88th Giro d'Italia - Stage Fifteen
(Villa di Tirano-Lissone, 153.6 km.)
Click for larger images. Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport.
Note - Due to bad weather conditions, the stage was shortened by 51.4 km and started at Villa di Tirano, at the foot of the Forcola di Livigno descent
Hello everyone, and welcome to our live coverage of Stage 15 of the 88th Giro d'Italia. After two terrible journeys on the mountains of northern Italy, the race got back to the flat lands of Lombardy, for a comparatively easy ride (very likely to come down to a bunch sprint finish) of 153.6-km. from Villa di Tirano to the Milan outskirts town of Lissone of Coppa Agostoni fame. Originally schduled as a 205-km. effort starting at Livigno - where yesterday's leg came to end - the stage was in fact shortened by 51.4km. due to the heavy rains falling over the area this morning. Riders did make their way to the sign-in zone at Livigno, but were later transferred to Villa di Tirano, where the whole action got started. So that they could skip the only ascent of the day, the "Forcola di Livigno" climb, and notably its dangerous (with such wet roads) descent.
The city of Lissone is situated a few kilometres north of Milan, in the Brianza area home to several top riders and especially former riders (including Gianni Bugno, who is from nearby Monza). And home to the aforementioned Coppa Agostoni, one of three races of the so-called "Trittico Lombardo" (Lombard Trilogy), taking place in the northwest of Lombardy in the second half of every month of August. The 2004 edition was won by Leonardo Bertagnolli, former top domestique of Gibo Simoni at Saeco, now with France's own Cofidis team (race report here), while Francesco Casagrande powered to victory twelve months before (Podofdonny's report here) and Laurent Jalabert wrote his name in the winner's list back in 2002 (race report). None of them will be gracing the streets of Lissone today, for well different seasons: "Jaja" entered the "Hall of Fame" of cycling a couple seasons ago, while Casagrande's Naturino-Sapore di Mare didn't receive any wild-cards from the Giro d'Italia organizers, that picked Selle Italia-Colombia and Panaria-Navigare instead (and after noticing what those two teams have been able to accomplish so far, who can really blame them?). Leonardo Bertagnolli did take the start at Reggio Calabria more than two weeks ago, but his legs were far from good, and the man pulled out of the race on the roads of his home region Trentino-Alto Adige.
Live updates from the race
The stage got underway at 13:33 local time (CEST), as 159 riders - among whom wasn't Denmark's Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank - took the start in the pouring rain at Villa di Tirano. Regardless of the very adverse weather conditions, it took no more than a dozen kilometres for the first attack to go, courtesy of another Rabo-boy, Dutch youngster Roy Sentjens, that opened a gap of half a minute over the peloton, led by Fassa Bortolo (just to make their intentions cleaar since early in the stage ...) by km. 15. Petacchis teammates and the rest of the field allowed him to go anyway, and the 1980-born guy from Holland managed to extend his lead to 01'25" by the km. 25 check.
Today's first, courageous breakaway man: Roy Sentjens
Photo Courtesy capture-the-peloton
1445 CEST - The Dutch rider, who also has a nice website, continues to put time into the bunch, though his lead is not that impressive, at least if compared to other breakaways (which often took place in better weather conditions anyway): it went up 02'27" by km. 40, on the way to the hamlet of Morbegno, as Sentjens was averaging a speed of 39.7 kph. Eight kilometres later, with some 105 km. of flat riding on the wet roads of Lombardy to go, his lead had slightly increased to 02'35".
More on the ... "man of the moment": Roy Sentjens was born in the Belgian town of Neerpelt on December 15, 1980. Curiously he's a Belgian according to his own website, but the Rabobank team website has a clear "Ned" bedside his name. And looking at other websites is not much of help in this case, some of them reporting him as Belgian, others as a Dutch rider. Be the man for either the north of south of the Benelux, Roy Sentjens started his "bike career" in the Rabobank you gun team back in 1997, and won the Under 23 Tour of Flanders back in the days of 2001. And turned a professional riders in 2002, his greatest accomplishment since being his victory in the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne 2003. That race must well suits his skills, as the sixth place finish he got this past March (twenty seconds behind winner George Hincapie), represents his best result so far in the current season.
1505 CEST - km. 55/98.6K to go: Belgian/Dutch Roy Sentjens continues to lead the peloton (now led by both Fassa Bortolo and Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) in this very "Belgian/Dutch" (when it comes to the weather at least) day.
