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88th Giro d'Italia Stage 14 Live Coverage
 
By Staff
Date: 5/22/2005
88th Giro d'Italia Stage 14 Live Coverage
 

88th Giro d'Italia - Stage Fourteen
(Egna/Neumarkt to Livigno - 210 km.)


Click for larger images. Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport.

Hello and welcome to the live coverage of Stage 14 of the 88th Giro d'Italia. It's the second, terrible journey on the mountains of northern Italy in a row. The third one out of four days. and the stage with the "Cima Coppi", the highest peak in the race, which this time is no less than the legendary Stelvio, a mountain that has written so many pages in the Giro history. Today's leg was previewed in the special report we posted after the route was unveiled this past January, and here's what we had to say about it:



Stage 14 (Sunday - May 22, 2005)

Egna/Neumarkt to Livigno (210 km.)



Or the Mountain Man Festival, Part 3. Were you thinking that, after yesterday's high drama, the peloton was going to get a well-earned break, with the kind of easy ride that always helps them all recover energies? Hmmm ..sorry, but you must not know the Giro too well then. Sure riders will be given all the time for such an easy ride, but only tomorrow, on the plains of Lombardy, as today is the day of the second "queen" stage running. Perhaps a little less "queen-esque" than the climbing festival into Ortisei, but nevertheless featuring the "Cima Coppi" (highest peak) of the race, the legendary Stelvio Pass (2758m ASL), back to the Giro for the first time since 1994, and the tough Passo di Foscagno, which crests at about 15 km from the line. And also a "minor" ascent which comes earlier in the stage.

Egna's nice Coat of Arms. Courtesy Enrosadira.

Egna/Neumarkt, a small town some 15km. to the south of Bozen, is the next addition to the list of "rookies" in the Start Town category. The first 30-35 km. have no major difficulties, but then comes the opening climb from Terlano (248m ASL) up to a bunch of buildings going under the name of Frassineto/Verschneid (1104m ASL) first and Meltina (1140m) later. As you can see in the "climb profile" links at the end of this stage preview, that's a very challenging one, with the potential to break the field apart, or help a breakaway group go clear, although many a good riders getting dropped here will possibly regain the Gruppo Maglia Rosa. Perhaps not in the very next kilometres on undulating roads, but either in the steep descent from Avelengo to South Tyrol's second city Meran, or the next nearly 50 km. of flat/slightly uphill riding, traversing the Venosta Valley (Vinschgau), from Meran (325m ASL) to Spondigna (887m ASL), at the foot of the Stelvio. Then they all leave the National Road 38 behind, on the way to Prato allo Stelvio, where they start tackling Its Climbing Majesty, the Cima Coppi 2005.


Photo Courtesy www.valtline.it

A Belgian website couldn't have said it better: "The Stelvio is one of the most scenic passes in the Alps with those hairpins, nearly overlapping like a big intestine (nice !). The road seems perfectly surfaced and very wide. The difficulty of the slope is probably corresponding to the beauty of the scenery. It is absolutely a must to try climbing this pass …". But it's not about the slopes and scenery only. It's about the essence and history of this race and cycling in general. It's about the Tour of Italy lore. 'Cause if the Pordoi is certainly steeped in Giro tradition, the same can be said, and even louder, for the Stelvio Pass (Stilfser Joch), that saw Fausto Coppi here is a pic of the Campionissimo on the slopes of the … future Cima Coppi), Gino Bartali and others Greats write more and more and more epic pages of that endless novel called Giro d'Italia.

The last time the Stelvio was proud part of the parcours, in early June 1994, one of those epic pages was actually written, with Marco Pantani powering his way into cycling history for the first time with his attacks doing big damage to the legs of Miguel Indurain and future Giro winner Eugeni Berzin. All of the above actually happened on other climbs (like the Mortirolo) though, as it was less-known breakaway machine Franco Vona, that soloed across the top of the "Cima Coppi", with the field 04'05" back. Quite a surprise "winner", although not too much of a surprise as the man, who can boast three Giro stage wins in his career, wasn't new to going away solo on steep ascents, and the stage was still in its early part after all. But you can bet we are not going to have a similar surprise winner today.

The first slopes after Prato allo Stelvio are not that difficult, and they can be a kind of warm-up ride before the going gets really tough. "The road is lined with a thick forest and a rushing river roars by the side of the road", the guys at Torelli.com wrote in their fantastic " Stelvio Report" (a must read for anyone wishing to know more about the climb and its legend) after experiencing the route between Prato and Trafoi. In the first half the gradient hovers around 5-6% or even less, but when riders can get to see two switchbacks like these (they are going to meet 46 more, all of them numbered, before they can get to the top) welcoming them into the town of Trafoi, situated in the valley bearing the same name, and the picturesque church, they know that's the sign things are gonna change soon, and not for the better, for their legs.


