Vincenzo Nibali won the stage as the Giro d'Italia completed the antipasti
before tomorrow's main course on the Monte Zoncolan.
The Liquigas rider, who held the pink jersey early in the race, was one of four riders who broke clear as they headed towards the top of the Monte Grappa. With him were his team-mate Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans of BMC Racing and Michele Scarponi of Androni Giocattoli.
Richie Porte, the 25-year-old Australian who has been the surprise of this race, rode bravely but he lost his grip on the pink jersey to the Spaniard, David Arroyo.
Monte Grappa was the sort of climb that packed a fiery punch rather like the liqueur, long and steep in places. Although its summit came almost 40 kilometres from the end of the stage, it was enough to tempt the overall contenders to have a go at each other.
Earlier on the climb, Bradley Wiggins was particularly active, applying the pressure and going clear briefly.
Having slipped so far behind when the race split in two on Wednesday, the likes of Basso, Evans, Nibali and Alexandre Vinokourov know they cannot waste any opportunity to regain ground. Although they may have been tempted to wait and save themselves for the savage Zoncolan on Sunday, they couldn't afford to sit back and wait.
Even now, after gaining a couple of minutes today, Nibali is still 6-51 behind Arroyo.
On the descent, Nibali attacked and got clear. Basso sat behind Scarponi and Evans knowing that if they caught Nibali, he could counter-attack. Behind them Vinokourov, who had missed the break, was desperately trying to get on terms.
Nibali stayed clear to clinch the stage win and the time bonus, then Basso sprung the other two to take second.
Nibali said: "Today it was planned to make a bit of confusion at the top of the climb because after that it suits the descender. It was my choice to attack but I spoke to Ivan and he knew what I wanted to do."
Although Arroyo took the overall lead, he was not able to go with the Liquigas riders or Evans, so it is likely he will be under pressure on the Zoncolan.
The Spaniard said: "Today is a very special day for me. Most of my career, I've been in the service of others. Today the team was working 100 per cent for me and I didn't want to let them down. The maglia rosa is the biggest thing that's happened to me in my career. Today the main goal was to get the maglia rosa and we achieved that. We'll try to keep the jersey as long as we can. We've seen that there are some very strong riders here but we'll fight to the end."
Valerio Agnoli and Alexander Efimkin dropped down the classification, with Wiggins climbing to seventh. Carlos Sastre is sixth, 5-27 behind Arroyo, but he is not in vintage climbing form.
There is still a lot of ground for the likes of Basso, Evans and Vinokourov to make up. The job continues on Sunday.
How the stage affected the general classification
Before the stage
1. Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) now 2nd at 39sec
2. David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) now 1st overall
3. Robert Kiserlovski (Liquigas) now 4th at 2-35
4. Xavier Tondo (Cervélo) now 3rd at 2-12
5. Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas)
6. Alexander Efimkin (Ag2r)
7. Linus Gerdemann (Milram) now 5th at 3-52
8. Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) now 6th at 5-27
9. Laurent Didier (Saxo Bank)
10. Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) now 7th at 6-32
Stage 14: Ferrara - Asolo 205km
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas in 4-57-51
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 23sec
3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing both same time
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 1-34
6. Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Quick Step at 2-25
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
8. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
9. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
10. Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Columbia all same time
1. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne in 61-22-54
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank at 39sec
3. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo at 2-12
4. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas at 2-35
5. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 3-52
6. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo at 5-27
7. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 6-32
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 6-51
David Arroyo celebrates his race lead
Giro d'Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
2010 Giro d'Italia coverage in association with Zipvit
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