1525 CEST - The man whose nationality is neither Luxembourgian nor German (we are sure about this at least ...) continues to lead, but is unable to open a significant gap, his advantage being up to 02'50" only as the man is currently riding along the Lago di Como shores, getting closer to the halfway point of the stage. The peloton is riding hard too, their speed hovering around 45 kph.
1530 CEST - The peloton covered the first 74 km. of the stage and is riding along the eastern shores of the Como Lake. They cut the gap to Roy Sentjens down to 02'08". Weather updates: still cloudy/rainy, with temperatures hovering around 15°C.
Ivan Basso is still in the bunch, by the way. Though he fully ran out of gasoline yeterday, and finished more than 42 minutes behind the winner, he decided to stay in the race. Interviewed before the start this morning, the Italian said that with another hilly stage looming ahead today, he would have pulled out of the Giro, but being today's stage an easy one, that would make no sense. He's going to continue, hats off to Ivan!
1538 CEST - Gap update; with less than 75k to the line, Sentjens' lead went under the two-minute mark.
1549 CEST - Sentjens continues to ride through the rain, thinking, "This is just like the weather back in Belgium." The only thing missing is the cobbles... I mean, they already got rid of the climb today, so why not add cobbles to really make him feel at home. Meanwhile, it's Codol and Gustov, clad in rain jackets, leading the peloton for Fassa Bortolo as the rain continues to fall. Near the back of the pack, lots of guys in rain slickers look unhappy. At the front, lots of guys in rain slickers look unhappy.
In front, Sentjens eschews the rain slicker. He's Belgian, so the rain makes him stronger. He gets out of the saddle just to keep the pace high. But without arm warmers, he looks, er, unhappy in these drizzly conditions. The gap is down to 01'18".
One CSC rider hits the tarmac. It's Giovanni Lombardi, who will be soon back in the saddle anyway. He's checking out the bike. He's waiting for the team car, so his bike must be shot. After getting proper assistance, Lombardi is back on is bike. 61 km. to go. Sentjens' lead down to a little more than a minute.
Well - there's no chain on Lombardi's bike; it snapped, causing him to crash.
This has certainly been a wild Giro so far. The only team able to control things now seems to be Fassa Bortolo, and that's only when the roads are flat. Once the road turns up, it's a big free for all. The top GC riders now all seem very evenly matched. The hierarchy changes day to day. One thing that men like Savoldelli and Simoni will be grateful for: those crazy "alpinistas" of Selle Italia can't attack today.
1556 CEST - The back of the peloton just had to slow down around a traffic island - I don't think anyone came off, but the brakes must have been squealing there.
This lakeshore would be beautiful if the weather were nice. As it is, it just looks melancholy. The fans still line the roads with their umbrellas. Sentjens still looks to be riding well, spinning the pedals smoothly.
While riders are making their way to Lecco, hometown of Fassa's Massimo Codol, but also home to the upcoming Intergiro (that will certainly see Paolo Bettini as a protagonist) Bettini chats with Petacchi back in the pack. He's probably telling him that he wants that Points Jersey back from Di Luca. Petacchi will want to make up ground in that points competition over the next couple of days while it's flat. He has a lot to make up.
1601 CEST - Bettini's teammate Filippo Pozzato attacked and stayed clear for a few minutes, along with Spain's Osa, but both were soon pulled back into the Fassa-led bunch. Pozzato rode for Fassa last year, spending lots of time hitched to the wagon at the front of the pack for Petacchi. He probably enjoyed turning the screw on his former mates for a minute or two. CSC are at the back, protecting Ivan Basso, who is clearly thinking "Should have abandoned yesterday."
4k to the Intergiro - Good news for Giovanni Lombardi, who made his way back into the peloton after his previous accident. The camera focuses on pocket mountain rocket Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio, as water drops from his brow onto his legs - this weather must be quite different to what he's used to in Mexico.
Early this morning also Maglia Rosa holder Paolo Savoldelli talked to RAI's Alessandra De Stefano. Who couldn't help but ask about his team's weakness. But Il Falco quickly responded: "Well, I didn't come here to win the Giro. I'm doing much better than I expected to. And better than many presumed favorites. I'm ahead of them on the GC, so if I happen to be with no teammates around in the next mountains, I'll just have a go at following the other favorites. It will be up to them to drop me. I'll certainly do my best in order to try and defend the Maglia Rosa in the coming days".