Hundreds of riders sneaking their way onto the Stelvio unique hairpins
(there's no less than 48 tornanti between Prato allo Stelvio and the summit).
Photo Courtesy www.valtline.it

The next 14 or 15 kilometres leading up to the top are quite tough indeed, with the gradient steadily over 7%, although seldom going above 9% (the maximum gradient is reportedly about 14%). Riders have no time to visit the museum dedicated to Carlo Donegani, the civil engineer who built this street in the early nineteenth century, neither to stop and pay homage to one of the several Fausto Coppi monuments you can find on Italian - and French - climbs, as after they crest the summit and leave multilingual Alto Adige/South Tyrol behind, Italian-speaking only (one million two hundred thousands local dialects aside…) Lombardia welcomes them with an endless, difficult descent into Bormio (see profile below).

Once in town (the town hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships from January 28-February 13, 2005) riders swing towards the ski resort of Valdidentro, and start a new uphill adventure on the slopes of Passo di Foscagno, whose summit is at 2,291m ASL. According to the Gazzetta numbers, it's just another challenging thing, covering 15 km. and averaging a gradient of 6.3%. And once at the top of this last climb, there's fifteen more kilometres and the final downhill into Livigno in between riders (at least those not forced out of the event by three days of hard climbing, hard climbing and more hard climbing) and the coveted finish line. That's where we can get to know who's gonna write his name besides the name of a cycling legend for the second straight day: if yesterday it was Gino Bartali, now it's Eddy Merckx, stage winner as the Giro stage finished at Livigno in one of the Cannibal's most successful seasons (Stage 16: Parabiago-Livigno, June 07, 1972).

Detailed profiles of today's ascents (and descents)

Stelvio Webcam: yes, you can even open your "virtual window" and have a look at the present situation at the top of one of Europe highest ascents by clicking here.


Live updates from the race

The action got started at 10:43 AM local time, as a peloton of 166 rolled out of Egna/Neumarkt. A peloton not containing Nick Gates of Davitamon-Lotto, who added his name to the list of Australians that pulled out of the race over the week-end.

The weather over the Tour of Italy roads is not that bad this morning (thus far). Uncertainty was reigning after we had the unpleasant (from a cycling fan's point of view at least) surprise of finding the Stelvio slopes covered with snow a few days ago, and many were wondering if the race would have made it to the top of the ascent come Sunday. But the "white caroet" has been quickly removed from the road, so that, even if those watching race are likely to see some winter wonderland landscapes, ... yesssssss, folks, we're gonna have some - more - epic riding on the Stelvio switchbacks today. And if you don't believe us, just have a look at the following picture, which shows the situation at the top of the ascent a few minutes ago.


The Stelvio pass at 11 AM local time. Photo courtesy Stelvio Webcam

1145 CEST - Today's stage start couldn't have been more different than yesterday's. Whereas we had an impressive flurry of attacks since the gun twenty-four hours ago, and the speed was very high, the peloton is taking it easy today, being still together and riding at quite a slow pace after 30 kilometres, averaging a speed of 29.500 kph.

With a final descent into Livigno coming after the last climb today, the route could well suit the skills of Paolo Savoldelli. The Falcon showed some great legs in the first hilly stage this past Thursday, when he was the only rider able to follow the pace set by Basso, and eventually took the stage; and did even better yesterday, as he flied over the last ascent to the line, putting more than a minute into Ivan Basso - and time on his other main rivals too - and getting the coveted Maglia Rosa back on his shoulders for the first time since his 2002 GC win over Tyler Hamilton.

Interviewed after the stage, The Discovery Channel Pro CT leader commented that: "I knew that the last climb was going to be the stage decider today. The Colle delle Erbe was a tough climb for sure, but it came too far the finish line, and there was a lot of riding into the wind in between too. I was okay today, so when Simoni attacked, I followed him. I stayed on his wheels for a while, as I wanted to see how my legs were responding, then I noticed Basso was getting dropped (and made my move)".

Some said Paolo doesn't have a strong team on his side, especially after noticing that, while Liquigas, Lampre and CSC had many guys in the Gruppo Maglia Rosa late in the stage Saturday, he had no teammates around. But Savoldelli didn't seem to agree: "My teammates were of help to me earlier, like on a previous ascent, when a rider hit my bike and broke my shoes. (Pavel) Padrnos dropped to the team car and carried me another shoe, also helping me to put it on. Then took the first shoe to the team car, and got back into the bunch; and after the first shoe got repaired, he dropped back to the team car again, took it and brought it to me, successively bringing the "replacement shoe" back to the car. This all took a high toll on his legs, of course".

