The early going was marred by several hard crashes, most notably the green climbers jersey worn by Karsten Kroon (Rabobank). Kroon suffered all the way to the finish gingerly holding his left arm, which was likely broken in the crash.
The field settled down for a mostly lethargic stage between the mountains of San Marcello and the flat, farmland of the university town of Padova. At the end, the familiar red train of Saeco stretched out at the front. Stage 3 winner Jan Svorada was latched onto Mario Cippolinis (Saeco) wheel, but lurking behind was Quaranta.
Before Cipollini could uncork his sprint, Quaranta had already unleashed his big gear and rushing past the Lion King to win by over a bike length. After last years 4-stage win success, Cipollini has been unable to break out in this Giro; he was so upset that he sat up and rolled across the line after he knew he was beaten. In all likelihood, Cipollini will drop out in the mountains of stage 13 or 14 to rest and recover for the Tour de France.
Quaranta, who is the first rider to win two stages in this Giro, wants no comparison made between him and Cipollini, and wants to finish the race, all the way through the mountains.
"It's not worth comparing me to Cipollini," Quaranta said, after being asked who was now the better sprinter. "I will never be like him. I think I am one of the top sprinters at the moment but Cipollini has 12 years as a professional behind him.
"Tactically he is stronger than me. This year I am determined to finish the Giro. I don't want to make the same mistakes I did last year when I let myself go after my two (stage) victories. This evening I will have a glass of champagne and then go to bed."
Adding to the unique drama of a three-week stage race, the Italian teams agreed to boycott wearing leaders jerseys, talking to journalists and visiting the awards podium starting on stage 10 due to a squabble with race promoter RCS Sport (who own La Gazzetta dello Sport) about TV money. Riders think that they should receive a greater share of the huge television contract RCS garners for the Giro; RCS doesnt want to negotiate until after the race ends.
"Bicycle racing changes, said Polti's team director, Gianluigi Stanga. Twenty years ago, TV rights were not a topic, but today I think that it's normal that the teams and their sponsors who invest in them get a say in where the money goes."
The romantic Italians so far are willing to stand up to the organizers and take the daily $100-plus fines. The International association of cycling teams supports them.
Stage 11, May 24, Individual Time trial, Lignano to Bibione
Race leader Francesco Casagrande (Vini Caldirola Sidermec) knew he had to ride a strong time trial to stay in pink, and he did but just barely.
After he won the stage to Abetone and took the overall lead in the Giro, Casagrande was surprised to finish alone, but he wasnt expecting a cakewalk for the rest of the race.
"I'm not going to eliminate my rivals based on today's stage. There are still some tough stages to come before the end of the Giro, but it was very encouraging to win here, Casagrande said.
Colombian Victor Hugo Pea (Vitalicio Seguros) won the 45km ITT between Lignano and Bibione, beating out prologue winner Jan Hruska by seven seconds. But the overall contenders behind the two leaders were of primary interest.
Casagrande, a climber not known for his TT skills, rode solidly over the completely flat and very windy course to limit the damage done to his overall lead.
Pavel Tonkov (Mapei), Danilo di Luca (Cantina Tollo) and Wladimir Belli (Fassa Bortolo), who each finished in the lead chase at Abetone, rode well and will try to stay close to Casagrande in the next mountain stages to possibly take back the few seconds they need to wrest control of the pink jersey. Last years winner Ivan Gotti (Polti) also rode a good TT and perhaps will be the first man to attack Casagrande.
Rest day, May 25
Despite the fact that the only day off from racing is called a rest day, most riders will still put in miles to keep their legs fresh for the two big mountain stages to come on stage 13 and 14.
Marco Pantani intends to finish the Giro, despite his poor showing in the mountain-top finish at Abetone, where he lost nearly seven minutes to Casagrande.
It's easy to be strong when you win, but you also must be strong when you lose," Pantani said, acknowledging that his fitness is not at a winning level yet. Undoubtedly, he is thinking ahead to the July and the Tour de France, in which he will be a legitimate favorite if he finishes the Giro, in doing so gaining valuable training.
"If I hadn't started (the Giro), I would have risked ending my career," he said. "I thought that people would criticise me for coming back to the peloton. But now I see that the public wants me there. That, I admit, has pushed me on."
1 CASAGRANDE Francesco ITA VIN VINI CALDIROLA SIDERMEC; 54.46'35
2 BELLI Wladimir ITA FAS FASSA BORTOLO; 54.46'39 0'04
3 TONKOV Pavel RUS MAP MAPEI - QUICK STEP; 54.46'42 0'07
4 DI LUCA Danilo ITA CTA CANTINA TOLLO; 54.46'45 0'10
5 HRUSKA Jan CZE VIT VITALICIO SEGUROS-GR.GENER ; 54.46'52 0'17
6 GARZELLI Stefano ITA MER MERCATONE UNO ALBACOM; 54.46'57 0'22
7 FRIGO Dario ITA FAS FASSA BORTOLO; 54.47'19 0'44
8 NOE' Andrea ITA MAP MAPEI - QUICK STEP; 54.47'24 0'49
9 GOTTI Ivan ITA PLT TEAM POLTI; 54.47'54 1'19
10 HONCHAR Serhiy UKR LIQ LIQUIGAS PATA; 54.47'57 1'2228
28 McRae Chann USA MAP MAPEI - QUICK STEP 54.54'44 8'09
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