A couple of straightforward climbs early on in the stage apart, this is a pan-flat day's cycling that looks guaranteed for a sprint finish. In fact, it would be no surprise to see several of the sprinters pull out after this stage with so few opportunities for them in the last week, which only makes a sprint even more certain.
Join us at 2PM CET/8AM EST for our live coverage of stage 13.
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro d'Italia. It was incredibly difficult to tear ourselves away from the beach in Lido di Camaiore this morning. It's such a gorgeous summery day and we really need to work on our tan... but alas, duty calls!
The riders also seem to be in a lazy summer afternoon mood. They got underway at 1:15PM local time and were in no real hurry to ride hard from the start. Seems that 60km time trial took a little sting out of everyone's legs yesterday!
Barloworld's Robbie Hunter said that he was hoping for an old-fashioned Giro stage today - 120km of "piano!" and then wind it up for the sprint. However, there were three men who weren't going to follow that plan today.
And a sunny day it most certainly is! 30C, a nice light breeze - a perfect day for a leisurely spin across the Tuscan countryside.
It is stage 13 today, and it is Friday. We're not sure if this counts as a "Friday the 13th", but sprinter Mark Cavendish might be having a little triskaidekaphobia - he had a little crash with Yohann Gene (BBox Bouygues Telecom) earlier. The fall was "without consequence" as they like to say in bike racing, but it is never pleasant to hit the ground.
42km remaining from 176km
We've got a new team to control the front of the race today - the orange and blue of the Dutch Rabobank team will be obligated to do the work today thanks to having the maglia rosa in its midst. Denis Menchov put himself in the position of being first Russian since Pavel Tonkov to win the Giro d'Italia with a superb effort in yesterday's time trial.
While our three men sweat it out in front of the peloton, we'll try to move things along with another chance for our dear readers to win a prize! Would you like a Cervélo TestTeam jersey signed by all of its Giro stars - including Carlos Sastre?
Today's stage is rather featureless when it comes to the profile. Just one classified climb at km 67.8 in Montemagno. The T.V. sprint of the day comes at km 123.1 in Santa Croce sull'Arno. Other than that, we can expect the break of three we have at the moment to be kept on a tight leash so that the sprinters can have what could be their last chance to win a stage.
Danilo Di Luca may have given up the pink jersey in the time trial yesterday, but the 'Killer' still got some podium time thanks to his firm lead in the points classification. He traded in his maglia rosa for the maglia ciclamino.
Stefano Garzelli has kept his lead in the mountains classification, and with 22 points over second placed Di Luca, he'll have no challenge in that competition today.
51km remaining from 176km
The riders have passed their first hour of racing at a brisk 46.1km/h and have now brought the three fugitives, Leonardo Scarselli (ISD), Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) and Björn Schröder (Team Milram) back to 3'50.
At these speeds, the riders should reach the finishing town just in time for the evening rush hour! We're heading to the historic city of Florence - the "cradle of the Renaissance".
Today's finish takes place along the famed River Arno, which bisects Florence. It is a straight shot to the line and flat as a Ligurian Farinata. It should be a elbow-to-elbow battle between Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish today.
The gap to our leaders is still wavering above and below four minutes. Right now it's 4'16. It seems as if the bunch is just letting them dangle out there.
We'd like to wish a happy birthday to Garmin-Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde. He's not in the race anymore having crashed out on stage three. We reported earlier this week that scans found more broken bones - so we also wish him speedy healing!
It is also the birthday of Saxo Bank's Kasper Klostergaard who turns 26 today. Vande Velde is 33 and says he's "old" on his Twitter feed... we'd like to think of it as "seasoned"!
Heading up the day's climb, the category 3 Montemagno, the leaders have extended their advantage to 4'45. Once again, the escapees are Leonardo Scarselli (ISD), Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) and Björn Schröder (Team Milram).
As we said before, today's stage may well be the last day of this Giro which will favour the sprinters. If you look ahead to the rest of the stages you'll see that just about every one is either finishing on top of a mountain or has a climb close enough to the finish that it will be difficult for our fast-twitch crowd to get to the line at the front.
Even the relatively flat penultimate stage has a little kicker of a climb to the line, so we could very well see the likes of Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish packing it in today.
While our trio extends their lead to 5'20, let's get to know a little bit more about them, shall we?
We saw Leonardo Scarselli in the breakaway on stage two. The ISD rider spent about 100km off the front on that sprinter's stage. He's back at it getting publicity for his team but sadly, we fear, he and his companions will have little hope of surviving off the front today.
80km remaining from 176km
With that long break on stage two, we'd think that Scarselli would be higher up on the Fuga Cervélo classification. But indeed, Björn Schröder is the top of our breakaway in that competition in 11th.
