Welcome to our live coverage of stage fifteen in the 91st cycling Tour of
Italy. The Mountain Man Show that got kick-started by the 195-kilometre leg
into Pampeago yesterday continues with a shorter but even worse leg-torturing
thingy, a ride of 153 kilometres over the Dolomites, from Arabba town to the
top of the Marmolada. With six categorised climbs, five of which are true
mountain monsters such as the legendary Pordoi, the San Pellegrino, Passo Giau,
Falzarego and - last but definitely not least - the dreadful Fedaia (Marmolada),
a thingy of 13,5 kilometres with an average percentage gradient of 9%, but it
goes up to 18 percent as maximum gradient - and the last five kilometres are
really terrible ... - in today's impressive menu, this stage can be
legitimately considered as the "Queenest" of this year's many "queen stages".
If all main overall contenders basically gave Emanuele Sella a light as
green as his jersey of leader of the KOM classification Saturday, and the
gutsy climber from Veneto said "thank you" and accomplished a masterpiece,
capturing that stage victory he has been longing for over the past four years,
it could be a truly different story today. Many were disappointed with the
lack of true attacks yesterday, but despite the peloton's "quiet" attitude
some gaps, even of some significance, were made on the final climb to the
line, and albeit we weren't told much about who's hot, we got to know a little
about who's not (Levi Leipheimer being one of them ...).
So what could happen today in case some mountain goats and/or wannabe race
winners reacted to the criticisms their low-key profile earned them yesterday
(but many big-mouthed critics should walk the walk, get in the saddle and see
what they can do on such a parcours ...) and took a different, tougher
attitude. The route has the potential to cause havoc, to separate the men from
the boys, for real...
The dreadful Marmolada.
1340 CEST - The action got started at
Arabba, in the Belluno province of Veneto, with 158 riders in attendance. It
was down to 157 as soon as the flag was dropped: Gerolsteiner's Matthias Russ
put end to his Giro 2008 adventure, that saw him come close to claiming the
overall leader's jersey, after just 1,000 metres. It took ... half a more mile
for the battle to start, mainly courtesy of a few riders on the attack early
also yesterday: Joaquim Rodriguez, José Rujano and ... Emanuele Sella. Rinaldo
Nocentini, Vladimir Karpets, Aleesandro Vanotti and even Gibo Simoni and Levi
Leipheimer were also on the move. But none of those attempts bore fruit ...
until Sella, looking for more KOM points, and José Rujano opened a little gap
on the Pordoi slopes.
Nobody was surprised as Sella took the points at the top of the ascent,
that came no more than 9 kilometre into the stage, with Rujano in second
place, Baliani snatching third at 18", Karpets and Voigt in the other top five
spots, and the Gruppo Maglia Rosa coming in 32 seconds behind. Rujano,
definitely not the most talented downhill racer around, lost contact to the
Maglia Verde wearer in the descent that followed, but eight more riders, three
of whom taking part in yesterday's "breakaway of the day" too, joined Emanuele,
resulting in the current nine-man breakaway that features: Paolo Bettini (Ita
- Quick Step), Emanuele Sella (Ita - CSF Group-Navigare), Joaquim Rodríguez
(Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC), Felix Rafael Cárdenas
(Col - Barloworld), Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro - Liquigas), Evgeni Petrov (Rus -
Tinkoff Credit Systems), Fortunato Baliani (Ita - CSF Group-Navigare) and
Vladimir Karpets (Rus - Caisse d'Epargne).
The peloton, driven by Team LPR-Ballan at regular pace, have apparently
learned from past mistakes, and didn't let them take too much of an advantage
though: the gap increased to just about 02'15" and hovers around 01'40" as
they are climbing San Pellegrino pass.
The stage got off to a quick start and Andrea Tonti, Alex Bertolini, Luca
Mazzanti and Austria's National Champion Christian Pfannberger, just to name a
few, were given a hard time in the early miles. Also Gabriele Bosisio,
surprising (?) holder of the overall leader's jersey, struggled a bit on the
Pordoi, but still sits in the peloton, alongside some 140 more riders.
