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91st Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/28/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage

91st Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage
The last flat thing comes as the contest rides its way to the land of the Swiss. Is it a matter of Benna and Cannonball only? Ete and the Cricket might disagree ...

Stage17: Sondrio - Locarno 146 km

Hi everyone, welcome to our live coverage of stage 17 in the 91st Giro d'Italia. Today's 146-kilometre journey from Lombardy's Sondrio to Switzerland's Locarno gives overall contenders the chance to recover from their recent efforts on the Dolomites as well as save their legs for the final battles - both uphill and ITT - coming in the three final days of this very close and hard-fought race.

With just one difficulty (the 3rd Category Monte Ceneri about 34 km. from the finish) in today's menu, the stage also provides the fastest wheels still around with one of their last two chances to steal the spotlight. Perhaps even the last one as tomorrow's trip into "World Champs City" Varese looks much more favourable to the breakaway specialists. Should we expect yet another battle of two giants between Daniele Bennati and Mark Cavendish? That could be the case. The Italian leads his #1 rival by one victory (3-2) and gets chance at a "match point" today. But the way the Brit dominated the last two-man challenge a few days ago is not a good sign for him: Cavendish just had some great legs before the Dolomites. The question is: what kind of impact did all those steepy leg-tortures have on their respective conditions?

Other guys than "Benna" and "Cannonball" might have one thing or two to say however. Nope, we're not talking McEwen: as usual the Aussie packed his bags on the eve of the first true mountain stage (Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Cavendish responded to Robbie's antics by stating that: "I don't race for money, I race for passion. I want to go ahead. Three days of struggling over the climbs will be a useful experience").

Referring to Erik Zabel ("He'll sure give it another try today. He might not have the quickest legs in the bunch, but he's the most accomplished sprinter" leadout man Alberto Ongarato said earlier this morning), Paolo Bettini (the Cricket promised that he'll do his best not to waste his last opportunity to make his mark on the race) and - why not? - perhaps even Danilo Hondo and Astana's quickest: Assan Bazayev. Okay, a Kazakh triumph in a massive sprint finish is not the most likely thing to happen, you know, but again don't take anything for granted today: the Dolomites could have some serious impact on the stage outcome. As much as the way riders tackle the last two turns before the sprint (that come 500 and 250 metres from the finish respectively) could prove crucial.

The Giro d'Italia 2008 crew enjoy their only foreign stage finish today (the race went abroad for some time earlier the past week, as riders briefly graced the San Marino Republic territory). It made its way into the Italian-speaking Swiss town Locarno also in the days of 1938, with a certain Leo Amberg taking line honours on "home soil".

Tinkoff's Mikhail Ignatiev leads, Francesco Gavazzi and Yann Huguet in the early escape. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1400 CEST - The stage got underway around 1:45PM local time, with 152 riders in action. A breakaway of three went after just a few kilometres: Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), racing on his home roads of the Sondrio province, attacked alongside Tinkoff's Mikhail Ignatiev (it was the umpteenth early stage move from the Russian team...) and Cofidis' Yann Huguet (Fra) joined them around km. 11. The trio have quickly opened up a two-minute advantage on the peloton.

1415 CEST - Francesco Gavazzi, Mikhail Ignatiev and Yann Huguet got away to a flying start in the stage: their lead ballooned out to 06 minutes and 40 seconds by the km. 16 check.

Liquigas come to the front to help High Road. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1435 CEST - The gap rose to a maximum 08'40" after 26 kilometres and hovers around eight minutes since. Bennati's Liquigas are unsurprisingly leading the chase. The next check (km. 35) saw Gavazzi, Ignatiev and Huguet take their advantage over the "lime green armada" and the rest of the pack up to new heights: 08'12".

1445 CEST - The lead trio have covered 46 kilometres. The peloton is six kilometres, and 07'50", back.

1455 CEST - Two High Road guys took over the chase back in the field as they ride alongside the Como Lake shore; efforts from the peloton managed to cut the "distance gap" down to "only" 5,600 metres.

1505 CEST - The three escapees are on the western shore of the Como Lake, with 56 km gone and 90 km to go. Their advantage keeps coming down, slowly but steadily. It was some seven minutes at the latest check.

1523 CEST - With four High Road chase machines putting the hammer down (well, sort of) at the front of the pack, the advantage of Ignatiev, Huguet and Gavazzi shrank to six minutes by km. 65. Milram and Liquigas have added a rider each at the front. Looks like Astana will have the day off as the sprinters teams work the front of the peloton.

1545 CEST - High Road's team manager Valerio Piva was interviewed "on the road" a few minutes ago and confessed that he was taken by surprise by the Brit's "gutsy" decision to continue his race over the mountains: "Even if he had stopped after the last two flat stages, that would have been fine with me. He wanted to go on instead, so here we are, well-determined to do well also today, in what can be the last sprinter's stage. I think it could be a close battle between Mark and Bennati, but we shouldn't write off the other sprinters. We'll see who has got the best legs after the Dolomites".

