By Jean-François Quénet in Riese Pio X
Ag2r produced a spectacular end of stage 18, but not in the way they might have intended. A pair of riders from the French team crashed hard on the run-in to the finish in Riese Pio X, but may have been protected from serious injury by the 90th Giro d'Italia's patron saint, Pope Pius X. The finishing town was renamed after this pope, born Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto in this town on June 2nd, 1835, and who was the Pope for 11 years from 1903 to 1914 before being achieving sainthood in 1954.
In a left-hand turn just 800 meters before the line, Ag2r's Alexandre Usov from Belarus came into the turn first, but was carrying far too much speed for the bend and slid out, taking Frenchman Lloyd Mondory down as well. "They only sustained bruises, especially Usov whose left arm and thigh are burned", directeur sportif Laurent Biondi explained. A third Ag2r rider, Yuriy Krivtsov from the Ukraine, crashed as well but later, also with no consequences.
The crashes failed to break any bodies, much to the riders' relief, however, the bikes did not fare as well. Lampre's Paolo Tiralongo was seen walking his mangled Wilier across the line. "I was guiding Damiano in the last meters of the stage, when suddenly I found some riders stopped ahead," Tiraolongo explained. "I couldn't avoid to hit them: I didn't get hurt, but my bike was not so good after that accident."
Many fans assumed that the CSC rider finishing 3rd behind Alessandro Petacchi and Maximiliano Richeze was Kurt-Asle Arvesen, but it was actually Denmark's Matti Breschel. The Norwegian Arvesen was involved in the second crash, and his seat post was destroyed along with a few spokes on his wheels. "But I'm fine," the winner of stage 8 said. "I don't even know what happened in that crash."