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Subject: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay rss

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John Weber
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Today is the start-up of the real-life Giro, so I am starting up this replay of the 2011 Giro. The results will then be incorporated as part of this season replay, using Tour-Cycle Free here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/760824/2011-season-replay

PRE-RACE: Here are the teams and lineups. Note that a +1 represents special training that will result in a +1 to that rider's form die roll on three stages, including Stage 1.

BMC: Kreuziger (+1), Tschopp, Phinney, Ballan, Frank, Santambrogio
GRM: Millar (+1), Vinokourov, Haussler, Zabriskie, LeMevel, Dean
HTC: T. Martin (+1), Pinotti, Davis, Grabsch, Sivtsov, Albasini
KAT: DiLuca (+1), Spilak, Pozzato, Bole, Galimzyanov, Paolini
LEO: Gerdemann, Monfort, Bennati (+1), Fedrigo, O’Grady, R. Feillu
LIQ: Nibali (+1), Basso, Petacchi, Dall’Antonia, Garzelli, Visconti
RAB: Breschel, Kruijswijk, Brown, Langeveld, Martens, Flens
RSH: Leipheimer (+1), Zubeldia, Carrera, Popovych, Arroyo, Deignan
SAX: Contador (+1), Scarponi, Tosatto, Porte, N. Sorensen, C. Sorensen
SKY: Rogers (+1), Anton, Henderson, Gadret, Froome, Barry

PRE-TOUR OBJECTIVES:

BMC: Kreuziger will be their key GC guy, with Taylor Phinney in the sprints. Unlikely to be chasing KOM points, but Ballan will be looking to win stages via breakaways.

GRM: David Millar leads the team, but Vino and Haussler will be making opportunistic attacks. Look for Dave Zabriskie to figure in the TT stages.

HTC: Tony Martin is the GC guy, with Pinotti and Albasini as possible KOM contenders. Aussie Allan Davis looks to figure in the flat stage sprint finishes.

KAT: Italian DiLuca returns from a drug suspension to pace the Russian team, with Slovenian Simon Spilak looking to contend for KOM honors. Pozzato is the top sprinter, while Paolini is the breakaway specialist.

LEO: Leopard is actually sending their “B” squad to the Giro, saving the Schleck brothers for the Tour. Italian sprinter Bennati leads the team. Monfort will be given the green light to go in breakaways, along with nominal team leader Linus Gerdemann.

LIQ: This all-Italian squad will be paced by Nibali, who has already impressed in the season thus far. Basso and Garzelli will provide strong support in the mountains, and Petacchi will chase stage wins in the bunch sprints (and perhaps a points jersey as well).

RAB: Breschel may not be the strongest team leader, but – in the absence of Gesink, Valverde or Chavanel – someone has to lead the team. However, no special training means no form bonuses for any of the team’s riders in this Grand Tour. Kruijswijk is going to be strong in the climbs, and Brown should be a contender in the flat sprints.

RSH: Leipheimer leads the team, strong in the TT with climbing support from Zubeldia. Popovych and Arroyo can really fly on the descents, but the team lacks a top-flight sprinter.

SAX: Ironically, Contador and Scarponi (one-two in the real-life 2011 Giro) are paired together (Scarponi ascended to the top when Contador lost his doping case, based on a failed test at the 2010 Tour, in a rather unusual ruling.) Anyway, good support in the mountains from the Sorensen brothers with Richie Porte angling for KOM honors, but not really strong sprinter here.

SKY: Team leadership will start with Mik Rogers but, depending on how things go, it could devolve upon Anton, Gadret or Froome. Henderson is a solid sprinter but will not be a factor if the road goes upward. Gadret is likely to be their KOM points contender.

Stage 1 is a team time trial, length of 19.5 Km. The course will be eight sections long, set up as follows:

F – F – F – D – H – F – D – H

Will use the same approach as the team time trial in stage 1 of last year’s Vuelta, which is to have each team treated as a small group of six, using form points and energy with a different team member setting the pace in each section. Any of the newer +1 or –1 time trial ratings will add or subtract a form point, respectively. Initial energy is based on the TT of the riders from PCM 2011. The total speed across all eight sections of the top four riders becomes the team result, with each point of difference equating to 15 seconds in time. Then, the remaining energy of those crossing the line is divided by six, which counts as individual seconds (more seconds representing a better time). Scores are then computed as a gap in seconds to the best team’s time; individual team members not finishing with the leading four will receive a separate team. UCI points will be awarded to the top five teams.

Teams start off in reverse order of their standings after 12 events, so Sky goes first. Conservative start with Rogers leading off, but then Froome takes one hard pull at the front and is dropped early on. The remaining group hustles around the course in good order until Gadret drops back, running low on energy. Anton takes the final pull, but he has to slow down as Henderson (who’s the weakest climber) has to stay with the group as the fourth rider. Overall, good effort, but a bit of a botched ride.

RadioShack sets a torrid pace on the first flat sections, forcing climber David Arroyo (who had an atrocious form roll) to drop back. They then get in trouble on the final flat section when Zubeldia, out of form points, is dropped, and the remaining guys must slow down a bit for Deignan, who’s running low on energy. Arroyo actually chases down and passes the luckless Zubeldia on the final downhill. They cross the line with a time that is four seconds faster than Sky.

Katusha starts by hammering it on the flat sections. Despite poor form rolls, everyone is able to keep up although the team masks the TT weakness of its leader, DiLuca, by not having him pulling at the front. Energy becomes an issue later in the run (not many good TTs on this squad) and, as a result, they finish a few seconds back of Sky, but with all six squad members finishing together.

BMC goes next. Flat line speed is an issue, but Phinney and Kreuziger start with favorable form roll modifiers. Tschopp is first to get dropped, then Santambrogio. With Kreuziger driving the bus at the end, BMC beats Sky by a fraction of a second to slot into second at this point.

The Contador-led SaxoBank squad is next on the course. Tosatto, who pushes hard on the final opening flat section, is the first to drop off the back as Contador set a blistering pace on the first downhill section. The rest of the squad stays together until the final section, and the end result is the top time thus far – nearly a half a minute quicker than RadioShack.

HTC, who look the role of favorites today, go next. They have three +1 TT guys (Martin, Pinotti and Grabsch) in their lineup, and they had a strong set of form die rolls to boot. The team stays intact until the second downhill section, when Pinotti (victim of a poor form roll) is dropped. The final uphill sees Albasini setting the pace, with Davis dropping off the rear. The team goes through with the best time, 14 seconds better than SaxoBank, which should be enough to put the Swiss in the Maglia Rosa.

Leopard Trek, which has good flat section speed, makes a run at HTC’s time. The squad remains together until the final uphill stretch, when Feillu runs out of energy and O’Grady has exhausted his form points. Nonetheless, the team comes close, just four seconds slower than HTC.

Three teams left. Liquigas, the Italian squad, sets a torrid pace with everyone remaining bunched together until the final section. Garzelli and Visconti drop back, but the remaining riders set a surprisingly strong time, just two seconds slower than HTC to move into second place.

Rabobank is up next. Poor form roll and TT rating means Brown is done shortly after the first uphill section. Kruijswijk’s poor flat section speed means he, too, is dropped. However, the team perseveres and puts in a time that is now third best, only three seconds off the lead.

Garmin, leader in the overall season thus far, is last to go off. LeMevel and Dean are weak points, but the other foursome look solid – could they knock HTC off the top rung? Millar leads the team across the line, and it turns out they manage to best HTC’s time by a relatively wide margin: 19 seconds. Thus, Millar takes the maglia rosa as the leader of the Giro.

Stage 1 Result:

1. Garmin
2. HTC at 0:19
3. Liquigas at 0:21
4. Rabobank at 0:22
5. Leopard at 0:23
6. SaxoBank at 0:35
7. Radio Shack at 1:01
8. BMC at 1:05
9. Sky at 1:05
10. Katusha at 1:08

Millar takes the pink jersey, ahead of three of his teammates.

Overall GC after Stage 1:

1. Millar (GRM)
2. Zabriskie (GRM) at 0:00
3. Haussler (GRM) at 0:00
4. Vinokourov (GRM) at 0:00
5. Albasini (HTC) at 0:19
6. T. Martin (HTC) at 0:19
7. Grabsch (HTC) at 0:19
8. Sivtsov (HTC) at 0:19
9. Nibali (LIQ) at 0:21
10. Basso (LIQ) at 0:21

Comments: A bit of a surprise in the result, although I think teams going later in the order have an advantage, both in terms of knowing what time to beat, but also in having seen what approaches had worked and not worked for those going before. Also, it appears that keeping all six guys together may not be the optimal tactic; Katusha, the only team to do so, came in dead last. Anyway, a fairly realistic and satisfactory result, so on to Stage 2.

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John Weber
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 2

Stage 2, the first road stage, is next. Here are the particulars for the road stages of the Giro:

Top 3 earn time bonuses of 20, 12 and 8 seconds. Top 15 earn points on a 25-20-16-14-12-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Top five gain UCI points, 16-8-4-2-1. One sprint per stage, worth 8-6-4-3-2 in points to the top five, with 10, 6 and 4 second time bonuses to the top three. There are four classes of categorized climbs:

Cat. 3, points awarded (3-2-1 basis) to the top three. Cat. 2, points (5-3-1 basis) to the top three. Cat. 1, points (10-6-4-2-1) to the top five. HC, points (20-15-10-6-4-2) to the top six.

Stage 2 Profile: F – H – D – F – F – F – F/S – H – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F/S/F

Pinotti, Monfort and Spilak attack the course and form a three-man break. The Peleton seems indifferent and does not start chasing immediately. After the first hill, two more riders – Rabobank’s Martens and HTC’s Albasini – escape off the front. The gap to the three leaders swells to around seven minutes before Garmin, SaxoBank and RadioShack take pulls at the front to lift the pace.

The chasing duo of Martens and Albasini is able to catch the leaders on the flat section before the sprint. Sky sends Froome off the front to chase after the leaders, and Saxo’s Richie Porte also slips off the front. Midway through the stage, the first serious incident takes place, and the unlucky rider – Katusha’s Grega Bole – is forced out of the Giro with a broken collarbone.

At the first sprint, the five-man lead group lines up behind Monfort. Rabobank’s Martens takes the sprint ahead of Albasini, who falls short despite sprint-help from his HTC teammate, Pinotti. Monfort, Spilak and Pinotti follow in order. The gap to the leaders is still six minutes heading into the short climb after the sprint, indicating that the Peleton may have its work cut out in reeling in the break.

On the descent from this hill heading into the one categorized climb, Haussler and Zabriskie – now joined by Vinokourov – begin to push the pace for Garmin, and the gap is brought down to four minutes. The five leaders are joined by Sky’s Froome, but Saxo’s Richie Porte is stuck in no-man’s land, now dangling about a minute in front of the main pack. RadioShack’s David Arroyo launches a “power move” off the front, spending two form points in the process, quickly gaining two minutes’ time to rapidly close on the lead group. Meanwhile, Grabsch and Popovych take advantage of their great descending skills to launch counter-attacks off the front.

Albasini’s efforts to separate himself from his breakaway companions on the one categorized climb are unsuccessful, and he can only sit and watch (out of form points) as Froome takes the top KOM points, outsprinting Spilak and Monfort, thus assuring the Brit of the first KOM jersey. Pinotti has fallen away, with the duo of Arroyo and Porte hanging on, three minutes down, just a minute ahead of the Peleton which – led by Zabriskie and Vino from Garmin – is now racing at breakneck speed. Two sections left, still a four-minute gap, and some of the leaders have a big chunk of energy remaining.

The leaders slow on the descent of the climb, allowing Arroyo to join them. Two minute gap to the Peleton, which now has three Garmin riders working hard to preserve the pink jersey for Millar. Trouble lurks in the middle of the pack, as two riders (Bennati and Galimzyanov puncture) while others crash to avoid them. Bennati’s teammate, O’Grady, is the second man out with a collarbone injury; Rabobank’s Langeveld loses major time.

Monfort spends a form point, which is just enough to enable the remnants of the break to stay away. Arroyo is barely able to hang on, but Sky’s Froome can’t keep and slides all the way back to the cars. Vino and Millar come to the front, pressing hard, but the gap is too much to overcome, so it’s a five-man battle for the stage win with the Peleton finishing one minute back. Albasini has nothing left for the sprint, and Rabobank’s Martens blasts past Spilak to take the win, with Arroyo easing past Monfort to take third.

Stage 2 Result:

1. Martens (RAB)
2. Spilak (KAT) same time
3. Arroyo (RSH) same time
4. Monfort (LEO) same time
5. Albasini (HTC) same time
6. Davis (HTC) at 1:00
7. Pozzato (KAT) at 1:00
8. Haussler (GRM) at 1:00
9. Dean (GRM) at 1:00
10. T. Martin (HTC) at 1:00

Aided by the time bonuses for taking the intermediate sprint and the stage win, Martens takes the overall GC lead, with Albasini a close second.

Overall GC after 2 Stages:

1. Martens (RAB)
2. Albasini (HTC) 0:21
3. Monfort (LEO) 0:27
4. Spilak (KAT) 1:04
5. Millar (GRM) 1:08
6. Zabriskie (GRM) 1:08
7. Haussler (GRM) 1:08
8. Vinokourov (GRM) 1:08
9. T. Martin (HTC) 1:27
10. Grabsch (HTC) 1:27

The points jersey goes to Martens (and will be worn by Spilak since Martens is in pink), while the KOM jersey goes to Froome.

Comments: Perhaps over-concerned about the ardous stages ahead, the Peleton waited too long to start chasing, which allowed the break to stay away. Rabobank’s Martens takes a well-deserved stage win, hanging back on the Cat. 3 climb while taking the intermediate sprint as well to maximize his time bonuses; he slips on the “Maglia Rosa.” Bad luck for Katusha’s Bole and Leopard Trek’s O’Grady, both of whom crashed out of the Giro on the first road stage.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Congrats to Taylor Phinney

And I have to take a break from the replay action to acknowledge what happened in the first stage of the real-life 2012 Giro today, as young American Taylor Phinney took the opening TT, which makes him only the third American to earn a "pink jersey" at the Giro. (Andy Hampsten and Christian Vandevelde being the others.) Way to go, Taylor!
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Luke Morris
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Grrr. It was joyous for Garmin to win the TTT and for Millar to take the Maglia Rosa but they lost it immediately. Oh well, at least the break only got a minute.

