Ivan Basso (Liquigas) tried to pull back time on his rivals with an attack in the Apennines on Sunday but quickly discovered that he has few friends in the gruppo and a lot of riders willing to work for his rivals.
Basso jumped away on the Monte Casale climb, 40km from the finish in Faenza and looked determined to blow the race apart 24 hours before the toughest and perhaps decisive stage of the Giro.
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua& Sapone) went with him and the two opened a 1-15 gap on the maglia rosa group but that is as big as it got before strange alliances began to form in the chasing group.
Race leader Denis Menchov (Rabobank) let Danilo Di Luca?s team mate Alessandro Spezialetti do the work and then a series of ?friends? from Caisse d?Epargne and Quick Step went on the front and helped close the gap. Even Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) drove hard on the front but he had the excuse that he was defending his lead in the best young rider?s
Basso?s attack was perhaps to soften up his rivals a day before the key mountain finish at Monte Petrano. It could have dramatically changed the overall standings in the Giro but in the end it was all a waste of time and he was left with the bitter sensation that perhaps his Italian rivals prefer to see Menchov win the Giro.
The only big-name riders to lose were Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni. The Texan went back to the Astana team car during Saturday?s stage and learnt what it?s like to be a domestique. On Sunday he found out that he is still not as strong as the overall contenders in this Giro. Finishing with Cunego at 2-56, showed he still has a fair bit of work to do before the Tour de France.
Basso didn?t stop to speak to journalists at the finish but later vented his anger on television.
?I had to do something to see how things are I think I raced well. The result isn?t what we hoped but I think I had to try. I?m not interested about my rivals and making friends,? he said.
Di Luca was criticised for making his LPR team mates chase the break on Saturday and then failing to take the final time bonus. On Sunday everybody had a go at Basso. He showed he can aggressive but realised he has few friends and perhaps not the strength and power he had in 2006 when he won the Giro as a client of Dr Fuentes.
?Basso made a good attack but it was quite a way from the finish and he got caught,? Di Luca said.
?I don?t know if they were chasing for Denis but we brought the break back. If some one doesn?t have friends in the group that?s there problem. You?ve got to know how to make friends in cycling??
Menchov just smiled when asked about his friends in the gruppo. He took a risk by calling Basso?s bluff and letting him go, preferring to make his closest rivals and hope that his ?friends? would do enough to ensure that Basso wouldn?t be able to stay away.
?It was an interesting finale. There were lots of interesting attacks today,? Menchov said in the after race press conference, again happy to compare the Giro to game of poker, knowing that he is excellent at calling the bluff of his rivals.
?Basso played a card and tried to change the race. It was a good attack and probably looked good in TV but it didn?t come off. I didn?t go after him because I was marking my closest rivals Di Luca, Leipheimer and Sastre.?
When asked the work by his friends in Caisse? d?Epargne and Quick Step, Menchov was slightly embarrassed.
?I know if I have a lot of friends in the peloton but some times they can be useful,? he said.
?Often a lot of things coincide in races. Some riders defend their position overall and so they have for same interests. The Quick Step rider? Perhaps he was just trying to get himself on television. The Giro is an important race??
MONTE PETRANO: THE TOUGHEST STAGE OF THE 2009 GIRO
Menchov stopped smiling when he was asked about Monday?s 237km stage from Pergola to Monte Petrano. It is twists up and down all day on twisting country roads in the spectacular Marche region and includes the climb of Monte Nerone (13.35km at 7.6%), Monte Catria (11km at 8%) and then ends with the climb to the summit of Monte Petrano (10.4km at
Menchov knows that if Basso attacks again, perhaps before the final climb, he will have to go after him.
?I think it?s the most important stage of the Giro,? he said.
"It?s long and it?ll be very hot again. It? also ends with an uphill finish. I?ll have to watch more riders because I know that Basso could go for a long-range attack. We?ll see what happens. I have two or three riders that I have to follow them then two or three who are dangerous.
