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DiLuca wins sprint at top of Montevergine
By Lennard Zinn
In the first mountaintop finish of the Giro, Rik Verbrugghe lost almost five minutes and Dario Frigo overcame a crash just before the base of the 17km climb to the Santuario di Montevergine to take the pink jersey. Danilo DiLuca won the sprint finish to the stage after Mexican Julio Perez (Panaria), who had broken away at the beginning of the climb, broke his chain with only four kilometers to go while holding an 18-second lead.
Coming through Avellino with 20km to go, riders encountered a long stretch of rough and wet cobblestones. The pavé was rough and uneven to just drive over, and, when combined with the rain that had just started falling, became quite treacherous. A number of riders crashed or punctured in this stretch, the most notable incident being Frigo’s crash. He remounted and had to stop again to get a replacement bike, but three Fassa Bortolo teammates came back to tow him back to the group. This was not an easy task, since Lampre-Daikin, working for Simoni, were lined up at the front of the group ascending toward the start of the real climb.
Another victim of the pavé was Paolo Savoldelli, who punctured without a team car nearby. He exchanged wheels with his last remaining teammate in the group and set out on a lonely, fruitless chase that would see him lose two and half minutes by the top.
As soon as the climb started, Perez stood up and took off, despite the high pace Lampre-Daikin was setting. At this point, Frigo was 40 seconds down and Savoldelli was another 30 seconds further behind, and Ullrich was dropping off the back of the group.
Pedaling carefully around the numerous hairpins, Perez steadily grew his lead to a maximum of 32 seconds with seven kilometers to go. By now, Di Luca’s Cantina Tollo teammates had taken over from Alessio who had been pulling the prior three kilometers for Gotti.
Despite being a team under-budgeted relative to the likes of Mapei, Fassa Bortolo and Saeco, Cantina Tollo has a lot of climbing depth and were really making the race hard, bringing down Perez’s lead by 14 seconds in two kilometers. But as the Mexican stood up after negotiating a hairpin with the 4K banner in sight, his chain snapped and he almost crashed as his pedal suddenly gave way. He threw his bike against the guardrail in disgust and watched helplessly as the group came by. Cantina Tollo still had five guys in the front group, now forty-strong, and their pressure was relentless. With two kilometers left, they shed Pantani who fell back quickly despite the best efforts of Mercatone Uno teammate Marco Velo.
At 800 meters and the Cantina Tollos pulling off, Garzelli went to the front. Di Luca dropped the hammer on him with half a kilometer left to make his teammates hard work pay off. Simoni got by Garzelli, but there was no touching Di Luca. The blonde stage winner later said, “Because it was raining and the switchbacks were so slick, I was not going to attempt to go any earlier than I did. I didn’t do any work until 800 meters to go, and I had a lot left.”
Despite not seeing Simoni win the stage, Lampre-Daikin had a good day, nabbing second while simultaneously winning the stage and the leader’s jersey far north of here at the Midi-Libre with Jan Svorada. And Simoni still has the mountain finish at the Passo Pordoi next Friday to look forward to, which he has said all along is a climb better suited to him.
84th GIRO D’ITALIA, Stage 4, Potenza to Montevergine Di Mercogliano, May 23.
1. Danilo DiLuca (I), Cantina Tollo-Acqua&Sapone, 169km in 4:34:12 (36.980kph); 2. Gilberto Simoni (I), Lampre-Daikin; 3. Stefano Garzelli (I), Mapei-Quick Step; 4. Giuliano Figueras (I), Panaria-Fiordo; 5. Davide Rebellin (I), Liquigas-PATA; 6. Sergei Gontchar (Ukr), Liquigas-PATA, at 0:03; 7. Dario Frigo (I), Fassa Bortolo; 8. José Azevedo (Por), ONCE-Eroski; 9. Ivan Gotti (I), Alessio; 10. Giuseppe Di Grande (I), Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola; 13. Andrea Noé (I), Mapei-Quick Step; 15. Wladimir Belli (I), Fassa Bortolo, all s.t.; 18. Abraham Olano (Sp), ONCE-Eroski, at 0:07; 27. Jan Hruska (Cz), ONCE-Eroski, at 0:27; 28. Marco Pantani (I), Mercatone Uno-Stream TV, at 0:32; 33. Gabriele Colombo (I), Cantina Tollo-Acqua&Sapone, s.t.; 54. Paolo Savoldelli (I), Saeco, at 2:32; 58. Julio Perez (Mex), Panaria-Fiordo, at 2:45; 70. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 4:39; 81. Jan Ullrich (G), Deutsche Telekom, at 8:35; 83. Giuseppe Guerini (I), Deutsche Telekom, s.t.; 137. Kevin Livingston (USA), Deutsche Telekom, at 15:07.
Overall: 1. Frigo, 694km in 17:21:19; 2. Olano, at 0:12; 3. Simoni, at 0:13; 4. Belli, at 0:17; 5. Azevedo, at 0:19; 6. Di Grande, at 0:25; 7. Hruska, at 0:28; 8. Duma, at 0:33; 9. Camenzind, at 0:35; 10. Colombo, at 0:38; 11. Noé, at 0:42; 12. Gontchar, at 0:47; 13. Di Luca, at 0:48; 14. Garzelli, at 0:57; 15. Gotti, at 1:02; 18. Pantani, at 1:09; 46. Savoldelli, at 3:21; 54. Verbrugghe, at 4:27; 79. Ullrich, at 10:57; 86. Hondo, at 12:25; 143. Livingston, at 24:21.