I wanted to start today's report with an update on Alberto Lopez de Munain (Euskaltel-Euskadi). With the peloton strung out and flying along the right border of the road today, the Basque utility man overlapped the wheel of the man in front of him and suffered a horrific crash: as his front wheel slid out from under him, Lopez de Munain fell to the right and banged his head and face against the metal guard rail. After the crash, there was a lot of serious concern because he was out cold and face down in the road. Thankfully, the early reports indicate that Alberto's injuries are not as serious as feared, as he has "only" a fractured shoulder, a broken left collarbone, a broken rib, and a concussion. From the looks of the crash, he also has some pretty bad cuts and scrapes on his face. Here's hoping that Alberto is resting comfortably, and that he heals quickly and is able to return to the peloton soon!
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto). The cagey Aussie Champion outwitted the Fassa train today, following an early jump by Credit Agricole riders Julian Dean and Jaan Kirsipuu to launch himself to victory. When the Credit Agricole riders pulled up parallel to the Fassa train, Petacchi and his boys were boxed in against the right-hand barriers. The Little Emperor was able to come around Kirsipuu to take the stage and the Pink Jersey, leaving a cranky Petacchi in his wake. By taking the 20" stage winner's time bonus, McEwen now has an 18" edge on GC over 2nd placed Bettini and a 22" gap on 3rd placed Petacchi. That should be enough of an advantage to keep him in pink for at least the next couple of days. With his win, McEwen also took a 15 point lead on Petacchi in the race for the Points Jersey, which he could hold onto even longer.
- Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner). He was on the attack yesterday to take the Blue Intergiro Jersey, and he went out again today to increase his lead in that competition. He won the Intergiro sprint, and was also smart enough to sit up after the Intergiro while some of his companions still pedaled on into futility. Having won his prize, he saved his bullets for another day, which shows that Krauss is not only aggressive, but also smart.
- Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank). He came in 2nd on the only climb of the day to hold onto his Green Jersey lead. With only one categorized climb near the end of tomorrow's stage, Veneberg could be in Green for a few days longer still. Not bad for the young Dutchman riding in a race jam packed with climbers.
- Isaac Galvez Lopez (Illes Ballears) and Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner). These two sprinters came in 2nd and 3rd today (respectively) and showed that they have the legs to challenge the elite men like McEwen and Petacchi. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up the sprinting after the mountains, which thin the ranks of the sprinters and sap the legs of those who are left.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). The pressure of high expectations and the frustration of the last two stages have started to get to Petacchi: after today's stage, he launched into a verbal assault on the sprinters who boxed him against the barriers. In particular, Petacchi claimed that Kirsipuu and McEwen are in cahoots, part of an underhanded conspiracy to keep Petacchi from getting to the finish line first. Watching the replays, it didn't look like there was anything illegal or pre-planned going on with that final sprint today. Even if McEwen and some others are plotting against the big Italian, you can hardly blame them: after the tail-kicking he gave them last year (and the year before), they have to change their tactics if they want to win occasionally. But rest assured, Petacchi faithful! With the strength of his team and the form he currently brings to the table, it would take a lot more than a conspiracy of rivals to keep Petacchi from racking up several stage wins before this Giro is over.
- Ivan "Lead Shorts" Quaranta (Domina Vacanze). Good old Ivan. That uncategorized stinger of a climb had him off the back with a couple of dozen kilometers left in today's stage. However, with the help of his teammates and (can it be?) some signs of good form, Quaranta managed to get mixed up in the business end of the race and finish 14th in the sprint. That's a long way from the top-notch victories he served up a few years ago, but it's a darn sight better than the dismal showings he's had the last two years. If he can continue to build his confidence, cultivate his form, and suffer over those nasty hills, he could just pull off a sprint victory in the next week.
- Moreno Di Biase (Sella Italia-Colombia). The aggressive sprinter was in pursuit of his perennial passion today, as he went with the break to try to gain points in the Intergiro competition. However, as the six breakaways neared the Intergiro sprint, Di Biase overcooked it into a sharp right hand corner and went down on his right side. He got back up and regained the break, but his shot at the Intergiro was gone. Grazed and bleeding from his right hip, Di Biase came across the line dead last (195th) at 6' 22". But he finished the stage, and with some rest and medical treatment, here's hoping that he's on the attack again soon… Lord knows we need guys like Di Biase to keep these long, flat stages interesting!