Anyway, Phinney did really well and I was happy to see the Garmin boys put in strong showings too. Italy (well, Denmark really) has been taken over by the Americans on day 1.
 
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 3

A fateful stage in last year’s Giro, as it was on the long, winding descent that saw the fatal accident to Belgian cyclist Wouyter Weylandt. Here’s the stage profile:

F – H – D – F/S – H - F – H (Cat. 3) – D – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F/S/F

With an early sprint on the agenda, there’s a larger than usual group of six on the early break, with Grabsch (HTC), Gerdemann (LEO), Galimzyanov (KAT), Petacchi (LIQ), Carrara (RSH) and Phinney (BMC) looking to pick up some points today. These six are allowed to build a gap of around five minutes, while four others – interested in KOM points – follow with an escape in the third section. Albasini, Monfort, Spilak and Porte are the participants in forming this chasing group.

The sprint is hotly contested, with Petacchi taking the top points and 10 second time bonus, with Phinney taking second ahead of Carrara. Galimzyanov has to settle for fourth, ahead of Gerdemans and Grabsch, who did not sprint. The lead group then slows, allowing the four-man chase group to catch them. The gap to the Peleton is down to three minutes now. Garmin’s Haussler launches an attack off the front, and BMC’s Tschopp follows this move.

Grabsch then takes up the pace-setting duties for the leading group, with the result that Petacchi and three other sprinters elect to drift back to the Peleton. Haussler continues pressing forward, but Tschopp breaks off his effort. BMC’s Ballan replaces him in the attack zone. After this, the riders tackle the first of two categorized climbs. Grabsch leads out the KOM sprint for his teammate, Albasini, who takes the points ahead of Porte with Monfort in third. Spilak and Gerdemann remain in the lead group, but the gap is down to just two minutes. Haussler is a minute behind, having been joined by Ballan as the field faces a treacherous, winding descent.

RadioShack plays a team tactics card on the descent, sending both Arroyo and Popovych forward; these two are joined by Nibali. Haussler and Ballan, each spending a form point, catch the lead group with the gap holding at around two minutes. The treacherous descent claims a few riders, notably Carrara (RSH) who goes off course and loses major time and, surprisingly, Scarponi (SAX), who suffers a bruised hip but continues.

Meanwhile, Nibali bombs the descent, with the two RadioShack guys joining him to bridge the gap to the lead group. By now, Grabsch and Gerdemann have slid back to the Peleton. Garmin, however, has placed Vino and Zabriskie at the front, and – even with a teammate (Haussler) up the road -- both lift the pace a notch higher to slice the gap to a minute, as concern over a GC guy like Nibali is the paramount concern.

There’s still the final KOM sprint, and Albasini – who leads the group up the climb – can’t finish the sprint, so Spilak, Monfort and Porte emerge to take the points, in that order, which should be enough to put the Slovenian from Katusha into the KOM points jersey. Millar joins Zabriskie at the front as Garmin keeps a watchful eye on the gap, still hovering at just under a minute. The final two sections will see how the battle for the stage win plays out – will the break stay away or will there be a bunch sprint finish?

Nibali spends another form point on the downhill, and the two Radio Shack rider (Arroyo and Popo) follow; Haussler, Ballan, and the four guys chasing KOM points give up and drift back to the Peleton. It’s clear that Nibali is looking to gain some time today, and that he would be happy to concede the stage win to one of the other RadioShack guys in the break. Because the Garmin guys at the front lack the descending skills of the guys in the lead group, the three in the break gain another minute, heading into the final section. Millar and Pozzato move to the front in a desparate effort to close the gap in the flat run in to the finish.

The three leaders weaken under the determined assault of the Peleton and are swept up in the final kilometer. Pozzato has enough left to take the sprint for the stage win, outlasting Visconti and Tony Martin, who charge up from the middle as the pack is stretched then, with a number of riders being forced to the cars or off the back due to the high speed of the chase.

Stage 3 Result:

1. Pozzato (KAT)
2. Visconti (LIQ) same time
3. T. Martin (HTC) same time
4. Davis (HTC) same time
5. Bennati (LEO) same time
6. Henderson (SKY) same time
7. Breschel (RAB) same time
8. Millar (GRM) same time
9. Kreuziger (BMC) same time
10. Basso (LIQ) same time

Among those losing time on today’s stage was Michele Scarponi, who struggled home, five minutes in arrears. HTC’s Albasini loses four minutes and drops out of the top 10 on GC; Monfort (LEO) also loses his GC position after finishing two minutes down – ditto for Spilak (KAT). Dave Zabriskie, exhausted from his efforts at the front of the Peleton, dropped off the pace and lost time as well. The time bonuses earned by Petacchi amd Martin move them up the standings. Rabobank’s Martens managed to stay out of trouble to hang on to the pink jersey:

Overall GC after Stage 3:

1. Martens (RAB)
2. Millar (GRM) at 1:08
3. Haussler (GRM) at 1:08
4. Vinokourov (GRM) at 1:08
5. Petacchi (LIQ) at 1:19
6. T. Martin (HTC) at 1:19
7. Sivtsov (HTC) at 1:27
8. Nibali (LIQ) at 1:29
9. Basso (LIQ) at 1:29
10. Breschel (RAB) at 1:30

Others: Contador (SAX), at 1:43; Gerdemann (LEO), at 2:01; Leipheimer (RSH), at 2:09; Kreuziger (BMC), at 2:13; Rogers (SKY), at 2:13; DiLuca (KAT), at 2:16.

Filippo Pozzato took the stage and also the points jersey.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 34
2. Martens (RAB) 33
3. Spilak (KAT) 23
4. T. Martin (HTC) 22
5. Visconti (LIQ) 20

Still very early, but Simon Spilak holds the KOM points jersey.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 5
2. Monfort (LEO) 4
3. Froome (SKY) 3

Comments: After the break succeeded in Stage 2, today the Peleton kept more of a tight rein on the situation, but even so the downhill sections near the end gave an opportunity for the top descenders like Nibali, Popovych and Arroyo to come very close to lasting to the end. A good day for the Russian Katusha team, with Pozzato winning the stage and taking the points jersey, while Spilak did well enough in the climbs to take the KOM jersey. Garmin rotated men at the front to play a major role in reeling in the break, which was threatening to gain two to three minutes’ time until the lead trio weakened in the final flat run into the finish.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 4
Stage 4

Another relatively flat stage, punctuated by a couple of Cat. 3 climbs. In real-life, this stage was neutralized in the 2011 Giro, as it occurred the day after the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt. Here’s the stage profile:

F – H – D – F – H (Cat. 3) – D – F – F/S – F – H (Cat. 3) – D – F/S/F

It’s a group of four that heads out on the early break: Paolini (KAT), Dall’Antonia (LIQ), Carrara (RSH) and Monfort (LEO), with the latter looking to challenge for the KOM points lead. Three more – Kruijswijk, Albasini and Porte – stream off the front while Spilak, hoping to cooperate with teammate Paolini – launches a power move off the front to join the lead group. Gadret of Sky also launches a normal attack. Garmin has three men rotating at the front to lift the pace from the outset, and the first third of the stage is incident-free.

On the first Cat. 3 climb, Spilak puts on a burst of speed, but all the others in the lead group manage to stay with him. Carrara, who is on exceptional form today, outsprints the others for the top KOM points, ahead of Monfort who is going for KOM honors today. The rest preserve their form points for the intermediate sprint, allowing Spilak to take third. KOM points are now 6 for Spilak, 6 for Monfort.

Heading into the intermediate sprint, the gap to the five leaders has shrunk to three minutes, while the four-man chase group (now including Gadret, who has caught up to the other three) is just one minute ahead of the Garmin-led Peleton. Paolini, with help from his teammate, Spilak, comes off the back to take the sprint, ahead of Carrara, with Dall’Antonia third; Monfort and Spilak, who did not sprint, bring up the rear.

The Peleton contiues to grind away, reducing the gap by another minute. Carrara and Gadret drop back to the Peleton, but there’s a collision caused by overcrowding in the middle of the pack. Three riders go down, two from the Garmin team, which was finishing handing out water bottles. Coming out the worse are Haussler and Petacchi, each of whom is out of the Giro with a collarbone injury, bringing the number of total retirements to four. Vinokourov suffers a badly bruised hip, but is able to continue.

Next comes the second climb of the day and, with the KOM points lead at stake, Spilak leads the way up the climb as his teammate Paolini drops back. However, Albasini makes a last-gasp effort, pulling himself and Kruijswijk up to the three leaders, and then the KOM points go, in order, to Kruijswijk, Dall’Antonia and Albasini; with Monfort getting shut out, this is just enough to enable Spilak to retain the KOM points jersey. It is still two minutes to the leaders, who are fading quickly. Saxo’s Scarponi makes an abortive move off the front that is quickly reeled in.

On the descent of the climb, the lead group melts away and is caught, while stellar descenders Nibali and Popovych once again move to the attack zone. Popo breaks off the attack, while it is left to HTC (in the person of Allan Davis) and Leopard Trek (in the person of Romain Feillu) to track down the Liquigas team leader. Another tumble in the middle of the pack, and this time it’s Sky’s Michael Barry who is taken out – another collarbone injury. Thus, five retirements in four stages.

Nibali is reeled in, and it’s a bunch sprint finish. Leopard Trek’s Bennati, with help from Feillu, takes the stage win, followed by HTC’s Davis and Rabobank’s Breschel who hangs on for third.

Stage 4 Results:

1. Bennati (LEO)
2. Davis (HTC) same time
3. Breschel (RAB) same time
4. Tosatto (SAX) same time
5. N. Sorensen (SAX) same time
6. Paolini (KAT) same time
7. Pozzato (KAT) same time
8. Ballan (BMC) same time
9. T. Martin (HTC) same time
10. Basso (LIQ) same time

Haussler and Petacchi, now on the sidelines, and Vino (who lost three minutes with a bruised hip) drop out of the top 10. HTC’s Sivtsov (who finished in the cars) also drops out of the top 10. Moving up are Visconti, Contador, Arroyo and Pozzato. Leopard’s Gerdemann (who suffered a puncture) lost time as well. The time bonus for finishing third enables Breschel to move into fourth overall.

Overall GC after 4 Stages:

1. Martens (RAB)
2. Millar (GRM) at 1:08
3. T. Martin (HTC) at 1:19
4. Breschel (RAB) at 1:22
5. Nibali (LIQ) at 1:29
6. Basso (LIQ) at 1:29
7. Visconti (LIQ) at 1:39
8. Contador (SAX) at 1:43
9. Arroyo (RSH) at 1:53
10. Pozzato (KAT)) at 1:56

Pozzato holds the points jersey.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 43
2. Bennati (LEO) 37
3. Martens (RAB) 33
4. Davis (HTC) 30
5. T. Martin (HTC) 29

The tie for first in the KOM points is broken in favor of Spilak, who had the best finish (a first) in the climbs contested thus far.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 6
2. Monfort (LEO) 6
3. Albasini (HTC) 4

Comments:

Nice win for Bennati, who may turn out to be the de facto leader of the Leopard Trek team for this Giro. Martens remains in pink, while Katusha riders hang on to the points and KOM jerseys. The big surprise I guess at this point is the continuing carnage, as three more riders were lost to those dreaded collarbone injuries, making it a total of five retirements after just three road stages. It was a particularly disappointing day for Garmin, losing Haussler and having Vino drop three minutes with a hip injury. Zabriskie had already lost time the day before, which leaves Millar as the only squad member left on the GC leaderboard – a far cry from the situation after the opening team time trial. Also, interesting to see Paolini take the intermediate sprint and still place in the top 10 in the final sprint for the stage.

Looking ahead, Stage 5 features an uphill finish, which could make things interesting.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 5

Today’s stage features the usual intermediate sprint and three Cat. 3 climbs, the last of which is an uphill grind to the finish where the gradient – for a brief time – is in the 10-15% range (at least according to PCM 2011). Here’s the profile:

F – F – H – D – H – F/S – H (Cat. 3) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F – H/S/F (Cat. 3)

Dall’Antonia once again is in the early break, and this time he is joined by Carrara, Fedrigo and Santambrogio. The Italian BMC rider lags behind but catches the other three on the first hill. It’s a comfortable pace today, and things proceed without incident as the leaders build a gap of five minutes through the first uncategorized climb.

The break gains another minute before Rabobank and Garmin move to the front to pick up the pace. Three climbing specialists move off the front, Saxo’s Porte, followed by Monfort (LEO) and Spilak (KAT), who are the top two in the KOM points. Next up is the intermediate sprint, and it’s hotly contested between Carrara and Fedrigo, who comes off the rear to nose out the RadioShack man. Santambrogio and Dall’Antonia, who do not sprint, fill the next spots, with Porte – still a minute behind but working hard to catch up – taking the fifth and final points spot.

Meanwhile, there’s some excitement back in the pack, as Albasini slips off the front. In the middle, a series of punctures drops Zabriskie, Scarponi and Arroyo off the back, while Rabobank’s Graeme Brown crashes and loses time trying to avoid them. A Peleton split is narrowly averted, with just one rider (HTC’s Marco Pinotti) left in the middle.

The first KOM points on offer see Porte sprinting past the leaders, who slow and are caught by Monfort and Spilak. While Porte takes the top points, BMC’s Santambrogio mixes it up with the top KOM points guys, taking second ahead of Spilak, who now has a one point lead over Monfort, who is shut out of the points on the first climb. On the descent of the climb, Fedrigo sets the pace to enable the now second group to catch Porte, while Albasini is caught by the Peleton, with Garmin’s LeMevel setting the pace.

Carrara and Fedrigo fall back, and those left among the lead group line up behind Katusha’s Spilak. The KOM points on the second Cat. 3 climb go (once again) to Saxo’s Porte, with Santambrogio second and Monfort third, with Spilak being shut out. Porte, now with 9 KOM points, becomes the leader in this competition with points also on offer on the final uphill grind to the finish. The gap to the five leaders is hovering at around two minutes.

After the KOM sprint, Pozzato launches a “power move” off the front while Basso launches a normal attack. On the descent headed toward the finish, Pozzato tracks down the lead group while Basso drops back to the front, replaced by his teammate Nibali who bursts through from the middle to launch an attack. The action heats up when Millar, second on GC, spends a form point to follow Nibali’s move, and then the floodgates open as Phinney, Contador, Bennati and Breschel follow this move, with the RadioShack duo of Popovych and Arroyo on their wheels. The six leaders have only a minute, and are about to reeled in as the limited spaces at the front of the Peleton are at a premium.

