Bettini beaten in photo finish
Daniele Bennati of Liquigas took his second stage win in this year's Giro after a photo finish sprint against compatriot Paolo Bettini, who finished second for the second day in a row. Australian Robbie McEwen of Silence-Lotto is on his way back and finished an impressive third. Milram's Erik Zabel finished fourth, while High Road, which has led the final kilometres, was not rewarded and its sprinter Cavendish could only get into the top ten. Visconti had no trouble today to hang onto his overall lead.
After Bennati was told he had won, he was ecstatic and stated that "this is incredible. I am in great condition, but today I had a bit of luck, too," referring to the tight race between him and Bettini.
The day was dominated by the break of Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale), who took off in the first kilometre and gained a maximum lead of almost 11 minutes. They were reeled in when Bettini, Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) countered. Bettini had taken the initiative at the final difficulty of the day, almost twenty kilometres from the finish, but the sprinters' teams would not let the trio or anyone else get away too far, prompting Bettini to save his energy for the sprint.
High Road led the peloton onto the final kilometres. With a wide road and the last turn way outside the flamme rouge indicating the final kilometre, the sprint was safe, despite some battling between New Zealander Julian Dean (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) and Bettini for Zabel's wheel. Bettini chose the wrong wheel to follow for the second day in a row..
"Yesterday, I had to close a gap of a couple of metres. Today, I decided to follow the wheel of Zabel." But the German had to close a gap himself, after Bennati had taken the wheel of Oscar Gatto, who had tried to surprise the sprinters with a bold attack some 300 metres out. Bettini acknowledged, "I lost a couple of metres, which I had to regain," but was quick to emphasise his satisfaction with the race. "I only lacked a little bit. I am very content, as I was a protagonist again today. I am not a pure sprinter, but nonetheless I participated in the sprint and I got second. Va bene!"
Bettini came flying by like a rocket, but the line came a little too early and Bennati scored his second win, while Bettini was the runner up yet again.
Visconti had no trouble today to hang onto his overall lead. Tomorrow, the riders will take a well-deserved rest day, with the time trial looming on Tuesday.
How it unfolded
Today's stage got off promptly at 11:58 under sunny skies, with all remaining 181 riders at the start. They didn't stay together for long though. Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) took off at kilometre 0 and within 3 kilometres was joined by Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) of Cofidis. They quickly built up a lead of over 10 minutes, and for a long time, that was the story of the race.
The only ranked climb of the day came with 42 kilometres left in the race. The two didn't sprint it out and Krivtsov crossed the top ahead of Buffaz. Emanuele Sella of CSF Group Navigare jumped out of the peloton to gather the remaining mountain point, adding to his overall lead in the green jersey competition. He crested over the top around 4'50 behind the two leaders.
With about 30 kilometres to go, a series of crashes came about. Filippo Savini started things off with a very nasty tumble into a ditch. He took a long time getting up and an even longer time getting back on his bike.
When Krivtsov and Buffaz crossed the finish line for the first time, the gap was only 1'45 to the peloton, with a final 23-kilometre loop awaiting the riders.
With less than 20 kilometres to go, local boy Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), yesterday's winner Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) and mountain leader Sella broke out and tried to get away. Bettini and Riccò quickly saw the futility of their attempt, but Sella kept going, soon joining Krivtsov and Buffaz.
Back in the peloton, which was rapidly closing, Barloworld's Christian Pfannberger and Luis Laverde of CSF Group Navigare went down. More seriously, Bingen Fernandez of Cofidis crashed and was not allowed to get up again. He wore a neck brace as he was carried off on a stretcher.
Sella left the other two behind him and went out on his own, but with 10 kilometres to go, the peloton had gathered all of them in. The sprinters' teams kept things firmly in control from there, with High Road doing much of the work. That work was in vain, though. Mark Cavendish was near the front, but ended up shaking his fist at someone as he crossed the finish line.
Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster came up on the right hand side, but it was Daniele Bennati, who took his second win of this year's Giro, nipping out Paolo Bettini by six inches or so, with "Rocket Pocket" Robbie McEwen coming in third and Erik Zabel fourth.
Stage 10 - Tuesday, May 20: Pesaro - Urbino (Individual Time Trial), 39.4km
The Pesaro to Urbino 39.4-kilometre time trial is the second of four timed tests in the 2008 Giro d'Italia and will be a chance for those gifted in clocked-runs to take as much time as they can on the general classification before the high-mountains start. It has been 20 years since the Corsa Rosa has visited the walled-city of Renaissance culture, Urbino, where France's Jean-François Bernard last ruled.