1605 CEST - The bunch continues to snake its way towards the Intergiro, beside scenic Lake Como. 50km to go - Roy Sentjens hits the town of Lecco, he's about to win the Intergiro Prime. Meanwhile, Fassa Bortolo is on the front; the peloton doesn't seem particularly under pressure yet. They seem to be riding carefully and sedately through the rain. Bettini took 2nd at the Intergiro. Zanini in third.
Thanks to this winning sprint, Il Grillo gets a further 6 points, that puts him in the virtual Ciclamino jersey. While Zanini got closer to Maglia Azzurra holder Sven Krauss in the Intergiro classification.
There was a Domina Vacanze - I think, it's difficult to tell with the rain capes totally obscuring the numbers - mixing it with the Quick Step boys - possibly Celestino.
1612 CEST - Nobody seems remotely interested in helping Fassa Bortolo at the front. With so many sprinters gone now, it makes sense. By the way, Bettini took the lead ALSO in the Intergiro classification, which he is now leading over Krauss by 02". Though unlike the Maglia Cicliamino, the Sky Blue jersey is not his target.
It's that dilligent duo, Gustov and Codol, on the front again for Fassa Bortolo; these are the types of riders who rarely feature in the higher reaches of the result classifications, but are still valuable for their tireless work and selfless ethics.
1615 CEST - Less than 45k to go for both Roy Sentjens, who has been away for more than 105 km., and the chasing peloton. The gap hovers around the minute mark. The Rabo-boy is now tackling a small uphill section at Galbiate. The road is still looking wet and slick. Here's hoping that final circuit is straightforward.
1617 CEST - Illiano attacks. Who else but Selle Italia-Colombia as the roads tilt upwards? Geez, they're just not happy with two in a row and the mountains jersey, are they?
The gap to the bunch for Sentjens is still 1'00". Illiano quickly halved the gap to Sentjens, the peloton is twenty seconds behind the Neapolitan. Fassa Bortolo don't look too fussed at all.
Well, Selle Italia and Panaria still seem bent on putting the hurt on the ProTour teams. Very David and Goliath, but in this case David weighs about 2.3 kilos and can climb like he's filled with helium.
Sentjens, Illiano and the rest are entering the hilly town of Galbiate (371m asl).
1625 CEST - The points jersey is a close battle between Il Grillo (124 pts) and Di Luca (123). But there's also a certain Alessandro Petacchi within striking distance... A Bouygues Telecom rider has a mechanical. The French squad has had a very, well, anonymous Giro for the most part.
Illiano catches Sentjens. The two guys are leading together. Sentjens is now struggling to hold Illiano's wheel, as the Italian is looking very aggressive.
Bouygues Telecom left Thomas Voeckler at home after what happened last time he was in the Giro. Both the Rabo-boy and the Selle rider hold a minute advantage on the peloton, with 40k to go. Gustov gets hand-slung up to the front of the Fassa Bortolo train by a teammate. The rain slickers have come off, and the hammer seems to be coming down a bit more.
The peloton rolls around a roundabout and stretch of green road furniture, the majority taking the right side, as the gap comes down to 55". Fassa Bortolo seem content for the two to just stay out in front a few more kilometres before they really give it some gas.
1631 CEST - Wegelius fell but he is back on the road. The British rider has been riding well in the mountains recently, providing good support for Di Luca and, to a lesser extent, Cioni. Hopefully he won't be too badly shaken by this. Wegelius and his Cioni apparently hit each other, and both hit tarmac. But the two guys were immediately back in the saddle.
1635 CEST - While after staying away for 115 km. or so, Roy Sentjens couldn't follow Illiano's tempo and got dropped. It's just the Selle Italia-Colombia rider in the lead now! Matthew White attacks the field! (Someone told White there was a beer at the finish line, and off he went...) The former Postie, now riding for Cofidis, gained a few metres on the bunch. Illiano gets out of the saddle, nonchalantly giving a photographer on a motorbike a bit of a show.
White had trouble cracking Postal's grand tour teams, but he's getting a great opportunity now in the ProTour with Cofidis. Now that he doesn't have to look after O'Grady, he's been let loose.
Last year, White crashed while warming up for the Prologue of the Tour de France and didn't get to ride the race. That must have been frustrating in the extreme for this powerful rider.
1638 CEST - White stayed clear for a few minutes, but has been brought back by the peloton. There's a change at the front of the bunch, as Lampre do some work; Tour de l'Avenir winner Evgeni Petrov is doing the lion's share.