Pozzato, full of fight, drops the others in the lead pack, and heads off for an impressive a solo win, as the others are picked off by the on-rushing chase group and Peleton. Breschel and Millar, who are the quickest off the mark, open a minute gap. Garmin, with Vino and Dean at the front, decides to lift the pace, thus reeling in all the other attacks before the final climb.

Nonetheless, the attacks keep coming. A second Katusha rider (Luca Paolini) launches off the front heading into the uphill run into the finish. HTC’s Tony Martin joins him. The gap is now two minutes to Pozzato, one minute to the Millar-Breschel duo. These gaps remain intact on the final hill, as Contador – who wants to ratchet the pace a notch higher – is unable to find a second rider at the front with the ability and desire to do so. Thus, Pozzato takes the stage win while Breschel outsprints Millar for second on the stage. Paolini and Martin are reeled in, and Romain Feillu bursts through from the middle to take the bunch sprint for fourth on the stage.

Stage 5 Result:

1. Pozzato (KAT)
2. Breschel (RAB) at 1:00
3. Millar (GRM) at 1:00
4. R. Feillu (LEO) at 2:00
5. DiLuca (KAT) at 2:00
6. T. Martin (HTC) at 2:00
7. N. Sorensen (SAX) at 2:00
8. Gerdemann (LEO) at 2:00
9. Nibali (LIQ) at 2:00
10. Martens (RAB) at 2:00

Despite placing in the top 10 on the stage, Rabobank’s Martens loses the pink jersey to Pozzato, with Millar edging him for second by fractions of a second based on the initial team time trial results. For the Italian, it is his second stage win, and he now holds the overall lead as well as the points lead.

Overall GC after Stage 5:

1. Pozzato (KAT)
2. Millar (GRM) 0:24
3. Martens (RAB) 0:24
4. Breschel (RAB) 0:34
5. T. Martin (HTC) 1:43
6. Nibali (LIQ) 1:53
7. Basso (LIQ) 1:53
8. Visconti (LIQ) 2:03
9. Contador (SAX) 2:07
10. Grabsch (HTC) 2:21

NOTE: Bert Grabsch, who was erroneously listed as 10th in the prior stage report, moves up a spot from 11th as RadioShack’s Arroyo lost time on the stage.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 68
2. Breschel (RAB) 45
3. Martens (RAB) 39
4. T. Martin (HTC) 39
5. Bennati (LEO) 37

KOM points jersey goes to SaxoBank’s Richie Porte.

KOM Points:

1. Porte (SAX) 9
2. Spilak (KAT) 7
3. Monfort (LEO) 7

Comments:
Another excellent stage win for Pozzato and Katusha, this time with a solo break with a time gap that yields the “Maglia Rosa” for the Italian. Millar did well to maintain second on overall GC, although – had Contador found another willing participant – the time gap would have been erased. Next stage has a more normal finishing section, but there are plenty of uphill finishes to come in this edition of the Giro.

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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 6

Just one categorized climb, a Cat. 3, with the course gradually gaining elevation, could be a good stage for someone like Vinokourov, who excels at the combination of uphill and flat sections. Here’s the profile:

H – D – F – H (Cat. 3) – F – D – H – F/S – H – F – H – F/S/F

With an early climb on the agenda, the KOM contenders feature in the early break, with Spilak, Porte and Monfort being joined by Garzelli from Liquigas. The four-man lead group sets a modest pace and manages to stay together through the initial climb, with the top KOM points going to Garzelli, who is on good form today. Porte takes second ahead of Spilak, which is enough to retain the KOM points leader’s jersey for another day. The gap to the Peleton is around five minutes, with Albasini and Gadret hooking up to launch a counter-attack off the front.

The first half of the stage continues relatively incident-free, with the four leaders content to drift gradually back to the Peleton, which is setting a leisurely pace. The gap to the leaders is reduced to a manageable three minutes, with the duo of Albasini and Gadret following by about a minute. Carrara slips off the front on a downhill section, but then Liquigas’ Dall’Antonia gets careless and goes down, suffering a badly bruised hip as a result. The Italian is destined to lose major time today as a result.

Carrara is allowed to gain a minute as the Peleton seems indifferent about chasing, given the lack of pace among the lead group which grows in numbers as the Albasini-Gadret duo catch the lead foursome on the next hill. Several of the top GC guys are beginning to mass in the middle of the pack, while others are still stuck in the rear, receiving water bottles from their domestiques.

Next up is the intermediate sprint, or intergiro. The leaders all drop back, enabling Carrara – who still has a minute in hand – to win the sprint and 10 second time bonus uncontested, while several others move to the attack zone to contest the other sprint points and time bonuses. Millar, despite getting a hand from his teammate, Vinokourov, can do no better than fifth, with Visconti, Ballan and Tony Martin bursting through to fill the second, third and fourth positions, respectively.

The action heats up on the next hill, as Vinokourov and DiLuca each spend form points to pull away. Contador and Basso join forces to lift the pace, which limits the initial time gap to a minute. Others, who figured in the intermediate sprint, drop back to the middle. Vino then drops the Italian on the ensuing flat section, spending double form points to launch an unchallenged attack. DiLuca counters, losing a minute but maintaining a one-minute gap to the Peleton, which is taking some time to get organized.

While the chase is on, Vino has sufficient energy left to continue pushing all the way to the finish. However, he is out of form points, and DiLuca is able to claw his way back so the two of them head into the final section together, with Contador and the rest of Peleton looking a bit desperate now, as the gap to the duo is two minutes. Martin and Breschel combine at the front to reduce the gap to a minute, and DiLuca simply hangs onto Vino’s wheel and comes around to take the stage win. In the bunch sprint for third, Pozzato – in the leader’s jersey – manages to get to the front, and he holds off Romain Feillu and Taylor Phinney to both preserve the jersey and add a time bonus as well.

Stage 6 Result:

1. DiLuca (KAT)
2. Vinokourov (GRM) same time
3. Pozzato (KAT) at 1:00
4. R. Feillu (LEO) at 1:00
5. Phinney (BMC) at 1:00
6. Davis (HTC) at 1:00
7. Galimzyanov (KAT) at 1:00
8. Brown (RAB) at 1:00
9. Henderson (SKY) at 1:00
10. Popovych (RSH) at 1:00

A minor shake-up in the overall GC, with DiLuca moving up to fifth overall with the stage win, replacing Grabsch of HTC. Pozzato and Visconti gain a few seconds from time bonuses. Vinokourov, the other rider who gained time, reduced his overall time deficit to 3:20.

Overall GC after 6 Stages:

1. Pozzato (KAT)
2. Millar (GRM) 0:32
3. Martens (RAB) 0:32
4. Breschel (RAB) 0:42
5. DiLuca (KAT) 1:28
6. T. Martin (HTC) 1:51
7. Nibali (LIQ) 2:01
8. Basso (LIQ) 2:01
9. Visconti (LIQ) 2:05
10. Contador (SAX) 2:15

Pozzato retains a huge lead in the points competition.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 84
2. Breschel (RAB) 45
3. T. Martin (HTC) 42
4. Davis (HTC) 40
5. Martens (RAB) 39

Contador teammate Richie Porte continues to hold a lead in the KOM points.

KOM Points:

1. Porte (SAX) 11
2. Spilak (KAT) 8
3. Monfort (LEO) 7

Comments: Another good day for Katusha, with DiLuca taking the stage and Pozzato solidifying his hold on the GC and points competition by taking the bunch sprint for third place. Some of the riders who exerted themselves today, however, may be in for a difficult time in the upcoming stage, Stage 7, which is one of the shortest in distance but features two difficult climbs – the first serious climbs of this year’s Giro, promising some changes in both the overall GC and the KOM points competition.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 7

Stage 7

A relatively short stage (around 110 Km) with two sharp, tough climbs. Here’s the profile:

H – F – H – M (Cat. 1 Monte Taburno) – D – F – H – D – F/S – H- M – H/S/ F (near HC*)

*- The KOM points at the end of the stage will be awarded on a 15-10-6-4-2 basis to the top five finishers, which is halfway between what I previously designated as HC and Cat. 1.

The early climb attracts six to the early break, as Spilak (KAT), Porte (SAX), Kruiswijk (RAB), Deignan (RSH), Santambrogio (BMC) and Fedrigo (LEO) go on the hunt for some KOM points. The lead pack splits in two on the flat section approaching the initial climb, with Kruiswijk, Deignan and Santambrogio trailing by a minute. The Peleton is another two minutes down at this point.

The gap to the leaders widens on the slog up the Monte Taburno. KOM points leader Richie Porte sets the pace for the first group, and the second chase group – now paced by Kruijswijk -- catches up to the three leaders once the steeper slopes are reached. Fedrigo, who is on excellent form today, leads out the sprint for the KOM points and is first over the climb. Deignan comes off the wheel of Spilak to take second, with Porte and Santambrogio rounding out the top five. Kruijwsijk, who helped pace the chase group, is shut out of the points.

The gap to the Peleton over the climb is six minutes, and downhill specialist David Arroyo of RadioShack takes advantage to escape off the front on the descent. In the valley between the Taburno and the finish, the lead pack gradually drifts back toward the Peleton, with Arroyo persevering with his solo effort. The pack slows on the next downhill section, causing a traffic jam in the middle that catches several riders unaware. Going down are Garzelli (scraped elbow), Spilak (crash, loses time) and the RadioShack duo of Carrara and Popovych (each suffering bruised wrists). However, team leaders Leipheimer and Tony Martin squeeze past the carnage.

Contador, Gadret and Kreuziger launch attacks off the front, which triggers an immediate reaction from the Peleton. Gadret breaks off his attack, but Contador and Kreuziger press forward, looking for a stage win and perhaps some time gains. Vino launches an counterattack, and Zabriskie and Sivtsov combine forces to lift the pace. No one sprints, so the order remains Arroyo, Contador and Kreuziger who scoop up the intermediate sprint time bonuses with the Peleton following a minute later.

The time gap threatens to increase as Contador moves to the front, pressing the pace. Vino spends a form point, straining hard but catching up to the three leaders. Sivtsov and Martin move to the fore for HTC, keeping the gap at a minute. Igor Anton and Ivan Basso decide to launch off the front, adding to the chaotic situation. Heading into the steeper portions of the finishing climb, Contador invites Kreuziger to take the lead, and the Czech obliges, upping the pace. Arroyo, exhausted, drops off the back while Vinokourov grits his teeth and hangs on. Anton and Basso chase after them. Leipheimer, left alone at the front, is the only one pushing to lift the pace, and so the leaders move off into the distance.

The course flattens out somewhat in the final section. Kreuziger slows, and a reluctant Contador takes over the pace-setting duties, as the leading trio has just enough left to cross the line with a minute in hand. Basso, with Anton in tow, is able to claw back a minute to join the leaders. The two-minute gap to the Peleton holds up. At the front, DiLuca and Rogers lead the chase, but lack the horsepower to make up any ground. In the sprint for the stage win, Anton comes off the rear of the lead group to nip Kreuziger. Basso edges Vino for third while Contador, out of form points, has nothing left. The bunch sprint for sixth goes to Katusha’s Paolini.

Stage 7 Results:

1. Anton (SKY)
2. Kreuziger (BMC) same time
3. Basso (LIQ) same time
4. Vinokourov (GRM) same time
5. Contador (SAX) same time
6. Paolini (KAT) at 2:00
7. R. Feillu (LEO) at 2:00
8. Pozzato (KAT) at 2:00
9. Phinney (BMC) at 2:00
10. T. Martin (HTC) at 2:00

As anticipated, this stage caused a major upheaval in the overall GC. Basso, who was third on the stage, moved into the pink jersey by just seconds over Pozzato and Contador. Kreuziger moves into the top five, and stage winner Anton moves into the top 10.

Overall GC after Stage 7:

1. Basso (LIQ)
2. Pozzato (KAT) :07
3. Contador (SAX) :16
4. Kreuziger (BMC) :36
5. Millar (GRM) :39
6. Martens (RAB) :39
7. Breschel (RAB) :49
8. Anton (SKY) 1:02
9. Vinokourov (GRM) 1:27
10. DiLuca (KAT) 1:35

Pozzato, with another top 10 on the stage, continues with a solid lead in the points competition.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 92
2. Breschel (RAB) 48
3. T. Martin (HTC) 48
4. Davis (HTC) 40
5. Bennati (LEO) 39

Igor Anton, with the points for winning the final climb, moves into the KOM points lead.

KOM Points:

1. Anton (SKY) 15
2. Porte (SAX) 13
3. Spilak (KAT) 12
4. Kreuziger (BMC) 10
5. Fedrigo (LEO) 10

Comments: A very interesting stage, one that saw Contador short on form points that prevented him from participating in the final sprint and possibly gaining a time bonus to take the overall GC lead. Good results for Sky and BMC – two teams that have been struggling thus far in the early season. Also interesting to see how the aggressive team tactics won out over the passive teams that were unable to organize a successful chase on the final climb. Next stage sees no categorized climbs but a rather interesting run-in to the finish that could provide an opportunity for a break to succeed, with more climbing and another mountain-top finish coming up in Stage 9.

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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Congrats to Ryder Hesjedal
Following the real-life Giro (unfortunately had to miss out on the live coverage today), would like to congratulate the first ever Canadian cyclist to wear the coveted Pink Jersey, Ryder Hesjedal who rides for Luke's favorite team. Hint: For those who haven't figured it out yet, the name of the team begins with a "G."
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 8

Stage 8

One intermediate sprint at the two-thirds mark, no classified climb, but a sharp uphill near the finish, preceded by a downhill section, provides some opportunity for a break to stay away. With a day of brutal climbing coming up in Stage 9, it’s entirely possible that the GC and KOM contenders may take it easy today, looking to conserve energy, something that could encourage others in the Peleton to try for the stage win today, although the sprinters’ teams could also have their say.

Stage profile:

H – D – H – D – F – H – D – F – F/S – D – H – F/S/F

Venturing out on the early break are Tschopp (BMC), LeMevel (GRM) and Sivtsov (HTC). This trio quickly builds a five-minute gap before Liquigas puts Dall’Antonia and Garzelli at the front to pick up the pace. No incidents until the second downhill, when Gardret crashes and loses three minutes, but there is plenty of time left in the stage to rejoin the Peleton.

