Although he missed out on Sunday’s stage into Tropea that was his prime objective in the Giro’s first week, Danilo Di Luca did not have to wait long to get his white ProTour leader’s jersey to the centre of the action as he took today’s stage into Giffoni Valle Piana, holding off defending champion Damiano Cunego in closely fought sprint. Di Luca’s team-mate Stefano Garzelli was just behind them in third place, with fifth-placed Spaniard Francisco Ventoso the only foreign rider to feature among the top eight.
Paolo Bettini, who won that stage into Tropea, didn’t fare so well today, as Di Luca went wide on the last corner, preventing the Quick Step rider from getting his sprint going as quickly as he would have liked. Nevertheless, sixth place for Bettini underlined that his form is coming fast and there was considerable consolation as he regained the maglia rosa from Robbie McEwen.
The Australian, and indeed all of the other frontline sprinters, were dropped on the Santa Tecla climb 10 kilometres from the finish. Di Luca’s Liquigas team were rampant on the top section of this hill, with Dario Cioni leading Garzelli and Di Luca over the summit. At that point the front group was just 28-strong, although another 20 or so riders got across on the run-in to the finish.
That front group included all of the main contenders, although bonus seconds on the line meant that Di Luca, Cunego and Garzelli gained useful time on all of them.
Although Australia lost the race lead, there was still no keeping its riders out of the action. Today’s hero was Colombia-Selle Italia’s Russel Van Hout, who attacked after just 8km, built up a lead of a quarter of an hour, before finally yielding just before the Santa Tecla hill.
Tomorrow’s 211km run to Frosinone should go the sprinters’ way, but there is a small hill and then a sharp drop into the finish that could complicate matters.
Stage 3, Diamante-Giffoni Valle Piana
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 205km in 5.24.17 (37.93kph) (20 sec bonus)
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita (12 sec)
3 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi (8 sec)
4 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze
5 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
6 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
7 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Panaria
8 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Quick Step
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Crdit Agricole
10 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
50 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
53 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.16
69 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.02
149 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Crdit Agricole 5.40
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic 15.09.35
2 Di Luca 0.09
3 Cunego 0.17
4 Garzelli 0.23
5 Savoldelli 0.26
6 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval 0.30
7 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.31
8 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 0.32
9 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.33
10 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze
14 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 0.36
37 McEwen 0.58
40 Danielson 1.02
101 Wegelius 3.46
119 Wiggins 6.37