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"
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.
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
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.
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.
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 -
Live Coverage Part 2
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