The three-man lead group cooperates, setting a steady but not strenuous pace. The gap extends to six minutes, and Saxo’s Matteo Tosatto – looking forward to the intermediate sprint – makes an aggressive move off the front. Not a lot of reaction from the Peleton, as most teams seem indifferent with a big stage coming up the next day. The gap peaks at seven minutes on the third downhill section heading into the flat run-in to the intermediate sprint. BMC’s Ballan also finds the pace a bit slow, so he launches off the front and begins chasing after Tosatto and the three leaders.

HTC’s Grabsch is next to join the attacking groups, while Garzelli (LIQ) and Langeveld (RAB) are at the front, lifting the pace. Paolini makes a “power move” off the front, and the Garmin duo of Dean and Vinokourov launches a counter-attack, picking up Monfort (LEO) as a passenger. The intermediate sprint sees Tschopp leading out and pipping LeMevel for the points and time bonus, with Sivtsov trailing. Two minutes later, Ballan and Tosatto cross the line to fill the remaining positions.

Three sections to go and, with a five-minute gap to the Peleton, the three leaders are beginning to look like they might stay away. LeMevel ups the pace on the final downhill section, and Ballan also pushes the chasing duo as well. Grabsch and Paolini also continue attacking, and the Vino-Dean duo also continue pushing forward, while Monfort ducks back into the Peleton. With so many teams with riders in the break, no one cooperates with Rabobank’s Brown to lift the pace, so the gap is not going to be closed down in time.

Positions on the road with two sections to go:
(1) lead group (LeMevel, Sivtsov, Tschopp), five minutes ahead;
(2) chase group 1 (Ballan, Tosatto), three minutes to Peleton;
(3) chase group 2 (Grabsch, Paolini), two minutes in front; and
(4) chase group 3 (Dean, Vinokourov), one minute ahead.
The closest of these on GC coming into this stage were Vinokourov (at 1:27), Grabsch (at 2:36) and Paolini (2:45).

On the final uphill rise near the finish, Paolini takes the lead and ups the pace to drag himself and Grabsch up to the chase group. Vino paces his teammate Dean, while the Peleton finally speeds up, with Visconti and Dall’Antonia doing all the work on behalf of Liquigas and Basso and Nibali to keep the gaps to a minimum. Into the final flat section, Ballan powers himself, Paolini and Grabsch to bridge the two-minute gap to the three leaders; Tosatto, low on energy, is forced to drop back. Then, with a lot of elbowing as cyclists position themselves for the final sprint to the line, there’s chaos as several cyclists go down, taking them out of contention for the stage. Grabsch slips and falls, losing a minute and dropping out of contention for a stage win that seemed just within his grasp. Ditto for Ballan, who falls and bruises his hip, dropping back but receiving the same time as the Peleton.

This leaves LeMevel and Sivtsov to battle for the stage win, which goes to the Garmin rider. Tschopp and Paolini, both out of form points, finish third and fourth, respectively. These four gain three minutes’ time on the Peleton. Then, Dean and Vinokourov finish a minute later, along with Grabsch, who gamely struggles home after his fall. Tosatto hangs on to take eighth on the stage, finishing a minute ahead of the Peleton. The bunch sprint for ninth goes to points leader Pozzato, who nips Henderson while several cyclists go down in the mad dash the line – among these is Leopard Trek’s sprinter, Romain Feillu, who was well-positioned for a good finish before being taken out in the crash. Albasini (wrist) and Flens (elbow) have the worst of it, but everyone receives the same time and is able to continue in the Giro.

Stage 8 Result:

1. LeMevel (GRM)
2. Sivtsov (HTC) same time
3. Tschopp (BMC) same time
4. Paolini (KAT) same time
5. Dean (GRM) at 1:00
6. Vinokourov (GRM) at 1:00
7. Grabsch (HTC) at 1:00
8. Tosatto (SAX) at 2:00
9. Pozzato (KAT) at 3:00
10. Henderson (SKY) at 3:00

In the end, the chase proved ineffective as the pink jersey moved from Liquigas to Garmin, with Alexandre Vinokourov’s well-timed move -- ably assisted by teammate Julian Dean -- was sufficient to put him into the overall GC lead, with Paolini moving up to second overall while Basso slips to third.

Overall GC after Stage 8:

1. Vinokourov (GRM)
2. Paolini (KAT) 0:18
3. Basso (LIQ) 0:33
4. Pozzato (KAT) 0:40
5. Contador (SAX) 0:49
6. Grabsch (HTC) 1:09
7. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:09
8. Millar (GRM) 1:12
9. Martens (RAB) 1:12
10. Breschel (RAB) 1:22

Igor Anton winds up just outside the top 10, at 1:35. Others; DiLuca (KAT), 2:08; T. Martin (HTC), 2:31; Nibali (LIQ), 2:41; Visconti (LIQ), 2:45; Leipheimer (RSH), 3:21; Bennati (LEO), 3:23; Rogers (SKY), 3:25; Gerdemann (LEO), 4:13; Zubeldia (RSH), 4:19; Popovych (RSH), 7:21; Scarponi (SAX), 7:55.

Pozzato continues to lead the points competition by a wide margin.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 99
2. Breschel (RAB) 48
3. T. Martin (HTC) 48
4. Vinokourov (GRM) 47
5. Bennati (LEO) 43

No climbs in Stage 8 means the KOM points jersey stays with Sky’s Igor Anton.

Comments: A great day for Garmin, taking the stage win with LeMevel, also placing three of its five remaining team members in the top six, all while conserving some energy for their team leader, David Millar, for the upcoming stage. The break was able to stay away because of a very cautious early pace by the Peleton, in particular the Liquigas team, which was more interested in conserving energy for Nibali and Basso for the upcoming stage.

The cautious early pace meant most of the key GC contenders have plenty left for the upcoming stage, Stage 9, which involves two climbs up an active volcano, something you don’t see every day. Look for a big battle and a shake-up in both the overall GC and KOM points standings.

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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 9

Stage 9

For this stage, the scene shifts to Sicily for an intense day in the saddle, punctuated by two climbs up the active volcano of Mount Etna (approaching the mountain from two different sides). Here’s the stage profile:

F – F – H – D – H – M – M (Cat. 1) – D – D – F/S – M – H/S/F (Cat. 2)

Garmin puts LeMevel and Dean, two of the team’s heroes from the prior stage, at the front and starts pushing the pace right away. An early break forms – consisting of Spilak (KAT), Dall’Antonia (LIQ), Albasini (HTC) and Kruijswijk (RAB) – but, otherwise, everyone is content to sit back and let Garmin do most of the work on the early part of the stage.

The four-man lead group sets a cautious pace, and the Garmin riders at the front do not begin pressing hard right away. This enables another rider, Leopard’s Monfort, to slip off the front. All of the escapees are eyeing the KOM points on offer for the Cat. 1 climb just past the midway point of today’s stage.

Pinotti makes an abortive move to attack on the next hill, while the Garmin team (with Zabriskie now joining LeMevel at the front) keep the gap to the lead group to around four minutes. Monfort is caught in no-man’s land, dangling two minutes in front. On the downhill section, Pinotti ducks back into the front section, while there’s an incident that nearly clears the middle group and almost causes a Peleton split, save for Rabobank’s Flens who maintains the link between the front and rear of the main field as three riders – including BMC’s Tschopp and Saxo’s Porte -- drop a minute back due to punctures and off-road excursions.

The long, hard first climb up Etna commences. Albasini sets a brisk pace on the lower slopes of the climb and, as a result, the Garmin duo of LeMevel and Zabriskie responds by lifting pace at the front of the Peleton as well. Fedrigo is prevented from escaping in another aborted attack. Up ahead, Kruijswijk sets the pace as the steeper slopes of the climb are reached. The lead pack begins to splinter in the final few Km as Kruijswijk puts on a burst of speed to launch an unchallenged attack to guarantee top KOM points on the climb. It’s a two minute wait until Spilak and Albasini arrive, having dropped Dall’Antonia. Albasini puts in a quick spurt to take second on the climb ahead of the Slovenian, but the four points earned by Spilak is enough to put him back into the lead in the KOM points competition. Another minute passes, and Leopard’s Monfort, who has slipped past Dall’Antonia is next, with the Italian Liquigas rider struggling across, fifth on the climb but just a minute in front of the Peleton, paced by Dave Zabriskie.

It’s a long descent into the valley below for the one intermediate sprint. Kruijswijk slows, as do the Albasini-Spilak duo, and the chasing group comes together, two minutes behind the Rabobank rider. A minute later comes the Peleton, with Garmin playing another team tactic card by sending team leader David Millar off the front. Contador, Gerdemann, Kreuziger and Scarponi have all made aggressive moves to the fore, keeping a tight rein on the situation. Meanwhile, the treacherous descent leads to a big pile-up, and a number of cyclists lose time and are dropped off the back, including: Garzelli (sprained wrist); Froome and N. Sorensen (bruised elbows); Svitsov (bruised hip); R. Feillu (crash); and Arroyo (flat tire). However, GC contenders Nibali, Tony Martin and Breschel avert disaster and tiptoe around the carnage.

At the bottom of the descent, the five leaders have collapsed into one five-man group, with Millar charging forward to join their ranks. Contador and Scarponi, at the front for SaxoBank, are content to allow a one-minute gap to these six. Nibali launches a counterattack off the front, as the road flattens for the intermediate sprint. Here, Garmin’s plan for the stage becomes apparent as Millar leads out the sprint, bidding for a time bonus. While Kruijswijk and Spilak have dropped back, the others in the early break are there to contest the sprint. Dall’Antonia – his participation more to deny Millar the bonus time, to the benefit of his teammates Basso and Nibali – manages to take the sprint, with Monfort in second. Millar has to settle for third and a four-second time bonus, with Albasini fourth of the lead four. Nibali’s effort to break away is reeled in as Breschel and Martin combine at the front to lift the pace another notch. There’s a spirited sprint for the fifth and final sprint point position as Phinney (with help from Ballan) and Galimzyanov (with help from Paolini) are edged out by Bennati, who comes off the wheels of both of them.

Two sections left, and the second climb of Mount Etna looms ahead. Millar soldiers on, with the other three – done for the day – dropping straight back to the cars. Nibali sets the pace and reels in the Scotsman. Basso, Contador, Leipheimer, Anton and DiLuca go on the offensive once the Peleton hits the steep slopes of the climb. On the upper slopes of the climb, Contador and DiLuca are the first to weaken, and then Basso puts on a burst of speed that Leipheimer and Anton are unable to match. At the head of the Peleton, Millar – tired after his big effort – sinks back slowly to finish in the cars, while Scarponi is there for SaxoBank to keep the time gap to Basso at just a minute. Visconti elbows his way to the front to win the bunch sprint, making it a 1-2 finish for Liquigas.

Stage 9 Result:

1. Basso (LIQ)
2. Visconti (LIQ) at 1:00
3. Rogers (SKY) at 1:00
4. Scarponi (SAX) at 1:00
5. Martens (RAB) at 1:00
6. T. Martin (HTC) at 1:00
7. Carrara (RSH) at 1:00
8. Anton (SKY) at 1:00
9. Deignan (RSH) at 1:00
10. Porte (SAX) at 1:00

Basso’s impressive effort puts him back in pink, with Vino slipping to second. Paolini, who had been second on GC coming into today’s stage, lost two minutes and dropped out of the top 10, while Millar and Grabsch wound up in the cars and lost some time as well.

Overall GC after Stage 9:

1. Basso (LIQ)
2. Vinokourov (GRM) 0:47
3. Pozzato (KAT) 1:27
4. Contador (SAX) 1:36
5. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:56
6. Martens (RAB) 1:59
7. Breschel (RAB) 2:09
8. Anton (SKY) 2:22
9. Millar (GRM) 2:25
10. Grabsch (HTC) 2:26

Others: DiLuca (KAT), at 2:55; T. Martin (HTC), at 3:18; Visconti (LIQ), at 3:20;
Nibali (LIQ), at 3:28; Paolini (KAT), at 3:55; Rogers (SKY), at 4:04; Leipheimer (RSH), at 4:08; Bennati (LEO), at 4:10; Gerdemann (LEO), at 5:00; Zubeldia (RSH), at 5:06.

Pozzato did not add to his points total, but he still leads although Tony Martin and others made up some ground on the stage.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 99
2. T. Martin (HTC) 58
3. Basso (LIQ) 53
4. Visconti (LIQ) 53
5. Martens (RAB) 51

The KOM points lead goes back to the Slovenian, Simon Spilak. Kruijswijk, who took the Cat. 1 climb today, moves into third.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 16
2. Anton (SKY) 15
3. Kruijswijk (RAB) 13
4. Porte (SAX) 13
5. Basso (LIQ) 11

Comments: Just as Stage 8 was big for Garmin, this was a great day for Liquigas. The 1-2 punch with Nibali and Basso worked to set up the final climb, and Visconti was in position to win the sprint for second. Would have thought there would have been more climbers in position to challenge Basso on the final climb, but guys like Contador and Millar had used up their energy earlier in the stage and had little left in the tank. It’s also interesting to see some nominal team leaders trailing the #2 men at this point, i.e., Basso ahead of Nibali for Liquigas, and Vino ahead of Millar for Garmin, also Anton ahead of Rogers for Sky and Grabsch ahead of Martin for HTC. Will be interesting to see how everything is sorted out in the upcoming stages.

Next stage, Stage 10, is relatively flat, with a rest day to follow. So, those with good form die rolls will be looking to mix things up, and there’s little need to conserve energy, as form will be reset after the rest day.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 10

Stage 10

After yesterday’s intense climbing up Mount Etna, a relatively placid stage but, there could be some action as there’s no real need to conserve energy with a rest day coming up. Here’s the stage profile:

H – D – F – H (Cat. 3) – F – H – D – F/S – F – F – H – F/S/F

With an early climb on the agenda, it’s no surprise to see KOM protagonists Spilak, Porte and Monfort head out on the early break. These three build a gap of around three minutes heading into the approach to the climb. Two more riders – Fedrigo (LEO) and Albasini (HTC) -- take advantage of the slow pace to escape off the front.

Porte leads out the sprint for the KOM points, but Spilak – defending the KOM leader’s jersey – takes the top spot, followed by Monfort with Porte settling for third. Tschopp (BMC) decides to make an aggressive move, while Fedrigo and Albasini are allowed to build a two-minute cushion while water bottles are handed out. Likewise, the gap to the three leaders has expanded to three minutes.

