Team LPR-Brakes once again topped the podium today in the Giro d'Italia's Stage Four, the first mountaintop finish in the town of San Martino.
However, it was certainly not their top sprinter Alessandro Petacchi who took the win; being a big sprinter on a tough climb, he assumed his place at the back of the peloton.
His teammate and GC contender Danilo Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro, stormed to victory on a very tough stage complete with a flurry of attacks in the final five kilometers up the steep slopes.
The day's breakaway looked very strong, working up an advantage of about seven minutes, even late into the race. Serafin Martinez(Xacobeo-Galicia), Francesco Bellotti(Barloworld), Davide Vignano(Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard(ISD), Francesco De Bonis(Diquigiovanni), and Jens Voigt(Saxobank) made quick work of the early flats before reaching the Croce d'Aune Pass, the famous pass where Tullio Campagnolo in 1927 came up with the idea for the quick-release wheel lever while racing.
Going up the pass, the breakaway split, and Voigt, De Bonis, and Bellotti dropped their companions and went searching for stage glory, which still looked within reach.
Up the final climb to San Martino however, the breakaway riders started getting antsy, as their stage victory still looked possible ahead of the chasing peloton, led on by LPR and Liquigas. Voigt finally dropped both of his companions and continued to hold a minute's advantage with only five kilometers remaining.
However, the pain of being on the front all day soon set in, and Voigt was dramatically caught by the raging pack with less than three kilometers to go.
Another daring attack came from Barloworld's Mauricio Soler, the KOM winner of the 2007 Tour de France. He put in a devastating attack and gained an advantage of almost 10 seconds with barely 1.5 kilometers remaining.
Soler looked so much like he could get the stage win, but in a rage of speed, the "killer" Di Luca surged by him with 300 meters to go. He took a clear uphill sprint win over 2000 Giro winner Stefano Garzelli(Aqua e Sapone) and Franco Pellizotti(Liquigas).
The classifications shake up a bit this evening after the first test. Petacchi clearly lost his overall leader's pink jersey. It was passed to Team Columbia's young Swede Thomas Lovkvist for finishing in the front group with enough time advantage, thanks to his team's win in the opening TTT. Di Luca climbs up to second place. Petacchi keeps the sprinter's jersey, while Di Luca takes over the mountains jersey.
Tomorrow's Stage Five is going to be even tougher, with another mountaintop finish up to the Alpe di Siusi.