The Columbia-Highroad team are having a dream Giro d?Italia. Their Belarussian rider Kanstantsin Siutsou won the eighth stage in Bergamo, making it back-to-back victories for the American team.
And Mark Cavendish could well make it a hat-trick in Sunday?s 165-kilometre criterium race in the city of Milan.
So far, the Columbia squad have dominated the race. They won the team time trial that kicked off the race a week ago. That put Cavendish into the pink jersey for two days. Sweden?s Thomas Lovkvist also wore the leader?s jersey in the Dolomites. On Friday, Edvald Boasson Hagen won the stage and again the Norwegian was in the thick of things today, taking second place in the sprint.
Siutsou attacked with around 15 kilometres to go, just as the favourites caught their breath following a thrilling pursuit between a group containing Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad), Levi Leipheimer (Astana), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and the pink jersey holder Danilo Di Luca and his LPR Brakes team on the Colle del Gallo climb.
The Belarussian seized the moment to perfection, powering away as the rest hesitated. He cruised over the cobbled Bergamo Alta climb near the finish and held his advantage to the line, despite a couple of counter-attacks on the hill.
Di Luca of LPR Brakes took third place and the time bonus with it to extend his lead over Lovkvist to 13 seconds.
For the third day in a row, the riders had a long stint in the saddle. After stages of 248 and 244 kilometres, this was a difficult 209-kilometre trek across the plains and hills of Lombardy.
And for the first time, the favourites attacked one another. Di Luca, Ivan Basso and Denis Menchov were put under pressure by the Leipheimer-Rogers break and it took a serious chase to bring it all back together again.
SERIOUS INJURIES FOR HORRILLO
Rabobank?s Spanish rider Pedro Horrillo was reported to be in a serious but stable condition after crashing and falling 60 metres down a ravine on the descent of the Colle di San Pietro, the first climb of the day. His bike was recovered, and Horrillo was found at the bottom of a ravine. He was taken by helicopter to hospital in Bergamo with a fractured leg and head injuries.
It was later reported that Horrillo had been placed in a medically-induced coma by doctors at Bergamo hospital in order to reduce the risk of brain damage.
Horrillo hit the roadside barrier on the descent and went over the top and down the ravine.
‘HOME’ WIN FOR LOMBARDY RESIDENT SIUTSOU
Kanstantsin Siutsou admitted his winning attack was not part of the Team Columbia tactics for the stage but he went anyway because he knew the roads and wanted to win in front of his pregnant wife.
?The team didn?t tell me to attack, I went for it because I know the roads. When I went the team told me to stop because they perhaps didn?t think I?d make it but then when I got a gap and looked good, they told me to go for it.?
?I?ve lived near here for a few years and I knew the last 15km. So I went at the right moment. All the leaders were alone after chasing the break that included my team mate Michael Rogers. I went because the road up to Bergamo is narrow and tight. When Garzelli won here in Settimana Lombarda, he proved that whoever gets over top with a few seconds can win.?
?This is the best win of my career. It?d better than the Under 23 world title I won in 2004 in Verona and better than winning the Tour of Georgia last year. I won with my wife watching me for the first time. I got to hug her after the finish and that made it made it the best win of my career.?
Columbia has won the last two stages and is now set for a hat trick if Mark Cavendish can win stage nine in the centre of Milan on Sunday afternoon.
HOW IT HAPPENED
David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d?Epargne) and Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) broke clear after 34 kilometres and were joined by Johann Tschopp (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Carlos Jose Ochoa (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), Evgeni Petrov (Katusha), Serge Pauwels (Cervélo) and Jelle Vanendert (Silence-Lotto) five kilometres later. Then Hector Gonzalez (Fuji-Servetto), Eduard Vorganov (Xacobeo Galicia) and Giovanni Visconti (ISD) made it a ten-strong group at the front.
For a brief spell around 45 kilometres from the finish Lopez Garcia, Gonzalez, Cataldo and Petrov went clear of the rest, but they were captured and then, as the 6.3-kilometre Colle del Gallo approached, the bunch swept everyone up but Pauwels.
On the Colle del Gallo, the race ignigted. There were a few unsuccessful attacks before Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) got clear. They were marked by Chris Horner (Astana), Michael Rogers (Columbia) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone).
Further up the climb, Levi Leipheimer (Astana), Friday?s stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia-Highroad) and David Arroyo (Caisse d?Epargne) moved clear of the bunch. They made contact briefly but Boasson Hagen, Arroyo and Cunego lost touch before the top.
On the descent the gap reached 50 seconds, meaning Rogers was the pink jersey on the road. Leipheimer and Pellizotti also stood to profit.
Behind them, LPR?s Gabriele Bosisio did much of the chasing to preserve Di Luca?s lead. He put in a tremendous turn on the front to get everything under control again with 18 kilometres to go. The activity at the front of the race mean the bunch split up behind them.
With 15 kilometres to go, Columbia-Highroad launched another attack, this time with the Belarussian rider Kanstantsin Siutsou, with the final climb on the outskirts of Bergamo still to come.
The former under-23 world road race champion had an advantage of 38 seconds going into the final five kilometres. He pushed on up the cobbled climb through the old town of Bergamo.
As the main group reached the cobbles, another former under-23 world champion Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine) attacked. That sparked a move by the pink jersey, Di Luca that made Ivan Basso react promptly.
Still Siutsou held on though and powered down the narrow final kilometre alone.
Behind them the Columbia riders contested the sprint for second and third places to try to deny Di Luca the valuable time bonus seconds. Boasson Hagen did get second, but Di Luca managed to pip the fading Michael Rogers.
Stage eight: Morbegno ? Bergamo, 209km
1. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) Columbia-Highroad
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Columbia-Highroad at 21sec
3. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) Liquigas
4. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad
5. Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas
6. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Acqua & Sapone
7. Damiano Cunego (Italy) Lampre
8. Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuela) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni
1. Danilo Di Luca (Italy) LPR-Brakes
2. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Columbia-Highroad at 13sec
3. Michael Rogers (Australia) Columbia-Highroad
Danilo Di Luca, still in pink
Bradley Wiggins on stage eight
Kanstantsin Siutsou gives Columbia another win
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|Giro d’Italia 2009 links|
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
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
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2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features
Find the pink jersey competition
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CW’s Giro top ten prediction
Brits in the Giro 2009
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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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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