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90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage Part 1
By Staff
Date: 5/30/2007
90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage Part 1

90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage Part 1
Welcome to the Zoncolan! The race meets Europe's toughest climb in the last, crucial hilly stage. It's win or bust for any riders wishing to steal the jersey from Danilo Di Lucas shoulders. Follow all the action live here.

courtesy Gazzetta della Sport
Stage 17 Lienz - Monto Zoncolan - 142 km

Welcome to the Zoncolan! The 90th Giro d'Italia gets back into "homeland" and meets the toughest climb in the race, and arguably Europe's #1 mountain monster. The 142-kilometre journey from Lienz it's short but extremely demanding, with the Monte Croce Comelico and Sappada climbs coming first, and followed by the Tualis ascent, then it will be time for the final fireworks to start in the 10.1-km final ascent to the line, whose average gradient is 11.9%, but the maximum gradient is a terrible 22%. The Zoncolan had a significant impact on the race when the Giro went there for the first time four years ago. But today, climbed on the other, even more challenging side, it should make for an helluva show.

The Tualis climb. Profile.
courtesy Gazzetta della Sport

It's the last call for any overall contenders aiming to topple Danilo Di Luca, the likes of Gilberto Simoni, Andy Schleck and Damiano Cunego in particular. The young gun from Luxembourg promised that he'll give it go today, and Gibo has always been a fighter, so why shouldn't he try again today, on a parcours that suits his skills? The Lampre leader has not been much of a factor in this Giro, but he has nothing to lose, so he might well make a move (his legs willing ...) today.

We do not regard Riccardo Riccó as a possible GC winner (this year) but he won the last tough mountain stage at Tre Cime di Lavaredo, he's got the legs, and could benefit of Saunier Duval's teamwork again. He is well aware of the fact that a hard-fought battle is going to break put on the Zoncolan slopes, and promised that he'll be giving everything he can.

Green jersey holder Leonardo Piepoli is perhaps the best mountain goat in the Tour of Italy peloton this year, and the main suspect to take line honours today, also thanks to the fact he is no GC threat at all, but much will depend on the role "the Flying Trullo" will be playing today: will he be free to go for stage victory or have to put himself at Simoni's (and/or Riccó's) disposal)?

Zoncolan Profile.
courtesy Gazzetta della Sport

1320 CEST The race got underway around 0100 PM local time as a group of 142 riders got in the saddle at the Tyrolean village of Lienz. The only non starter was Aketza Peña of Euskaltel-Euskadi, suspended by his team after testing positive for nandrolone after a Giro del Trentino stage (the results of the tests, carried out in late April, were made public only recently, and the Basque team immediately "sanctioned" their rider).

The stage got off to a fast start, with some breakaway attempts, and Bouygues Telecoms "serial escapee" Yoann Le Boulanger very active since the beginning, but none of them really capable of escaping the marshalling of the peloton - led by Saunier Duval and Liquigas - thus far. The "Red Bird" team have made their intentions clear since the beginning of this leg.

1330 CEST The Breton Eric Berthou (Caisse d'Epargne) as well as Belgium's Jurgen Van den Broeck (Predictor-Lotto) were next on the move under the cloudy skies of southern Austria, and were soon later joined by one of Tinkoff's top attacking machines, peloton veteran Elio Aggiano. All of them are light years down in the GC, but nevertheless it looks like Saunier have no intentions to let them take too much of an advantage either. And even if turned a quartet as Florence's own Leonardo Scarselli (Quick Step-Innergetic) joined the breakaway (so to speak ...) , efforts from Saunier and Liquigas - the latter is the only team will all nine riders still in the pack, by the way - succeeded in chasing them all down after a short time.

1340 CEST Another, more serious breakaway attempt came at km. 24 with Paolo Bettini on the move for the umpteenth time, and a few other guys, Garzelli's loyal domestique Massimo Codol as well as Fortunato Baliani of Panaria included, alongside him. The Liquigas chase machines, driven by Di Luca's top lieutenant Alessandro Spezialetti, immediately picked up the pace, but Danilo Di Luca himself told his Lime Green Guard to take it easier for none of the attackers posed any danger to his overall leadership. Such that the attackers could quickly built a thirty-second lead on the field with 30 kilometres gone and 112 km yet to be covered. Names of all escapees to follow soon.