Passo Giau and Passo Falzarego.
1350 CEST - The breakaway group reached
the summit of San Pellegrino pass. Needless to say, Emanuele Sella was first
across the top of the ascent. Little news on the gap side of the matter: their
advantage over the peloton, steadily led by Di Luca's and Savoldelli's
teammates (Bosisio included), amounted to about two minutes.
1405 CEST - The escapees are about 3
kilometres from the summit of today's "easiest" climb, the San Tommaso
Agordino ascent. Their lead on the pack dropped to 01'20" at the latest check
1415 CEST - Emanuele Sella added San
Tommaso Agordino (km. 72 / 81k to go) to his collection of KOM sprint
victories. Felix Rafael Cárdenas and Jens Voigt held the other top three
places. The peloton came over 02'10" back.
1425 CEST - This may be no big news,
but the advantage of Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step), Emanuele Sella (Ita -
CSF Group-Navigare), Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne), Jens Voigt
(Ger - Team CSC), Felix Rafael Cárdenas (Col - Barloworld), Vladimir
Miholjevic (Cro - Liquigas), Evgeni Petrov (Rus - Tinkoff Credit Systems),
Fortunato Baliani (Ita - CSF Group-Navigare) and Vladimir Karpets (Rus -
Caisse d'Epargne) was softly increased to 02 minutes and 25 seconds at the
halfway point of the stage, around km. 76. The town of Alleghe was just three
kilometres away and the opening mile of the next steep thing, Passo Giau, is
not too distant either.
1431 CEST - Alleghe played host to
today's "Milano Expo 2015 Sprint", and with no KOM pomnts up for grabs there,
the winner wasn't Emanuele Sella, but yet another classy guy, a certain
reigning World Champion named Paolo. CSF's Fortunato Baliani came in second
and Vladimir Miholjevic filled in the remaining top place. The gap remains
basically unchanged: 02'18".
1438 CEST - The gap keeps yo-yoing
between two and three minutes with 86 kilometres covered, but things are
likely to take a completely different turn on the forthcomimg mountain giant.
1444 CEST - Paolo Bettini, Emanuele
Sella, Joaquim Rodríguez, Jens Voigt, Felix Rafael Cárdenas, Vladimir
Miholjevic, Evgeni Petrov, Fortunato Baliani and Vladimir Karpets are taking
on the first slopes of the mighty Giau, "Cima Coppi" (highest mountains) of
the race back in the days of 1972 ... when things used to be a little
"flatter" than this year anyway. The LPR-driven pack is about to come too.
1448 CEST - Miholjevic lost contact to
the front group. Bettini is also struggling in the first slopes, Giau. The
fact he was sting by a wasp a fe wminutes ago is no stranger to his
current difficulties. LPR's Giario Ermeti is done with his pace-setting job
nack inthe peloton and leaves room to the other teammates of his as the pack
hit the Giau too: Bosisio and associates will be riding tempo.
The escapees have covered 5 kilometres on the Giau already. And a CSF rider
launches a solo attack! But it is not Sella today: it's Fortunato Baliani! The
man quickly opens a small gap of 25 seconds. Joaquim Rodriguez tries to close
the gap, with Sella on his whehels. Petrov follows slightly behind them. The
Giau broke the front group apart, and is about to have the same impact on the
main peloton too. The "Gruppetto" with all the sprinters (well, those left) is
forming. Even José Rujano looks a bit struggling . The same goes with Morris
Possoni. No way they are going to have an impact on the stage today.
1450 CEST - Joaquin Rodriguez succeded
in his bid to get across to Baliani. Sella kept following the Spaniard, and as
a result we got three men up front, two of whom with the CSF Group-Navigare
outfit. In the meantime Liquigas rushed to the front of the strung-out
peloton: it's Charles Wegelius lifting the pace now. with Franco Pellizotti
sitting in second wheel.
