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Weening emerges as the strongest from a big 14-rider breakaway as he beats Malacarne in an uphill sprint; Pozzovivo makes late attack to move into fourth on GC

Photo: Sirotti

CADEL EVANS

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DAVIDE MALACARNE

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DOMENICO POZZOVIVO

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GIRO D'ITALIA

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PIETER WEENING

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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18.05.2014 @ 17:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pieter Weening continued Orica-GreenEDGE's fantastic Giro d'Italia when he won today's ninth stage of the race in a two-rider sprint against Davide Malacarne (Europcar). The pair emerged as the strongest from a big 14-rider breakaway while Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) made a late attack from the group of favourites to take third and move into fourth on GC that is still led by Cadel Evans (BMC).

 

Orica-GreenEDGE are totally unstoppable in this year's Giro d'Italia. One day after relinquishing the maglia rosa, the team was back in the winning role in today's ninth stage of the race.

 

This time it was climber Pieter Weening who excelled for the Australian team when he proved to be the strongest of a 14-rider group that decided the stage. Only Davide Malacarne was able to keep up with him on the final climb to Sestola and the Dutchman was clearly the fastest in the uphill sprint.

 

The stage had always looked to be one for a breakaway and it was a brutally fast start to the race as most teams wanted to be part of the race. When the elastic finally snapped, it soon became clear that no team had any interest in bringing it back and so the escapees could start preparing for the finale.

 

Weening launched his move just before the final climb but Malacarne bridged across on the lower slopes. Weening tried to get rid of his companion on the steep middle part of the ascent but as the pair were very equally matched, it all came down to a sprint between the two.

 

In the peloton, BMC had been controlling the pace all day and it seemed that it would be another ceasefire between the favourites. However, Ag2r had different plans and they put in a great move on the final climb.

 

First they sent Alexis Vuillermoz up the road and on the steepest part of the climb, team captain Domenico Pozzovivo took off. He briefly made use of his teammate before soloing off on his own, passing all the remnants of the early breakaway except for the front duo.

 

Pozzovivo crossed the line 42 seconds behind Weening while in the peloton it was only Omega Pharma-Quick Step who tried to reel him in. As a consequence, all the favourites lost 26 seconds to the tiny Italian who moved into fourth on GC.

 

Cadel Evans finished the stage in 7th in the same time as Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) who won the sprint for fourth, and so maintained his 57-second advantage over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Tomorrow he will get a chance to rest before racing resumes with al almost completely flat tenth stage from Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme which should be one for the sprinters.

 

Another summit finish

After yesterday's first big mountain stage, the riders faced another summit finish in today's 172.0km stage from Lugo to Sestola. After a completely flat first part, the stage had a nasty sting in the tail as the riders went up two smaller climbs that preceded the category 2 climb to the finish in Sestola. The ascent only had a steep middle section and so wasn't expected to produce much difference between the overall contenders.

 

For the second day in a row, it was a sunny day for the 184 riders left in the race. Francesco Chicchi (Neri Sottoli) who had a very spectacular crash yesterday decided not to take the start as his thigh hurt too much and he was ordered three days of complete rest by the team's medical staff.

 

A war

With the final climb unlikely to produce any difference between the overall contenders, the stage was seen as a perfect opportunity for a successful breakaway and the riders prepared themselves for a true war in the opening part of the race as most teams planned to be part of the early move. Unsurprisingly, that's how it panned out as the pace was fierce in the first part of the race.

 

For a long time, several attacks took off but none of them were successful as Sky were especially keen to keep things under control. After 36km of racing, a big crash happened in the middle of the peloton and for a little while, the bunch was split in two. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) was involved and struggled through the rest of the stage.

 

14 riders get clear

At the 42km mark, 14 riders tried to take off and they fought hard to get a significant gap but finally the peloton stepped off the gas and allowed them to build a bigger advantage.

 

The group was made up of David Tanner (Belkin), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani), Marco Bandiera (Androni), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni), Julien Berard (Ag2r), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Oscar Gatto (Cannondale), Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Belisol), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Yonathan Monsalve (Neri Sottoli), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Savlavatore Puccio (Sky) and after 53km of racing, they were 2 minutes ahead. The peloton was content to let them get an even bigger advantage  and with 84km to go, they were 6.20 ahead.