Asked about whether a rider can win the Giro (doing well) on the climbs, the descents, or the TTs, Savoldelli responded that one should do well ... on the climbs, the descents andthe TTs! He admitted his final ascent move wasn't part of any particular plans though "Nobody saves his legs on the last climb, you know. The rider with most energies left rides away. That's all. And that rider was me today, I think. That's the best part of our sport, you know: Basso was the best rider two days ago. I was today. And maybe tomorrow it will be Simoni. And the next day it could be Basso again. That's what cycling is about".

More on his current conditions and targets: "I'm doing better than I expected to, and I'm obviously happy about it. I am prepared well enough for this race, even if I had to stop for a while in January as I broke my collarbone. And I think I'm getting better by the day. I just took the jersey, and this makes me happy too. My actual goal was being back as a true contender after I had two very bad seasons, but now we are gonna see how things pan out (over the next days). I'm serene anyway."

Asked about his improved climbing abilities, The Falcon replied that "Well, when I won the Giro 2002, even if many top contenders were not around, I made the gap on the ascents too. But maybe what really makes the difference from the past seasons is that while I used to come to the Giro with too many races and kilometres in my legs, and my condition was starting to fade, that's not the case this time. On the contrary, I think that my I'm - slightly - getting into better shape in this period".

1155 CEST - Paolo Savoldelli is not the only tough Bergamasco in the race anyway. Another well-known rider from the Bergamo area of Lombardy, Wladimir Belli, was the protagonist of today's first serious move. The Domina Vacanze athlete broke clear, along with Spanish "serial escapee" Joaquín Rodríguez of Saunier Duval-Prodir, after about 31 km.

The pair quickly built a lead of more than a minute over the bunch. At the same time, more and more riders tried to break away, among whom was also Damiano Cunego, aiming for some glory - or just working for his team leader Simoni after he got all of his overall chances dashed in Thursday's first though stage. But despite his stage eleven debacle, the man still is a big name of the peloton, someone the pack can't let go away that soon, so that the bunch countered his move and brought the 2004 overall winner back immediately.

Cunego tried again though, and succeeded, as he's currently part of a 20-strong chasing group that formed on the first ascent of the day. The Maglia Rosa group remains within striking distance however.

1205 CEST - 3 km. from the top the climb, and Wladimir Belli (nicknamed "Mike Tyson" after the way he punched a "fan" along the road who abused him on an ascent during the 2001 Giro. A "move" that costed him the race though, as he was expelled from the contest because of that) and Joaquín Rodríguez's lead over the first chasers is still hovering around a minute.

If Paolo Savoldelli was on the winning side of Saturday's stage, Ivan Basso was on the loser's one. He bonked over the next ascent, losing more than a minute, and the overall leader's mantle, to The Falcon, and saving his second place on the GC by a mere three seconds. Many were taken aback by his no-show, but there's an explanation for this: the Team CSC leader simply wasn't fit yesterday. He was suffering with gastroenteritis, had stomach problems that affected his performance. And even prevented the "dethroned" king of the Giro from giving interviews after the stage. But his boss Bjarne Riis briefly spoke at the end of the stage, and was eloquent enough: Ivan had stomach problems throughout the stage (and day) indeed. Thankfully the team did a great job, rode very fast and kept a very high pace in order to avoid more attacks that could have made further damage to Basso. And all things considered, things weren't that bad, as Ivan was good at limiting his losses. Riis and the whole Team CSC - as well as Ivan's fans - hope that everything may be back on the right track by Sunday.


Noon update from the Stelvio Pass summit.
Expect the whole ascent to be packed with fans today.
Photo courtesy Stelvio Webcam.

We'll get to know more about Basso's condition as the stage progresses. But we can already say that Savoldelli's legs are still excellent. Or so it seems, after The Falcon closed down the gap to the 20-strong chasing group, along with a few more riders, so that we have about 25 chasers of Belli and Rodríguez as the top of this first category ascent is getting closer.

Belli and Rodríguez were chased down late in the ascent, so that we had another Selle Italia-Colombia showdown at the KOM Prime. Raffaele Illiano took second and yesterday's stage winner Iván Parra (hired by the Gianni Savio crew this past March only) fourth - while Lampre's Cunego was third and Cofidis' excellent climber Daniel Atienza filled the remaining top five spot. Who came first? But JOSEEEEEEEEEEE RUJANOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, of course! The tiny, little big climber from Venezuela added more points to his already impressive collection, and is really flying towards the King of the Mountains title. Only few (especially those who followed him as he was rocking at Vuelta al Táchira and Tour de Langkawi) were acquainted to his name before this Giro, but his combative attitude and performances have won him many a good fans these days.

