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Giro d'Italia Cycling News, May 22, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Bertolini takes first Giro stage after 16 years

By Gregor Brown in Cesena, with additional reporting from Bjorn Haake

Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After 16 years as a professional, Alessandro Bertolini won his first ever stage in the Giro d'Italia. The 36 year-old Italian, whose main job is to defend Serramenti PVC team leader Gilberto Simoni, was part of a five-man escape that dominated a wet and demanding stage 11 to Cesena in Italy's Emilia Romagna region.

"I had freedom in this stage and the team indicated this yesterday [Tuesday]," said Bertolini. "I am happy that it worked; the team gave me trust, [team manager] Savio and Simoni. The plan was to get into an escape, if maybe Gilberto was solo I would be able to drop back and help him."

In the final kilometre Bertolini accelerated from his two companions, Spain's Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) and Italy's Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare), as the latter crashed with 500 metres remaining due to a lapse in concentration.

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The race favourites used the climbs that dotted the 199-kilometre route to test one another, particularly Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) and local rider Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott). The pair succeeded in distancing some of their rivals, including overall race leader Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), but in the closing 11.5-kilometre loop of Cesena, hometown of the late Marco Pantani, most of the favourites came back together.

Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Visconti kept his maglia rosa despite being involved in a crash at 27 kilometres remaining with Levi Leipheimer (Astana), mountain leader Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld). The race leader headed to the hospital following the stage to have X-rays on his left elbow and right wrist.

Stage seven winner Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) moved into the second spot on the GC. In third is the first of the race's expected overall contenders, Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. The riders will face what is expected to be a sprinters' stage on Thursday for stage 12, 172 kilometres from Forlì to Carpi.

"I knew right away that it was an off day," stated an exhausted Visconti. "I was having nausea and stomach problems this morning and that is why I was dropped immediately. I have to thank Bettini and Tonti for pulling so hard for me today." Several hours later, the X-rays showed no broken bones and it was reported that Visconti will start Thursday.

See Cyclingnews' coverage of Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia.

Rain and cold stop Soler

Mauricio Soler's (Barloworld) abandoned any hopes of success in the Giro d'Italia after he withdrew from the race 96.9km into stage 11 on Wednesday. The Columbian climber had been suffering from a micro fracture in his left wrist.

The resulting pain forced him to climb off his bike after the first official feed zone. The steep climbs of the day's stage proved too much for Soler and the cold and rainy weather conditions made it even harder for him to hold the bars and use his brakes.

"There was no point him carrying on," Team Manager Claudio Corti said. "We wanted Soler to see if he could stay in the race but it was clear he was in pain and so it didn't make sense to suffer so much. We're really sorry for the team and for the Giro d'Italia but now our priority is to help Mauricio get better as quickly as possible so he can get ready for the Tour de France."

After being examined during the rest day Monday, Soler had planned to continue racing on a day by day basis.

Russ hopes to stay healthy

By Gregor Brown in Cesena, Italy

Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Germany's Matthias Russ, former holder of the Giro d'Italia's maglia bianca of best young rider, hopes to survive another demanding Grand Tour. Thanks to his move in the 231.6-kilometre stage to Peschici, he was sitting second overall going into stage 11, during which he got to wear the white jersey while fellow Under 25 racer Giovanni Visconti of Team Quick Step was wearing the maglia rosa of overall race leader.

Russ had planned to take the race day by day, but Wednesday's stage 11 cost him the maglia bianca after he lost contact with the peloton. Going into stage 12 on Thursday, Russ is sitting in 42nd overall and seventh in the young rider classification.

"I am quite happy with the second place overall," said the 24 year-old fourth-year professional of Team Gerolsteiner to Cyclingnews while he was still wearing white. "You saw yesterday [Tuesday] that Visconti is a good time trialist. We remembered after that he was sixth or second in the Under 23 World Championships time trial. It would have been hard for me to take it."

Russ started stage ten's time trial to Urbino 4'02" back, but lost just under three minutes to the better time trialist Visconti. "I am happy to be carrying the white jersey, even though it is really not mine," said the rider who finished the Giro d'Italia twice before (in 74th and 54th). "I know Italy well. It is great here, the food, coffee, girls," he joked.

"You are not able to really choose, but just give all you have," he stated of his objectives. "Staying in the group until you are dropped in the high mountains – that is how it goes. There are not specific objectives, if I feel good I will be able to make a good result. If you are tired, then you are tired the whole week.

"Last year, I was sick in the last week; I was just riding an could do nothing, so I hope to stay healthy."