1350 CEST The twelve-strong breakaway group extended their advantage to over a minute. Besides the aforementioned Paolo Bettini, Fortunato Baliani and Massimo Codol, the front group is composed of Addy Engels (Hol - Quick Step-Innergetic), Mauro Facci (Ita - Quick Step-Innergetic), Carl Naibo (Fra - AG2R Prevoyance), Yoann Le Boulanger (Fra - Bouygues Telecom. Who else?), Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jussi Veikkanen (Fin - Française Des Jeux), Dario David Cioni (Ita - Predictor-Lotto), Mario Aerts (Bel - Predictor-Lotto) and Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col - Rabobank). Their gap ballooned to two minutes as they made their way back into Italy after 33 kilometres.

Mario Aerts is the top placed member of the breakaway group, but he was sitting in spot number 20, about half an hour behind Di Luca in the GC, at the stage start. So there's no reason for Liquigas to waste their legs in an early chase of such group, that doesn't contain any teammates of Simoni's, Mazzoleni's, Schleck's either ...

Liquigas' performance in the Tre cime di Lavaredo stage has been criticized by the Italian press, but their team manager Stefano Zanatta, interviewed earlier today, said that he's confident the squad will be up to challenge today. The same Di Luca said that he regards Gibo Simoni, and neither Schleck nor Riccó, as his most dangerous overall challenger today. Piepoli is a good climber in his opinion, but far from putting his Maglia Rosa in danger. The man from the Abruzzo will also be trying to put as much time into Eddy Mazzoleni as possible.

1417 CEST Gap update: the dozen frontrunners - Paolo Bettini, Fortunato Baliani, Massimo Codol, Addy Engels, Mauro Facci, Carl Naibo, Yoann Le Boulanger, Markel Irizar, Jussi Veikkanen, Dario David Cioni, Mario Aerts and Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano - further increased their lead over the peloton (steadily driven by Liquigas and Saunier) to 2'52" by km. 36 check as they were winding through the South Tyrol town of San Candido / Innichen.

1435 CEST The dozen on the front crested the first hill in today's menu already: the Cricket and his eleven breakaway companions even increased their margin over the field to five minutes on the Monte Croce di Comelico pass. Fortunato Baliani came first across the top of the ascent, to nobody's surprise, with Yoann Le Bolanger and the same Paolo Bettini filling in the other top three spots over there.

1440 CEST - 59 km, The advantage was hovering around 05'10" at the following time check (km. 59) in the descent into Santo Stefano di Cadore, as the race moved back into the Veneto region, but the peloton later started to chase and the gap had quickly shrunk to 04'42" by km. 65.

1450 CEST The stage entered its second half, with Paolo Bettini, Fortunato Baliani, Massimo Codol, Addy Engels, Mauro Facci, Carl Naibo, Yoann Le Boulanger, Markel Irizar, Jussi Veikkanen, Dario David Cioni, Mario Aerts and Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano still away, but the peloton making late time gains over the twelve escapees. The gap fell under five minutes.

Gilberto Simoni: commented after yesterdays finish “Although the summit of Zoncolan evokes sweet memories, it's a terrible challenge. Tomorrow's stage will be a difficult one, indeed. You can get stuck in the last kilometres just like that, so everyone will try not to risk to much. Saunier Duval/Prodir will do their best tomorrow, but the GC speaks for itself and we have to be realistic. My strength lies with experience, but what counts after all is your legs, just your legs. A decisive stage? Most probably, yes.”

1500 CEST The peloton went fast in the descent, gaining 50 seconds on the breakaway in the space of fifteen kilometres, such that the margin dropped to about four minutes twenty seconds at Campolongo di Cadore, with slightly over 60 kilometres remaining.

In the meantime, over 100,000 tifosi have made their way to the Zoncolan slopes, that are really, really, really packed with fans today. Some tifosi have been there since yesterday. And many of them challenged the mountain monster on their own bikes. All guys and gals interviewed didn't fail to point out how darn difficult the ascent is.

1505 CEST Less than 60 kilometres to go, and the gap got back to its growing antics: Bettini, Baliani, Codol, Engels, Facci, Naibo, Le Boulanger, Irizar, Cioni, Aerts, Ardila Cano and Finland's national champion Veikkanen could boast an advantage of 04'55" at the most recent check.

1510 CEST The race winds through a nice valley near the Piave river, the gap stays the same. And the average speed stays over 42 kph. Not bad at all. The big three - Liquigas, Lampre and Saunier Duval - are showing their presence at the head of the bunch.