1553 CEST - On Bennati's side of the matter, Liquigas' DS Stefano Zanatta said that he's well aware that Liquigas doesn't have the best possible leadout machine, but Daniele and the whole team are confident that they can do fine today. They'll try and get their appointed sprinter in the best possible conditions to contest and win the sprint. Zanatta also added that those two turns in the last 500 metres can be tricky and dangerous, but that's the same to the whole peloton and not just Bennati and his squad.

Levi Leipheimer leads the Astana crew with Contador in escort.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1555 CEST - Arrivderci Italia! The race made it onto the soil of Switzerland. Gavazzi, Huguet and Ignatiev's advantage hovers at six minutes as they keep riding along the shores of today' "second" magnificent lake, the Lago di Lugano. The Milano Expo 2015 sprint line is situated at Lugano (the main town in the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland) after 95 kilometres. The peloton stopped just before the border to stock up on vital amenities considering everything is about 4 times more expensive in Switzerland.

Francesco Gavazzi of Talamona town (near Sondrio) and his two breakaway companions, all of them away over the last 80 kilometres, are still doing fine. They were holding on to a five-minute lead on the High Road-driven pack.

The peloton strings out near lake Lugano. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1605 CEST - While waiting for Cavendish to challenge Benna in the sprint (with the gap now down to 04'15" it looks like we're gonna have a sprint at Locarno) High Road fans can rejoice: Gerald Ciolek has won the opening stage of the Tour of Bavaria earlier today. Meanwhile the lads on the front each take long pulls and continue to work together well; not that this is likely to change the final outcome. High Road has the whole team at the front with a bit of help from Liquigas and Francaise des Jeux riders... Astana follow with Contador in escort.

We're coming up to the Traguardo Volante sprint in Lugano now; Jérémy Roy of Francaise des Jeux still leads that competition, by one point over Baliani. Ignatiev, Gavazzi and Huguet are just one km. away from the sprint.

1607 CEST - Gavazzi takes the sprint from Ignatiev and the French. he Italian even opened up a small gap on the two others at the top of this little ascent, that was climbed also during the 1996 Worlds (won by Johan Museeuw).

1610 CEST - 3:50 the gap, Fortunato Baliani attacks the field and sprints to fourth place at the former Intergiro, 03'30" behind his stage-leading compatriot Gavazzi. The peloton came in some 10 seconds back. Fortunato Baliani and Jérémy Roy duke it out for fourth and a single point; the Frenchman realises that he can't beat his rival uphill. So, they're now equal on 18 points.

1612 CEST - A more detailed update from the Tour of Bavaria, with the top 3 spots of today's opener: 1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) 2. Fabian Wegmann (Ger) 3. Karsten Kroon (Hol). Apparently, the gap has risen slightly to 3'50". No cause for panic on the peloton's behalf though - not yet.

Back to Italy ... er, Swizterland: High Road picked up the pace with about 42.5k to go.  And now to Belgium, with an update from today's Tour of Belgium leg, which was won by the young local rider Kenny Dehaes of the Professional Continental team Topsport Vlaanderen. Allan Davis snatched second, Gert Steegmans third and fourth place getter was ... yet another Gavazzi: Mattia Gavazzi of the Preti Mangimi-Prisma Stufe squad. Mattia Gavazzi of Brescia is the son of former pro racer Pierino Gavazzi, while Francesco Gavazzi of Sondrio has no relation to them.

Any budding cyclists wanting tips could do worse than watch Mikhail Ignatiev's pedalling technique. Pure, smooth power with a fast cadence. Bellissimo.

1626 CEST - 35k to go for the escapees, who are currently climbing the easy Monte Ceneri, whose summit is just 3 kilometres away. A Saunier Duval rider just put Coca Cola into his bidon. That was totally worth a replay? Andreas Kloden has been struggling with allergies this Giro; he needs to be the star of an advert where giant flowers are chasing him; maybe he could takes Banderas' job as the bee for Claritin or something..

Paolo Bettini apparently isn't in top shape today; he has been sitting off the back of the peloton most of the time, but he's currently moving towards the centre of the pack. Someone give Huguet a hug: he's been dropped. Gavazzi makes it to the KOM sprint, with Ignatiev sitting on his wheel and taking second. The French took third. The bunch came in at 01'55".

Ignatiev and Gavazzi climb the Monte Ceneri after dropping Huguet.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1637 CEST -  High Road and Liquigas are mixing up on the front, but with Cannonball's teammates clearly outnumbering Benna's. Cofidis' Yann Huguet fights to rejoin his breakmates on the descent. The only rider unable to follow the tempo set by the field on Monte Ceneri was Milram's Marcus Eichler. He isn't the lanterne rouge ("black number" in this case) by fluke, after all ...

1641 CEST - Mikhail Ignatiev and Francesco Gavazzi lead the pack by 01'55" at they wind through the small town of Cadenazzo in the Magadino planes area. Ignatiev attacks!!  The Russian made the gap, as Franceso Gavazzi can't counter his move.

Our live coverage continues in:
91st Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Live Coverage Part 2

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