Performances like the one this 49-kg. wonderboy put in on the last slopes of the Frassineto climb, as he sped off on his own and took up to 34" into the bunch. Rujano climbs like a pure South American mountain goat, but also descends like a pure South American mountain goat, so that, as the road tilted downwards, he slowed his pace and waited for eight more riders to join him. A nine-man front group formed on the descent, containing Rujano and Parra, as well as their teammate Illiano, Cunego, Atienza, Belli, Joaquín Rodríguez, fellow Spaniard Unai Osa of Illes Balears and Swiss-American Sven Montgomery of Team Gerolsteiner.

The "Rujano/Cunego group" extended their lead over the Discovery-led peloton to 02'53" by km. 47, while Olaf Pollack and Volker Ordowski (both Germans, the former racing for T-Mobile the latter for Gerolsteiner) and Spain's Vicente Reynés (Illes Balears)were entering their names in the list of DNFs.

The gap grew exponetintally over the next kilometres, balooning to 03'05" by km. 50 and 03'25" by km. 55. But notably to 05'15" by the km. 64 check. And this meant that Jooooooooooooooosé RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRujano, 04'23" down on the GC at the stage start is the virtual race leader on the road!!! With so many kilometres (and climbs and notably descents) to go, he has very few or no chances to be wearing the Maglia Rosa at the end of this stage. But still, what this man - unknown to many before this race - is accomplishing is simply sensational. And so is what his team is doing in this race, shutting up naysayers and all those who thought awarding the Colombian squad a wild-card was a mistake.

The front group managed to build a maximum gap of 05'30" as they hit the town of Merano (Meran for the German-speaker, we are still in a bilingual area ...), but they were not working well together, with the Selle Italias doing most of the work and not getting much help from some other breakaway companions. The chasing peloton was riding quite hard instead, and brought the gap down to 04'48" by km. 76, 04'38" by km. 80 and 04'05" five kilometres later, e.g. with 125 km. to go. Which is where also the "virtual" Maglia Rosa got back onto Paolo Savoldelli's shoulders. And where Euskaltel-Euskadi made a new addition to their Giro d'Italia no-show as Aitor González Jiménez, whose legs are far away from the 2002 Vuelta winning condition, pulled out of the contest.

The advantage held by José Rujano, Raffaele Illiano, Iván Parra, Damiano Cunego, Daniel Atienza, Sven Montgomery, Vladimir Belli, Joaquín Rodríguez and Unai Osa stayed the same (more or less) for a couple more kilometres, then kept coning down again. The peloton, led by Savoldelli's teammates, shrank it down to 02'45" by km. 94 and 02'38" three kilometres later.

He might have been in horrible shape yesterday, but things apparently got better for him, as Ivan Basso spoke to Italian television straight before today's journey kick-off. And he was smiling too. The man admitted that he had a very bad day Saturday, with problems affecting him since he was tackling the first climb; things thay may happen in cycling, and one just has to accept them, but he also added that it all took a turn for the better in the last hours, and that he thinks his current condition is fine enough. We are glad to know it, and look forward to seeing him battle it out on today's mountains.

In the meantime, the group containing the 2004 TdF podium finisher as well as Savoldelli, Simoni, Di Luca, Cioni, Honchar (Gontchar if you prefer ...) etc. continues to make time gains on the fugitives, whose lead was down to 02'15" as the 210-km. stage reached its halfway point.

Things stayed the same in the next dozen kilometres, with the gap going up to 02'44" by km. 109, then down again to 02'05" by km. 117. The three riders of Selle Italia-Colombia (the team with the potential to make this race explode - even more than it has done so far) Illiano, Parra and Joooooooooooooosé RRRRRRRRRRRRRujano, are still the most active ones in the nine-man front group (that contains also Damiano Cunego). But none of them is an excellent rouleur, so it's no surprise that the gap is (now slighlty, but steadily) coming down.

1425 CEST - Gap update: as the race is getting closer to the foot of the Stelvio, the nine leaders keep losing time to the bunch, their advantage being a mere 01'45" as they got to the town of Spondigna (km. 120/90k to go).


Photo update from the Stelvio summit, dating back to 14:00 AM CEST
Photo courtesy Stelvio Webcam.

1435 CEST - Here we go: the race hit the Stelvio at last! And the advantage of José Rujano, Raffaele Illiano, Iván Parra, Damiano Cunego, Daniel Atienza, Sven Montgomery, Vladimir Belli, Joaquín Rodríguez and Unai Osa was down to less than a minute.

1440 CEST - The race hit the small town (in fact a buinch of moutain buildings) of Gomagoi, 15 km. from the top of the climb; the gap is still hovering round 01'00"-01'05".

Simoni has all of his teamates around (Cunego aside of course) in the main bunch, and there's many CSCs and Liquigas riders too, while after having their job for The Falcon done on the flats, Discovery Channel's Barry and Cruz aren't in that group anymore.

The leaders are about to achieve the halfway point of the Stelvio, and Rujano is forcing the pace again, with his teammate Parra and Damiano Cunego of the back of the front group. But this is not the big news of the moment. The big news is that .... Ivan Basso is unable to hold the tempo in the main bunch, and is losing contact to the Gruppo Maglia Rosa!!!

The problems he had yesterday are taking their toll on the man again. Ivan Basso has already lost plenty of seconds to the main group, the mighty Stelvio claims its first victim!

And splits the front bunch too, with Illiano, Cunego, Belli and Rodriguez losing contact, and Atienza, Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrujano, Parra, Osa and Montgomery remaining in the lead.

Basso's team swarm around him like worker bees around their Queen, but they are in for a hard day in the saddle. Basso's face a mask of pain. It's sad to say, but he'll have a very hard time finishing the satge today.

The five frontunners are leading Cunego and Rodríguez by 40", while the Discovery boys continue to ride tempo in the gruppo Maglia Rosa, that is about a further minute behind. Di Luca is also there while the Stelvio is claiming more victims and thinning down the bunch.

Weather update: the skies are cloudy but it's not raining; the temperature at the top of the Stelvio is 5°C. Ivan Update: Basso lost more than 2 minutes to the Savoldelli/Di Luca/Simoni group, which contains some 40 riders at the moment. Crowd update: the crowds are out in their tens of thousands to, as they cheer on the thinning, Discovery-led peloton.

And a front group update at last: Sven Montgomery couldn't follow the tempo set by Rujano, Parra, Unai Osa and Atienza, so that we have an all-Sponish speaking quartet in the lead, with Cunego at 01'32" and the main bunch at 02'05".

Laiseka attacks the main peloton! Euskaltel-Euskadi try to make something good at last, courtesy of the man who got a great solo win at Luz-Ardiden in the 2001 TdF. SwitzerlAnd's Tschopp of the Phonak team followed his move and joined the Basque in this two-man chasing group. Damiano Cunego has been brought back by the peloton.

Surprise, suirprise, the "Ivan Basso group" gained some time on the Gruppo Magia Rosa, and is now reportedly just 50" down on the Discovery-led bunch, that is trailing the leading quartet by some two minutes.

The snow packed by the side of the road, as the road snakes up towards its beautiful barren summit. And the Lampres (Vila in particular) forcing the pace back in the bunch. Attack by Gibo coming soon, folks!

Three Lampres to the front of the peloton (Vila, Sabaliauskas and Simoni, as Cunego dropped off the back of the bunch) - forcing the pace higher. Savoldelli is on their heels, then comes Di Luca, while Basso's previous "time gap" might have been wrong, or maybe the Lombard just kept losing time exponentially again, as the current gap is well above two minutes.

Garate, Lobato Elvira , Caucchioli, Sella, Caruso (but not his presumed team leader Michele Scarponi), Cioni and Wegelius, Celestino, Karpets, Vasseur, Kolobnev, Pozzovivo, Valjavec, Laiseka, Sanchez, Brandt, Bruseghin, Moreni - and Cunego - are also part of the main bunch, that is losing time to Parra, Atienza, Rujano (Sorry, Rrrrrrrrrrrujano ...) and Unai Osa, the four frontrunners currently having a lead of 02'20" on Savoldelli and his Gruppo.

Sabaliauskas again doing stirling work for the Lampre team at the front of the main group, which is down to some 25-30 men; and Basso continues to loose time, his gap going up to about 02'30". Bettini is dropped by the maglia rosa group.

Sabaliauskas no more leading the group, it's tough Basque warrior Patxi Vila doing the job now, with Gibo folllowing, butt Paalo Savoldelli in third place, perfectly in control of the situation. Kessler and Bellotti lost contact to the main group in the meantime. The front group keeps a lead of more than 02'30" over the Gruppo Maglia Rosa.

1520 CEST - About 8k to the top of the climb for Parra, Rujano, Ateizna and Osa. The mighty Stelvio is taking its toll and exposing weaknesses. Each of the 48 switchbacks thins out the peloton as riders struggle in the thin air.

Gontchar, Cioni, Caucchioli up near the front of the peloton, that lost one more member: Cedric Vasseur.

1523 CEST - About 6k to the top of the ascent. The 4 leaders still hold an advantage of 02'35" over the Savoldelli/Simoni/Di Luca group.

Ivan Basso is more than 10 minutes behind the leaders, and close to eight mins down to the gruppo Maglia Rosa ...

Still Vila leading the peloton for Lampre, Simoni on his wheel. Then comes Savoldelli - with no teammates around - then Di Luca (with 2 teammeates in the main group: Cioni and Wegelius). Garate and Caucchioli in 5th and 6th place respectively. Cunego is still part of the Gruppo Maglia Rosa too.

1527 CEST - The 4 leaders including the two Selle Italia riders still heading up towards the clouds. Back in the bunch, Simoni and Savoldelli like little and large - then Di Luca the pit bull, grimly tapping the pedals; this is starting to hurt the riders. Vila is setting a cruel tempo, while further down the mountain Basso fights on - but it is very much an uphill battle, and Ivan simply ran out of gasoline today.

Good news for the Discovery Channel Pro CT are coming from Catalunya too, as while Savoldelli leads the Giro, the other great newcomer to the taem Yaroslav Popovych just won the Volta a Catalunya overall today!

The Gruppo Maglia Rosa currently consists of: Cunego, Simoni, Vila, Sella, Pozzovivo, Caucchioli, Halgand, van Huffel Savoldelli, Belli, Gontchar, Celestino, Sanchez, Bruseghin, Fothen (!!) Karpets, Di Luca ,Cioni, Wegelius, Valjavec, Moreni (!!!!!!!!) Kolobnev, Garate, Lobato Elvira and Schaffrath.

Stil former triathlete Patxi Vila forcing the pace of the peloton (that lost Belli though), while Parra leads Joooooooooooooooooooosé Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrujano, Atienza and Osa, the 4 escapees who have around 2'20" advantage. They are close to the top of the Stelvio, riding on a winter wonderland, with lots of snow along the route. Only thr road is snow-less.

Savoldelli raises his arm for the team car as the peloton reaches the snow line. Now a Saunier Duval moves up to the front of the peloton he collects his wind cape for the descent and a drinks, then the yellow peril of SD drops back to about 5th in the peloton.

Parra, Atienza, Rujano and Osa near the top of the climb, as the road gets wet. Temperature is 04°C.

The roads now awash with the water of melted snow as the white snow, massive crowds, and cyclists make a massive show. Needless to say, a 1-2 for Selle Italia Colombia at the KOM Prime, with Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrujano coming first also at the top of the Cima Coppi, and Parra in second (Atienza was third). The Venezuelan IS the KING of the Mountains in the Giro! And the green jersey he'll be wearing in Milan a week from now will be a well-earned one.

Well well well Di Luca has a word with Lampre and takes up the pace ! He is everyones friend today! Now Di Luca leads the peloton, Garate on his wheel. Di Luca picks up his cape for the long cold descent as the peloton reaches the top of the climb too, 02'50" behind the leaders.

More riders get to the top the climb, like T-Mobile's Kessler, trailing the Gruppo Maglia Rosa by about a minute. The race left bilingual South-Tyrol behind and entered Paolo Savoldelli's and Ivan Basso's home region Lombardia. While yesterday's and today's performances put Ivan Parra into second place in the KOM classification, but he's about 60 point down to teammate Rujano.

1555 CEST - Russian National champ Alexandr Kolobnev of Rbobank attacks the peton on the Stelvio descent, while still Basso continues his climb of the Stelvio, and more than nine minutes have passed since the 4 leaders crossed the top. Michele Scarponi is having a bad day too, he got to the top of the Stelvio about 8 mins behind the frontunners, he's going to fall down down down on the GC too.

1556 CEST - Parra, Rujano, Osa and Atienza keep a lead of 02'23" on the Gruppo Maglia Rosa on the descent, and just a few less secs on Kolobnev, while Paolo Bettini regained the main bunch, and some of Savoldelli's teammates are getting to the top of the Stelvio. Basso is still struggling up that climb instead ... his worst day in the saddle continues, unfortunately.

... 18'37" and Basso gets to the summit, and stops there ... but just in order to put on his race cape and talk to Riis. Then he continues. He's having an horrible (to say the least) day, but he wants to go on; he wants to finish the stage! Very brave effort indeed. He has got wrapped up for the cold, and will continue the fight!

Despite being made by two Spaniards and as many South-Americans the leading quartet is not losing time to the Maglia Rosa group in the descent into Bormio. Quite the opposite I would say, the gap going up to about three minutes at the last time check. The only one making gains on them is Russia's Kolobnev, who was trailing Rujano, Parra, Atienza and Osa by 02'05" at the same check.

1610 CEST - The four leaders finished the descent and made it to Intergiro town Bormio (1. Parra, 2. Rujano 3. Atienza 4. Osa - btw), while Paolo Bettini moved to the front of the main bunch.

Bettini and Moreni benefitted from the easy pace set by the group and gained some seconds at the Intergiro. Yep, 40 km to go as the group maglia rosa reaches the Intergiro 03'13" back on the escapees.

1616 CEST - Parra, Atienza, Rujano and Unai Osa are on an tackling an uphill section now, on the brief (2 km.) uncategorized climb called Le Motte. And so are their closest chasers. Basso is on the Stelvio descent instead, with four temmates around. Bettini was pulled back into the bunch straight after the Integiro, which was his real target.

The next big mountain challenge is the Passo di Foscagno, another test for the riders and the Fab Four, that continue to push ahead; the Selle italia riders have already collected 3500 euros in prize money today.

