Petacchi stops pedaling, Ventoso takes Giro stage.

Ventoso tops Petacchi. Photo: © Sirotti

What happened to Alessandro?

Things ended strangely for the experienced Italian sprinter in stage six of the Giro d’Italia. A man with 22 Giro wins — 27 if you’re Petacchi and counting the five they took away for doping — he had another in his grasp, then 30 meters from the finish in Fiuggi he simply stopped pedaling.

A shock that immediately begged the question, what went wrong? Cramps, a mechanical, sudden crushing exhaustion or maybe the sight of an Italian anti-doping agent waiting up ahead with handcuffs? Hard to say and we’re waiting for his explanation.

Whatever the case, Francisco Ventoso of Movistar doesn’t really care — he’s the guy drinking the champagne and getting the podium love from two sizzling Italian babes.

“When I jumped, Petacchi took my wheel and I thought he would pass me, but I was able to hold him off until the line,” Ventoso said. “It’s a great joy for me and the team.”

The long, slightly uphill finish was too hard for the sprinters, except Petacchi, who has spent plenty of quality time with Michele Scarponi training in the mountains. He appeared to have Ventoso beat till the lights suddenly went out. Later we learned what happened to the Ale-Jet: lactic acid overload. He had to go early, from too far and the final pitch burned him out.

“If you wait in a finish like that, you risk slowing down too much and not being able to get going again,” he said. “When I chased Ventoso down, I was hoping that he would slow down, but in the last 30-40 metres, I understood that I wouldn’t be able to catch him.”

That wasn’t the only big surprise of the day. Danilo di Luca of Katusha almost fooled everyone by rocketing off the front with 1500 meters to go. He says he’s only 80% of the EPO powered Di Luca, but used his Giro experience to advantage. Ventoso and Petacchi only overhauled him in the last 150 meters. Fourth place for the man who rides for free.

Pieter Weening of Rabobank rode strongly to finish with the pack and keeps his maglia rosa for another day. Despite the strange fade, Petacchi keeps his lead in the points classification and his hair still looks spectacular. Nibali and Contador stayed relaxed and out of trouble.

The day’s break left early, nine kilometers in. Jussi Veikkanen (Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked with Kristof Vandewalle (Quick Step), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack), Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil-DCM). Lots of TV time, happy sponsors.

They pulled out a six minute lead but one by one they dropped except Vanderwalle. The Quick Step man slugged away until they killed him at the 1500 meter mark. A valiant effort, a chapeau with frites for Mr. Vanderwalle.

The day belongs to the Movistar, Ventoso. Fiuggi is a spa town and he’s feeling real relaxed right now. He kept pedaling all the way to the finish without stopping just short. That’s how you win, baby.

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