1516 CEST Just interviewed "on the road", Lampre's manager Martinelli admitted that he knows that Cunego has been a bit disappointing so far in the Giro, but also added that he'll be trying not to waste his last chance to make an impact on the race and find a spot on the eventual podium. The top three places are within Damiano's reach after all, for his overall gap to Schleck is just 28 seconds. The gap is stable now at about 4'50".

1519 CEST Riders and chasers alike made it to Sappada town, playing host to today's "Traguardo Garibaldi" sprint, whose results we are going to give you in a while. And here they are: 1. Paolo Bettini. 2. Yoann le Boulanger 3. Massimo Codol. The Cricket gained eight points, making some precious additions that could help his Maglia Ciclamino bid. Even if AleJet Petacchi is firmly leading the points classification, mister Bettini, some 30 points down, hasn't given up the fight. Oh well, but when did Paolo Bettini did give up any fight? It's true, the world champion has been inspirational, getting up after every crash or piece of bad luck to keep fighting. By the way, the gap has grown to 5'27".

Paolo's Quick Step Innergetic team has no chances to prevail in the Teams classifications. That ranking sees the orange warriors of Panaria-Navigare in the lead (anyone really surprised?), and their closest challengers Saunier Duval about five minutes down. But the Zoncolan could change a lot. And to the delight of the "red bird team" we think.

1528 CEST - 39km to go, Lampres, Sauniers and Liqui-guys keep mixing up on the front of the chase bunch. The gap stays a good 05'28" anyway

1534 CEST 36k to go for the leaders. No news on the gap side of things, with Bettini and his eleven breakaway companions, all of whom take regular turns as they wind through yet another valley, holding on to their 05'15" margin.  The skies are sunny over the stage today. Hopefully it will be like this until the finishing line.

1539 CEST The peloton just went under the 35k to go banner, with the chase machine made of several top lieutenants from Liquigas, Saunier and Lampre making some small gains on the breakaway; the gap fell under five minutes again. Both the fugitives and the Gruppo Maglia Rosa are marching towards the Tualis, the penultimate climb on the menu.

1542 CEST The dozen escapees have hit the Tualis' opening slopes already. In the meantime David Zabriskie had a flat, but quickly made his way back into the field and regained his position besides Team CSC leader Andy Schleck. Tualis is a short (under 4 km) but demanding (av. gradient over 9%) climb, whose slopes are giving Ardila Cano a hard time.  Meanwhile, Enrico Gasparotto, the only "girino" from the Friuli region of Italy that will be playing host to today's stage finish, drives the stretched peloton.

Very few riders have lost contact with the peloton so far, but the bunch somehow "split" in two, with the top overall contenders in the front places, and those with nothing to say today in the "second half". Puncture for Ivan Parra, teammate Mickael Buffaz sacrifices his wheel. 'Il Piccolo Colombiano' lies 12th overall, 10"17 down. He's been attacking like crazy in the mountains of this Giro.

1549 CEST The top of the ascent is just 1,000 metres away for the escapees. Another French flat; AG2R's Hubert Dupont punctured on the climb and his teammate Lloyd Mondory stopped and sacrificed his own wheel. Two helpers less for Danilo Di Luca: Enrico Gasparotto lost contact to the main group, and his teammate Alessandro Vanotti is just about to.

Ivan Parra is fighting his way back into the field. No attacks in the front group, that was thinned down to ten men anyway, as Spain's Irizar and France's Naibo got dropped late in the climb.

1552 CEST The breakaway made it to the top of the climb. And, needless to say, Fortunato Baliani took the points over there too. Dario David Cioni and Massimo Codol followed in the other point-awarding spots. Baliani lies second in the Maglia Verde standings to Leonardo Piepoli, and is still showing some fight.

Liquigas are working away on the front, with the likes of Spezialetti and Wegelius setting the pace. The maglia ciclamina is in the front group, albeit nearer the back - yep, Alessandro Petacchi is climbing superbly. One KOM prime win after another by Fortunato did succeed in moving up into second, but the Flying Trullo can still boast a huge seventeen-point lead (63 v. 46). Baliani's efforts are not going to get properly rewarded on the podium at Milan.

1557 CEST The peloton have reached the Tualis summit too, four and a half minutes behind the frontrunners. Cioni and Baliani attacked the breakaway on the descent into Ravascletto town.  Cioni and Baliani attacked the breakaway on the descent into Ravascletto town.

