Saturday?s first mountain stage of the Giro d?Italia to Alpe di Pampeago ended like a wet firework as the big favourites carefully watched each other and preferred to ride on the defensive on the steep finish instead of blowing the race apart as had been expected.

Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) and Danilo Di Luca (LPR) had all promised so much but in the end the 11.6% final four kilometres of the stage turned into a battle of survival.

Italian climber Emanuele Sella (CSF Group) made up for missing out on stage seven to Pescocostanzo by winning alone. He was part of a 13-rider break that went clear after 10km and then jumped away alone on the Passo Manghen.

He finished 4-38 ahead of Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff). Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d?Epargne) was third at 5-08.

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) was also part of the break but faded on the steep climb of Alpe di Pampeago.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) was the surprise of the stage. He finished sixth, nine seconds ahead of Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval). Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) was ninth, four seconds behind.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR) finished 26 seconds behind Menchov, Alberto Contador (Astana) was at 45 seconds, Andreas Kloden (Astana) at 1-09.

Contador struggled with pollen allergies during the stage and admitted he was happy to limit his losses. He must be even more confident of being able to win the Giro after the first big test in the mountains.

Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) tried to hold onto the pink jersey but he was dropped on the Passo Manghen and lost the jersey to Gabriele Bosisio (LPR).

Contador is second at five seconds, Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) is third at 28 seconds, Ricco is fourth at 1-02, Di Luca is fifth at 1-07. Kloden is at 1-11, Menchov at 1-18 and Simoni at 1-31.

David Millar (Slipstream), Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings (Barloworld) and Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish (High Road) all finished in the main gruppetto at 41-37.

The Giro continues in the Dolomites on Sunday with the 153km 15th stage from Arabba to the summit of the Passo Fedaia. Hopefully the five spectacular climbs in the Dolomites will inspire some more aggressive racing from the big favourites.

1. Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Group 193km in 5-37-14
2 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Tinkoff Credit Systems at 4-38
3 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 5-08
4 José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Caisse d’Epargne at 7-28
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step at 7-59
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 8-48
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 8-57
8 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval at same time
9 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Diquigiovanni at 9-01
10 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence ? Lotto at s.t

1. Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR 63-10-47
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana at 5secs
3 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre at 28secs
4 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval at 1-02
5 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes at 1-07
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana at 1-11
7 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-18
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Diquigiovanni at 1-31
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 1-32
10 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step at 1-35

imageAlberto Contador struggled today

imagePasso Manghen

imageDenis Menchov in attacking mode

imageGabriele Bosisio enjoying his moment in the pink jersey

All photos by Graham Watson

Stage 13: Easy victory for super-fast Cavendish
Stage 12: Bennati gets photo finish verdict over Cavendish
Stage 11: Bertolini wins hilly stage
Stage 10: Bruseghin wins Giro d’Italia time trial
Stage nine: Cavendish misses out in sprint
Stage eight: Ricco wins again
Stage seven: Di Luca, Ricco and Contador gain time on rivals
Stage six: Italians clean up
Stage five: Millar denied by snapped chain
Stage four: Cavendish wins
Stage three: Bennati romps home
Stage two: Ricco wins Giro d’Italia second stage
Stage one TTT: Slipstream wins Giro team time trial

Cavendish disappointed after missing out in Giro sprint
Can Cavendish win the Giro today? [stage 12]
Aggressive Cummings comes away empty handed [stage six]
Millar speaks out after missing out in Giro [stage five]
Reaction to Cavendish’s Giro stage win
Cav hits back at Pozzato’s snipe
Cavendish: This is my biggest win [stage four]
Millar celebrates Slipstream Giro d’Italia success
Bettini looking for final Giro glory
Astana’s troubled build-up to the Giro
Petacchi banned for Salbutamol positive
Yates and Astana make last minute rush to Giro

Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week two – new photos added daily
Giro d’Italia 2008: Photo gallery, week one.

Cycling Weekly’s all-time list of British pro winners
Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)
Rest day 1: How the favourites are doing
Giro Britannia part two: From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia
Tuesday Comment (May 13): Why Cavendish is a bona fide world-class star
Giro Britannia: how the Brits are doing in Italy
Giro d’Italia 2008 preview
Giro d’Italia 2008: who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2008: The British are coming
Giro d’Italia on Eurosport: TV schedule