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Maxim Belkov uses formidable descending skills to distance breakaway companions and takes a huge win on a day where Wiggins once again struggled and Hesjedal cracks

Photo: Sirotti

GIRO D'ITALIA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS

MAXIM BELKOV

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
12.05.2013 @ 17:30 Posted by Henriette Brandt

Maxim Belkov (Katusha) was certainly not the strongest climber in today's 12-man breakaway in the 9th stage of the Giro d'Italia but the Russian used his head and his formidable descending skills to take another huge solo win for Katusha. Behind torrential rain and wet roads once again made Bradley Wiggins (Sky) struggle while Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) cracked and lost more than a minute to his rivals.

 

Back in January Katusha was not part of the initial 22-team line-up for this year's Giro d'Italia but the Russian team fought its way into both the WorldTour and the race through a successful appeal to CAS. Today the squad once again proved their worth as Maxim Belkov took another solo win just under a week from Luca Paolini's triumph.

 

The Russian had joined an early 12-man breakaway and at the top of the day's biggest climb, the category 1 Vallombrosa, he was in lone pursuit of Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani) and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) who had battled for the mountain points and dropped their companions in the process.

 

As rain started to pour down, the descent became treacherous and while the two climbers slowed down, the Russian time triallist kept up the pace. He not only caught the front duo, he immediately left the noted climbers behind.

 

At the same time a drama took place in the peloton. Astana had kept a steady tempo most of the day but on the descent the Kazakh team decided to test their competitors. Alessandro Vanotti upped the pace on the slick roads and once again Bradley Wiggins was put under pressure on a downhill section.

 

The peloton split into two big groups and while all the big favourites had managed to stay close to the front, the Brit was left behind in a big group that at some point was almost a minute behind the Astana-led peloton. Assisted by his teammates Dario Cataldo, Xabier Zandio, Christian Knees, Danny Pate and Salvatore Puccio the Sky leader tried desperately to get back on.

 

Cadel Evans, Mauro Santambrogio and Ryder Hesjedal all saw a perfect opportunity to once and for all distance the British pre-race favourite and while Astana added firepower to the pace-setting by asking Andrey Zeits and Dmitriy Gruzdev to take turns on the front, Daniel Oss, Steven Cummings, David Millar, Christian Vande Velde and a Vini Fantini rider did the same. For a long time there was a huge battle between the two groups which were completely strung out but gradually the Wiggins group got closer to the front.

 

Up ahead Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos-Shimano) and Fabio Felline (Androni) caught Pirazzi and Chalapud and later Juan Manuel Garate (Blanco), Evgeny Petrov (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Jarlinson Patano (Colombia) also got back on. One of the day's big favourites, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) had also been part of the day's early move and just before the penultimate climb he was back in the chase group.

 

Despite the 9 riders all working together, Belkov kept extending his lead on the flat run-in to the climb and as he hit the bottom, he was 3.30 ahead of his hearest chasers. However, he started to lose time as soon as the road started to point upwards and Pantano dropped his companions to set off in lone pursuit of the Russian.

 

On the lower slopes of the climb, Wiggins managed to close the gap on his own and the danger had been avoided for now. It was now left to Tanel Kangert (Astana) to set the pace but the in-form Estonian who was 3rd in yesterday's time trial set a hard pace and riders dropped off in large numbers.

 

Pantano got closer to Belkov but at the top he was still almost 2 minutes behind and the Russian looked like a strong winner candidate. Meanwhile, the chase group splintered and at the top of the climb Visconti, Chalapud and Golas had all been dropped.

 

Wiggins had managed to stay in the peloton all the way up the climb but he had not moved up towards the front and he started the descent right at the back. With Visconti - who had been caught near the top of the climb - he struggled hard to keep contact as they sped down the wet roads.

 

Ludvigsson managed to join Pantano on the descent and the duo fought hard to catch Belkov but was unable to get any closer. The Russian was now visibly tired but when he crested the summit of the day's final climb with 10,7km to go he was still 1.20 ahead of his chasers.

 

In the peloton another unexpected drama took place as defending champion Ryder Hesjedal lost contact on the lower slopes of the climb. Assisted by his trusted lieutenant Tom Danielson the Canadian fought hard to limit his losses but Kangert and later Jose Serpa (Lampre) continued to set a hard pace which distanced the Garmin captain even further. At the top of the climb he had already lost 45 seconds.

 

When the peloton neared the top of the climb, they caught Garate, Petrov, Felline, Pirazzi and Golas - who had once again managed to get back on - and just in that moment Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) saw an opportunity to go on the attack. The Colombian set off in an attempt to take back some of the time he lost in yesterday's time trial.