1455 CEST - Gabriele Bosisio is the
first "excellent" victim of such skirmishes. The Maglia Rosa gets dropped. And
Kloeden seems to have a hard time. Wegelius picks up the pace again, thinning
the "peloton" down to some 20 riders.
1500 CEST - Pellizotti looks good in
the saddle, and Perez Cuapio seems to be on-form today. Matthew Loyd stays
with the best ones. Miholjevic caught by the "pack". Kloden is in trouble,
riding on the wheel of Gustav Erik Larsson. He lost several metres to the
field. But also Leonardo Piepoli got dropped! The Trullo is riding even behind
Kloden. Riccardo Riccò has no teammates around in the 18-strong "gruppo",
still led by hard-riding Wegelius. Levi Leipheimer can't follow the tempo any
1505 CEST - Bettini and Karpets are
easily caught by the group with Di Luca, Simoni, Contador, Pellizotti and also
tiny Pozzovivo, with Nibali struggling at the bottom, but NOT Paolo Savoldelli,
who's some 50 seconds back, seemingly helping Gabriele Bosisio. Piepoli is
further back. Wegelius keeps dictating the pace while Baliani, Sella and
Rodriguez stay on the front. Nibali gets dropped. And Pellizotti attacks!
Pozzovivo covers his move. The fireworks have started for real.
1505 CEST - Wegelius and Spezialetti
get dropped too. The team leaders have no more domestiques around now. But now
Pellizotti gets across to join former escapee Miholjevic, who's gonna help me
for sure. Now Menchov gives it a go at attacking the chasing group. Bruseghin
Pellizotti attacked to join his team mate Miljohovic, who takes out
everything he has to try and help his captain. But the favorite group is close
1516 CEST - Danilo Di Luca attacks!
Ricco follows. and so does Menchov. Simoni is coming next. Contador is
not doing well... he is not able to quite close the gap. Menchov is looking a
better climber than the Spaniard at this point of the stage. All of them are
about to close down on the Pellizotti group.
Now it's the Russian that picked up the pace. Menchov accelerates...
Contador has lost almost 100 metres. Contador just can't follow the tempo,
even if he's not giving up at all. Simoni has trouble following the pace of
the favorites. Contador keeps looking over his shoulders... a bad sign.
Contador is being joined by Vandenbroeck, Valjavec and Perez Cuapio
Bruseghin is slightly behind them, Nibali is further back.
The man from Madrid is now being pace by Perez Cuapio, but it's not easy
for him to follow the wheels of the Mexican. Di Luca did some real damage with
his attack. Who will be next to attack? Baliani, Sella and Rodriguez are about
to make it to the top of the Giau Pass (2236m asl). The worst is seemingly
over for Contador. Another impressive day from Navigare. Contador and
Bruseghin look to be back in the favorite group. Also thanks to the job from
Perez Cuapio, the Spaniard regained the small gruppo with all other top
overall contenders. Petrov caught..
1523 CEST - And Sella wins the points
also atop the Giau. He's going to win the KOM classification with a record
advantage on the second perhaps. Who will probably be a Navigare rider
as well... Baliani will be second on the rankings with today's points. And in
the meantime, it started raining on the Marmolada ... are we going to have a
completely sunny day sooner or later?
1527 CEST - Alberto Contador may not
have the best legs, but he's a smart guy. He knew that the top of the climb
was not far, and avoided riding his legs off in the chase. He let Perez Cuapio
and others do much of the job, and had his own task of getting back in touch
with Gibo, Di Luca, Riccò, Menchov etc. accomplished. It's raining over the
race ALSO on the Giau descent. The Kloeden group is about two minutes behind
the other top riders.
Fortunato Baliani, Emanuele Sella and Joaquin Rodriguez lead the "Contador
group" by 01'56". Gabriele Bosisio and his own small bunch trail the stage
leaders by 04'45".
Our live coverage continues in
Live Part 2
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