastre finished 11th and 12th, respectively, at 2:17 and 2:18 off the pace. Both ceded ground, but expressed satisfaction with their respective performances.

“I have to be pretty satisfied. The race is still open,” Basso said. “There are still the hardest stages ahead of us. It was a very hard time trial and the downhills weren’t good for me. Menchov was clearly the best man today with the long, hard climbs. I am taking things with tranquility right now. There are still some hard stages to attack.”

Sastre — who started this Giro with the goal of finishing on the top-3 podium ? realizes he’s still in with a shot.

“I went at my maximum and I felt pretty good. I didn’t set any real objectives, except to go all out, without thinking of any specific result,” he said. “I went full-gas on the climbs and eased back a little on the descents, because I didn’t want to take any risks. I climbed up to fifth. There are three key stages, and with the speed that we’re racing this Giro, everything is still possible.”

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Sastre rides to 12th, at 2:18.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Sastre rides to 12th, at 2:18.

Photo: Graham Watson

With Pellizotti now fourth at 2:00 back and Basso stuck in seventh at 3:00 back, one of the big questions, at least among the Italians, was who would take over the leadership for Liquigas.

“We always said from the start that Ivan and I would share the leadership of the team,” Pellizotti said. “I am demonstrating that I have some good form. It’s always the journalists who are saying there’s some sort of problem within the team. We started as equals and we will both race to win. What’s important is that someone from Liqugas wins the Giro.”

TT for the ages
The 60.6km course from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore hung to the steep cliffs along the picturesque Cinque Terre coastline on the Italian Riviera.

The course featured two major climbs, the first one 15.8km up the Passo del Bracco that came right off the bat. After a false flat, a dangerous descent carried riders to the base of the steeper, but shorter 8.8km climb up the Termine climb.

With so much climbing (1,300 meters is what Tyler Farrar’s Garmin computer revealed at the finish), it was the descents that proved trickiest.

Danny Pate took the final switchback descents a little hot and actually rode into a hospitality tent (no word if he accepted a limoncello from the cheering crowd).

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Di Luca held on to second overall.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Di Luca held on to second overall.

Photo: Graham Watson

While Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara complained about the course (only to pull out of the race Thursday without starting), most riders seemed to enjoy the test the time trial presented.

“I think it was interesting and fun to ride, obviously I didn’t have to go as hard as possible. I much prefer courses like this as opposed to dead-flat, out-and-back courses,” said Michael Barry (Columbia-Highroad). “It shows a rider’s bike-handling skills. All the abilities can be seen on a course like this, for the descents and the climbing skills, clearly. The top of the climbs, there are these false-flat things that require quite a bit of power.”

Most riders chose not to ride a time trial bike. With the heavy climbing and dangerous descents, most opted for clip-on handlebar extenders and a few opted for a time trial helmet.

“It’s not a time trial. It’s more like being in a breakaway in a road race, up down, turn, turn, turn. Very technical. There were so many hairpins on the downhills.” said Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) as he nibbled on a sandwich after the stage. “At the end, you’re so cross-eyed, you cannot think as well, that makes it that much harder. That’s what happened to me.”

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Zabriskie finishes 118th at 10:42.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Zabriskie finishes 118th at 10:42.

Photo: Graham Watson

Others used the course as an opportunity to test new equipment.

Zabriskie tried out new handlebars while David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) was one of the few to ride a full time-trial set-up, which he rode to Levanto at the base of the second climb, when he switched over to his road bike.

“I was riding the stage to test some new equipment,” he said, using the Shimano electronic shifters. “It was great because I was able to change gears and remain in the position without any problems.”

Garmin Italy had also pre-mapped the course onto the team’s computers.

“I relied on that to get the through the descent. I was able to get through the blind corners at full speed because I knew where I was going. That was hugely beneficial today,” said Millar, who stopped the clock in 31st at 5:17 back. “I was really pleased with my performance. I’ve been a month off the bike after my surgery, so I hope this means good tings for the Dauphine and Tour.”

Tomorrow’s stage
The 92nd Giro d’Italia continues Friday with the 176km 13th stage from Lido di Camaiore along the Italian Med coast to Florence. The course is almost dead flat all the way, with one third-category climb at 67km. The sprinters will be hungry for this one because it’s probably the last sprint opportunity in this Giro.

2009 Giro d'Italia - Stage 12: Menchov celebrates a big win.
2009 Giro d’Italia – Stage 12: Menchov celebrates a big win.

