everyone and welcome to our live coverage of the twelfth leg in the 2007 Tour
of Italy. After yesterday's sprinters' stage - the last one with most of the
fastest wheels still in the bunch - provided us with Alessandro Petacchi's
22nd ever Giro stage victory and notably some weather-related extra drama
(first like a man on a solo breakaway, leading the bunch by nine minutes or
so, who all of sudden dropped off his bike and didn't want to continue as he
just couldn't go ahead because of the heat; but eventually his team manager
persuaded Mickeal Buffaz to get back in the saddle and continue his solo
journey, that was going to last until 15 km. from the finish.
later like the spectacular and dramatic massive pile-up that involved over 20
riders at the finish, with Paolo Bettini and Yaroslav Popovych falling on the
wet road big style, GC leader Andrea Noé crossing the line with his bottom
side slipping over the tarmac, and Euskaltel's Aitor Hernández unfortunately
breaking his collarbone) it's time for the overall contenders to regain
spotlight as the race finds back the Alps in the 163 kilometre trip from
Scalenghe to the French city of Briançon.
The Colle dell’Agnello (cima Coppi, highest point in the race) and
the first category Izoard should tell us what climbers and wannabe Maglia Rosa
wearers are hot, and which ones are not. But the top of the last difficulty
comes far from the finishing line, and the significant downhill portion in
today's stage (43 kilometres, as opposed to a cumulative uphill distance of 37
kilometres ) should give the likes of Paolo Savoldelli - and anyone having a
hard time in the saddle when the going gets vertical - the chance to make up
for their uphill deficit.
The Falcon might benefit from the Izoard descent to put in a winning fly
towards the line, but we wouldn't be surprised if the battle broke out much
earlier on the slopes of Colle dell'Agnello, where Saunier could use one of
their mountain goats to start the fireworks. Gibo Simoni has never had
particularly outstanding performances on the Izoard, but could make up for
that today, with some precious support from his young team-mate and early
season revelation Riccardo Riccó as well as Tuesday's stage winner Leo "Flying
Trullo" Piepoli and - why not? - the Basque Iban Mayo, still not as good as he
used to be when he used the rock on L'Alpe d'Huez and other mountain monsters,
but reportedly getting better and better by the day.
The Colle dell'Agnello profile.
Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport
Andrea Noè is not unlikely surrender the overall leader's mantle to anyone
else: the peloton veteran knows that his job today is just to help Danilo Di
Luca as much as possible; and the Liguigas team leader thinks that the time
gaps amongst the top competitors at the end of the stage will not be too large
and the stage outcome will be determined only in the last, uphill thousand
metres. Damiano Cunego sounded a little more convinced about the impact the
Agnello and Izoard can have on both the stage and the GC, while Stefano
Garzelli his not forgotten that today's hills are just the place where he
built his Giro d'Italia 2000 overall triumph. Seven years have passed, but why
not giving it a go again?
1230 CEST The stage got underway a
dozen minutes ago, once more in darn hot weather conditions, with temperatures
up to 32°C.
The skies are sunny over the Giro, even if more and more clouds are
amassing over this sport, with the latest doping-related revelations
concerning yet another rider, nobody else but Erik Zabel, who gave a press
conference in Germany and admitted he used banned susbstances for a week back
in the days of the 1996 Tour de France.
The action got started as a group of 167 riders rolled out of Scalenghe
town. As fully predictable - and predicted - Robbie McEwen is no longer in the
bunch: the Aussie packed his bags (containing "only" one stage victory this
year) and pulled out of the race, ready to start his tour de France build-up.
Another sprinter like Germany's Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner), winner of the
last stage in Milan the past year, as well as George Hincapie and the
aforementioned Aitor Hernández also added their names to the list of the Giro
1310 CEST Yuriy Krvitsov (Ukr - AG2R
Prevoyance) made the news as the first attacker of the day, whilst Luis Felipe
Laverde the Colombian made the news as the first unfortunate rider to
puncture, in the first mile of the stage. France's Pierre Drancourt (Bouygues
Telecom) won the first Hot Spot Sprint of the day at Macello. His move didn't
prosper either, but when his two fellow countrymen Christophe Riblon
(AG2R Prevoyance) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Bouygues Telecom), yet
another French duo on the attack early into a Giro stage, made their own move
at km. 14, the gap was made for real. It took only a few kilometres for the
two guys to put up to six minutes into the field - driven, surprise surprise,
by Danilo Di Luca's (and Andrea Noé's) Liquigas teammates.
