The mega-breakaway formed en route to L'Aquila has earned Carlos Sastre an unexpected comeback into the top ten of the Giro d'Italia's overall classification. The 35-year-old Spaniard is now in 8th place, 7:09 down on race leader Richie Porte (Saxo Bank), but all the other famous favourites such as Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC), Liquigas-Doimo teammates Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso plus Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) are now behind him.
"This stage has been full of action," said Sastre, the winner of the 2008 Tour de France. "It went beyond our expectations. It's a complete turnover of the situation after the difficult and complicated start I had in this Giro.
"What a fantastic job my teammates did today. [Volodymyr] Gustov and [Marcel] Wyss have in particular done everything they could to make this breakaway go ahead. Together with other teams, we were able to make it a success. It means I'm back in the race, which is just what I wanted, but I'm not the only one back up on GC: Xavi Tondo is as well. He's doing a really good Giro."
At the start of stage 11, Sastre told Cyclingnews: "Everybody is amazed by Tondo since the beginning of the season. He's totally dedicated." A stage winner at Paris-Nice and the Volta Catalunya, Tondo is one of the revelations of the 2010 season. He regularly delivered results in the past since his stage win at the Tour of Qinghai Lakes back in 2002 but he remained in the shadows while a member of small teams in Portugal and Spain. His late inclusion on the roster of Cervélo in November was the result of a the search for a domestique for Sastre at the Giro d'Italia.
Tondo appears he is able to do more than just help his captain. Thanks to stage 11's lengthy breakaway Tondo is now fourth on GC, 3:54 down on Porte. He was also the fastest climber at the stage eight summit finish on the Terminillo where he attacked the group of favourites to cross the line in third behind breakaway riders Chris Sørensen and Simone Stortoni.
Also at the start of stage 11 in Lucera, Tondo told Cyclingnews: "I've been feeling good since the beginning of the season. I came here to help Sastre but the only reason why he's a bit down on GC is because he had back luck. He crashed three times and had a flat tyre at the worst moment on the gravelled road."
Cervélo's directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit said that Sastre couldn't be reproached for any mistakes. Sastre crashed in each of the first three stages of the Giro but every time he was riding near the front: the first time he crashed with Bradley Wiggins, the second time with Cadel Evans and the third time with Vincenzo Nibali. Sastre's legs were still full of bruises when he approached the Terminillo. He really struggled on that climb but got better during the two days in the south of Italy.
"I didn't throw the towel and that was worth it," Sastre said. However, he didn't want to express his ambitions for the overall classification too soon. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be back in the race and to be feeling in such good shape now."
Tondo also preferred not to look too far ahead. "This is my first Grand Tour ever," said the 31-year-old from Catalunya. "I have no idea how I'll go in the final week."