When it rains, it pours. Colnago-CSF rider Manuel Belletti held his nerve to win the thirteenth stage of the Giro d’Italia this afternoon, making it two wins in a row for the host nation after eleven barren stages.
The 24-year-old outsprinted fellow breakaway companions Greg Henderson (Team Sky) and Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) in a tense finale in Cesenatico.
After several days of excitement and unpredictability, the favourites were content to sit back and allow a breakaway an opportunity.
After 60 kilometres of attacks on the flat Adriatic-adjacent roads, the right formula was achieved – a seventeen-rider escape, comprising no maglia rosa threats.
It consisted of Belletti, Paul Voss (Milram), Joan Horrach, Serguei Klimov (Katusha), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Mathieu Claude (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Kalle Kriit (Cofidis), Rubens Bertogliati (Androni Giocattoli), Sebastian Lang (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Transitions), Tom Stamsnijder (Rabobank), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Greg Henderson (Team Sky), Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia), Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Marco Marzano (Lampre).
Two steep climbs inside the closing 70 kilometres interspersed the flat coastal fare but failed to split the escape. This led to a bevy of attacks on the twisting run-in to seaside Cesenatico, home to the late Marco Pantani.
With ten kilometres to go, Kriit, Mayoz, Stamsnijder, Facci and Meyer pulled out a lead, but it was snuffed out with five kilometres to go.
The breakaway spread across the road, reluctant to take the lead but just as unwilling to allow a companion any attacking leeway.
Craig Lewis went for broke with 1500 metres to go, and was only overhauled two hundred metres from the line when Belletti – who was born in nearby Cesena – accelerated fiercely away from Henderson to take a comfortable win.
“I only wanted to finish, I did not think of winning,” said Belletti at the finish. “Today, a dream came true.”
“When Lewis attacked, I was only afraid of Henderson, so I stayed in his wheel. I went flat out. I jumped for the line, but I did not think it work,” he added.
It is the 24-year-old’s biggest win – by some margin. Riding his first Giro, Belletti’s only previous victory came in a stage of an obscure Venezuelan race in 2008.
As for Lewis, it was a case of so near, yet so far. “It was good for me, in my first Grand Tour, to be in an escape like that,” said the HTC-Columbia rider.
“To attack like that was the only chance I had to win the stage because I knew the other sprinters were faster than me. My legs felt good today, but it was too far to attack in the mountains,” he conceded.
Meanwhile, Katusha rider Vladimir Karpets finished in between the breakaway and the bunch, his 60-kilometre solo bid in no man’s land netting him two and a half minutes advantage over the contenders come the finish.
The stage was also notable for the withdrawal of Briton David Millar, who abandoned the race at the feed zone.
The bunch, containing all the big hitters, crossed the line just over seven minutes down on the stage winner. They will undoubtedly be more active tomorrow, as the race’s fourteenth stage takes the peloton over the climb of Monte Grappa before the finish in Asolo.
Richie Porte’s maglia rosa will come under attack, but the Australian is ready to fight for it.
“Tomorrow is going to be very hard for me,” he said. “I am happy, I’ve had three days in it. Tomorrow I hope to keep it.”
Giro d’Italia 2010, stage thirteen: Porto Recanati-Cesenatico
1. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Colnago-CSF 223km in 5-27-12
2. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky
3. Iban Mayoz (Spa) Footon-Servetto
4. Paul Voss (Ger) Milram
5. Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
6. Kalle Kriit (Est) Cofidis
7. Mathieu Claude (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
8. Craig Lewis (Usa) HTC-Columbia
9. Serguei Klimov (Rus) Katusha
10. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Garmin-Transitions at 5secs
17. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha at 5-01
19. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha at 7-26
23. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 7-28
33. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
37. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
39. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank
55. Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo Test Team at same time
94. Steve Cummings (GBr) Team Sky at 7-55
111. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
140. Charly Wegelius (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 8-18
144. Dan Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions at 8-41
General classification after stage 13
1, Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank in 50-45-15
2. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1-42
3. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas at 1-56
4. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 3-54
5. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas att 4-41
6. Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Ag2r at 5-16
7. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 5-34
8. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo at 7-09
9. Laurent Didier (Lux) Saxo Bank at 7-24
10. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 8-14
Edward King leads the chase
Roadside fans on the final hill of the day
Tats the way to do it: Belletti celebrates his win
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
2010 Giro d’Italia coverage in association with Zipvit