1335 CEST The leading pair made it to
the Valle Varaita, the valley leading up to Sampeyre town and to the foot of
the Colle dell'Agnello climb; Riblon and Le Boulanger extended their advantage
to 09 minutes and 10 seconds with 110 km to go. The average speed after the
first hour of racing is 46.1 km/h.
1345 CEST At the kilometre 53 check
Christophe Riblon and Yoann Le Boulanger increased their lead to 11'40", and
their advantage further ballooned to over fourteen minutes with 104 km. to go,
turning 31-year-old Le Boulanger, now riding along the Varaita river, into
virtual race leader on the road. The peloton, now led by four Saunier Duval
guys, are not looking too worried about it anyway. Much more worried is Paolo
Savoldelli, but about the possible impact of his recent misfortunes: Il Falco
was one of the riders that fell yesterday, and hit the same foot he broke this
past winter when a brick fell upon it.
1410 CEST The road started to tilt
upwards, even if the race hasn't reached Sampeyre town yet. The gap didn't
start to come down at all instead. Quite the opposite we would dare to say:
virtual Maglia Rosa holder Le Boulanger and his breakaway compmanion Riblon
could boast a 17'20" margin at the Brossasco time check!!
1445 CEST The gap started to come down
at least, even if very slightly: Le Boulanger and Riblon were leading the
field by 16 minutes 10 seconds as the former won the Traguardo Garibaldi at
Sampyere. Mickael Buffaz, the "star" of yesterday's stage, made the all-French
top three complete as he drove the pack across the Sampeyre Intermediate
Sprint line. The race is about to meet the mountains, with the average speed
down to 40.2 km/h as a result of the increased gradient.
1455 CEST Tim Klinger (Germany -
Gerolsteiner) dropped out of the race, while stage leaders Christophe Riblon
(France - AG2R Prevoyance) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra - Bouygues Telecom)
held onto a lead of 15'32" with some 80 kilometres left. Le Boulanger, sitting
in 48th place overall at the stage start, about thirty minutes down on Andrea
Noé, stays with the "virtual maglia rosa" virtually on his shoulders, but he's
going to take it off (virtually, of course) very soon ... The "Red Bird Army"
of Saunier Duval on the front of the peloton are picking up the pace now.
1500 CEST 75k to go for the two
frontrunners. Acqua & Sapone's Gabriele Balducci might have finished second
yesterday, but he was first in losing contact to the main peloton on the Colle
dell'Agnello slopes (and even in the easiest part of the ascent ...). More
sprinters like Danilo Napolitano followed; the frantic pace set by Gilberto
Simoni's teammates is thinning down the field already. The summit of the
Agnello is only 10 kilometres away.
1508 CEST - gap at 14:40 to the break,
Danilo Di Luca is keeping an eye (better, two) on the Saunier Duval boys in
yellow riding just ahead of him. The ascent, and the "red bird warriors", have
split the field into three-four smaller groups. Simoni is on his best in a
hard race, so probably that's why the red birds are working. It's possibly the
first time that we have one team taking the initiative like that since the
very early portion of the Agnello climb.
Yoann Le Bolunager dropped Riblon at 9 km from the top of the ascent. Le
Boulanger is riding alone in the lead but it's a very tough climb. He rides
what about 5 km/h. The gradient is a good 12% or so in the place the (now)
solo frontrunner is currently taking on. Paolo Savoldelli looks in good shape
now; his foot is not giving him too many problems. Iban Mayo is not there with
the other Saunier Duval guys on the front. Bad news (perhaps the only bad one)
for the boys in yellow.
Attack Ivan Parra out of the bunch. It looks like the Cofidis Colombian has
never enough of attacking. He was on the move two days ago, and so he is
today! But the Saunier Army has NO intention to let anyone go.Parra is chased
down by the red birds
And it's Riccardo Ricco in person that looks after covering his move.
Savoldelli with problems as Ricco is setting the pace. All of the above
resulted in more and more riders (Commesso and Cancellara included) getting
dropped. Popovych dropped out as well; Paolo Savoldelli, Yaroslav and Stefano
Garzelli having to struggle already. Andrea Noé lost contact too; Bruseghin,
Vila, Noe dropped as well.
The gruppo Simoni is about 10/15 riders strong, Iban Mayo stays some 50
metres behind the best ones, Marzio Brusgehin a further 30 metres behind,
along with Popo and the Falcon, while Vincenzo Nibali is still inside the
Simoni/Cunego group. We are 7-8 kilometres from the top of the first climb!
Savoldelli's chances to stamp his authority on the stage are getting
slimmer and slimmer, regardless of the long descent in the last portion.
