CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective
Tappa 4, May 9th, Wanze to Hotton, 182 km
The Last 'Demie'
For the last day in Belgium the Giro d'Italia served up a tough ride through the Ardennes taking in some of the roads and two of the climbs (Cote de Wanne and Stavelot-La Haute Levée) covered by the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic. In classic Belgian style this four day Giro ‘hors d'oeuvres' has been washed down with liberal quantities of “demies” (Belgian blond beer).
Today the Giro got under way without Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) who crashed hard in yesterday's rain soaked stage and broke his knee cap. Unfortunately this probably means that super-sprinter Petacchi will now also have to withdraw from the Tour de France.
The most pleasant surprise for the riders today was to see dry roads and a sunny sky. At 10km five riders established a break and by the halfway mark on the Haute Levée they had 6min 20secs. The race had settled in to a steady cat and mouse situation with the cat in no hurry to capture its quarry. However the sprinters back in the bunch considered this one of their days and after a measured chase led mainly by Gerolsteiner (for race leader Schumacher) and Davitamon (for McEwen) the break was reeled in with 14km to go. It is uncanny how the peloton measures the timing of these captures. For the sprinters the closer to the finish the better because this gives little chance for any surprise last minute breaks.
SPECIAL NOTE: As we noted yesterday, the Ardennes saw the last great German offensive of WWII. “The Battle of the bulge” took place in the forests and farmlands between Liege and Bastogne. Just after the halfway point of today's stage the race passed through the village of Malmedy which is forever associated with one of the most infamous incidents of WWII. It was the second day of fighting and some American units were captured just outside Malmedy. To this day the actual course of events are hotly disputed but the fact remains that 84 American victims were found “massacred” at the Baugnez crossroads.
Coming into Hotton the stage was set for a classic bunch sprint and McEwen was clear favorite. “The cricket” (Bettini) smarting from not meeting expectations yesterday, and within striking distance of the Pink Jersey, positioned himself near the front as the big teams started to form their ‘trains'. Practically the entire bunch hit the finishing straight heaving and shoving in every direction. Just the sort of scrum that McEwen loves and once again demonstrated his skill with his second stage win of this Giro. Bettini gave it his all and just managed to claim second spot. Schumacher retained his Maglia Rosa.
McEwen's second stage win [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
For the main contenders today was a relative rest day. The pace was not extreme and each team carefully protected their leader from the wind and any unnecessary efforts. On Thursday they are faced with their first critical test with a 38km team time trial where strategic time gains (or losses) can result in a big impact on the final GC. The Giro bids farewell to Belgium:
“une autre demie, s'il vous plait” - another demie, please
“ santé!” - cheers!
Great Belgian fans [ Image ©: CyclingRevealed.com ]
Tomorrow: the Giro goes home. After flying by chartered jet to Milan, Wednesday is a rest day. The race resumes with Stage 5 on Thursday 11th with the team time trial. CyclingRevealed will continue to follow the action.
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