 

BMC take control

In the peloton, the pace was set by Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato (both BMC) and their steady work allowed the gap to reach a maximum of 8.00. As they started the first climb of the day, however, they decided to up the pace as they got a bit of assistance from teammate Danilo Wyss, and the gap started to come down while riders started to fall off the pace.

 

With 52km to go, Garmin-Sharp moved to the front, with Nathan Haas setting the pace for a few kilometres and bringing the gap down to 6.20. However, they quickly stopped their effort and Evans decided to take a natural break which saw the peloton slow down.

 

A battle for points

In the front group, Vorganov did a long sprint in the battle for KOM points but he was easily passed by Monsalve who was first across the line ahead of the Russian and Malacarne. The latter continued the attack for a little while but was quickly reabsorbed by the bunch.

 

At the top of the climb, the gap was 6.19 and the peloton had been taking it very easy in the final part. On the descent, however, BMC decided to ride really hard, with Quinziato stringing out the peloton.

 

Rolland misses the split

As a consequence, the peloton split on two and as Pierre Rolland had missed the split, Europcar had to ride hard to bring it back. Up ahead, Bandiera mad a small attack to win the intermediate sprint ahead of van der Sande and Malacarne.

 

While BMC were riding at full speed on the descent, Fabio Aru (Astana) had a puncture and after getting a wheel from teammate Borut Bozic, he had to chase hard with Enrico Gasparotto, Michele Scarponi and Paolo Tiralongo before rejoining the bunch.

 

Tanner launches an attack

On the second climb, Tanner launched an attack and he rode all the way to the top as the lone leader, crossing the line 5 seconds ahead of his chasers that had dropped Bandiera. He was brought back on the descent though.

 

In the peloton, Garmin again tried to accelerate as Haas went back to the front but they quickly stopped their effort. Instead, Ben Hermans took over for BMC until Bjorn Thurau hit the front near the top to make sure that Rolland started the descent in a good position.

 

Weening attacks

The gap was now down to 3.20 and BMC continued to ride hard on the descent. At the bottom, Weening launched an attack in a roundabout and he started the final climb as the lone leader.

 

Malacarne took off on his own and quickly bridged the gap to Weening while behind the remnants of the break kept attacking each other. Van der Sande, Barbin and Rodriguez seemed to be riding away from their rivals but it all came back together and instead van der Sande, Berard, and Duque all made different attacks before the group again started to cooperate. At this point, Tanner had fallen off the pace and Gatto followed suit a little later.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take over

In the peloton, Yannick Eijssen had been riding tempo but when they hit the steep middle section, Tinkoff-Saxo took over. Ivan Rovny, Chris Anker Sørensen and Nicolas Roche all tried to make things hard and whittled down the peloton.

 

Bono attacked from the chase group but was quickly passed by Barbin who was now the nearest chaser of the front duo. However, he was almost 2 minutes behind and it was clear that he wouldn't make the junction.

 

Pozzovivo makes his move

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) attacked from the peloton and stayed ahead for a little while until he was passed by a very fast Vuillermoz. Moments later Pozzovivo launched his move and he quickly passed both Geniez, Vuillermoz and most of the early escapees.

 

Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) tried a similar move but was shut down by Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) who made a counterattack. Evans was quick to respond and suddenly a group with Uran, Evans, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Kiserlovski and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) had emerged.

 

Poels leads the chase

As they slowed down, a bigger group again formed, with Steve Morabito hitting the front for BMC. As Pozzovivo was already 30 seconds ahead though, Wout Poels took over for OPQS and he rode hard to keep the gap stable for the remaining part of the climb.

 

Pozzovivo passed all the remnants of the early break, including Barbin, but was still more than a minute behind when he passed the flamme rouge. It was clear that the stage winner would be one from the leading pair and the game of cat and mouse could start.

 

Weening wins the sprint

Malacarne led from the 800m to go sign, always looking behind to find out where Weening was, until he launched his sprint. Weening reacted immediately and easily passed his rival on the right-hand side. Pozzovivo crossed the line 42 seconds later.

 

The peloton had caught all the remnants of the early break and Dario Cataldo (Sky) made a late attack in a quest to take fourth. However, he was passed just before the line as Diego Ulissi narrowly held off Uran in the sprint for fourth.

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