Of course we see Ignatiev in this breakaway. It's his favourite place to be. Indeed, he's practically a modern day Jackie Durand and simply cannot stand to be riding in the bunch.
Like Durand, Ignatiev's breakaways are rarely successful, but he has won an Olympic gold medal in the points race, so when he makes them work, they really count!
The pace in the second hour has been a slightly more reasonable 44.9km/h, but they still aren't taking a leisurely tour through this beautiful countryside. They're skirting the quaint town of Lucca at the moment, but are avoiding the city center.
We'd expect to see the orange and blue of Rabobank at the head of the peloton, but they're getting quite a bit of help from the similarly colored Garmin-Slipstream team. They are looking to get Tyler Farrar his first Grand Tour stage win.
While we wait to see what will happen in today's stage, why not head over to our forum and give us your guess at today's top three finishers? You could win a signed Cervélo TestTeam jersey!
Also present at the front of the bunch is the Columbia-Highroad team which is trying to keep Cavendish out of trouble for today's sprint. They've got some "traffic furniture" to avoid.
Looking back at yesterday's time trial, we have to say we were mighty impressed with the riding style of Menchov. Throughout the entire stage he looked much stronger than the others. He was sprinting out of every bend and took the nasty climbs with apparent ease.
98km remaining from 176km
78km to go for our three men up front, a few more for the peloton which is four minutes behind at the moment.
We're wondering, can Menchov borrow a pair of pink shorts from Danilo Di Luca? The orange just doesn't go very well with the pink jersey...
Our three leaders are taking turns pulling in the break - each rider gives an effort for a minute or so and then pulls off. Right now it's Ignatiev with his perfectly aerodynamic position who is leading. He's honed that style of riding through years of effort on the track.
We think that Denis Menchov might not want to wear too much pink - we suspect he is far too macho. But that doesn't stop him from having a nice pink helmet and matching glasses to boot!
Ignatiev is taking another pull at the front, taking over from Scarselli. But this time it's a short pull - he goes back to sit behind the rather dizzying pattern of Scarselli's shorts.
We received an email from April in Chattanooga who says "Orange matches everything!" - kind of like the world orange rhymes with everything??
In the peloton, Dave Zabriskie has taken over the work - he's helping to hold the gap to around four minutes.
The clock tower in Altopasco shows 3:30, and it's tea time for the peloton. The feed zone is pure chaos as riders chuck empty bottles and collect their feed bags. This will slow up the chase a bit temporarily.
Reminder to those who wish to enter the contest for the Cervélo jersey - you must do so in our forum, not via email! Please head on over to our forum and give us your guess at today's top three finishers. Remember: it ends with 20km to go!
While you're in the forum, you can discuss the outcome of stage 12 and just exactly what was with the guy who tried to grab Danilo Di Luca during the time trial anyhow?
We just received an interesting email... it seems Mark Cavendish has written a book about his career to date called "Boy Racer". "With his characteristic honesty and candour, Boy Racer charts Mark Cavendish's remarkable journey to this point" says the press release.
Back to Di Luca, we wonder if, had he made more solid contact with his hit on that fan, the Giro organisers would have ejected him as they did to Vladimir Belli when he socked the Simoni hooligans way back when? Somehow we doubt it...
At the head of the bunch we see Morris Possoni (Team Columbia - Highroad) in an aero tuck. The lead is still hovering at 4'15 for Scarselli, Ignatiev and Schroeder.
Ignatiev is looking quite red in the cheeks from doing so much work up front. Schroeder, in his blue and white cow jersey, is hiding the effort a little better. About 70km to go for the leaders.
115km remaining from 176km
The peloton is encountering a small climb which gives the riders a chance to get out of the saddle. We underestimated how much ground our break has made - only 61km to go! The three leaders are being treated to a nice little descent, and they'll relish the chance to recover a bit.
The lead trio are passing through farm country now in the province of Pisa. Before they exit this province, they'll hit the T.V. sprint at km 52.9. They are now 4'08 on the peloton.
It's safe to say that none of our riders up front are threatening Denis Menchov's overall lead. In order for that to happen, the peloton would have had to have taken a very long lunch break. Scarselli is the best placed on GC - two hours and ten seconds behind.
Our trio up front are still plugging away in their most likely futile hunt for the stage win. The peloton is keeping them right at four minutes. They're approaching the intermediate sprint, and Scarselli takes it ahead of Schroeder and Ignatiev - the three don't even get out of the saddle to sprint.
Scarselli could be considered the local hero of the day since he's from Florence - he sure would love to stroll into town off the front of the peloton. Somehow we doubt the sprinters are feeling generous today.
