Petacchi back to his best

With a powerful kick to come off Paride Grillo's wheel with 150m to go, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) claimed his second win in this year's Giro, bringing the McEwen/Petacchi bunch sprint score to 3/2. As was the case in Stage 9 in Ravenna, McEwen wasn't able to get himself into position to challenge Petacchi and his silver train, and had to do it the hard way in the last 400 metres to eventually finish 6th. In third place behind Petacchi and Grillo was the Illes Balears sprinter Isaac Galvez, who is proving himself to be one of the most consistent sprinters in this Giro.

"It was a great sprint," commented Petacchi post-stage. "Today we showed we have a excellent train. I saw I had no shadows behind me so I think I won well. I took advantage of the long sprint of Grillo, who made a nice move. Today I was in pain all day, yesterday's stage was still in the legs. It wasn't a walk."

The 12th stage was uneventful for the classification riders, who were looking ahead to the weekend's big mountain stages, and Ivan Basso (CSC) spent a relaxed day in his first maglia rosa.

How it unfolded

With Oliver Zaugg (Saunier Duval-Prodir) a non-starter, the remaining 183 riders in the Giro plotone were a little nervous about the start of today's stage from Alleghe to Rovereto. The tough climb of Passo San Pellegrino came after only 26 kilometres, and with its steep 17 percent gradients in some places, many of the non-climbers were worried.

"It's such a steep climb that the gaps could be a bit big and people might go on with it," Nick Gates (Davitamon-Lotto) told Cyclingnews at the start. His teammate Henk Vogels confirmed, "If they race full gas up the San Pellegrino, maybe there's no coming back, so if they try and ride regolati, we're in with a chance."

Matt White (Cofidis) told us, "It really could blow to pieces up here. Ideally we'd just like to ride up nice and easy, but that ain't gonna happen. It's supposed to be the last day for the sprinters, but I got a feeling it'll be a breakaway day today."

As it happened, there seemed to be an Australian congregation at the front of the peloton on the climb, keeping the pace very steady until four riders attacked near the top: mountains leader Jose Rujano (Selle Italia), his two teammates Rafaele Illiano and Ivan Parra, and Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole), who is also in the hunt for the mountains jersey. Over the top of San Pellegrino, it was Rujano, Halgand, Illiano and Parra in that order, followed by Paolo Bettini and the bunch at 45 seconds.

The four leaders all came back on the descent, and shortly after Molina at 72 km, Selle Italia's Swiss rider Philippe Schnyder attacked and got a gap. Schnyder's job was to gain as much TV time as possible for his sponsors, and he managed to stay out in front for 75 km with a maximum lead of 2'55 after 112 km. He took the Intergiro prime in Trento after 115.7 km, and was then gradually hauled back by the Fassa Bortolo and Davitamon-Lotto. Zanini and Bettini took second and third in the Intergiro, followed by Di Biase and maglia azzurra Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner), who kept his lead in that competition.

Schnyder returned to the fold with 30 km to go and after that, everyone was content to stay in the peloton until the finish. CSC took over the pace making for a while to keep Basso out of trouble, before Discovery, T-Mobile, FDJ, and finally Fassa took over again with 4 km to go. Petacchi's seven man train kept the big man out of trouble until the finish, even though Phonak tried a pre-emptive move with Uros Murn and Aurelien Clerc with 1 km to go. Then Paride Grillo (Panaria) jumped at 250 metres out and prevented Petacchi's final lead out man Tosatto from finishing his job. But Petacchi simply switched wheels, jumped into Grillo's slipstream, and powered past the young Panaria rider with 150m left to cross the line with several bike lengths to spare.

Stage 13 - May 21: Mezzocorona - Ortisei, 218 km

Starting amid the vineyards of Mezzocorona, Stage 13 will be unlucky for whoever lacks the legs to make it over the six GPM's. The stage climbs east out of the Adige valley into the heart of the Dolomiti, then hits the first GPM after 71km at Passo di Costalunga (1745m.), then climbs up to the monumental Passo di Sella (2244m.), followed by the Passo di Gardena (2121m) halfway through the tough stage. After the feed zone in Corvara in Badia, the long descent to the base of the penultimate ascent up Passo delle Erbe (2004m.), followed immediately by the Passo Eores (1863m.). After this climb, Stage 13 has a long descent to Bressanone in the upper Adige Valley, across Ponte Gardena and then up the final 9km climb to Pontives, then into Ortisei for the finish. This is a great chance for mountain man Gilberto Simoni to strut his stuff across the Dolomiti.

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