1620 CEST - Unai Osa, the mountain bear leading the 4 escapees, fellow Spaniard Atienza on his wheel, the 2 Selle Italia riders behind.

Panaria's Sella attacks on the Le Motte climb and joins Kolobnev! The orange team may have had enough of the Selle Italias to steal him the show and decided to make a move ...

In the meantime Ivan Basso is twenty minutes behind instead.

The four leaders extended their advantage to 03'23". A gap that woulnd't put Rujano in the Rosa jersey, but would certainly earn him a top 3 place on the GC. And maybe event the second place. Di Luca apperently realized that and sent Cioni and Wegelius at the front to set the pace.

34 km to go - Cioni leads the peloton for di Luca, which is about 20 men strong, and trailing the four leaders by 03'14". Sella and Kolobnev are making more significant gains instead, their gap to Parra, Osa, Rujano and Atienza coming down to 01'37".

Time for Honchar to send his men (Celestino and Belli) to the front of the pelotonat the foot of the Foscagno , while Sella starts the climb, drops Kolobnev and continues in his chase of the leading quartet. Will this other little, big climber succeed? In the meantime, he has brought the gap down to a mere 48". What a move he made! The Panariaman gained more than 90 seconds in less than 10 km. Sella is dancing up this climb, pushing a 53x21!

Back in the maglia rosa group, Honchar has 2 men leading him at the front - he is clearly in fighting mood. But with Savoldelli, Di Luca, Simoni mar king each other, they are not making any gains.

1638 CEST - All previous efforts are taking their tolls on the four escapees, and Emanuele Sella is coming! The gap is just 20"!

Atienza and Osa force the pace. Rujano and Parra struggle, but manage to follow the tempo.

1641 CEST - 5k to the top of the ascent: Atienza attacks and drops the three others. Rujano is definitely running out of gasoline. Emanuele Sella is within striking distance. The main bunch is still three minutes behind though.

Ivan Parra and Unai Osa eventually managed to regain Daniel Atienza's wheel, but José Rujano didn't, he is gonna be caught by Sella soon.

25 km to go for the three leaders as Sella reaches Rujano ... and both guys reach Parra, Atienza and Osa. We have 5 MEN on the front now! Wladimir Belli continues to lead the main bunch instead, with Savoldelli in third place and two Lampres on his wheel. Their gap stays around three minutes with 25k left anyway.

1648 CEST - Still Belli leads the peloton, behind him there's van Huffel then Savoldelli and some 20 more riders, as about 10 guys lost contact on the first slopes of the Fuscagno climb.

Sella has a dig at the front of the chasers - just testing legs. But Atienza countres. Then comes a new attack by ... Ivan Parra. The Colombian made a move similar to the one that earned him the win yesterday, while Sella, arguably paying for his previous efforts, couldn't follow.

Simoni sent Cunego to the front of the main group, whose gap to the frontrunners is "down" to 02'51".

Ivan the terrible Parra is again on the rampage, pushing a 53x21 and climbing very well. He gained some 15" in less than one km. Dario David Cioni couldn't follow the tempo set by the Gruppo Maglia Rosa, that's currently setting a higher pace. Bruseghin is struggling too.

Ivan Parra extended the gap to 22", while also Bruseghin got dropped, back in the maglia rosa group. Di Luca is still there instead, staying on Simoni's wheel all the time. Pozzovivo is also there.

Cunego takes up the pace, Wegelius is still with Di Luca, Simoni looks comfortable inside the bunch, while Valjavec, Sanchez and Kolobnev are in between the leader(s) and the bunch. Valjavec is trailing Parra by 01'13". Samuel Sánchez is a further 27 secs behind, then comes the Russian at 02"00", and the Svaoldelli group at more three minutes.

That means Parra is gaining time again on the main bunch, as well as Atienza, Sella, Rujano and Osa, who are some 50" behind him. The Colombian is impressive!!! Still 3k of uphill riding to go for him.

Cunego, driving the peloton forward, Savoldelli on his wheel. Honchar behind him.

1702 CEST - Still Cunego, Wim Van Huffel in his wheel, Savoldelli in the pink behind him - 3'27" behind the electric Parra. 1'13" the gap for Parra, who looks like he is due for his 2nd stage win in a row.

1705 CEST - Cunego steadily setting the pace in the main bunch, that got back Dario David Cioni, who regained the Maglia rosa group. Still Cunego sets the pace, Van huffel in his wheel, Cioni still hanging on about 20 metres off the back of the 20 man group Maglia Rosa. Valjavec joins the Sella/Rujano/Atienza/Osa quartet - the Slovene is doing very well today, while Parra is flying towards the top of the climb, at an altitude of 2300m asl, an elevation he must be quite accustomed too, being the man from Colombia.