The lead group slows, allowing the chasers to catch up. Tschopp soldier on alone, just a minute ahead of the Peleton, which now sees Sky’s Chris Froome at the front, joining forces with Liquigas’ Dall’Antonia. Garmin’s Dave Zabrskie also joins the Liquigas rider, pushing the pace up the next hill. The gap to the now six-man lead group is sliced to two minutes, although the pace-setting appears to be aimed at preventing any GC contenders in the Peleton from making a late break to gain some time.

Fedrigo paces his teammate on the downhill headed into the intermediate sprint, but the others in the lead group fade away. Dall’Antonia and Zabriskie continue to set a torrid pace at the front, two minutes back, and Tschopp drifts back to the Peleton. There’s a touching of wheels in the middle of the pack, and several riders go down. Among them is one of the GC contenders, Sky’s Igor Anton, who drops back a minute off the pace. Teammate Greg Henderson loses even more time, and Saxo’s Richie Porte suffers a bruised hip.

The intermediate sprint is won by the two Leopard Trek riders, with Fedrigo pacing Monfort at this point. Two minutes back, there’s a battle for the last three spots as the Peleton crosses, with HTC’s Allan Davis finishing third, ahead of Galimzyanov in fourth with Tosatto in fifth. Anton has latched onto the wheel of BMC’s Ballan to scrape his way back to the cars.

Heading into the final few sections of today’s route, the teams of the GC leaders seem content to let the break -- which contains no GC threats – go. However, teams with strong sprinters – such as HTC – are seeking to up the pace. However, when GC contenders Millar and Breschel move to the attack zone, the equation changes, and the chase is on. Breschel spends a form point and catches the Leopard Trek duo, with Monfort using his last bit of energy to pace teammate Fedrigo. Liquigas (with Nibali) and Garmin (with Dean) push the pace at the front. HTC’s Tony Martin launches a “power move” off the front to close the one-minute gap to Breschel and Fedrigo.

There’s an incident in the middle of the Peleton. Popovych and Rogers lose a minute, having been caught up in the conflagration, but suffering the worse are Gerdemann, who loses major time, and the unfortunate Romain Feillu, who goes down and out with a collarbone injury – the sixth retirement of the Giro and the second for Leopard Trek. Next up is the penultimate section, a sharp climb before the final flat run-in to the finish.

Breschel takes a long pull at the front of the lead group up the hill, with Martin and haggard-looking Fedrigo following. A minute later comes the Peleton, with Visconti (LIQ) and Paolini (KAT) combining at the front to keep the pace high. Bennati and Paolini’s teammate, Pozzato, have also worked their way to the front. In the final flat section, Martin moves to the front, spends two form points to launch a power move, but Breschel has just enough left to stay with him, gaining the time but not the stage win. The gap to the Peleton is two minutes. Fedrigo falls away and finishes in the cars, while Pozzato noses out Davis for third spot in the sprint.

Stage 10 Result:

1. T. Martin (HTC)
2. Breschel (RAB) same time
3. Pozzato (KAT) at 2:00
4. Davis (HTC) at 2:00
5. Ballan (BMC) at 2:00
6. Phinney (BMC) at 2:00
7. Millar (GRM) at 2:00
8. Martens (RAB) at 2:00
9. Galimzyanov (KAT) at 2:00
10. Bennati (LEO) at 2:00

Breschel’s time gain and 12 bonus seconds is just enough to put him in the Maglia Rosa by just three seconds ahead of Liquigas’ Ivan Basso. Tony Martin moves up to fourth overall – 11 seconds behind Vino -- with the stage win. Pozzato gains eight bonus seconds to remain in the top five, just ahead of Contador. Further down, Mik Rogers finishes a minute down on the Peleton while Leopard Trek’s Linus Gerdemann loses six minutes.

Overall GC after Stage 10:

1. Breschel (RAB)
2. Basso (LIQ) 0:03
3. Vinokourov (GRM) 0:50
4. T. Martin (HTC) 1:01
5. Pozzato (KAT) 1:22
6. Contador (SAX) 1:39
7. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:59
8. Martens (RAB) 2:02
9. Anton (SKY) 2:25
10. Millar (GRM) 2:28
11. Grabsch (HTC) 2:29
12. DiLuca (KAT) 2:58
13. Visconti (LIQ) 3:23
14. Nibali (LIQ) 3:31
15. Paolini (KAT) 3:38
16. Leipheimer (RSH) 4:11
17. Bennati (LEO) 4:13
18. Rogers (SKY) 5:07
19. Zubeldia (RSH) 5:09
20. Tosatto (SAX) 5:17

Pozzato extends his lead in the points competition.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 115
2. T. Martin (HTC) 83
3. Breschel (RAB) 71
4. Martens (RAB) 59
5. Davis (HTC) 58

Spilak is on top in the KOM points.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 19
2. Anton (SKY) 15
3. Porte (SAX) 14
4. Kruijswijk (RAB) 13
5. Basso (LIQ) 11

Comments: The pink jersey changed hands once again with Breschel supplanting Basso at the top of the GC list. The chaos at the front near the final sprint headed into the final climb enabled the Breschel-Martin duo to take advantage of the long flat stretch to escape and then stay away, piggy-backing on the efforts of the Leopard Trek duo of Fedrigo and Monfort, which was no longer around at the end.

A rest day follows, after which form will be re-set, and then there’s a hilly Stage 11.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 11

Stage 11

A hilly stage, with four Cat. 3 climbs and an uphill finishing section, so it could be a good day for a break as many riders can be expected to have “fresh legs” after the rest day. The stage profile:

H – F – H (Cat. 3) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F/S – H (Cat. 3) – D – H/S/F

Two of the specially trained riders – Sky’s Rogers and Leopard Trek’s Bennati – decide to allocate one of their remaining “+1” form chips for this stage, instead of waiting for the final week of the Giro. As usual with some climbs on the horizon, three KOM contenders – Spilak, Porte and Monfort – head out on the early break. Porte leads the way over the first Cat. 3 climb, followed by Spilak and Monfort, who did not sprint. HTC sends Sivtsov and, a section later, his teammate, Albasini, while Dall’Antonia (LIQ) joins Albasini in slipping off the front. Rabobank puts a second man at the front and begins to ramp up the pace, along with Garmin. Gap to the three leaders is five minutes at the first climb, while Sivtsov quickly opens up three minutes with his counter-move.

The attacks keep coming on the descent of the Cat. 3 climb, as Arroyo joins the others ahead of the Peleton. Monfort leads out the KOM sprint on the next climb, and this time it’s Spilak edging Porte for the top KOM points, with Monfort trailing. The three chasers come together, as Sivtsov waits for Dall’Antonia and his teammate, Albasini, to catch up. The gap to the lead trio is around five minutes, heading into the third climb of the day.

Spilak presses forward, setting the pace on the third Cat. 3 climb. However, he elects not to sprint and is relegated to third behind Porte (who wins the sprint) and Monfort. Albasini pulls the four chasers to within a minute of the lead, and there is still no activity in the Peleton, still paced by Garmin (LeMevel and Millar) alongside Rabobank (Kruiswijk). On the descent of the climb, the three leaders and four chasers form a now seven-man strong lead group, with Monfort at the head. Nibali and Popovych launch attacks off the front, and the gap to the lead pack is holding at around four minutes, with the intermediate sprint coming up.

Sivtsov lead out the sprint, keeping a high pace but none of the leaders fall back. Dall’Antonia comes off the back to take the sprint, ahead of Sivtsov (who gets help from teammate Albasini), while Spilak outsprints Monfort for third and a four second time bonus. The fifth spot is filled by Porte, who follows in order. Millar and Breschel combine at the front of the Peleton, pushing the pace and cutting the gap to three minutes, while at the same time snuffing out the putative attack by Nibali and Popo.

Next up is the final Cat. 3 climb of the day. Sivtsov, in a final burst, leads the way up the climb and takes the top KOM points. Spilak, however, is shut out – finishing behind Arroyo (RSH) and Porte. Porte has moved to second overall in the KOM points, but Spilak still leads. Dall’Antonia drifts back to the Peleton. Three riders – Vinokourov, Visconti and Rogers – push forward, slipping off the front of the Peleton.

The lead group splinters on the descent, with Albasini, Porte and Monfort soldering on while the others drift back to the Peleton. The pace actually drops a notch, allowing Nibali and Popovych to once again threaten to break away. The gap to the leaders shrinks to a minute as Porte takes the lead, using up his last bit of energy to pace the other two to the finish. The Aussie takes the stage win, with Monfort and Albasini following; all three are out of form points, so there is no sprinting among them. Vino and Breschel perform the work at the front to assure that the Nibali-Popo duo is reeled in, and it’s a bunch sprint uphill finish for fourth on the stage. Garzelli (LIQ) gets to the front, and comes off the wheel of Tosatto to nip the SaxoBank sprinter for fourth on the stage.

Stage 11 Result:

1. Porte (SAX)
2. Monfort (LEO) same time
3. Albasini (HTC) same time
4. Garzelli (LIQ) at 1:00
5. Tosatto (SAX) at 1:00
6. Bennati (LEO) at 1:00
7. Pozzato (KAT) at 1:00
8. Anton (SKY) at 1:00
9. Carrara (RSH) at 1:00
10. Popovych (RSH) at 1:00

No changes to the overall GC, as Breschel still leads.

Overall GC after Stage 11:

1. Breschel (RAB)
2. Basso (LIQ) 0:03
3. Vinokourov (GRM) 0:50
4. T. Martin (HTC) 1:01
5. Pozatto (KAT) 1:22
6. Contador (SAX) 1:39
7. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:59
8. Martens (RAB) 2:02
9. Anton (SKY) 2:25
10. Millar (GRM) 2:28
11. Grabsch (HTC) 2:29
12. DiLuca (KAT) 2:58
13. Visconti (LIQ) 3:23
14. Nibali (LIQ) 3:31
15. Paolini (KAT) 3:38
16. Leipheimer (RSH) 4:11
17. Bennati (LEO) 4:13
18. Rogers (SKY) 5:07
19. Zubeldia (RSH) 5:09
20. Tosatto (SAX) 5:17

Pozzato adds to his lead in the points competition.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 124
2. T. Martin (HTC) 83
3. Breschel (RAB) 71
4. Bennati (LEO) 61
5. Martens (RAB) 59

Spilak retains the KOM jersey by a narrow margin over today’s stage winner, Richie Porte.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 25
2. Porte (SAX) 23
3. Anton (SKY) 15
4. Monfort (LEO) 15
5. Kruijswijk (RAB) 13

Comments: This was a bit of a surprising result, to see one of the riders headed out to collect KOM points on the climbs to stay away for the win. However, this was a day that the GC contenders decided not to vigorously contest the stage, as there was only a small chance of gaining time. Rabobank and Garmin did just enough work at the front to prevent any time gaps to the other GC guys, and no more. SaxoBank’s first stage win of the Giro, and surprisingly, it’s not Contador in the winner’s circle. Next up is a relatively flat stage, one that is custom-made for the sprint specialists.

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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 12
Stage 12

A relatively flat stage, a good opportunity for the sprinters, before three successive days of climbing. Here’s the profile:

H – F – H – D – F – F – H – D – F – F/S – F – F/S/F

Five non-GC contenders set out on the early break, hoping to perhaps stay away, as happened in Stage 11. These five are: Dean (GRM), N. Sorensen (SAX), Ballan (BMC), Henderson (SKY) and, once again, Monfort (LEO); the best-placed of these – Sorensen at 13:15 – is no threat to the overall GC contenders. A leisurely pace allows the five leaders to build a six-minute advantage a third of the way through the stage.

KOM points leader Spilak goes off the road on the first downhill section, losing time and suffering a bruised hip, but he is able to continue. The slow pace today enables Spilak to regain the lost ground; a few sections later, he is joined by Albasini, who goes off the road in a flat section. The two of them rejoin on the next uphill section, but not without difficulty as Liquigas (in the person of Garzelli) and Rabobank (in the person of Langeveld) join forces to lift the pace, reducing the gap to the five leaders to five minutes. Nonetheless, Katusha’s Luca Paolini is not deterred from becoming the first of the to 20 GC guys to make a break, spending a form point to go into the red zone.

On the final downhill section, Paolini is reeled back in, while cooperation among the breakaway good remains good. Nibali and Arroyo have a look at breaking away, but quickly duck back in as the one sprint looms ahead. The lead group rolls through the intermediate sprint, and Dean comes from the middle of the bunch to take the points and 10 second time bonus ahead of Henderson, with Nicki Sorensen in third. Monfort and Ballan – neither of whom contests the sprint – fill the final two positions. The gap to the leaders remains strong, around four minutes, suggesting that the break might stay away.

Katusha’s Paolini, unable to get any cooperation in whipping up the pace, goes off on a solo “power move” and quickly opens a two-minute gap. This causes a reaction among the GC leaders’ teams, and Liquigas and Rabobank lift the pace, with the pink jersey (Breschel) joining teammate Graeme Brown at the front. However, the lead group – and Paolini – have enough time in hand, and the Peleton’s chase is going to be too little and too late again today.

The lead group splinters as Ballan, who has been playing possum to this point, powers his way to the front. Only Dean is able to follow. Sorensen paces the rest of the bunch, who are joined by Paolini just before the run-in to the finish. Dean comes off the wheel of Ballan to take the stage win, while – a minute later – Paolini finishes off his attack by winning the sprint for third, nipping Henderson at the line. The seconds tick off before the Peleton – with HTC (in the person of Martin) and Breschel (in the pink jersey for Rabobank) – setting a furious pace that limits the time loss to Paolini to just a minute. HTC is set up well for the bunch sprint, with Allan Davis leading the remnants of the Peleton across the line after a hard chase in the final few Km.

Stage 12 Result:

1. Dean (GRM)
2. Ballan (BMC) same time
3. Paolini (KAT) at 1:00
4. Henderson (SKY) at 1:00
5. Monfort (LEO) at 1:00
6. N. Sorensen (SAX) at 1:00
7. Davis (HTC) at 2:00
8. Pozzato (KAT) at 2:00
9. Galimzyanov (KAT) at 2:00
10. Millar (GRM) at 2:00

No changes to the top 10 on the GC list from the prior stage. Paolini gained some time, but not enough to move higher than 12th. The only other change saw Tosatto, who wound up in the cars, drop out of the top 20, replaced by BMC’s Taylor Phinney.