I think Danilo di Luca is a big threat but Carlos Sastre is a real wolf in sheep?s clothing. He showed that at L?Alpe d?Huez in last year?s Tour de France.?
|Giro d'Italia 2009 links|
Stage 15: Bertagnolli gifted stage win by Cervelo mix-up
Stage 14: Gerrans solos to win
Stage 13: Cavendish takes his third Giro win and prepares to head home
Stage 12: Menchov storms to Giro TT win and race lead
Stage 11: Cavendish romps to second Giro stage win
Stage 10: Di Luca lays down the gauntlet
Giro rest day review (May 18)
Stage nine: Cavendish blitzes rivals to win in Milan
Stage eight: Siutsou makes it two in a row for Columbia-Highroad
Stage seven: Boasson Hagen takes treacherous stage
Stage six: Scarponi wins longest stage with big break
Stage five: Menchov wins mountain battle as Di Luca grabs the pink jersey
Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey
Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash
Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win
Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin
Basso discovers he has few friends at the Giro (stage 15)
Froome agonisingly close to stage victory (stage 14)
Cavendish quits the Giro d'Italia
Cheeky Cipo sneaks a ride in the Giro
Cavendish: His most important Giro win yet (stage 13)
Comment: Lance vs the press, some things never change
Menchov's first pink jersey (Stage 12)
Wiggins: 'I went too hard at the start' (Stage 12 TT)
Lance and Levi: Ready for Giro time trial
Cavendish: 'Today brought back memories of San Remo' (stage 11)
Is Di Luca trying too hard, too soon?
Wiggins loses time in the Giro (stage 10)
Armstrong and Basso say sorry for Giro protest
How are the Giro favourites doing?
Cavendish says 'I'm addicted to winning'
Riders stage go-slow protest during Giro stage in Milan
Cavendish cool before Milan sprint
No sympathy for Armstrong from Giro boss
Boasson Hagen celebrates his birthday early
Cavendish overjoyed for Boasson Hagen
Armstrong 'livid' at dangerous Giro stage
Astana riders wear faded kit in protest over unpaid wages
Armstrong sees Leipheimer in pink
Giro news round-up: 14 May
Wiggins: 'I can't keep smashing away on the climbs'
Wiggins eyes top 20 finish overall
Armstrong after Giro stage 5: 'That was hard'
Cavendish looking for Giro revenge
Armstrong happy with stage four performance
Lovkvist will fight to keep Giro lead
Giro could be last race for Armstrong's team
Vande Velde crashes out of Giro
Petacchi claims he didn't know of Cavendish crash
Cavendish struggles to find consolation in pink jersey
Petacchi: I've been working out how to beat Cav
I'm wearing pink on behalf of the team, says Cavendish
Wiggins ready to win Giro team time trial
Friday, May 8: Giro news round-up
Cavendish out to topple Garmin in Giro team time trial
Team time trial start times
Cycling Weekly's Giro d'Italia top ten prediction
Brits in Venice for Giro presentation
Armstrong overshadows overall favourites at Giro presentation
Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor for Astana
Armstrong working to save Astana team
Wiggins in top form for Giro
Garmin Slipstream kitted out for Giro opener
Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up
Armstrong's special Giro bikes unveiled
Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride
Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d'Italia
Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie
David Millar confirms he's riding in 2009 Giro
Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints
2009 Giro d'Italia to start in Venice
Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride
Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro
Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d'Italia route
Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey
2009 Giro d'Italia guide and features
Find the pink jersey competition
Giro d'Italia 2009: The Big Preview
British riders to have led the grand tours
CW's Giro top ten prediction
Brits in the Giro 2009
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d'Italia
2008 Giro d'Italia archive
Giro d'Italia 2008 coverage index - race reports, photos, results
From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia
Giro 2008: The final word on this year's race
Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special
Five days to go, what's in store?
Giro d'Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)
Giro d'Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)
Giro d'Italia 2008 preview
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