The 50-strong peloton is on a false-flat section with 25k to go; Iban Mayo rushed to the front to help the chase. Codol joined Baliani and Cioni: three men in the lead now.  AleJet Petacchi was last of the "gruppo" at the top of the past climb, but he's hanging on big style today. The gap has fallen to 4'20" for the breakaway, every second will count as advantage for the Zoncolan.

1602 CEST Massimo Codol, Fortunato Baliani and Dario David Cioni reached Ravascletto, but the steepest part of the descent is yet to come. The other seven escapees are trailing by sevens seconds, whereas Naibo and Iriziar swim 40 seconds back. No way for the duo to catch back with the frontrunners. Le Boulanger just lies off the back of the break on this descent.

Just 15km to go for the leaders. Looks like the break are back together, as Cioni, Baliani and Codol are reprised. Still 50-odd men in the peloton, as it arrows towards the Zoncolan. Evgeni Petrov now has a mechanical problem; Commesso gives him a hand. Or a wheel, to be more specific. Predictor boys Aerts and Cioni and Quick Step's Facci and Bettini are both near the front of the break.

The gap is 4'20", the break is about to hit the Zoncolan. 10 kilometres of pain. Not only that but it's a narrow road, so few cars will be allowed up it. Spezialetti leads for Liquigas.

In front, the Zoncolan starts! 10km to go! Jussi Veikkanen leads Cioni, pumping out of the saddle. Bettini is third wheel.  Codol, Ardila and Baliani lead the break. 4 minutes the gap and Spezialetti pours on the power for LIQUIGAS!!! Petacchi falls off the back, he's done well enough today.

1622 CEST - 8km to go for the leaders, Cioni in front of Baliani and teammate Aerts. It's starting to fragment up front. All the favourites are in there, no surprises yet. Already the peloton is down to 20 hardened climbers/domestiques though. Iban Mayo cranks up the pace. Nibali and Pellizotti are there for Liquigas though. The peloton is taking on the ONLY 300 flat metres on the Zoncolan. Codol might be up with Cioni, Baliani and Aerts. Narrow climb, narrow camera work.

Spezialetti and Noé are done with their job for Danilo. They're not in the Gruppo Maglia Rosa any longer. Irizar has been caught and passed. 3'20" is the deficit, it's coming down faster now. Di Luca sits in sixth wheel in the group, with Piepoli straight behind him. The Astana duo of Mazzoleni and Savoldelli are third and fourth wheels, side by side. The Maglia Rosa is surrounded by the Saunier trio.

Dario David Cioni makes a small gap on Baliani in front, meanwhile...The top seven overall are all in there, fighting it out, but Savoldelli is off the back with Parra and Bruseghin! Savoldelli. Parra, Bruseghin, Nibali, Vila, Mayo, Rasmussen, Petrov have lost contact to the Di Luca group already. The Russian is trying hard to regain the gruppo.

1626 CEST Game over for Pellizotti. And Gibo moves to the front to pick up the pace. Perez Cuapio is up there, Sella is not, sorry.  Di Luca and Cunego follow his wheel. Piepoli and Riccó are a little behind instead. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo winner is not having his best day in the saddle, or so it seems. Perez Cuapio is dropped now. Mazzoleni and Garzelli also struggling.  Schleck is just behind Piepoli and Ricco. Nope. Just ahead of Riccó. Was that slow-motion? Either way, Cioni is climbing slowly on these horribly steep hairpins.

Now Riccardo Ricco loses contact! Panaria's Pozzovivo was dropped too. The "gruppo" Maglia Rosa literally broke apart (as expected). Simoni, Di Luca, Cunego, Piepoli, Schleck - five men fighting now. Solo leader Dario Cioni holds on to his 700-metre margin on such small group.

Gibo opens up a very small gap on Di Luca and the others. Danilo is not wasting his leg in an immediate response to Gibo's move. 03'19" is a very solid margin after all.  Gibo keeps a small lead on Di Luca, but is unable to make the gap for real. Their gap to Cioni at the latest check was 02'30". Under six kilometres to go for Simoni.

Le Boulanger tries to keep up with Simoni for a few metres, but is jettisoned. Di Luca seems to have a hard time now. He loses a few metres to Damiano Cunego too.  But maybe the Maglia Rosa wearer is just handling his legs the best way possible.

Di Luca under pressure and in difficulty - for the first time this Giro. Now Simoni sweeps up Ardila. Gibo is swallowing many former escapees. Di Luca trails him by 25-3 metres, with Cunego in between.

Live coverage continues in Part 2
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