The riders will be hoping for a safe and crash-free stage today after the past two days. While only two riders have DNF'd so far, many more have hit the ground. The early days of a Grand Tour are always nervous and dangerous, but today's stage should put an end to some of the race jitters.
Today's stage is only 162km long, but it has a couple little bumps which will send the sprinters packing for the gruppetto. The organisers haven't even included an intermediate sprint in the first half of the stage which will mean two things: attacks from kilometre zero and absolute certainty that a break will get away and get many minutes before being chased down by the favourites on the day's first big climb, the Croce d'Aune.
Yesterday's stage had a big pile-up on the closing circuit which caused an interesting situation: most of the favourites were held up except for Levi Leipheimer (Astana). He made a small group which avoided the carnage, but being the good gentleman he is, he did not work to try and use the crash to take time on his opponents.
The day was up and down for the Garmin team who lost Christian Vande Velde in a crash early in the stage. But then, the team's young sprinter Tyler Farrar took second in the bunch sprint behind Alessandro Petacchi. Interesting note: he broke his rear derailleur in the crash and had to sprint stuck in one gear! Not bad!
Today's stage marks an unusually early entry into the mountains of the Giro d'Italia. After a flat first 100km or so, the roads will kick up rather quickly on the first climb, the Croce d'Aune. First, however, the sprinters get their last hurrah before heading for the laughing group with an intermediate sprint at km 111.
Once the sprinters have dropped anchor, it's game on for the GC contenders as the very difficult 8.5km climb begins right after the sprint. The attacks will fly on the lower slopes where the gradient goes up to 12%, and averages 10% for the first 1.5km.
The riders have been seen off from Padova by big crowds of enthusiastic tifosi. It's sunny and a lovely 24 degrees - a perfect day for the task ahead.
The prize money for today's intermediate sprint in Pedavana is going to be donated to Livestrong, according to the Astana team.
Milram's BjÃ¶rn SchrÃ¶der has been doing a diary for the German Radsport-news website. He was in yesterday's long escape group, which he called "a lot of fun". He was just rolling along talking to teammate Ronny Scholz, when two riders took off, "and I went after them." Looking back, he said it was fun to be so long in the front in a Grand Tour.
He had an extra bonus along the way. Two friends from Berlin appeared on the ranked climb and cheered him on, which helped him up the mountain.
As predicted, the attacks have been numerous and frequent at the beginning of the stage. Ricardo Serrano (Fuji-Servetto) was the first one to launch right at kilometre zero. He was joined by Evegeny Sokolov (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Gonzolo Rabunal (Xacobeo-Galicia).
15km remaining from 162km
The group of Serrano did not last long out front, and after Mikhail Ignatiev countered, he got away with Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and everyone's favourite hard man, Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank).
Rather, Ignatiev attacked to try to reach the leading group of 6, but has not made the juncture. Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed and has abandoned the race.
Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia) bridged up to the five riders at kilometre 9. His team has been quite aggressive in this Giro, perhaps to counteract criticism by certain not-invited Italian teams who have questioned the validity of their invitation.