Giro notebook, stage 18: Rollin still rolling; Cav wowed

Dominique Rollin is happy to still be in the Giro after being hit by a Vacansoliel car during Wednesday’s 17th stage

VEDELAGO, Italy (VN) — Dominique Rollin (FDJ-BigMat) is happy to still be in the Giro d’Italia after being hit by a car in Wednesday’s 17th stage. The Canadian rolled across the finish line in Cortina d’Ampezzo with his left arm and leg bleeding and his jersey torn after a spill on the descent off the Passo Valparola.

Rollin told VeloNews on Thursday morning that it was no ordinary crash.

“I was hit by a car!” Rollin said. “A soigneur from Vacansoleil cut me off. He came out onto the race when he should not have been there and he came straight at me!”

Rollin said he sideswiped the team car at 80kph and went slamming down onto the pavement. Dazed, the Canadian couldn’t believe what had just happened. From the moment of his crash, Rollin had about another 100km and three more climbs to make it to the finish line.

“I was lucky I did not break my arm,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. The car wasn’t supposed to be there. He didn’t have the credentials to be in the race. I was pretty banged up. It made for a very long stage.”

The 29-year-old Canadian said until that crash, his Giro had been going very well and he’s still hoping to arrive to Milan to complete his first grand tour. He finished safely in the main pack Thursday.

“I am banged up today, but the goal is to get to Milan. It’s the hard part of a grand tour to get over those stages that you’re not humanly built for when you’re 85kg,” he said. “The fitness is there and I am enjoying myself. I am appreciating a three-week stage race.”

Rollin is in the second year of a three-year deal with the French outfit, FDJ-BigMat.

“The team is very good. I am enjoying myself here. I am trying to bring something different to this team that isn’t just French, some different views and perspective on the sport,” he said. “I am climbing better than I have ever climbed. On Saturday up Cervinia, Sandy Casar (FDJ teammate) almost fell off his bike when he saw me,” Rollin said. “I came up to him, you want a bottle? He said, ‘you are still here?!’”

After the Giro, Rollin said he is aiming to do well in the Canadian WorldTour races in September. And the Olympics?

“I think someone’s demonstrated these past two weeks he deserves the spot that Canada has,” said Rollin, obviously referring to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).

Cavendish: ‘I don’t like losing’

Mark Cavendish (Sky) couldn’t quite believe he was beaten straight up in Thursday’s 18th stage at the Giro d’Italia in the last chance for the sprinters.

Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) came off the fourth wheel to relegate the world champion to second place, who pounded his fist in frustration when he realized he had lost.

“I don’t like losing, you know?” Cavendish said on RAI TV. “It was a fast sprint today. (Guardini) had more energy than me, you know?”

Guardini, 23, is hyped by many in Italy as the “next Mario Cipollini,” and he certainly lived up to the expectations by handing Cavendish his first loss in a straight-up sprint of this Giro. Cavendish crashed in the other bunch sprints that he didn’t win in Italy.

“To beat the world champion makes it even sweeter,” Guardini said. “To win a stage in my first Giro is just incredible. I have won some races this year, but this is something special.”

Cavendish tipped his hat to his younger rival, but he wasn’t too happy about losing what would have been his fourth stage of this year’s race.

“He’s got the sprint,” Cavendish said of Guardini. “He’s fast and he has some good people working with him. We’ll see how he goes.”

Cavendish, meanwhile, bolstered his lead in the red points jersey, sprinting to win the day’s intermediate sprint at 84km and taking second-place points at the line.

“I wanted to come to the Giro to respect the (rainbow) jersey and I hope to win the points jersey,” said Cavendish, who’s won points jerseys at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. “I hope to make the time limit tomorrow.”

Race Notes

The jerseys
Stage winner: Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) out-kicked Mark Cavendish (Sky) to win his first career Giro stage (49.438kph)
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez retained his 30-second lead to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
Blue mountain: With no rated climbs, Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) retained the KOM jersey
Red points: Cavendish (Sky) widened his 20-point hold on the points jersey to Rodríguez, sprinting to take points at an intermediate sprint and finishing second in the stage
White young: Rigoberto Urán (Sky) finished safely in the main pack to retain the best young rider’s jersey

Weather: Chance of showers
Continued warm in the valleys, with cooler temperatures and chance of afternoon thundershowers at higher elevations, with temperatures in the mid-60s F and light ENE winds of 5 to 10 mph.

Tomorrow’s stage: Decisive day of climbing
The 95th Giro continues Friday with the first of two climbing stages that will go a long way toward crowning the eventual GC winner. The 198km stage from Treviso to Alpe di Pampeago features five challenging climbs, including the brutally steep Passo Manghen (20.5km at 7.4 percent) that opens a decisive final 100km of racing.

A closing circuit then traces Passo Pampeago and the Cat. 2 Passo Lavezè before a final climb up Pampeago. The 7.7km climb at 9.7 percent could spell trouble for Hesjedal against more explosive riders such as Rodríguez and Scarponi, who are desperate to take time back against the Canadian.