Cofidis' Damien Monier wins an uphill pursuit to take stage 17; GC leaders finish nearly 10 minutes behind the winning breakaway.

Monier celebrates
Monier celebrates

French rider Damien Monier (Cofidis) won his first race as a professional after out-foxing a 19-man breakaway in Wednesday’s 173km, 17th stage from Brunico to a summit finish at Pejo Terme of the 2010 Giro d’Italia.

Monier dropped two others from the break who pulled clear late and rode like a veteran to claim France’s second stage win of this Giro.

“My first victory, it’s extraordinary!” said Monier, who turned professional six years ago. “I still don’t believe it, it’s a dream. I felt good at the start of the stage but it was really tough at the end.”

Race leader David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) and his GC rivals Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Cadel Evans (BMC) finished nearly 10 minutes behind the stage winner. There were no major changes to the top of the overall standings as the Giro took a collective breather following last weekend’s fireworks and the looming battle in the Alps.

Monier sneaks away from break
An early break of a dozen riders was away for almost 10km, but built a gap of less than two minutes and was reeled in before the stage’s 30km mark. The break contained Katusha’s Mikhael Ignatiev, Cervelo’s Ted King and Saxo Bank’s Sebastian Haedo.

A larger break got away at about the 50km mark and was more palatable to the main field and Arroyo’s Caisse d’Epargne team. The break of 19 men built a maximum lead of almost 12 minutes.
The best-placed riders in the break:
• Alexander Efimkin (Ag2r La Mondiale), 16th at 18:57
• Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank), 31st at 42:01
• Daniel Moreno (Omega Pharma-Lotto), 39th at 59:05
• Andrei Amador (Caisse D’Epargne), 49th at 1:17:45
• Marcel Wyss (Cervélo TestTeam), 50th at 1:17:45
• Steven Cummings (Team Sky), 55th at 1:25:06

Ignatiev made this break as well as the first, and while he was not a GC threat, he was one of the most dangerous men for the stage win. When the break still had a nine-minute gap with 20 (mostly uphill) kilometers to go, it became clear the winner would come from this group.

Ignatiev attacked twice early on the final climb, but it was a three-man group that got the most traction.

Kruijswick, Danilo Hondo (Lampre), and Monier quickly built a 30-second gap, and then Moreno set out after them. But Moreno, later joined by Cummings, dangled in between the remnants of the large break and the new trio off the front. Meanwhile the main peloton had clearly ceded the stage win and was more than 11 minutes back coming into the final 10k.

Monier's attack
Monier's attack

Monier attacked his escape-mates with less than 3km to go, as the final climb steepened. With 2k to go he squeezed out just a 8-second gap over Kruijswick, who had dropped Hondo.

The 27-year-old Frenchman has a background in the individual pursuit that may have been useful in these last kilometers, despite the steepness of this particular track. Hondo passed Kruijswick in the final kilometer to take second. Kruijswick was third and Moreno was fourth.

Arroyo’s confidence growing
Arroyo’s team drove what was left of the peloton up the last climb before Liquigas took over. That quickly blew up the lead pack as anyone without GC hopes spun it the line.

The pace quickly reduced the GC group to 11 riders, with Scarponi squirting ahead by 1sec clear of the chasing Ivan Basso (Liquigas). All the GC favorites finished with the same time, except Carlos Sastre (Cervélo), when a small gap opened in the final meters and the race judges timed him at 5sec slower.

There were no major shakeups in the GC, with Arroyo retaining his 2:27 lead to Basso.

The Spaniard – riding head-to-toe in pink with a pink Pinarello to match — said he’s gaining confidence as the Giro moves ever closer to Sunday’s finish in Verona.

Arroyo
Arroyo

“Today could have been dangerous, but the team did a great work today to get me through the stage. Now we are one day closer to Verona, so now we have to change the mentality and keep a positive attitude,” Arroyo said. “The time we have in our favor gives us some level of comfort. With these hard mountain stages ahead of us, seconds can turn into minutes.”

With time running out in this Giro, some wondered why Liquigas didn’t try to make a move on the day’s main climb midway through the stage, but team manager Roberto Amadio said attacking just didn’t make sense.

“Today could have been interesting, but we knew that the climb was very far from the finish and that the final climb wasn’t very hard, so to attack today wasn’t prudent,” Amadio said. “We have to be patient and wait for this weekend’s big climbs. The spirit of the team right now is excellent. Everyone is working toward the same goal, which is to have the pink jersey when the Giro arrives to Verona.”

Up next
Thursday’s stage 18, 140km from Levico Terme to Brescia, should be one for the sprinters —the few that are left in the race. It’s downhill to Trento and then flat-to-rolling along the western shore of Lake Garda before a flat circuit finish in Brescia. HTC-Columbia’s Andre Greipel, who had been sick earlier in the Giro, is still in the race and was looking healthy on Wednesday, and is a favorite for the win.

Race notes

Up next

Thursday’s stage 18, 140km from Levico Terme to Brescia, should be one for the sprinters —the few that are left in the race. It’s downhill to Trento and then flat-to-rolling along the western shore of Lake Garda before a flat circuit finish in Brescia. HTC-Columbia’s Andre Greipel, who had been sick earlier in the Giro, is still in the race and was looking healthy on Wednesday, and is a favorite for the win.(Related: 2010 Giro d’Italia route).

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Caisse d'Epargne chases
Caisse d'Epargne chases