Garzelli is back in the Simoni/Di Luca/Cunego group that contains also three
more Liqui-guys: Nibali, Pellizzotti and Charles Wegelius. Emanuele Sella and
his Panaria teammate Pozzovivo are there too. But the young climber from
southern Italy is NOT having easy time taking on the 12% section of the Colle.
1527 CEST Oops, Astana's Eddy Mazzoleni
is in the Simoni/Di Luca/Cunego group too. And NOT with his suppose team
leader Paolo Savoldelli, this means the Falcon, still sustaining the
consequences of yesterday's fall, is already giving up his stage winning
chances, doesn't it? David Zabriskie stays some 20 metres or so ahead of the
small group with Savoldelli. Zabriskie is doing a motor pacing ride on the
Agnello and is back in the gruppo Simoni.
CSC's Andy Schleck and Spain's Arroyo of Caisse d'Epargne is also are part
of the "main group", while Yoann Le Boulanger stays in the solo lead. Le
Boulanger still has 10.45 on the chasing group with favorites.
Abandono Gabriele Balducci. Riccardo Riccó is arguably paying the price for
his previous pace-setting efforts, and currently struggling a lot to follow
Gibo, Di Luca, Cunego and the other top riders. Zabriskie, Parra and Arroyo
are also about to lose contact (again).
1529 CEST - Riccó and Tiralongo are
dropped too. They're are 30 secs down on the Simoni group already. Wegelius
and Nibali dropped out as well; while Di Luca seems to have problems with the
pace of the yellow guys. Di Luca firmly stays on such group too; but he told
something to Charles Wegelius, and the Brit stopped and waited for the the
next small group containing Vincenzo Nibali.
Piepoli, Simoni, Cunego, Garzelli, Mazzoleni, Schleck and Di Luca are in
the first chasing group. Perhaps the Ligui-guys still want to defend Andrea
Noé's jersey; but the peloton veteran is now trailing Gibo, and the others by
some two minutes already. Following orders from Gibo, Leonardo Piepoli keeps
forcing the pace again and again and again, while Danilo Di Lica stays at the
bottom of such group. And Garzelli looks like he's struggling too. Piepoli
accelerates again, Di Luca and Garzelli with some little problems, Garzelli
dropped off the back.
Damiano Cunego sits in third wheel as the Gibo group rides 5 km. from the
top of the ascent. Yoann Le Boulanger is about 2 miles ahead of them. Andy
Schleck is there too. The boy from Luxembourg, aged 22, is doing impressively
fine (again). Damn that's too much fog on the top of the Agnello; Le Boulanger
still has 8.40 on the gruppo Simoni.
1540 CEST - One kilometer to the top of
the ascent for Le Boulanger, making his way through an impressive crowd of
tifosi. Piepoli and Simoni slowed down a little bit, to the delight of Danilo
di Luca; that can keep them within striking distance.
The French Boulanger, came first atop the Cima Coppi of the 2007 Tour of
Italy! he is now 5000 euro richer. He's no longer the Maglia Rosa Virtuale,
but so what? The money thing (which is no small thing) aside, his efforts are
absolutely praiseworthy. Absolutely.
1541 CEST - Gibo, Piepoli, Cunego,
Mazzoleni, Schleck, Di Luca etc. stepped into the last two kilometres of the
Agnelllo leg torture. Riblon is on the top of the Agnello and is 2.50 down on
Le Boulanger. Riccó and Savoldelli are far from the Simoni/Cunego group
already; the former trails Gibo by 02'10" and things are going from bad to
worse for him. The Falcon rides a further 20 seconds or so behind. Stefano
Garzelli stays 10-15 seconds down on Gibo and the other top players.
1546 CEST - The gruppo Simoni is on the
top and is about 6.00 down on Le Boulanger.
Damiano Cunego has been sitting in third wheel for the last few minutes, Di
Luca and the "star of tomorrow" (or is it of "star of today" already?) Andy
Schleck follow them. And there's Eddy Mazzoleni too! Garzelli is back in the
group with Favorities, a 2nd chasing group with Sella is about 1.30 down on
the group simoni
1548 CEST - So we have got one solo
leader (Yoann Le Boulanger), the Simoni group with 6 more riders half a dozen
minutes behind as they tackler to Agnello descent too, and France's Riblon in
between. Popovych is 2.30 down on Simoni/Cunego/Di Luca. David Zabriskie, not
the best descender around, has been joined by the Sella / Pozzovivo Group. A
group with Savoldelli is on the top at 3.30 from the Simoni group.
