Giro d'Italia 2009 stage 18 photo gallery, by Graham Watson>>
The Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni team took its third win of the centenary Giro d'Italia today thanks to a well-timed uphill sprint from a rampaging Michele Scarponi.
The Italian out-sprinted his breakaway companions at the end of the 181km 18th stage from Sulmona to Benevento.
The remnants of an earlier 25-man strong breakaway contested the sprint in Benevento, with Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) and Danny Pate (Garmin) leading it out.
Scarponi was content to stay in the wheels and timed his sprint to perfection to take his second stage win of the race. Cardenas and Pate faded on the cobbled uphill stretch, but did enough to claim second and third on the stage.
With such a brutal succession of stages in the mountains, it was perhaps not surprising that the peloton allowed the break some leeway ahead of tomorrow's summit finish at Mount Vesuvius.
The 25-strong breakaway gained an advantage of six minutes, before the peloton tried to bring it back.
Their lead started to tumble, but it was too little too late as the breakaway riders entered the outskirts of Benevento still with a lead of three minutes.
The group split under attacks orchestrated by ISD and Saxo Bank, but Scarponi, not known for his sprinting ability, had the element of surprise in his favour and took the stage win comfortably ahead of some much stronger sprinters.
The Rabobank team of race-leader, Denis Menchov, led the main field home, whilst Danilo di Luca resisted the temptation to try and snatch further seconds away from the Russian, perhaps wary of tomorrow's stage to Mount Vesuvius.
Overall, there was little change as Menchov remains in command of the race with just three stages remaining.
How it happened
With a succession of four brutal mountain stages, the riders were at least offered some respite today on the (relatively) flat 181km stage from Sulmona to Benevento.
It was perhaps not surprising then, that the peloton allowed a large group of 25 riders to escape early on in the stage, quickly amassing a lead of six minutes.
Some big names were contained within the group, including Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni), Thomas Lövkvist and Kanstantsin Siutsou (both Columbia), Francesco Masciarelli (Acqua & Sapone), Giovanni Visconti (ISD), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step), Yaroslav Popovych (Astana), Evgeny Petrov (Katusha), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Gabriele Bossisio (LPR) and Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank).
Contained within the group was the also the battle for the white jersey as Francesco Masciarelli continues to try and chip away at the lead of Kevin Seeldraeyers, taking over two minutes from the Belgian at Blockhaus. The Belgian was keen to avoid another mistake like yesterday's and made sure he made the break.
Philip Deignan (Cervélo), who crashed heavily on a corner on the Blockhaus climb yesterday, had recovered sufficiently to join the day's break.
With around 50km remaining, it was the Fuji-Servetto team, with nobody represented in the break, that took up the chase, whipping up the pace in the peloton and stringing out the field.
With 35km remaining, the escape group still commanded a lead of 4-30 and were working well together.
But with the Ag2R, Milram, Caisse d'Epargne and Astana teams all sharing the work at the head of the main field, a bunch sprint became an inevitability as the gap started tumbling.
Within the final 20km, the attacks started coming and the break split to pieces, with Grabovsky (ISD) taking the initiative.
Riders began to bridge across as the speed increased to an eye-watering 80km/h on a descent with the riders strung out in one long line.
As the pace slowed again in the break, McCartney (Saxo Bank) and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) attacked, quickly distancing their escape companions.
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld), Danny Pate (Garmin) and Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) joined McCartney at the front while the rest of the break desperately tried to shut them down.
Within the final kilometre, the paced slowed as the escapees started watching each other, nobody willing to take the impetus.
Devenyns led the cobbled, uphill sprint but was quickly overtaken by a rampaging Cardenas and Pate. But it was Scarponi who stayed tucked in the wheels and comfortably took the win by several bike lengths.
Stage 18: Sulmona-Benevento, 181km
1. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Diquigiovanni
2. Felix Cardenas (Col) Barloworld
3. Danny Pate (USA) Garmin
4. Lars Bak (Den) Saxo Bank
5. Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) ISD at 0-06
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step at 0-20
7. Jason McCartney (USA) Saxo Bank at 0-24
8. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) ISD at 0-27
9. Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Diquigiovanni at 0-39
10. Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR at 0-42
1. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 76-36-05
2. Danilo di Luca (Ita) LPR at 0-26
3. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 2-00
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 3-28
5. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 3-30
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 4-32
7. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia at 7-05
8. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 8-03
9. Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R at 9-58
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 10-33
Lance Armstrong on stage 18
Michele Scarponi wins his second stage of this year's Giro
Denis Menchov: in pink for another day
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|Giro d'Italia 2009 links|
Stage 17: Pellizotti wins on Blockhaus, Menchov remains in pink
Giro rest day review (May 26)
Stage 16: Sastre wins stage to Monte Petrano
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
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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
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Giro d'Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)
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