Photo: Graham Watson


Overall, after stage 12
1. Denis Menchov (RUS), Rabobank, 50:27:17
2. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), LPR Brakes Farnese Vini, at 0:34
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana, at 0:40
4. Franco Pellizotti (ITA), Liquigas, at 2:00
5. Carlos Sastre Candil (ESP), Cervelo TestTeam, at 2:52
6. Michael Rogers (AUS), Columbia-Highroad, at 2:59
7. Ivan Basso (ITA), Liquigas, at 3:00
8. Gilberto Simoni (ITA), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, at 4:38
9. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA), Lampre-NGC, at 5:26
10. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE), Columbia-Highroad, at 5:5

First time check. 18.6km
1. Denis Menchov in 32:36
2. Gabriele Bosisio in 32:53, at 0:17
3. Levi Leipheimer in 32:54, at 0:18
4. Michele Scarponi in 32:54, at 0:18
5. Stefano Garzelli in 32:56, at 0:20
6. Danilo Di Luca in 33:19, at 0:43
7. Franco Pellizotti in 33:20, at 0:44
8. Bradley Wiggins in 33:22, at 0:46
9. Janez Brajkovic in 33:31, at 0:55
10. Carlos Sastre Candil in 33:34, at 0:58
11. Lance Armstrong in 33:36, at 1:00
12. Marzio Bruseghin in 33:39, at 1:03
13. Ivan Basso in 33:40, at 1:04
14. Giovanni Visconti in 33:46, at 1:10
15. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez in 33:58, at 1:22
16. Kanstantsin Siutsou in 33:59, at 1:23
17. Gilberto Simoni in 34:03, at 1:27
18. Tadej Valjavec in 34:09, at 1:33
19. Marco Pinotti in 34:13, at 1:37
20. Michael Rogers in 34:13, at 1:37

Second time check 34.5km
1. Denis Menchov in 52:38
2. Stefano Garzelli in 52:50, at 0:12
3. Gabriele Bosisio in 52:51, at 0:13
4. Levi Leipheimer in 52:53, at 0:15
5. Franco Pellizotti in 53:08, at 0:30
6. Bradley Wiggins in 53:13, at 0:35
7. Janez Brajkovic in 53:18, at 0:40
8. Lance Armstrong in 53:19, at 0:41
9. Michele Scarponi in 53:23, at 0:45
10. Danilo Di Luca in 53:24, at 0:46
11. Marzio Bruseghin in 53:25, at 0:47
12. Giovanni Visconti in 53:32, at 0:54
13. Ivan Basso in 53:50, at 1:12
14. Carlos Sastre Candil in 53:54, at 1:16
15. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez in 53:57, at 1:19
16. Michael Rogers in 54:04, at 1:26
17. Edvald Boasson Hagen in 54:15, at 1:37
18. Gilberto Simoni in 54:18, at 1:40
19. Damiano Cunego in 54:22, at 1:44
20. Tadej Valjavec in 54:24, at 1:46

Third time check 44.5km
1. Denis Menchov in 1:13:53
2. Levi Leipheimer in 1:14:27, at 0:34
3. Stefano Garzelli in 1:14:57, at 1:04
4. Franco Pellizotti in 1:15:29, at 1:36
5. Janez Brajkovic in 1:15:34, at 1:41
6. Danilo Di Luca in 1:15:39, at 1:46
7. Gabriele Bosisio in 1:15:46, at 1:53
8. Bradley Wiggins in 1:15:50, at 1:57
9. Carlos Sastre Candil in 1:15:55, at 2:02
10. Michele Scarponi in 1:15:58, at 2:05
11. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez in 1:15:59, at 2:06
12. Lance Armstrong in 1:16:09, at 2:16
13. Ivan Basso in 1:16:10, at 2:17
14. Marzio Bruseghin in 1:16:13, at 2:20
15. Michael Rogers in 1:16:35, at 2:42
16. Gilberto Simoni in 1:16:52, at 2:59
17. Giovanni Visconti in 1:16:57, at 3:04
18. Marco Pinotti in 1:17:03, at 3:10
19. Tadej Valjavec in 1:17:04, at 3:11
20. Kanstantsin Siutsou in 1:17:18, at 3:25

Finish, 60.9km
1. Denis Menchov (RUS), Rabobank, 60.6km in 1:34:29 (38.482kph)
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana, at 0:20
3. Stefano Garzelli (ITA), Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 1:03
4. Janez Brajkovic (SLO), Astana, at 1:14
5. Franco Pellizotti (ITA), Liquigas, at 1:27
6. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), LPR Brakes Farnese Vini, at 1:54
7. Bradley Wiggins (GBR), Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:59
8. Gabriele Bosisio (ITA), LPR Brakes Farnese Vini, at 2:04
9. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (COL), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, at 2:13
10. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA), Lampre-NGC, at 2:17
11. Ivan Basso (ITA), Liquigas, at 2:17
12. Carlos Sastre Candil (ESP), Cervelo TestTeam, at 2:18
13. Lance Armstrong (USA), Astana, at 2:26
14. Michael Rogers (AUS), Columbia-Highroad, at 2:46
15. Giovanni Visconti (ITA), ISD-Neri, at 2:48
16. Michele Scarponi (ITA), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, at 2:53
17. Gilberto Simoni (ITA), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli, at 3:00
18. Marco Pinotti (ITA), Columbia-Highroad, at 3:27
19. Tadej Valjavec (SLO), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 3:35
20. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR), Columbia-Highroad, at 3:54

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 12 results

GC standings | Click for TOP

Best young rider standings | Click for TOP

Points standings | Click for TOP

KOM | Click for TOP

Team GC standings | Click for TOP