Standings after Stage 12:

1. Breschel (RAB)
2. Basso (LIQ) 0:03
3. Vinokourov (GRM) 0:50
4. T. Martin (HTC) 1:01
5. Pozzato (KAT) 1:22
6. Contador (SAX) 1:39
7. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:59
8. Martens (RAB) 2:02
9. Anton (SKY) 2:25
10. Millar (GRM) 2:28
11. Grabsch (HTC) 2:29
12. Paolini (KAT) 2:30
13. DiLuca (KAT) 2:58
14. Visconti (LIQ) 3:23
15. Nibali (LIQ) 3:31
16. Leipheimer (RSH) 4:11
17. Bennati (LEO) 4:13
18. Rogers (SKY) 5:07
19. Zubeldia (RSH) 5:09
20. Phinney (BMC) 5:39

Pozzato had a good enough finish on the stage to pick up some more points, but Monfort and Davis moved into the top five in the points race. Paolini, the stage winner, would be next on the list with 62 points.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 132
2. T. Martin (HTC) 87
3. Breschel (RAB) 76
4. Monfort (LEO) 71
5. Davis (HTC) 67

No changes in the KOM points from the prior stage.

Comments: The pack seemed willing to let the break stay away until Paolini – a rider within four minutes on the overall GC – became active, and then the pace picked up with a fairly effective closing effort, with Breschel and Martin featuring prominently. Ballan, who set the pace near the end, probably deserved the stage win more than Dean, but the opportunistic Kiwi conserved just enough energy to stay with the Italian ex-World Champion, and used his superior sprint speed and remaining form to take the stage – Garmin’s third win thus far.

Tomorrow is the first of three serious days of climbing, featuring a mountain-top finish at the Grossglockner, so the GC contenders are expected to mix it up – could be an exciting stage – expect to see a major shake-up in the GC as a result. A number of top contenders should be on good form, having conserved energy on Stage 12, although Simon Spilak – who will be nursing a bruised hip – may be hard pressed to hold on to the KOM points jersey.
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 13

Stage 13

First of three brutal mountain stages in a row, featuring no less than four categorized climbs – one Cat. 1, a Cat. 2 and a pair of Cat. 3s – topped off by a mountain-top finish at the Grossglockner, awarding KOM points on a 15-10-6-4-2 basis. Here’s the profile:

F – F/S – M (Cat. 2) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F – M (Cat. 2) – F – H – M (Cat. 1 Kaserock) – M/S/F (Grossglockner)

Those seeking the sprint points and a quick time bonus feature in the early break, with the climbers holding back. Galimzyanov, Dall’Antonia, Grabsch, Tosatto, Henderson and Bennati are the six riders in the early break. Grabsch and Galimzyanov pull a minute ahead of the others, and Galimzyanov takes the maximum points on the early sprint, effectively helping teammate Pozzato preserve his lead by taking points from others. Grabsch, seeing he is beaten, eases off and settles for second and a six-second time bonus. Third goes to Bennati, with Dall’Antonia and Tosatto exhibiting good form to take the remaining places ahead of Henderson, who is shut out.

The sprinters begin to fall back on the first climb, but not soon enough to allow the climbers to take over. Tosatto and Dall’Antonia sprint ahead, with the Liquigas man taking first on the climb. A minute later, the rest of the bunch crosses, with Bennati speeding up to take the final KOM point for third. There’s been some lifting of the pace at the front, so the gap to the Peleton is two minutes, with Porte (SAX) and Monfort (LEO) slipping off the front. KOM leader Spilak and climbers like Steven Kruijswijk and Johan Tschopp are moving forward at this point.

There’s more sorting out on the descent of the initial climb. Dall’Antonia and Tosatto continue to soldier on, and these two hold a three-minute lead on the Peleton. The other sprinters drop back to the Peleton. LeMevel and Garzelli launch “strong man” attacks off the front and quickly open up two minutes, closing down ground to the lead duo quickly. Porte and Monfort continue their “normal” attacks, gaining a minute without spending any form points. Then, a quartet of climbing specialists – Kruijswijk, Spilak, Tschopp and Arroyo – is set to join the fray by moving forward to the attack card.

The six riders out in front join in one compact group for the next climb, a Cat. 3. Dall’Antonia continues to set the pace, taking the KOM sprint ahead of Porte and Monfort; the two points Porte gains for second put him level at 25 with Spilak, so the KOM points battle is joined. The gap from the Peleton to the leaders is just two minutes, and it is one minute to the four chasers (Kruijswijk, Spilak, Tschopp and Arroyo).

There appear to be some team tactics at work in the lead group, with Dall’Antonia and Garzelli cooperating for Liquigas, while Tosatto is there to support SaxoBank’s Porte in his KOM points quest. Arroyo bridges the gap to the lead pack on the descent of the Cat. 3 climb, with Tschopp straining to lock onto his wheel. Kruijswijk and Spilak choose not vigorously pursue, dropping two minutes in back of the lead group while remaining a minute in front of the Peleton, which is still moving along at a comfortable pace while water bottles are being handed out at the back.

On the flat section before the road gradually turns upward, Garmin’s Dean and Rabobank’s Martens combine at the front to gradually lift the pace. Tosatto takes a turn at the front for the lead group, which continues to set a brisk pace. Arroyo and Tschopp drop off the back and fall a minute off the pace. The other relative positions remain the same. On the next climb – a Cat. 2 – the GC and KOM contenders start to surge forward, while the points on the climb go to Porte, who outsprints Garzelli for first, and then LeMevel, who outsprints Monfort for third. These four are now three minutes ahead of the Peleton, which now sees Visconti (LIQ) and Carrara (RSH) doing the pace-setting. Dall’Antonia and Tosatto are done, dropping all the way back to the cars. Kruijswijk drags himself and Spilak up to Tschopp and Arroyo to form a four-man chase group, a minute behind the four leaders.

The attacks start with DiLuca making the first aggressive move over the peak of the climb. By this time Breschel, Vinokourov, Basso, Millar, Contador et al. have settled in the middle and are prepared to respond. On the last flat section before the final climbs, the leaders combine in an eight-man group, while DiLuca is allowed to open a gap, with Liquigas working at the front with Nibali and Visconti, but also sending Basso on the attack. Basso’s presence leads to a chain reaction, with Leipheimer, Popovych, Tony Martin, Contador, Millar, Vinokourov, Paolini, Kreuziger, Ballan and GC leader Breschel all joining in a free-for-all. At this critical moment, Contador’s chief lieutenant – Scarponi – goes off the road, losing valuable time as his bad luck in his “home” Grand Tour continues.

On the lower slopes of the Cat. 1 Kaserock, Contador and Vinokourov put in a burst of speed to catch the lead group, which is still clinging to a two-minute advantage over the Peleton. Basso, Levi, Popo, Tony Martin, Millar and Kreuziger settle in at a steady high cadence to form a six-man chase group, one minute down. Sky sends both Igor Anton and John Gadret on the attack, holding Rogers in reserve in the hard-working group at the front of the Peleton. Liquigas has both Nibali and Visconti, but it looks like one or both is set to spring into action as the higher slopes of the climb are reached.

Heading over the top of the Kaserock, Kruijswijk moves to the fore to set the pace, but Spilak, seeing the KOM jersey slipping away, moves past him, but he falls just short as BMC’s Tschopp, who was conserved energy today, is the first over the top. Behind Spilak, Kruijswijk is next, followed by Porte with DiLuca in fifth, leading the remaining GC guys, Contador and Vinokourov. Kreuziger has powered his way to tack on to the end of the lead group, while others – exhausted from their earlier efforts – have fallen away. A minute back, Ivan Basso heads the chase group, which includes Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Millar, along with Igor Anton and the duo of Rogers and Nibali, the latter two having made “strong man” moves off the front. Then, it’s a minute to the front of the decimated Peleton, with Gerdemann and Fedrigo of Leopard Trek lifting the pace to keep the gap to a minimum.

The road flattens out momentarily, then it’s the final push to the finish up the Grossglockner. There’s a bit of maneuvering among the lead group, with Spilak, Kruijswijk, Porte and Tschopp falling away while the other four contest the stage win. Kreuziger continues to push hard, with Contador and DiLuca clinging to his wheel with Vino struggling but just barely managing to keep up. DiLuca has enough left to take the sprint for the stage, with Contador second ahead of Vino as Kreuziger dropped back to fourth, content with a significant time gain on the stage. Behind them, Basso – looking to save up some energy for the next day’s stage – yields another minute on the climb, eventually finishing two minutes back with Sky’s Michael Rogers. Leipheimer sets the pace for an elite five-man chase group that finishes a minute down, with Anton winning the sprint from this group for fifth on the stage, claiming the final UCI point.

Stage 13 Result:

1. DiLuca (KAT)
2. Contador (SAX) same time
3. Vinokourov (GRM) same time
4. Kreuziger (BMC) same time
5. Anton (SKY) at 1:00
6. Millar (GRM) at 1:00
7. T. Martin (HTC) at 1:00
8. Leipheimer (RSH) at 1:00
9. Nibali (LIQ) at 1:00
10. Basso (LIQ) at 2:00

As expected, a big shake-up in the overall GC resulted. Vinokourov takes the pink jersey, with Contador moving to second overall. A bad day for Rabobank, as both Breschel and Martens finished in the cars, and their podium hopes may be dashed as a result. Breschel not only relinquished the leader’s jersey, he plummeted to ninth in the overall standings. Kreuziger leapfrogged to third overall, while today’s stage winner, DiLuca, moved up to sixth overall, within two minutes of the lead. Basso, who conserved some energy, retains a top five position and remains a serious contender for the overall GC, as does HTC’s Tony Martin.

Overall GC after Stage 13:

1. Vinokourov (GRM)
2. Contador (SAX) 0:45
3. Kreuziger (BMC) 1:17
4. T. Martin (HTC) 1:19
5. Basso (LIQ) 1:21
6. DiLuca (KAT) 1:56
7. Anton (SKY) 2:43
8. Millar (GRM) 2:46
9. Breschel (RAB) 2:48
10. Pozzato (KAT) 3:40
11. Nibali (LIQ) 3:49
12. Leipheimer (RSH) 4:29
13. Grabsch (HTC) 4:41
14. Paolini (KAT) 4:48
15. Martens (RAB) 4:50
16. Visconti (LIQ) 5:41
17. Rogers (SKY) 6:25
18. Bennati (LEO) 6:27
19. Zubeldia (RSH) 7:27
20. Phinney (BMC) 8:27

Filippo Pozzato continues in the points jersey.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 132
2. T. Martin (HTC) 96
3. Breschel (RAB) 76
4. Monfort (HTC) 71
5. Vinokourov (GRM) 67

Spilak surrenders the KOM points lead to Saxo’s Richie Porte – for now.

KOM Points:

1. Porte (SAX) 32
2. Spilak (KAT) 31
3. Anton (SKY) 17
4. Kruijswijk (RAB) 17
5. DiLuca (KAT) 16

Comments: Victory for DiLuca although Kreuziger, who set the pace on the final run-in to the finish, perhaps deserved better. However, a justified result as DiLuca was the one who started the attacks, even though it was Kreuziger who finished matters by pulling away on the final climb. A big shake-up in the GC which perhaps winnowed the field of potential winners, but this Giro is far from finished: There is another tough climbing stage on the agenda tomorrow, taking the Giro to the fabled Monte Zoncolan. However, some of the GC contenders may be short on form tomorrow, but that’s what the special training chits (discussed at the outset of the season thread) are for.
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Garmin get the pink jersey back! Huzzah! Gonna be tricky to keep it though Hopefully Contador is due a bad day...unless he can find some contaminated meat somewhere.
 
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 14

Stage 14 – Climbing Up Monte Zoncolan

This is the second of three successive days in the high mountains, culminating with a mountaintop finish atop Monte Zoncolan. For the stage profile, I have had to eliminate one Cat. 3 climb to fit within 12 sections while retaining the very tough finish. (In real-life, a late decision was made by the organizers -- perhaps in reaction to the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt on a risky descent on an earlier stage -- to cut the Cat. 1 Crostis climb from the route; however, that won’t be happening in this replay.) The top five at the finish atop the Zoncolan will earn 15-10-6-4-2 points in the KOM competition, as on the previous stage. Here’s the profile:

F – H (Cat. 3) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – F/S – M – M (Cat. 1, Monte Crostis) – D – D – M - M (HC, Monte Zoncolan)

Four of the “trained up” GC guys (Millar, DiLuca, Contador and Nibali) use one of their precious “+1” chits to modify today’s form roll, but in some cases, it merely cancels the –1 effect from the prior day. With another day of brutal climbing in store, there’s little interest in an early break except for those seeking sprint and KOM points. Spilak, determined to regain the KOM points lead today, shoots off the front in a “power move.” KOM points leader Porte makes a normal attack off the front, and he is joined by Leopard’s Monfort and HTC’s Allan Davis, who is obviously interested in the intermediate sprint today.

The KOM points over the first Cat. 3 climb go to Spilak, followed by Porte and Monfort. Davis, who has dropped behind, will catch up on the descent. Kruijswijk, also looking to contest for some KOM points, has slipped off the front as well. He is soon to be joined by Albasini, who catches up to the Dutchman on the next climb. KOM points – same as the first climb – go to Spilak, Porte and Monfort, in that order. There’s no sprinting as everyone wants to save their precious form points for later in the stage, plus Spilak is setting a torrid pace – now six minutes up on the Peleton, a minute ahead of the now three-man chase group of Porte, Monfort and Davis, with the latter two looking to save energy while Porte leads the way on the uphill sections.

Tosatto (SAX) and Carrara (RSH) move off the front, hoping to participate in the upcoming intermediate sprint. The pace drops considerably on the downhill section headed into the sprint, as the first water bottles are being handed out at the rear. Garmin rotates three men (Dean, LeMevel and Zabriskie) at the front, but the pace set is a moderate one. All but Tosatto form one large group headed into the intermediate sprint, with Davis leading the way. These seven riders have three minute in hand over the Peleton. The only two going for the sprint points are Davis and Carrara, and Davis takes the sprint easily; Porte, Spilak and Monfort fill the remaining five positions.

