Roberto Ferrari wins 11th stage
MONTECATINI TERME, Italy -- Roberto Ferrari sprinted to his first Grand Tour stage victory in the 11th and longest leg of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday, while Joaquin Rodriguez retained the overall lead.
There was another crash on the final corner, 400 meters from the finish line. But it did not distract Ferrari, whose burst of speed gave the Androni rider a victory in the 158-mile leg from Assisi to Montecatini Terme in 6 hours, 49 minutes, 5 seconds.
Francesco Chicchi was second, with Tomas Vaitkus third. World champion Mark Cavendish finished in fourth.
Rodriguez managed to finish in the main bunch and will wear the pink jersey for a second straight day on Thursday. The Spaniard has a 17-second advantage over Ryder Hesjedal. One of the race favorites, Frank Schleck, fell behind during the stage and now trails Rodriguez by 2:11.
The majority of the cyclists saved their energy for the final category-three Vico climb, which came 7.46 miles from the end. The climb, 1.86 miles long, has an average gradient of 5.2 percent.
Manuele Boaro was reeled in on the climb, after spending almost 142.92 miles out in front. The Saxo Bank cyclist was part of an early break of Simone Ponzi, Stefan Denifl, Mickael Delage, Olivier Kaisen and Adrian Saez.
They kept their advantage steady at just over four minutes, which allowed the peloton to roll along behind at a leisurely pace. Cavendish's teammate Jeremy Hunt -- who at the age of 38 is one of the oldest cyclists -- led the peloton for most of the day.
With the cyclists gearing up for a bunch sprint, Sacha Modolo crashed on the final corner, when he was in sixth place, slowing down all those behind him.
Cavendish managed to avoid the crash but was impeded slightly, and Ferrari came round Chicchi to take the win.
There was a similar crash on Monday, when several contenders -- including Cavendish -- fell at the last corner.
Dutchman Tom Leezer quit the race in the early part of the stage, becoming the second Rabobank cyclist to do so after Dennis van Winden retired last week.
Thursday's 12th stage is a medium mountain leg, with four categorized climbs along the 96.32-mile route from Seravezza to Sestri Levante.
The race ends May 27 in Milan.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press