His family hopes for the same as they watch from Germany. "All my family is watching, parents, wife and family – I have a brother and sister."

Simoni's ace Bertolini cranks clear

Super domestique allowed freedom as mountains loom

By Gregor Brown in Cesena, Italy

Italian Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) claimed victory on the Giro d'Italia's Stage 11, after breaking away with a small group on the 199 kilometre stretch from Urbania to Cesena. Bertolini was allowed the freedom to take his first home Grand Tour stage win by his team leader and general classification hopeful Gilberto Simoni. The 36 year-old made the day's key move, before cranking clear in the final 650 metres to win on the eve of the Giro's mountain stages.

Bertolini's win started to take shape on the first rest day on Monday in Pesaro, when the Italian was out riding with his fellow Trentino-native Simoni. His leader's morale was running high and went further towards the stars in the following day's time trail - something that gave Bertolini a green light to go for victory in Cesena.

"I saw Simoni's morale going up while he previewed the crono; it also changed my morale," said Bertolini of his 157 kilometre escape. "It gave me a lift and the signals were there to go on to the win.

"It was a dream I had in my mind," he added. "It was a long time coming; that I had been thinking of this stage."

Team manger Gianni Savio brought Simoni onboard over the off-season to win the Giro. Bertolini's role was clear; help Simoni top the Corsa Rosa podium for the third time in his career. However, the seasoned professional was given some leeway before the big mountains make their mark starting on Saturday.

"Already this morning I knew that it was tough, the roads were very slick," he explained. "So I was thinking that something good could happen. The plan was to get into an escape, if maybe Gilberto was solo I could be able to drop back and help him."

The day progressed and he did not have to drop back, but was focused on dropping some of his fellow escapees. "I know that I had a chance when we dropped the two Frenchmen [Finland's Jussi Veikkanen (Franšaise des Jeux) and France's Laurent Mangel (AG2R La Mondiale) - Ed.] on the climb, I felt that my legs were going well. We formed our move. [Tiziano] Dall'Antonia was dropped and I knew that with three riders it would be better chance.

"I had freedom in this stage, the team indicated this yesterday," confirmed Bertolini. "Today was the day that I could have my space. I am happy that it worked. The team gave me trust - [team sports director Marco] Bellini, Savio, Simoni. I kept them in my mind, even when I crashed on the descent I kept thinking positive."

To read the full feature, click here.

Lastras disappointed with second

Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) has said he's disappointed with his second place finish on the Giro d'Italia's Stage 11. The Caisse d'Epargne rider was one of six riders to breakaway on the stage, but his run to the finish was interrupted by a rival's crash.

"I planned to attack today," said Lastras. "We cooperated very well and in the final everybody tried to attack on [the final] turn."

Lastras was one of three riders left from the original break with a shot at the stage win. The Spanish rider's efforts were however hampered when CSF Group Navigare rider Fortunato Baliani crashed on the final corner.

"Only three of us were left for the victory but Baliani's crash in the last kilometre changed the development of the sprint," he said. "I had to brake very hard and start again. [Alessandro] Bertolini, who was in the lead when that happened, took the opportunity to take some advance.

"It is a fact that I am disappointed for finishing only the second after I worked so hard during the whole stage," he added. "But on the other side I am also satisfied because I showed today that I am able to achieve something good in the Giro and I hope I will have another chance before we reach Milan."

Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) claimed his first Giro stage win in a career spanning 16 years as a result of the finish. Bertolini had worked with Lastras, Laurent Mangel (AG2R La Mondiale), Baliani and Jussi Veikkanen (Franšaise des Jeux) to break away at kilometre 42 of the 199 kilometre stage to Cesena.

Crashes hit Giro again

Stage 11 saw a series of crashes again hit the Giro d'Italia, following a crash-filled opening week. The biggest crash of the day was that of race leader Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), who has reportedly been taken to hospital after the stage for x-rays.

As Visconti went down he took Levi Leipheimer (Astana), Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) down with him. There's been no word on the result of Visconti's "I have a great fear," said Sella of crashing. "There was a tree [which could] have been much worse."

Team CSC also had its fair share of tangles on the 11th stage. The Danish outfit lost both Brad McGee and Stuart O'Grady on the same day last week with both suffering from broken collarbones in a fall.

"It was a really nervous stage and just about all our guys were involved in crashes," said Team CSC's Kim Andersen. "Nicki crashed and lost some time as a result, but like the others, who went down, he got off lightly without any injuries."

In addition a final corner crash by Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) left Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) with nowhere to go as Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) rolled away to victory.

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