Eros Capecchi took the biggest win of his career in San Pellegrino Terme today in what could have been the slowest sprint he’s ever contested.
Capecchi (Liquigas) was up against time trial specialist Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) and climber Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) in a three-up sprint at the end of a 151km stage, the second shortest in the race. It wasn’t pretty, or particularly impressive, but it didn’t stop Capecchi celebrating.
The 24-year-old has only won three races in his career, a stage and the overall of the Euskal Bizikleta (2008) and a stage of Settimana Lombardia in 2007, so a Giro stage was worth shouting about.
The trio that contested the finish had dropped their breakaway companions on the Passo di Ganda, a 9.2km climb towards the end of stage. Unfortunately for British fans one of those dropped was Russell Downing. Riding his first Grand Tour, and perhaps having singled out this stage as a possible breakaway stage, Downing was tailed off on the lower slopes of the Passo di Ganda.
The Brit was picked up by the remnants of the original 20-strong escape group and managed to then win the sprint for eighth. Perhaps surprising some of the others in the group, Downing gave it everything in the sprint.
With just two more mountain stages and a time trial to come, Downing seized his last chance to take a top ten placing, still managing to find the motivation after the disappointment of missing out on the stage win. His sprint proved that the leaders had been right to get rid of him on the Ganda. Had they not he would have easily taken the stage win.
But it was frustrating nonetheless as Downing had done the hard work by getting in the break. Today’s transitional stage had half the peloton looking to get in break, and as a result it didn’t form until kilometre 67 as group after group got pulled back. They covered 53km in the first hour alone.
Nothing changed in the overall as Saxo Bank and Lampre did much of the work to pull the bunch along. They showed no interest in bringing the break back, just keeping a respectable gap. In the end, it was about six minutes.
For Contador the biggest news of the day came from an office in Switzerland. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced they would postpone his June hearing which may well see him take the start of the Tour de France in July.
Disastrous news for the race, but good news for the Spaniard.
Giro d’Italia 2011, stage 18: Morbegno to San Pellegrino Terme
1. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 151km in 3-20-38
2. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad
3. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quick Step at same time
4. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago CSF Inox
5. Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana at 1-20 min
6. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step at 2-49 min
7. Alberto Losada (Spa) Katusha at 3-46 min
8. Russell Downing (GB) Team Sky
9. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese-Vini
10. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 4-34 min
General classification after stage 18
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) SaxoBank 71-45-09
2. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 4-58
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 5-54
4. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 7-35
5. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 9-12
6. Jose Rujano (Ven) Androni Giocattoli at 9-18
7. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskalte-Euskadi at 9-22
8. Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox – TMC at 9-38
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana at 9-47
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 10-25
Race leader Alberto Contador checks his bike at the start
Russell Downing finished eighth
Kevin Seeldraeyers and Marco Pinotti head the break
Eros Capecchi takes the stage win
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Giro 2011: Who will win?
Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule