STAGE 15 - Terme Euganee to Conegliano, 158 km.
The last flat stage before the mountains, this stage is one for the sprinters, and could be the last, as next the Giro heads for the mountains.
The rider's take to their bikes again after a rest day, and transfer from the time trial city of Numana, where the GC saw a bit of a shake up, with Cadel Evans and Tyler Hamilton jumping to second and third overall, and Casagrande dropping into 4th place. Jens Heppner defends his Maglia Rosa for what he knows is his last day.
DP live coverage begins at 6:30 AM PST.
As we join the race, one man has escaped: Thierry
Marichal, of the Lotto team. He has an advantage on the peloton of 2 minutes. It's raining, and Telecom leads the peloton in pink raingear.
It's a good stage for Cipo, but for a tricky finishing
circuit, and a turn just before the finish, which we know is not his favorite!
At the KOM point, it was Castelblanco, Casagrande and
Munoz at the line. The peloton is altogether and chasing Marichal, whose gap is slowly shrinking.
No change in the action, but there is some news to
report. Rough days may be ahead for CSC-Tiscali, as two of
Tyler Hamilton's teammates are likely to be suffering in this rain: Carlos Sastre has been struck with bronchitis, and Andrea Peron suffers from a stomach ailment.
Bad news for Tyler, but on the other hand, former boss
Lance Armstrong has said that he reckons Tyler is capable of the win, or at least the podium in this Giro!
Mario Cipollini is looking good, and leads one of the
four remaining teams that are still all together in this Giro, which should silence the critics who said Acqua e Sapone was not a strong enough team to support Cipo.
Marichal stays away, the peloton is still all together
Yesterday's transfer was a rough one, with riders not
getting to their hotels until late at night. Casagrande complains of tiredness this morning.
All 157 riders were blood-tested last night, and came
The situation on the road remains the same!
63 km to go.
Marichal's lead is down to 1.42. The peloton is chasing. It's 12 km to the Intergiro. The finishing circuit today is small and technical- under 4km long.
It's a dangerous end to the course, and the race
organizers have said that the time for the day will be taken the first time the riders pass over the finish line.
They will then do 3 untimed laps on the circuit for the
stage win, but this way, anyone who falls or doesn't finish the sprint will not be penalized.
The situation on the road is still a one man breakaway
and the chasing peloton, a bit less than two minutes behind.
News on Freddy Garcia and possible trouble for Casagrande: Fabio reports that the tiny colombian was taken to hospital after crashing while sprinting for the KOM prime! After falling, and according to what he said, it was Casagrande who, sprinting for second place, boxed him in and and even pushed him. Selle Italia's DS Gianni Savio who has just been interviewed, sounded very upset with Casagrande.
Gianni Savio said he also heard other riders, and more
or less all of them confirmed Garcia's version. Italian TV also talked with Feretti, and even Fassa the DS said Casagrande's behaviour was stupid. So who knows, the judges could possibly disqualify Casagrande. We shall see.
It's currently SNOWING on the Pordoi, one of the climbs being tackled tomorrow.
Marichal's lead is now 1.30. Fassa Bortolo joins Telecom in the pace-making.
Marichal seems to be taking it easier, looking behind
himself for the pack. He seems to have thrown in the towel on his break.
More on Garcia and Casagrande from Fabio: Race bosses are investigating the circumstances, but unfortunately no cameras were there, so they will probably count on riders witness accounts.
Marichal's lead is down to 53 seconds. He is sitting up for a bit to eat. He will be caught soon.
Snow in the Dolomites! In the past the race has been allowed to continue in such conditions; will it this year?
Marichal is still 42 seconds clear, and will take the
Strazzer takes second in the intergiro behind Marichal,
and Petacchi in third place.
Marichal is caught! Gruppo Compatto!
It should be a pretty smooth cruise into the finish
now, with a set up for the sprinters.
Fabio recalls the 1996 TDF, in the famous
Sestriere stage when Riis took the lead. That day it was snowing on Galibiere and other climbs, so the orgnanizers shortened a lot of the stage and started where it was not snowing. It turned into a 50-km. stage or so, but Riis still dominated.
Matthew Hayman of Rabobank looks to be trying to
break away. He won't get far.
34 km to go, and the group is all together. A small flurry of attacks was heavily marked by the sprinters' teams.
Not much to report folks... Gruppo still Compatto!
Gruppo Compatto continues to generate unbelievable
excitement in the Giro: beautiful scenery in Italy, and a bunch of guys riding together through the rain. The excitement won't heat up again until the finishing circuit.
Mercatone Uno's Fontanelli is making a break for it.
He is from this region, and maybe wants a moment out from under Pantani's shadow! He won't get far.
Now the sprinters' teams set up at the front for the
final three laps of the short finishing circuit.
Anyone not contesting the sprint can simply ride
casually away from the danger.
Acqua e Sapone's Mario Scirea is on the front leading the zebrato train!
Max Sciandri of Lampre and Dellitoux of Lotto are
trying to make a break, but the Zebrato army is hot on their tails.
The stage time ends at 3:42:49, everyone with the same
time. Heppner will wear pink for one more day.
Acqua e Sapone has total control for now. The group
is all together, led out by a herd of zebras!
Rolf Sorenson jumps off the front... and Sorenson is caught.
Phonak have disrupted the Acqua e Sapone train, and are looking to lead their man Strazzer out!
Double trains now, folks!
2 Km to go! Acqua e Sapone back in charge.
Cipollini wins by a mile!
Guidi was challenging from the inside, but Mario takes
4th stage win for Cipollini in this Giro, and 8th of
the season! What a year for the Lord of the Jungle!
This concludes our ticker coverage of Stage 15. Check back later for results, interviews, and the latest peloton news!
Yet again, it looks like more potential shakeups in this race!
1. Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
2. Isaac Galvez Lopez (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
3. Allesandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortola
4. Steven De Jongh (Hol) Rabobank
5. Zoran Klemencic (Slo) Tacconi
6. René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner
7. Massimo Strazzer (Ita) Phonak
8. Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Lotto Adecco