The second half of the stage starts with the steep climb up Monte Crostis. The first team to make a play here is Katusha, which sends DiLuca forward. The lead group is paced by Porte, with the non-climbers – Davis and Carrara – falling back quickly. Arroyo (RSH) follows DiLuca’s aggressive move, but he is forced to fall behind as the Italian puts on the afterburners on the upper slopes of the climb. The KOM points go to Spilak, who has solidified his position at the top of the standings with today’s effort. Kruijswijk slips past Porte to claim second on the climb, followed by Monfort and, lastly, Albasini, who did not sprint. DiLuca has moved to within a minute of these five, with Arroyo a second minute behind with the Peleton now at three minutes. Streaming onto the attack card are Millar, Nibali, Contador, Fedrigo, Gadret along with two Contador teammates: Scarponi and Chris-Anker Sorensen.

The tension builds as the field strings out on the long treacherous descent that takes them to the foot of the Zoncolan. Spilak slows the pace of the front group to allow his team leader, DiLuca, to catch up; meanwhile, David Arroyo shoots past the entire group to grab the lead. However, at 12 minutes down on GC, Arroyo does not figure to be a serious threat. However, then Liquigas’ Nibali burns a form point to catch up to Arroyo at mid-descent, causing everyone else to take notice. A four-man chase group consisting of Millar, Contador, Scarponi and Gadret is formed, and these four gain a minute to catch DiLuca and the remnants of the lead group with all the KOM contenders. The gap is now a minute over the Garmin-led Peleton. Fedrigo and Chris Sorensen have broken off their attacks, unwilling to risk pressing forward on the tricky descent. Popovych, however, is undeterred, and he launches off the front

Just when things are getting interesting, there’s a crash in the middle of the bunch – more indications of the hazardous nature of this descent (so maybe the real-life 2011 Giro organizers were justified in dropping it from the route). Kreuziger narrowly averts disaster but three others – Basso, Rogers and Zubeldia – are not so fortunate. Basso, caught up in the accident but unhurt, is able to resume after losing a couple of minutes to make a bike change, but Rogers loses several minutes and is suffering the effects of a bruised hip, while Zubeldia will be done for the Giro entirely – another one of those dreaded collarbone injuries!

Up front, Arroyo lets Nibali, the overall GC contender, set the pace, hoping to catch a tow on the final climb to the finish. Contador tucks in behind Scarponi, who drives a hard pace that has Gadret, DiLuca and Millar hanging on as passengers. Popo latches on to the end of this group at the foot of the final climb, while the KOM group drifts back into the clutches of the Peleton. Fedrigo and an exhausted LeMevel lift the pace at the front, keeping the lead and chasing groups in sight. More trouble in the middle, as a bad water bottle exchange causes Dave Zabriskie to collide with Saxo’s Nicki Sorensen. After some treatment, Sorensen is able to soldier on with a bruised hip, but – another bad break – it’s the end of the line for Zabriskie, victim of another collarbone injury that makes him the eighth retirement of this year’s Giro.

After all this activity, the situation headed into the last two sections up to the summit of the Zoncolan is as follows:

Leaders (2): Nibali (LIQ), Arroyo (RSH)
Chase Group (6), at 1:00: Scarponi (SAX), Contador (SAX), Gadret (SKY), DiLuca (KAT), Millar (GRM), Popovych (RSH)
Peleton, at 2:00

Nibali continues to set a torrid pace, with Arroyo clinging to his wheel. But, halfway up the Zoncolan, the lead duo begins to tire, and five of the chasers – Scarponi, Contador, DiLuca, Popovych and a grim-looking David Millar – manage to catch up. Gadret, out of form points, appears done and drifts back into the clutches of the Peleton. Fedrigo, who has done yeoman’s work at the front, keeps the pace high, to the benefit of all the teams without a man in the break. However, he is running out of gas, and only RadioShack’s Leipheimer is able to match his pace to join him at the front. On the other hand, with Sky team leader Rogers in trouble, Igor Anton launches an attack off the front and takes off after the seven leaders, who now are two minutes in front.

Final section of the climb is where it is the steepest. Nibali puts on a final burst in an effort to break up the lead pack. His timing is impeccable, as all but Contador are short on energy, form points, or both. The Spaniard, who has conserved energy by resting in the slipstream of Scarponi, follows Nibali and clings to his wheel all the way to the finish. Both men are too tired to sprint, and Nibali takes the stage win and top KOM points while Contador moves into position to claim the pink jersey. A fresh-looking Igor Anton continues attacking, closing down a two-minute gap to the remnants of the lead group. He is challenged by Millar in the sprint for third, which is won by the Scot. DiLuca hangs on to take fifth. A minute later the Peleton -- led by Carrara -- crosses, finishing a full three minutes behind the stage winner.

Stage 14 Result:

1. Nibali (LIQ)
2. Contador (SAX) same time
3. Millar (GRM) at 2:00
4. Anton (SKY) at 2:00
5. DiLuca (KAT) at 2:00
6. Arroyo (RSH) at 2:00
7. Scarponi (SAX) at 2:00
8. Popovych (RSH) at 2:00
9. Carrara (RSH) at 3:00
10. Gerdemann (LEO) at 3:00

Another shake-up in the overall GC occurs, with the “Maglia Rosa” passing from Vinokourov to Contador as a result. The stage win boosts Nibali all the way to third overall, while his teammate Basso – who was in the wrong place at the wrong time – falls out of the top 10. Sky’s Rogers, who finished five minutes behind the Peleton, has dropped all the way out of the top 20.

Overall GC after Stage 14:

1. Contador (SAX)
2. Vinokourov (GRM) 2:27
3. Nibali (LIQ) 2:56
4. DiLuca (KAT) 3:23
5. Kreuziger (BMC) 3:44
6. T. Martin (HTC) 3:46
7. Millar (GRM) 4:05
8. Anton (SKY) 4:27
9. Breschel (RAB) 5:43
10. Pozzato (KAT) 6:07
11. Basso (LIQ) 6:48
12. Leipheimer (RSH) 6:56
13. Grabsch (HTC) 7:08
14. Paolini (KAT) 7:15
15. Martens (RAB) 7:17
16. Visconti (LIQ) 8:08
17. Bennati (LEO) 8:54
18. Phinney (BMC) 10:54
19. Pinotti (HTC) 12:57
20. Scarponi (SAX) 13:00

Others: Arroyo (RSH), 13:30; Rogers (SKY), 13:52; Popoych (RSH), 14:26.

Pozzato continues to hold a wide lead in the points competition.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 132
2. T. Martin (HTC) 100
3. Breschel (RAB) 76
4. Millar (GRM) 76
5. Davis (HTC) 75

Katusha also holds the KOM points jersey, due to a determined effort by Simon Spilak, who regained it from Saxo’s Richie Porte.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 47
2. Porte (SAX) 40
3. Kruijswijk (RAB) 23
4. Contador (SAX) 22
5. Anton (SKY) 21

Comments: A highly interesting stage, one that set up well for Nibali with the long downhill heading to a steep mountain-top finish. However, it was a bittersweet result for Liquigas, as Ivan Basso got caught in the middle and lost time due to an incident; perhaps now he will surrender his GC ambitions to work in the service of his teammate. Garmin had some bad luck as well, losing the jersey and losing Dave Zabriskie, but at least his services are less in demand without the jersey to defend. Big winners have to be SaxoBank, with some useful team tactics enabling Contador to stay with Nibali and then take the overall GC lead by a fairly comfortable margin and, with all six squad members still in the race, they seem in a good position to hold it to the finish.

Next up, however, is Stage 15, with the third straight day of climbing with another mountain-top finish, following on the heels of the climb up the above-category Cima Coppi. With a well-deserved rest day coming after that, expect to see another all-out battle among the GC and KOM contenders.

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Zab!

With a number of the big guns attacking on that stage (especially Nibali who I'd guessed might as he wasn't involved in the previous stage), will stage 15 be a cannier affair? Vino didn't figure so either he was shattered or keeping his powder dry and limiting losses. Great ride for Millar though, very happy with that. If he can have a good last week and time trial to his ability level then two in the top 5 shouldn't be out of the question.
 
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 15

Stage 15

This is the third difficult climbing day in succession before the cyclists get a well-deserved rest day. Centerpiece of today’s stage is the Cima Coppi, or the highest point of this year’s Giro, the Passo di Giau, which is then followed by another mountain-top finish at Gardeccia, offering KOM points of 15-10-6-4-2 for the top five, as has been the case with other other mountain-top finishes.

F – M (Cat. 2) – D – H (Cat. 3) – D – H – M – M (HC, Passo di Giau) – D/S – M (Cat. 2) – D – M (HC)/S/F

The KOM contenders eye the Cat. 2 that is early on today’s agenda, so Porte (SAX) and Monfort (LEO) launch “strong man” attacks to open up a two-minute gap. Spilak, Frank, Albasini and Kruijswijk follow through with normal attacks. The KOM points on the climb go to Monfort (who outsprints Porte for the maximum five points), with Kruijswijk taking third. The gap to the leaders is around five minutes, and SaxoBank has two men – Tosatto and Chris Sorensen – at the front to keep the pace relatively high. On the descent of the Cat. 2 climb, BMC sends a second man – Tschopp – to the attack zone, and he is joined there by Dall’Antonia (LIQ).

The gap widens some on the Cat. 3 climb, as the KOM contenders position themselves. Porte paces the lead group, which is a bit ironic since it’s his team at the front of the Peleton as well. Albasini claws back a minute for the two chasers, and the KOM points on the climb go, in order, to Frank, Albasini and Monfort, as the top two KOM guys – Porte and Spilak – are holding onto their scarce remaining form point for the above-category monster climb coming up.

On the descent of the Cat. 3, there is a Peleton split after Henderson punctures and Scarponi ends in a ditch with a sprained wrist after swerving to avoid him. After this, the pack tackles the Passo di Giau. The leaders and Saxo, back at the front of the Peleton, set a steady pace on the lower slopes of the climb. Saxo’s Tosatto drops off the front, and it is Garmin (with LeMevel) and RadioShack (with Deignan) lifting the pace once the steeper sections are reached, as Saxo wants to allow Scarponi, injured wrist and all, a chance to rejoin the Peleton, which the Italian does but only after expending some extra energy and a precious form point.

Kreuziger is the first of the GC contenders to launch an aggressive move, heading off the front in a solo effort midway through the climb. Meanwhile, the jockeying for the KOM points continues among the riders in the six-man lead group, whose ranks swell to seven as BMC’s Tschopp grapples his way up to the lead pack. At the top of the climb, Tschopp’s teammate, Frank, is too strong today and manages to take the top KOM points. Spilak, Kruijswijk, Porte, Monfort and Albasini all sprint to take the remaining points. Tschopp, trailing, is preparing to assist his team leader, Kreuziger, who is two minutes down, along with HTC’s Pinotti, while the Peleton – three minutes back of the lead group – is taking its time getting organized.

More attacks are coming off the front, as Radio Shack sends both Leipheimer and Popovych forward. DiLuca also launches a move. The downhill sprint sees Frank, Spilak, Kruijswijk, Porte and Tschopp cross in that order, while Albasini and Monfort drop back to the Peleton. Kreuziger continues plugging along, now just a minute down, with Pinotti in his slipstream, and these two are joined by Popo. DiLuca ducks back to the front of the Peleton, which now sees three Garmin jerseys pushing at the front. The pace remains high, but not high enough to discourage more attacks: Arroyo and Nibali shoot forward as a Cat. 2 climb looms ahead.

Kruijswijk sets the pace on the final Cat. 2 climb, with Porte and Spilak clinging to his wheel. All are out of form points, so the KOM points go to the three of them who cross in that order. Frank is done for, but Tschopp drops back to assist Kreuziger, who pulls Pinotti and Popovych along. Nibali continues to attacking, and then DiLuca – followed by Contador in the pink jersey – close the gap by launching power moves off the front. This causes two of the Garmin riders – LeMevel and Vino – combine to lift the pace while Millar drops back to take a breather, and Arroyo is reeled back in while the gap to the chase group is brought down to a minute.

Basso and Anton counter with attacks of their own, but the high pace of the Peleton on the descent means they will both be swallowed up by the on-rushing Peleton. The three KOM leaders melt away, dropping all the way back to the cars, while Popo and Nibali set the pace for a seven-man strong lead group. Contador hangs on, but the others – both BMC riders (Kreuziger as well as Tschopp), along with DiLuca and Pinotti – are dropped and drift back to the clutches of the Garmin and Radio Shack-led Peleton. (RadioShack is more interested in preserving the status of their top GC man, Leipheimer, rather than assuring the stage win with Popo.)

Heading into the final section, Nibali gambles and – betting Contador is out of form points – spends his last two to launch an unchallenged attack that carries him through to the finish. Contador gradually drops back, with Popovych still on his wheel, allowing the Italian to gain time and take a second straight stage win. Unlike Contador, Popo has a point left for the final sprint and takes second on the stage. Then, up front, the chase of the Peleton begins to weaken, as Garmin’s guys (Millar and LeMevel) and everyone else drops back, tired from their earlier exertions. However, RadioShack’s Arroyo, working for Leipheimer, remains at the front, keeping the pace high to limit overall losses. The Peleton – headed by Gadret, who takes fourth on the day -- finishes a full two minutes behind Nibali.

Stage 15 Result:

1. Nibali (LIQ)
2. Popovych (RSH) at 1:00
3. Contador (SAX) at 1:00
4. Gadret (SKY) at 2:00
5. Visconti (LIQ) at 2:00
6. Anton (SKY) at 2:00
7. Rogers (SKY) at 2:00
8. Gerdemann (LEO) at 2:00
9. Leipheimer (RSH) at 2:00
10. Phinney (BMC) at 2:00

Not a huge shift in the overall GC, as most of the top contenders finished in the main pack, including Scarponi, who battled back after suffering a wrist sprain. Contador solidified his position in the Maglia Rosa, while Nibali – with back-to-back stage wins now – has established himself as the chief challenger in this Giro to the Spaniard. Popo sneaks back into the top 20 as a result of his strong second place in this stage.

