Giro Notebook, Stage 11: Cavendish defends Giro performance; Rubiano’s KOM comeback

In his daily Giro wrap-up, Andrew Hood recaps the awkward Cavendish/Cipollini moment after stage 11 and Giuseppe Martinelli’s thoughts on Ryder Hesjedal

MONTECATINI TERME, Italy (VN) – Mark Cavendish (Sky) and retired sprint king Mario Cipollini enjoyed some man-love on live Italian TV following Wednesday’s 11th stage with a warm embrace, but it wasn’t before Cipollini threw a few barbs toward Cavendish.

“If Mark was strong, he would have won today,” Cipollini said on RAI. “I am beginning to wonder if he’s at the same level as last year. Will he be ready for the Olympics? I do not know. Even when his team delivers him, he’s not winning as easily as he used to.”

Cavendish didn’t take the bait and defended his ride so far through this Giro, which includes two stage victories and the red points jersey, which he took off the shoulders of rival Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) in Wednesday’s 11th stage.

“I come to this Giro in good condition. I have come through the climbs in good shape. I will be better at the Tour de France. It’s normal that you get better throughout the season,” Cavendish said. “I lost a week due to my crash (in stage 3). I am disappointed I did not win today. I was screaming in the last kilometer, Geraint (Thomas) was not careful. It was close to home and it was an important stage for me.”

Cavendish missed out on Wednesday’s sprint after the final corner with 350 meters to go saw him undermined by arch-nemesis Roberto Ferrari, who swept out his front wheel in stage 3. It’s the first stage in which Cavendish missed the win without crashing in the finale. The world champion has hit the deck twice in this Giro, but he also defended his new-look Sky train.

“We are still learning. As with anything when you change teams, you have to start fresh,” he said. “I am lucky to have won six or seven races so far this year with this new team. I don’t think we’ve done such a bad job.”

Per Cipollini, Cavendish kept it classy.

“I’m not a sprinter like you,” Cavendish said. “You were much stronger than me. I am faster than you.”

Rubiano intent on keeping KOM

One rider thoroughly enjoying this Giro d’Italia is Colombian climber Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez.

The Androni Giocatolli-Venezuela rider won the Giro’s lone breakaway stage so far, last Friday. He also earned the blue climber’s jersey that same day and told VeloNews he had no intention of letting it go.

“I want to keep the jersey all the way to Milan,” Rubiano Chavez told VeloNews. “The goal was to win a stage and go for the climber’s jersey. So far things are going very well.”

The Colombian has a comfortable lead in the KOM standings, but so far, there have not been very many challenging climbs to put his hold on the jersey to a true test.

He will likely enjoy the jersey all the way into this weekend’s pair of climbing stages in northern Italy. After that, things will change dramatically.

“I am confident I can still earn points every day, even if it is behind the GC climbers,” he said. ��If I am smart about how I ride, I believe it is possible. I will need to look for another breakaway. There will be chances in the final week.”

This year’s Giro marks a comeback of sorts for Rubiano Chavez, who hit Europe in 2006 with Navigare-Panaria. In 2008, he tested positive for octopamine in the Regio Tour. He initially was banned for two years, but won an appeal to see the ban reduced to six months. After racing four years in South America, he returned to Europe this year with Gianni Savio’s outfit.

Martinelli not overlooking Ryder’s chances

Giuseppe Martinelli (Astana) says he’s been impressed by Ryder Hesjedal’s performance so far through the Giro d’Italia, but said he doesn’t expect the Canadian to be in the hunt for the pink jersey in next week’s decisive climbing stages.

Martinelli, who has led four different riders to Giro victory during his career, says that Hesjedal’s efforts to defend the pink jersey could cost him in the Giro’s third week.

“Ryder? I think we cannot overlook him. He’s been in the top 10 in the Tour and he’s come here fighting for the GC, but I think having the pink jersey in the first week causes some stress and puts pressure on the team that could cost him later,” Martinelli told VeloNews. “I think he could be a factor, but I don’t expect him to be one of the riders fighting for the final victory.”

Race Notes

The jerseys
Stage winner: Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) takes the crash-marred sprint in Montecatini Terme
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) defends his 17-second lead to Ryder Hesjedal in his first full day in the pink jersey
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) takes the points jersey from Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) with fourth in stage
Blue climbers: Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) defends the KOM jersey he’s worn since stage 6
White young: Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) finishes safely in the bunch to keep the young rider’s jersey

Weather: More sun along the coast
Spring-like conditions continue Thursday, with highs in the upper 60s F, with light northerly winds of 10-15mph, and mostly sunny skies

Tomorrow’s stage: Ideal for breakaway
The Giro’s longest stage is followed up Thursday with its most challenging so far. The 155km route from Seravezza to Sestri Levante is a roller coaster along the spectacular Italian Riviera. The opening hour of racing is along flats before turning inland at La Spezia, where the course soon tackles the first of four rated climbs.

The route avoids the Cinque Terre coastal road due to heavy flooding over the winter. Descending skills will be essential; the second-category Valico La Mola is followed by a fast, technical 14km descent on rough roads. The short but steep Cat. 3 Villa Tassani climb with 13km to go will see attacks from the GC riders as well as the stage hunters. Excitement guaranteed.