Parra gets to the top of the mountain - it's all downhill from now on for him. Not even an excessively enthusiastic fan could stop the Colombian, though he came close to making Parra fall.

Valjavec and Rujano reached the top of the Fuscagno 01'27" behind. Then comes Sella, a further 40 seconds later. He's certainly paying for his previous chasing efforts. Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez comes in at the summit at 03'04".

1711 CEST - Cunego drives the bunch to the top of the climb, but their gap is now up to more than four minutes. They are not a threat to Ivan Parra's stage win ambitions anyway. Cunego catches Kolobnev as they reach the top of the climb.

1713 CEST - 10k to go. Parra in the lead. Then Valjavec and Rujano, then Osa and Atienza, then Sella, then Samuel Sanchez, while Kolobnev has been caught by the bunch, that is descending at an impressive speed, going up to almost 100 kph.

Wegelius is not part of that group though. The Brit lost contact on the last slopes of the previous climb.

1717 CEST - The race hits the last (small), uncategorized climb - Passo d'Eira. Parra keeps a lead of some 01'20" over Valjavec and Rujano, while it's Saunier Duval's Lobato Elvira setting the pace. Simoni attacks!

Better late than never, Gibo finally made a move on the Eira Passa. It was Van Huffel that countered his move. But also Di Luca did. No reaction from Savoldelli. Simoni in full flight.

Di Luca chasing Simoni hard. Simoni has Garate in his wheel. Savoldelli managed to put 50 metres or so into Van Huffel, Di Luca (and Caruso) too. Savoldelli is keeping his pace instead. Di Luca forces the pace!! Di Luca is chasing Garate and Simoni very hard...and he catches Gibo!!! He bridges the gap. Superb move by The Pitbull! Savoldelli digs deep - 22 seconds the gap.

Il Falco is 23" down to Gibo and Di Luca. Simoni, Garate, Di Luca start the descent, the three in full flight. 8k to go for them. Garate and Simoni are former team mates and know each other very well. While Ivan Parra remains up front, flying to his second straight win...

1723 CEST - 3K TO GO FOR PARRA. Gap update: Il Falco is 25" down to Gibo, Garate and Di Luca.

He didn't make gains in the first part of the descent. Di Luca descending like a mad man into Livigno - Di Luca could get the Rosa!!!!! 2km for Parra.

1725 CEST - Savoldelli gained five secs on Di Luca and Simoni, his gap is now down to 20". Last km for Parra!! Here comes the winner ... 200m ...100 ... IVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRA WINS!!!

Parra makes it 2 in a row for the little Selle Italia Colombia team - it shows how important Wild Card teams are and that the ProTour teams need the smaller teams to add colour to the races.

1730 CEST - Gibo, Garate, Di Luca working together. Their lead to Savoldelli still hovers around 20". Here come Valjavec and Rujano...

The sprint for 2nd place...no real sprint. Valjavec 2nd. Rujano 3rd at 01'49".

1730 CEST - Then comes Osa, while Gibo, Garate and Di Luca just caught Sella. Unai Osa comes 4th at 02'50". Garate, Simoni and Di Luca are powering on - they are an impressive trio but it looks like Savoldelli will hold onto pink.

Di Luca sprints to the finish - Di Luca and Gibo come at 03'14", and so do Garate and Sella. Here comes the Maglia Rosa, led by Fothen. He crossed the line close to 30" behind Simoni and Di Luca. He kept the jersey, but the gaps are much narrower.

Di Luca continues to surprise: he will move up into 2nd spot, just 25" behind Savoldelli. Simoni enters the top three spots as poor Ivan Basso has said goodbye to hopes of pink this year.

So yet more surprises and twists in a race that has once again had grand drama: the tragedy of Basso, the joy of Parra, the determmination of Di Luca and the acceleration of Simoni. A race with something for everyone, and for Savoldelli, another Maglia Rosa.

However, with the gap so small and the Discovery team not the strongest, the Liquigas boys will be attacking Discovery at every minute - Garate is now 4th.

Brief General Classification

1. Paolo Savoldelli (ITA - DISCOVERY CHANNEL)
2. Danilo Di Luca (ITA - LIQUIGAS) - at 25"
3. Gilberto Simoni (ITA - LAMPRE-CAFFITA) - at 01'48"
4. Juan Manuel Garate (SPA - SAUNIER-DUVAL-PRODIR) - at 02'11"
5. Jose Rujano (VEN - SELLE ITALIA-COLOMBIA) - at 02'18"

(Or, as a South American radio commentator would say. Better, scream! JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUJANO).

However, Ivan Parra has been on a breakaway for more than 300 km. over the weekend.

1753 CEST - Paolo Bettini just crossed the line, 24 minutes behind the winner. He also lost the Ciclamino jersey to the always surprising Danilo Di Luca.

Results to come on this epic rosa stage.


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