Giro d'Italia 9: Ventoso survives crash to claim first stage

Hesjedal tops overall classification

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Francisco Ventoso (Movistar Team) won stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia, from Giorgio nel Sannio to Frosinone, surviving a crash on the final corner to claim his first stage of the race. Fabio Felline (Androni Giocattoli) and Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) rounded out the surprise top three after the front line of sprinters was ruled out when Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia) took out Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) as the speeding peloton attempted to deal with the final left-hand corner. As the duo crashed out, Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) were forced to slow, and the world champion himself came down in the aftermath.

Ventoso, a Giro stage winner in Fiuggi last year, still had plenty to do. With the race's two best sprinters on the tarmac, Nizzolo found himself at the front of the race and seizing the opportunity, opened his sprint first. It was too soon, his name was rubbed off the from tomorrow's headlines, as Ventoso, lying in fourth wheel, navigated past an impressive Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) and into Nizzolo's slipstream. As the RadioShack rider began to fade, Ventoso struck for home to take Movistar's first stage of this year's race.

"I came here to win a stage, but from now on we'll be working for Intxausti. He won the Tour of Asturias recently and we're sure he can do well here too. Our big goal is the GC," Ventoso said.

Ventoso's winning moment

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) retained the leader's jersey after an assured display on the final climb before the finish.

However for the briefest of moments, it looked as though Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was about to turn the race on its head.

Before that, Pierre Cazaux (Euskaltel), Brian Bulgac (Lotto-Belisol) and Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) had broken clear earlier in the stage, pushing out a near four-minute lead before the peloton began to give chase. Keizer was the last man standing, but as his legs began to buckle in the final 20 kilometres, the race looked set to be decided by the short climb inside the final 5km.

It was Rodriguez who lit the paper with a daring attack inside the final seven kilometres. Sitting just nine seconds behind the Canadian race leader Hesjedal, Rodriguez burst clear with a three other riders, and once a 50-meter gap was established, he kicked again.

The move caused panic in the bunch. Attacks from Pozzato were expected but Rodriguez's desire to grab the win and the time bonuses had a clutch of teams under pressure.

However the gradient proved too favourable for the sprinters' teams, who along with Liquigas and Garmin, slowly dragged Rodriguez back.

As they crested the climb, Pozzato finally made a move, having spent much of the run in to the climb, near the head of the field. But as is nearly always the case, the Italian's move was everything Rodriguez's wasn't - timid, almost reluctant.

Adam Hansen was next to try his luck. It was a well timed move, the Australian seizing an opportunity as a Sky rider moved to the front in an attempt to slow the bunch for Cavendish to move up.

However while Sky's train appeared to be disjointed, Orica-GreenEdge took command, placing two riders on the front, with Goss sitting in third. It looked certain that unless Cavendish could move up on the final corner that Goss would take his second stage of the race.

Approaching the final corner Goss took a wide but safe line, slowing as he did so. Pozzato appeared caught off guard, sliding into the Australian's left side and across the road. Cavendish and Renshaw both had time to slow, but as Haedo lost control, Cavendish was brought down.

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