 

However, no one was able to catch Belkov who took an impressive solo win. Betancur caught Pantano and Ludvigsson on the slight rise towards the finish and outsprinted the duo in the battle for second. The Colombian was unaware of Belkov's presence at the front and he raised his arms as he crossed the line, clearly believing that he had taken his greatest victory.

 

Behind Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) set the pace in the peloton which had now been reduced to no more than 20 riders and as they passed the finish line 1.03 behind Belkov, it was once again Cadel Evans (BMC) who won the sprint. The 5th place was enough for the Australian to take over the red points jersey from Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) while Nibali finished 10th to comfortably defend his overall lead. Hesjedal lost 1.06 to his rivals.

 

The riders will take a well-earned rest tomorrow while they travel all the way to the mountains in the northeastern part of Italy. On Tuesday they face the first big summit finish of the race and we are certain to see another huge battle in this highly unpredictable Giro.

 

Starting at 14.15 you can follow all the action on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

12 riders on the attack

The 170km stage finished in Firenze and was seen as some kind of a dress rehearsal for this year's world championships as the final part of the course briefly touched the worlds circuit. With its lumpy profile it was a perfect opportunity for the race's opportunists to go on the offensive, and the start was extremely fast as almost all teams had attack as the keyword in their pre-race tactics.

 

The first dangerous move consisted of Diego Rosa (Androni), Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Eros Capecchi (Movistar), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) but as Vini Fantini had no rider in the move, the Italian team closed it down.

 

Instead, Chalapud and Pirazzi countered and they were joined by Visconti, Garate, Felline, Pantano, Belkov, Golas, Ludvigsson, Petrov, Alessandro Proni (Vini Fantini) and Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel) to form a 12-man break that was allowed to build up a gap of around 3 minutes. For a long time Valerio Agnoli (Astana) kept it stable at around that mark until they hit the day's first climb where the escapees started to attack each other.

 

A battle for KOM points

Chalapud, Pirazzi and leader Visconti were all close to the mountains jersey and as they approached the summit of the climb Chalapud set off on his own. Pirazzi managed to close it down and kept riding aggressively all the way to the top.

 

The Italian was, however, unable to drop the Colombian and instead they were left to fight it out in a sprint. Pirazzi was first to cross the line and moved into the virtual lead in that competition.

 

Belkov catches the front duo

The duo decided not to wait for their chasers and kept up the pace on the descent. Suddenly, they were, however, joined by Belkov who had used his technical superiority to drop his companions and close the gap on his own. For a moment he even managed to drop the duo of climbers but as soon as they started to head up the race's first category 1 climb, the trio was back together.

 

Chalapud and Pirazzi kept attacking each other but as no one was able to get rid of his companion, they often came to a standstill while Belkov was able to get back on. 1km from the top Pirazzi finally put in a successful acceleration and despite Chalapud almost catching him near the top he managed to take maximum points to move into the blue jersey at the end of the stage.

 

The group of chasers had now split into severeal pieces while Paolo Tiralongo had set a steady pace on the climb to crest the summit more than 6 minutes behind Pirazzi. While the riders in the main group prepared to head down the wet descent, Belkov once again used his formidable downhill skills to catch the front duo. Moments later he left them behind for good and that signaled the start of the very hectic and dramatic final part of the race.

 

Result:

1. Maxim Belkov 4.31.31

2. Carlos Betancur +0.44

3. Jarlinson Pantano +0.46

4. Tobias Ludvigsson +0.54

5. Cadel Evans +1.03

6. Benat Intxausti

7. Danilo Di Luca

8. Mauro Santambrogio

9. Damiano Caruso

10. Vincenzo Nibali

 

General classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali

2. Cadel Evans +0.29

3. Robert Gesink +1.15

4. Bradley Wiggins +1.16

5. Michele Scarponi +1.24

6. Sergio Henao +2.11

7. Mauro Santambrogio +2.43

8. Przemyslaw Niemiec +2.44

9. Rigoberto Uran +2.49

10. Tanel Kangert +3.02

11. Ryder Hesjedal +3.11

 

Points classification:

1. Cadel Evans 61

2. Mark Cavendish 58

3. Elia Viviani 52

4. Enrico Battaglin 45

5. Maxim Belkov 41

 

Mountains classification:

1. Stefano Pirazzi 38

2. Robinson Chalapud 23

3. Giovanni Visconti 16

4. Emanuele Sella 13

5. Maxim Belkov 13

 

Youth classification:

1. Wilco Kelderman 34.22.57

2. Rafal Majka +0.43

3. Carlos Betancur +2.11

4. Darwin Atapuma +6.26

5. Jarlinson Pantano +12.39

 

Teams classification:

1. Blanco 102.19.07

2. Sky +1.32

3. Lampre +4.21

4. Astana +5.12

5. BMC +8.02

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