It's a hot day's work for the three men up front and it's time to call for the team car to get a cold drink. Scarselli gets the ISD car to come up first, and Schroeder is calling for the Milram D.S. We wonder, do they carry milkshakes in the car?
Santa Croce sull'Arno is festooned with pink balloons - and most of the town is out on the sidewalk to cheer the riders along.
The race is now speeding along the highway in an industrial zone, and have passed more than a few fuelling stations - even a tanker or two. The trio look like they could top off their tanks! 48km to go and they'll need all the gas they can get to stay away.
The Rabobank team can count themselves lucky that the Columbia and Garmin teams are so heavily invested in a sprint finish today as they've had to do very little work up front. LPR Brakes, having taken care of the large majority of the work during the first week, is not doing a lick of work for Petacchi.
The Quick Step team has a prime contender in Allan Davis, but they're also taking a back seat in the chase. What other sprinters could surprise today? JJ Haedo? Ben Swift?
We haven't seen a lot from Saxo Bank's Argentinean speedster this Giro. We'd love to see him get up there in the sprint. Up until now, his teammate Matt Goss has been a bit better.
Less than 50km to go and your time is running out to give your guess as to the top three finishers on today's stage! Go to our forum and enter your guess before we hit 20km to go and you might win a Cervélo Test Team jersey!
A signed Cervélo TestTeam jersey that is! They're inside 50km to go and the gap is falling more rapidly now. 3'15 at the last check.
The group of our maglia rosa is heading through the small town of Fucecchio, and Denis Menchov is comfortably riding behind fellow Russian Dmitry Kozontchuk.
It will surely be giving a morale boost to fallen Rabobank rider Pedro Horrillo to see his teammate in the pink jersey. The Spaniard, who crashed into the ravine last weekend, is doing better day by day.
136km remaining from 176km
40km to go and the long, flat, straight highway is leading our men right into the heart of the province of Firenze.
The gap to our leaders has fallen to 2'40 at the moment. We see Giovanni Visconti at the back of the peloton loading up with bottles - two up the front, a few down the back of his jersey. The cold bottles must feel nice as it is quite a warm day for May.
142km remaining from 176km
Inside 35km to go for our leaders! We're seeing a bit of a gap at the front of the peloton as the Garmin boys put in a harder effort than the Columbia guys want to do.
The pace in our bunch has increased dramatically and the 183 rider peloton is single file as far as the eye can see.
Now 35km to go for the peloton and we see the reason for the high pace - looks like Marco Pinotti is at the front driving. He's helped bring the gap down under two minutes!
144km remaining from 176km
Coming into 32km to go the peloton encountered a nasty little construction zone. There were some little splits as riders had to dodge some dirt and lane markers.
Attack! Schroeder has decided he needs to go now if he wants to win!
The Milram rider has immediately opened up a large gap on Scarselli and Ignatiev.
146km remaining from 176km
His bike says Focus and his face does, too. Schroeder is moving and under 30km to go.
The peloton has bunched up as they try to regroup after that strange construction zone. It's still Columbia at the front but now ISD is attacking.
Oh, it's not an "attack", but perhaps a chance to wave hello to his home town fans.
Cioni is marked by Kjell Carlström (Liquigas), and the pair have opened up a little gap.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Latest on Cyclingnews
You’ve come a long way, baby - Vital statistics show sea change in women’s cyclingWas the Tour de France Femmes a watershed moment, or a cherry on top for a cultural shift that has already taken place?
Best bike chain locks 2022: Our choices for the most flexible locking solutionThe best chain locks offer the convenience of flexible locking when bike racks aren’t available
Olav Kooij wins crash-marred sprint opener at Tour of DenmarkJumbo-Visma rider takes first leader's jersey of the five-stage race
Julien Simon wins opening stage at Tour du LimousinFrenchman out-paces Trentin with late attack to take first leader's jersey
CADEX vs Roval vs Enve: the best wheels for your bikeThere’s a personality beyond the specs, what matches your riding style?
Buchmann ruled out of Vuelta a EspañaFabbro replaces German in Bora-Hansgrohe line-up
Froome, Woods recover from COVID to lead Israel-Premier Tech at Vuelta a EspañaFroome says virus hit 'harder than expected' as Woods takes aim at top-10 GC finish
Kasper Asgreen ends season early due to fatigue syndromeQuickStep-AlphaVinyl says rider no longer recovering from even low intensity efforts
Vuelta a España 2022 – Comprehensive team-by-team guideAll you need to know about the 23 teams at the Spanish Grand Tour, from the GC contenders to the potential surprise packets