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Cue some epic movie music with soaring strings and bold brass, we thought it time to take a look at the story of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.  It’s been quite a race, there’s been no shortage of tragedy, but there’s also been some amazing racing, so let’s take a look at the stages so far and some great images.

The Racing.

An unhappy Cav remonstrates with Petacchi for not holding his line.

Stage one took in the sights and sounds of Turin with a Team Time Trial finishing in Italy’s first capital.  Although flat, the  course featured plenty of tight turns which benefited the well drilled teams.  HTC took the victory with a clear ten seconds to second place RadioShack and twenty-two seconds to third place Liquigas-Cannondale.  Garmin-Cervelo, with the likes of David Millar and Tyler Farrar riding, failed to impress in fifth place; once again their real-life performance didn’t match their capability on paper.

Stage two saw the riders take on the second longest stage of the race at 244km.  As expected the stage ended in a sprint finish with an irate second placed Mark Cavendish accusing victor Petacchi (Lampre) of not holding his line.  Regardless, the result stood, but it was enough for Cavendish to move in to the Maglia Rosa.

Stage three started promisingly but the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt cast a shadow over the world of professional cycling.  We shan’t say anymore here, but if you wish to support Wouter’s family please do check out the 108 benefit t-shirt.  The stage was won by Angel Vicioso Arcos (Androni Giocattoli), with David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) in second place.  The great performance by Millar would see him put on the Maglia Rosa.

After the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt, David Millar lead the peloton in neutralising stage 4.  Teams took it in turns to pace the bunch for ten kilometres a time.  Garmin-Cervelo, with David Millar in the pink jersey and Wouter’s close friend Tyler Farrar, took the penultimate turn, before Leopard Trek moved up to ride in a line, with Tyler Farrar, across the finish in a moving tribute to their team mate and friend.

United in their grief, Leopard Trek and Tyler Farrar cross the line with the peloton behind.

Plenty of reasons to be happy.

Stage 5 saw business as usual as competitive racing started again.  After the events of stage 3 Leopard Trek and Tyler Farrar chose to retire from the race, but the rest of the peloton, with David Millar in the pink jersey, attacked the strade bianchi.  Millar had a nightmare, in a day best forgotten he suffered from a silly crash and allergies.  In a dramatic finale Weening (RaboBank) claimed the win after only just hanging on.

Stage 6 was a rolling ‘medium’ mountain stage (still too much for me to even finish I reckon!) won by Movistar’s Francisco Ventoso.  Stage 7 was the first mountain top finish and in a surprising but brilliant twist, it was won by Belgian neo-pro Bart De Clercq (Omega Pharma Lotto).  In a tense finale a final charge by the likes of Scarponi and Nibali failed to snatch victory from his grasp, although there was less than a bikes length in it.

Vindicated? Many think Contador is racing on borrowed time...

Stage 8 saw Contador finally emerge from the shadows, coming second to Oscar Gatto and ahead of Petacchi in what was expected to be a sprinters finish.  After much hype stage 9 saw the riders head to Sicily and the slopes of Etna.  Contador took a stunning victory, blowing the field after with 6.7km remaining, he finished with a remarkable fifty seconds clear of second place.  In interviews later, he said he didn’t want to prove anything, he just had the legs that day.  Victory saw Contador pull on the Maglia Rosa, but the stage wasn’t without controversy.  Cavendish was accused of hanging on to the team car up Etna in order to make the cut off time, and Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) came in after the cut-off.

Stage 10 saw the long awaited return of the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish to winning form.  Powering past Petacchi with 150 metres to go Cav showed him a clean pair of wheels to take the victory (and the Maglia Rosa) which has eluded him so far this season.  A brave attempt by David Millar with three km’s to go nearly succeeded, in full time trial mode he stayed away until the flamme rouge when the HTC powertrain (that’s what we’d like to call it!) caught him.

Stage 11 started with a minutes silence for Wouter Weylandt as his funeral took place in Ghent, Belgium.  The stage saw several attempts at breakaways, but one finally succeeded with 80km’s to go.  The group stayed away for a long time before being bridged and eventually reeled in with John Gadret (AG2R) jumping out from the peloton with 200m to go to claim victory, the biggest win of his career.  This left Contador still in the GC lead, but second to Petacchi in the points classification.

Two times.

Stage 12 went from Castelfidardo to Ravenna, a relatively flat 184km made it the final real sprinters stage.  As such it was always going to be hotly contested, but once again Cavendish came good and powered to victory thanks to a flawless lead out from the HTC Powertrain and Mark Renshaw.  But it wasn’t too easy for him as Team Sky’s Davide Appollonio took him to the line, the young Italian sprinter avoided a crash on one of the penultimate corners which claimed Robbie Hunter (RadioShack) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF).  In a bit of a pile up Hunter and Modolo had a bit of a tiff but no major harm was done. This left Contador still in the General Classification lead, and Petacchi in first in the points league.

The Best of the Photo’s.

There have been some absolutely cracking photos from this year’s Giro, so we thought it a good opportunity to round up the best we’ve seen so far:

Always with us.

Half tricycle, half penny farthing.

Cav giving Contador 'the eye', don't knock it it worked!

Depending on the outcome of Contador's appeal, could this be how he will fill his time?

We did not expect to see a Playboy car in the caravan!

Handbags at dawn for Robbie Hunter and Modolo in stage 12.

No wonder he looks happy, Viva Italia.

The spoils of victory...

 

The quality of the support at the Giro has been amazing.

Cippo, the Italian stallion.

So, is it too early to predict a winner?  Who’s your money on?  Any dark horses yet to show their cards?  As always we’re keen to hear your opinions!

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