Italy?s Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is back in the pink jersey at the Giro d?Italia after winning the first big mountain stage in the Alps to Briancon on Thursday.
Di Luca attacked in the final kilometre of the uphill finish in the centre of Briancon, beating Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) in a sprint to the line after a powerful and aggressive performance by both riders throughout the mountain stage. Talented 21 year-old Andy Schleck (CSC) finished third at seven seconds, with Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana) fourth at 15 seconds and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) fifth at 19 seconds.
The rest of the Giro favourites finished minutes behind after the six went clear on the Col d?Izoard. Before then Leonardo Piepoli and Riccarod Ricco of Saunier Duval set a fast pace on the Colle dell’Agnello, blowing the peloton apart. The big losers were Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) who lost more than five minutes.
Di Luca now leads the Giro by 1-03 ahead of Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) who had gained precious time on stage eight when he was part of the decisive break. Spain?s David Arroyo (Caisse d?Epargne) is third at 1-16.
?It?s nice to be back in the pink jersey,? Di Luca said.
?Today?s stage went well and I?m very happy with the outcome. I judged my effort pretty well on both climbs. I attacked near the top of the Izoard so I could take it a bit easy on the descent, especially at the top where?s it?s very technical.?
?I attacked in the final kilometre before the finish to get a bit of a gap on my rivals. Simoni came back up to me but it was important to win the stage.?
?I was aggressive because I?ll suffer in the last week and want to gain as much time as possible before then. I?ve got a bit of a lead on my rivals but the Giro is still wide open. Andy Schleck is only a minute behind and the others are not far behind. It?s important to stay calm and focused for the rest of the race.?
Friday?s 12.6km uphill individual time trial from Biella to Santuario di Oropa is another vital stage for the overall favourites should further shape the overall standings of the three-week race. As race leader, Di Luca will be last to start and is expected to increase his overall race lead.
When asked about the Erik Zabel’s and Rolf Aldag’s EPO confessions, Di Luca criticised both their timing and their need to confess.
?I don?t understand why these riders are suddenly speaking about what they?ve done in the past. What?s the point of admitting taking EPO ten years after doing it?? he said.
?Perhaps it?s become fashionable but why should I care about what Zabel did ten years ago? I think we should put it all in the past.?
GIRO D’ITALIA: STAGE 12 RESULTS
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 163km in 4-46-39
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier-Duval at same time
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 7secs
4 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 15secs
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital at 19secs
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 2-17
7 Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra) Bouygues Telecom at 2-33
8 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital at same time
9 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier-Duval at same time
10 Franco Peillizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 2-38
31 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas at 8-23
120 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 31-00
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 12
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas in 14-26-10
2 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital at 1-03
3 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d?Epargne at 1-16
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC at 1-25
5 Patxi Vila (Spa) Lampre-Fondital at 1-39
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital at 2-10
7 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria at 2-14
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval at 2-34
9 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 2-48
10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana at 3-28
47 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas at 20-44
118 Steven Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channel at 1-14-06
GIRO D’ITALIA 2007: STAGE REPORTS
Stage 11: Petacchi scoops crash-strewn stage
Stage 10: Piepoli wins Giro stage, old hand Noe takes lead
Stage 9: Napolitano takes Giro stage nine
Stage 8: Arvesen beats Bettini to win Giro stage eight
Stage 7: Petacch wins Giro sprint on motor racing circuit
Stage 6: Pinotti takes Giro lead, Laverde wins stage
Stage 5: Forster wins Giro d?Italia sprint
Stage 4: Di Luca wins Giro stage and takes pink jersey
Stage 3: Petacchi wins third stage of Giro
Stage 2: McEwen wins Giro d?Italia sprint
Stage 1 TTT: Liquigas dominate Giro team time trial