Overall GC after Stage 15:

1. Contador (SAX)
2. Nibali (LIQ) 1:44
3. Vinokourov (GRM) 3:35
4. DiLuca (KAT) 4:31
5. Kreuziger (BMC) 4:52
6. T. Martin (HTC) 4:54
7. Millar (GRM) 5:13
8. Anton (SKY) 5:28
9. Breschel (RAB) 6:51
10. Pozzato (KAT) 7:15
11. Basso (LIQ) 7:56
12. Leipheimer (RSH) 8:04
13. Grabsch (HTC) 8:16
14. Paolini (KAT) 8:23
15. Martens (RAB) 8:25
16. Visconti (LIQ) 9:16
17. Bennati (LEO) 10:02
18. Phinney (BMC) 12:02
19. Scarponi (SAX) 14:08
20. Popovych (RSH) 14:22

Others: Pinotti (HTC), 14:33; Arroyo (RSH), 14:38; Rogers (SKY), 15:00; Gadret (SKY), 15:16.

Pozzato still holds a solid lead in the points competition, although it has shrunk considerably over the last three stages.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 132
2. T. Martin (HTC) 105
3. Contador (SAX) 81
4. Anton (SKY) 80
5. Breschel (RAB) 76

The tug-of-war battle between Spilak and Porte for the KOM points jersey, with Spilak building a bit of a lead while Kruijswijk moved into a strong third place position.

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 63
2. Porte (SAX) 52
3. Kruijswijk (RAB) 39
4. Nibali (LIQ) 30
5. Monfort (LEO) 30

Comments: An exhausting stage to wrap up three brutal days in the mountains, and next up for the riders is a well-deserved rest day. Contador stayed with Nibali but lacked the form point to respond to the Italian’s final surge. Nonetheless, the SaxoBank team leader is well poised to hold onto the pink jersey at this point. Nibali has emerged as a solid contender, while the Katusha duo of Pozzato and Spilak are close to locking up the remaining points and KOM jerseys. The final podium position, currently held by Vinokourov, remains in doubt, as there are some strong climbers who could unseat the Kazakh, plus there is one mountain time trial coming up as well.

Having given up on completing this replay contemporaneously with the real-life 2012 Giro, will take a few days off to correspond with the rest day. Next up is Stage 16, an individual time trial over some hilly/mountainous terrain. In real life, Contador won this short TT and Nibali was second, so it should be interesting to see if those results are duplicated with Tour-Cycle Free.

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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 16

Stage 16 Individual Time Trial

The riders start the final week, after a day’s rest, with an individual time trial of just 12.7 Km that will also test their climbing legs. The profile is as follows:

F – D – F – H - M – M – M - H (Cat. 1)

Top five will receive Cat. 1 level KOM points (10-6-4-2-1) in addition to the normal bonuses (UCI and points for stage finishes) applicable to this tour. The starting energy will be based on the rider’s TT rating in PCM 2010, and each point of difference will be equal to 15 seconds’ time while each remaining energy will equate to three seconds; any unused form points will count for five seconds each. A D6 will add a random number of seconds, with the higher totals being better and time differences calculated accordingly.

It’s a rough course, and those without climbing credentials are at a definite disadvantage. Of the GC contenders, only Tony Martin elects to use one of his “+1” chits but only increases his form from one to two. The 52 survivors start off one at a time, in reverse order of GC standings. Sky’s Chris Froome puts in a good time to grab the early lead; his time is topped by Contador teammate and KOM contender Richie Porte. Rabobank’s Kruijswijk and Leopard Trek’s Gerdemann fall just short of topping Porte’s time but occupy top three spots while the top GC contenders take to the course.

Sky’s Michael Rogers, looking to regain his position in the top 20 on GC, turns in a great time to displace Porte at the top of the leaderboard. Another strong performance by SaxoBank as their #2 man, Scarponi, comes within seconds of Rogers’ time in a surprisingly strong performance. Rogers’ time holds up until a great time trial bonus roll puts HTC’s Grabsch – a strong time trialist but an average climber at best – into first. His time doesn’t hold up very long, as climber and TT specialist Levi Leipheimer, looking to move up in the overall GC, puts in a really strong performance that – for awhile – looks as if it might hold up as the best time of the day. Basso, sure and steady, follows Leipheimer and puts up a solid but unspectacular time.

The top 10 on GC take to the course. Rabobank leader Breschel struggles on the steep portions of the climb, and he is clearly suffering through a bad day. Then Garmin’s David Millar takes to the course and is clicking on all cylinders as he puts down a tremendous time, almost half a minute better than Leipheimer. Grabsch still holds down third spot, but not for long as his team leader, Tony Martin, takes to the course. Martin falls a few seconds short of Leipheimer but moves into third overall, nearly a minute better than Grabsch. Kreuziger follows Martin and puts in a solid effort, but he will not finish in the top three today. Katusha’s DiLuca lacks the time trailing skills and loses significant time. Then, in third overall, Garmin’s #2, Vinokourov, puts in a strong performance, but ends up short of a top three position. Nibali, in second, is out not to lose time to Contador but he is clearly not on his best form and gradually loses ground.

Finally, last on the course is the pink jersey – Alberto Contador. Contador does not have the best form roll, but his time trial skills are sufficient for him to edge Millar by virtue of a superior effort on the steeper portions of the climb to the finish. He manages to take the stage win – and extend his overall GC – finishing just two seconds ahead of Millar.

Stage 16 Result:

1. Contador (SAX)
2. Millar (GRM) at 0:02
3. Leipheimer (RSH) at 0:28
4. T. Martin (HTC) at 0:34
5. Vinokourov (GRM) at 1:13
6. Kreuziger (BMC) at 1:19
7. Grabsch (HTC) at 1:25
8. Basso (LIQ) at 1:32
9. Rogers (SKY) at 1:42
10. Nibali (LIQ) at 1:45

As expected, the results of this mountain TT cause a shake-up in the overall GC. Contador and Nibali retain the top two spots, with Millar and Tony Martin making strong time games while DiLuca and Anton lost time. Leipheimer’s third place performance moves him to the top 10, while seconds separate those contending for the 20th and final points-paying position.

Overall GC after Stage 16:

1. Contador (SAX)
2. Nibali (LIQ) 3:29
3. Vinokourov (GRM) 4:48
4. Millar (GRM) 5:15
5. T. Martin (HTC) 5:26
6. Kreuziger (BMC) 6:11
7. DiLuca (KAT) 7:28
8. Anton (SKY) 7:53
9. Leipheimer (RSH) 8:32
10. Pozzato (KAT) 9:28
11. Basso (LIQ) 9:28
12. Grabsch (HTC) 9:41
13. Breschel (RAB) 10:01
14. Martens (RAB) 11:45
15. Visconti (LIQ) 12:25
16. Paolini (KAT) 12:47
17. Bennati (LEO) 13:39
18. Phinney (BMC) 15:21
19. Scarponi (SAX) 15:54
20. Pinotti (HTC) 16:36

Others: Popovych (RSH), 16:39; Rogers (SKY), 16:42.

Comments: A good day for both SaxoBank and Garmin. Contador did what he needed to retain his advantage in the overall GC, gaining 1:45 on Nibali, his closest competitior. Scarponi and Porte posted strong times as well. Garmin’s Millar came within a whisker of the stage win, moving up to fourth overall. Martin and Kreuziger improved their shot at a podium finish, while pure climbers like DiLuca and Anton have work left to do.

Next stage (Stage 17) has some major climbs, but a downhill run into the finish, so it could be a breather for some of the main GC guys, but an opportunity for others to grab a stage win or improve their position.
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Whoo. Got the two into the top five and realistically that'd do me if it finished that way. Second place IS gettable but Contador and his contaminated meat (good name for a jazz fusion band) is probably too far ahead now.
 
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Re: 2011 Giro D'Italia Replay - Stage 17

Stage 17

While many of the GC contenders may be tired from their exertions on the prior stage, this stage offers some chances for time gains or a breakaway, as well as more KOM points, with a Cat. 1 climb (the Passo de Tonale) followed by a Cat. 2 and then a downhill run into a flat finishing stretch. Here is the stage profile:

F – H – D – F/S – H –H – M (Cat. 1 Passo del Tonale) – D – F – M (Cat. 2) – D – F/S/F

Grabsch and Henderson, each on good form today, spend to launch power moves off the front to open an immediate two-minute gap as the Peleton is slow to react. Normal attacks come from Tosatto, Dall’Antonia and Phinney. All five of the breakaway riders are eyeing the early sprint points on today’s stage.

No incidents early on, and Grabsch leads out the intermediate sprint which is won by Henderson. There’s still a time gap to the other three, with Phinney outsprinting Tosatto for third while Dall’Antonia just watches. Other moves off the front have been made by HTC’s Davis, and several climbers (Spilak, Porte, Monfort, Kruijswijk, Pinotti, LeMevel and Santambrogio), but so far nothing from any of the major GC protagonists. The gap to the leading duo at the sprint checkpoint is a whopping nine minutes, and it is seven minutes to the three chasers, but all five have used up a huge chunk of energy.

The field is strung out all over the challenging Cat. 1 climb up the Passo del Tonale. The sprinters gradually drop back, the KOM and other climbers move forward, but the Peleton seems reluctant to chase until after the feed zone. HTC sends Albasini forward and BMC sends Tschopp to the attack zone, creating an unsual situation for both these squads, as HTC has four men and BMC, three, out in front of the Peleton at this point.

Finally SaxoBank and Rabobank begin working together at the front to close the gap, but it is still seven minutes to the KOM jersey, Simon Spilak, who paces the leaders up the steeper slopes of the climb. Of the early break, only Grabsch is hanging on, perhaps looking at some time gain on GC today. Spilak has a comfortable two minute gap on a six-man chase group to wrap up the top KOM points on tap, further extending his lead in that competition. The points for second are contested, with HTC’s Pinotti taking a four-way sprint ahead of Monfort, Porte and Kruijswijk. Back in the pack, DiLuca and Vinokourov have been the first of the GC men to make a move, launching off the front. The RadioShack duo of Arroyo and Popovych joins them.

The Radio Shack guys continue attacking on the descent of the Tonale, while DiLuca and Vino drop back. However, Millar (perhaps a part of a team tactic card played by Garmin) and Nibali surge forward. Both of these continue attacking into the flat section, and Millar catches up to the Popovych-Arroyo chasing duo, with Albasini in tow. These four have two minutes on the Peleton and are just a minute down on the climbers’ group approaching the final climb, a Cat. 2. Nibali is stuck in no-man’s land for the moment, just a minute in front of the Peleton which has begun to unwind for the chase up the final climb. At this point, there’s an incident in the middle and several riders go down. Losing time are Scarponi, Rogers, Gadret, Basso and Rabobank’s Martens, who suffers a bruised hip.

The final Cat. 2 climb sees LeMevel set the pace, and a last gasp effort some some of the climbers to figure in the KOM points. These go to Pinotti, ahead of Spilak with Monfort placing third. The Arroyo-Popovych duo, with Millar in hot pursuit, push hard to close down on the leaders. Nibali spends a form point to joing this group. This leads to a reaction from SaxoBank, which has both Sorensens working hard to lift the pace. The gap to the now 11-man leading group is two minutes with the long winding descent to the finish coming up.

The lead group quickly comes apart on the descent, with Nibali pulling away with a determined David Millar clinging to his wheel. Popovych and teammate Arroyo take a more cautious approach, and the Radio Shack duo drops a minute off the pace. Contador comes to the front to help SaxoBank keep the pace high, but Nibali has further extended the gap to three minutes now. Nibali and Millar cooperate well, and the Garmin rider returns the favor by taking the lead in the final run-in to the finish. Both men are out of form points, so Millar takes the stage win with Nibali second. Two minues pass before Popovych crosses, with teammate Arroyo in tow. A minute later a depleted Peleton, with Contador at the head, crosses. There’s a finish line incident that thins out the field, but everyone receives the same time as the group. Grabsch, who tried hard to stay with the lead break, wound up being caught and tossed back to the cars. The bunch sprint for fifth place is won by Leopard Trek’s Bennati, ahead of Galimzyanov.

Stage 17 Result:

1. Millar (GRM)
2. Nibali (LIQ) same time
3. Popovych (RSH) at 2:00
4. Arroyo (RSH) ` at 2:00
5. Bennati (LEO) at 3:00
6. Galimzyanov (KAT) at 3:00
7. Carrara (RSH) at 3:00
8. Breschel (RAB) at 3:00
9. Gerdemann (LEO) at 3:00
10. Monfort (LEO) at 3:00

Nibali’s performance slashed Contador’s lead in the overall GC to a scant 17 seconds. Millar also moves up in the standings, to third place overall. Grabsch loses ground, as does Ivan Basso, who eventually lost two minutes to the Peleton.

Overall GC after 17 Stages:

1. Contador (SAX)
2. Nibali (LIQ) 0:17
3. Millar (GRM) 1:55
4. Vinokourov (GRM) 4:48
5. T. Martin (HTC) 5:26
6. Kreuziger (BMC) 6:11
7. DiLuca (KAT) 7:28
8. Anton (SKY) 7:53
9. Leipheimer (RSH) 8:32
10. Pozzato (KAT) 9:28
11. Breschel (RAB) 10:01
12. Grabsch (HTC) 10:05
13. Basso (LIQ) 11:28
14. Visconti (LIQ) 12:25
15. Paolini (KAT) 12:47
16. Bennati (LEO) 13:39
17. Martens (RAB) 14:45
18. Phinney (BMC) 15:17
19. Popovych (RSH) 15:31
20. Scarponi (SAX) 15:54

Others: Arroyo (RSH), 16:23; Rogers (SKY), 16:42.

No significant changes in the points and KOM points races, although Millar has made great strides in closing the distance between himself and points leader Filippo Pozzato.

Points:

1. Pozzato (KAT) 132
2. Millar (GRM) 121
3. T. Martin (HTC) 119
4. Contador (SAX) 106
5. Nibali (LIQ) 94

KOM Points:

1. Spilak (KAT) 76
2. Porte (SAX) 54
3. Kruijswijk (RAB) 40
4. Contador (SAX) 38
5. Monfort (LEO) 35

Comments: A surprising development to see the GC race tighten as a result of this stage. Good aggressive moves by Nibali and Millar to take advantage of the situation, and Contador’s SaxoBank team waited a bit too long to get to the front to push the pace. Losing Scarponi -- who did battle his way back to finish in the Peleton -- at a key moment may have prevented a more effective chase. One saving grace, though, is the fact that Contador may be fresher than either Nibali or Millar coming into the next stage. Also, a great result this stage for both RadioShack and Leopard Trek, each with three men in the top 10 on the day.

Coming up, Stage 18, which has one climb but otherwise a fairly flat stage that should favor the sprinters, but – given the results of this last stage – who knows?
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Beautiful. Beautiful. What a guy.
 
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