Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela’s Roberto Ferrari of Italy celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 255-km 11th stage from Assisi to Montecatini Terme of the Giro d’Italia, May 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo)
By Alasdair Fotheringham
MONTECATINI TERME, Italy, May 16 (Reuters) – Unheralded Italian team Androni Giocattoli upset the big favorites for a second time in this year’s Giro on Wednesday when sprinter Roberto Ferrari scored an unexpected stage win in Montecatini Terme.
Ferrari’s victory came five days after Columbian team mate Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez had taken a solo win in Porto Sant’Elpidio for the squad, which races in the second division ProContinental level and needed an invitation to take part in the Giro.
Italy’s Francesco Chicchi was second and Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus third.
Britain’s world champion Mark Cavendish was fourth after Sky team mate Geraint Thomas, guiding him through the last kilometer, miscalculated on a sharp corner and had to slow sharply.
Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez kept the overall lead for a second day as Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, third in last year’s Tour de France, unexpectedly lost time in the final kilometers.
Radioshack’s Schleck finished 46 seconds behind the leading pack to drop to 23rd overall, two minutes 11 seconds behind Rodriguez.
“It’s important that he lost time, but he is a key rival and we can’t rule him out yet,” Rodriguez told reporters.
As the bunch stretched to near-breaking point on the technical finish, Italy’s Ferrari darted ahead of Vaitkus to claim the biggest victory of his career by several meters.
After bringing down Cavendish in the stage three bunch sprint when he abruptly changed direction, Ferrari told reporters: “I was hoping to win a stage to prove that that day I could have won and that I didn’t cause that crash on purpose.
“It was a move that happens in sprints that only gets talked about when there’s a crash, and I know that he’s still cross that I wasn’t expelled for it.
“But it wasn’t intentional, and my apologies again to Cavendish for what happened,” Ferrari added.
A professional since 2007, the 29-year-old said his first stage win in a Grand Tour and biggest triumph of his career was due to more consistent racing.
“I showed in last year’s Giro that I could be amongst the contenders for a sprint and this time I got on the right wheel and I did it,” said Ferrari, who took five top five places in the 2011 race.
Thursday’s stage from Seravezza to Sestri Levante is a hilly run featuring four classified climbs, and should let the breakaway specialists come to the fore.
The Giro d’Italia finishes on May 27 in Milan.