The group Maglia Rosa is 4 minutes down on Simoni and company, in
this group also the former Maglia Rosa Pinotti. Vincenzo Nibali is slightly
over one minute down on the group containing Simoni, Cunego but notably his
team leader Danilo di Luica, whom he might join while coming down the Agnello
climb. Crash Wim van Huffel in the descend of the Agnello together with a
Caisse rider. The Lotto Belgian, a protagonist of the 2005 Giro, was the first
"victim" of this tough and difficult descent.
Less than 50 km to go, Popovych dropped Ricco and Rasmussen in the descent.
The Ukrainian is "only" 45 seconds down on the Selle /Pellizotti group, that
he could catch soon (could, we said).
The Caisse d'Epargne rider affected by van Huffel's mistake, and himself
hitting the tarmac too, was Spain's Arroyo, by the way. Both guys were
immediately back in the saddle though. Le Boulanger still has 5.28 on the 7
chasers Simoni, Piepoli, Di Luca, Mazzoleni, Garzelli, Cunego and Schleck.
Riblon is still swimming between them at about 3.00. The seven-strong chase
group gained "just" half a minute on solo leader Yoann Le Boulanger in the
first part of the "discesa". Riccardo Riccó and Rabobank's Rasmussen
follow. A bunch with Petacchi is almost at the top of the Agnello and now
already at 21 min back of the French guy in front
1600 CEST - Gilberto Simoni drives the
seven wonders down the descent. Danilo Di Luca is with him and the others, but
it would be great for the Liquigas leader if Vincenzo Nibali joined such group
(asap). Strange but true, Savoldelli has been caught by the Noé / Bettini /
Spezialetti group in what was meant to be one of his strong points, the
Agnello desecent. A further proof of the fact Paolo is not fine at all today.
Paolo seems to be suffering a bit from his crash in the massive crash in
the sprint yesterday. And at the same time Arroyo and Van Huffel (re)gained
the wheels of Riccó and Rasmussen. Thus setting up a four-man second chase
group. With Vincenzo Nibali still sailing in between, as much as Riblon is
sailing in between Le Boulanger and the Simoni Group.
1607 CEST - 40 km to go, Oops, sorry
folks,: also Emanuele Sella and Yaroslav Popovych are in between the Simoni
group and the Rasmussen group. And the two guys could well catch Nibali quite
soon, by the way! While Nibali's chances to join Danilo Di Luca are dropping
big style. Ivan Parra the Colombian stays one minute behind the Simoni/Cunego
seven-man gruppo. Nibali is some 25-30 secs further back. Charles Wegelius is
with Sella and Popovych too.
35 km to go, Riccardo Riccó lost three
minutes to the Simoni group. It looks like the boy from Modena is no longer a
GC contender. And it's happening earlier than many expected. 35 km... The
Gruppo Maglia Rosa, containing also Savoldelli and Marco Pinotti, trails Gibo,
Damiano and Danilo (and four more guys) by four minutes.
They are now on the first parts of the Izouard, 14 km to the top. Last year
In the Dauphine Libere they had a similar stage on the Izouard and the citadel
in Briancon. It was Turpin of Ag2r who won that stage ahead of Mancebo.
Piepoli was 5th and the first rider who rides now in the Giro in that stage.
Ivan Parra continues in his pointless attempt to close down on the
seven-man group all by himself. With Vincenzo Nibali just a few seconds
adrift, it would make much more sense for the Colombian to wait for the
Italian, that could be of help to him, but he's not doing ...
1615 CEST - Okay, so our top riders are
on the Izoard already, with Yoann Le Boulanger still on the front. Whether the
French will be ALSO at the summit of the climb or not is a truly different
matter. Riblon is always in between Le Boulanger and the Seven Wonders.
Riblon is about to get caught by the seven GC riders. Again, the "Seven
Wonders" are: Gilberto Simoni, Leonardo "serial pace setter" Piepoli, Damiano
Cunego, Danilo Di Luca, Eddy Mazzoleni, young sensation Andy Schleck and
It's EIGHT WONDERS now: Riblon caught! But we tend to think they'll be back
to their Seven Wonder status very, very soon.
Simoni attacks!! Piepoli attacked
earlier, Schleck and Di Luca are following. The Flying Trullo cranked up the
pace, Gibo followed and attacked, and Cunego was given a hard time. Cunego
rejoined the group Simoni after the attack as well... Mazzoleni, Garzelli and
Riblon dropped off. Mazzoleni rejoins while Garzelli tries do the same It was
just the Gibo way to test the legs of his closest challengers, and at the same
time thin his group down a little bit. Seems it worked anyway. Garzelli
rejoins the group again.
30 km to go...
action continues in Part 2 of our live coverage of stage 12...
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