If "Il Grillo" made the headlines at the Intergiro sprint, we might find another Grillo in the spotlight in the more than likely bunch sprint finish today: Paride Grillo. The neo-pro from Panaria has showed good legs throughout his first season with the "big guns", opened his account as a pro rider a week before the Tour of Italy kick-off, and came close to his first ever Giro victory at Rovereto this past Friday, as he took everyone but very attentive Petacchi by surprise with his move.
And today he's riding and should be sprinting on the roads of his home region, roads he knows well as that's where he used to rock the sprints when an Under 23 rider with the "other" orange team, Pagnoncelli, until the past season. But, still, there's always a certain Alessandro Petacchi around ...
1640 CEST - It's rain jackets off and down to business in the bunch - on one side, a Lampre tucks his into his pocket while on the other, Fofonov of Cofidis does the same. Interesting choice by Lampre to work now. Must be trying to keep Simoni out of trouble.
To spice things up, the Italian producers show a shot of a model with an umbrella. A podium girl awaiting the victor, perhaps?
1642 CEST - Illiano's lead starting to come down: 51 seconds now, with 30k to go. While riding on the Coppa Agostoni routes, yesterday's runner-up Valjavec had a flat. A Phonak teamate of his gave him his rear wheel. Now that rider sits waiting for his team car, trying not to get run over by other team cars.
The Slovenian rider is not new to doing well on Giro d'Italia roads. He even won the race, only it was the Under 23 version, the Baby Giro, which he won back in 1999.
1746 CEST - Gorazd Stangelj takes over in the chase for Lampre - the Slovenian has been a pro for more than eight years, and is one of the best domestiques in the Italian peloton - as Gilberto Simoni can no doubt testitfy.
Again a lot of orange near the back of the peloton on a flat stage. Those Euskaltel and Panaria climbers don't seem to like the high pace on the flat finishes.
It's been confirmed the time will be neutralized starting on the first lap of the final circuit today, for the safety of the riders, due to the wet conditions.
1648 CEST - Less than 25k to go, Illiano's gap down to less than 20". The bunch is strung out on a tight corner, which Lampre take a bit too quick and almost do a Fassa Bortolo by piling into a roadside bush.
Two Panaria riders punctured at the same time: Pérez Cuapio and Mazzanti, so that the Panaria team car could assist only one at a time. They started with the Mexican, not to the delight of Mazzanti, which was assisted by the Domina Vacanze staff instead. A good display of fair play on the Giro roads - he'll owe them one later. It's Mazzanti, a stage winner by default when Paolo Bettini and Baden Cooke clashed, who finally gets going; that chivalry can only be seen in professional cycling. Like yesterday when Di Luca passed Savoldelli a water bottle when he couldn't get back to the Discovery team car.
1651 CEST - 16" for Illiano, but it's visibly less than that - he's going to get reeled in soon. Mazzanti and Pérez Cuapio are struggling to regain the bunch, something Charly Wegelius has already managed to do.
Andrea Noe' briefly does a turn on the front for the Liquigas limes before Petrov (Lampre) muscles his way back into the front. The peloton's making its way to Carate Brianze, in the Lambro Valley Regional Park. The gap still hovers around 16".
1656 CEST - Brian Vandborg (CSC), the Tour of Georgia stage winner, is right on the back of the bunch, grimly hanging on to an Illes Balears wheel.
1659 CEST - Illiano's going to be swallowed by the pack in a second. He succeeded in his mission to get some daily coverage for his Selle Italia team anyway, He peers behind wearily as the peloton engulfs him. And Basso has not had any apparent problems staying in the pack today. That's a good sign. It would be nice to see him come back and get a stage win before the end of the Giro.
The ProTour teams are tired of getting worked by the wildcard teams. They better hope Grillo doesn't sneak in and take a stage today.
The Disco boys begin their dance at the front of the pack, with Savoldelli fourth wheel, while Bileka and Barry do the dirty work. Strange; this should really be done by a sprinter's squad in such close proximity to the finish... They must not like the looks of the slick roads. Keep Savoldelli out of trouble until on the final neutralized section. Less than 15 km to go. Several riders are nearly felled by some road furniture, just managing to skirt either to the left or right of it, but still losing some places after the ensuing roundabout.
1703 CEST - The Discovery-led bunch gets to the line for the first time. Two laps of a circuit of some 7k to go. The final kilometre doesn't look too bad, but with 500m to go, there's a bit of a switchback under a railway bridge, and that could prove problematic, especially as it's still wet.
Yes, some of these corners look uncomfortable, especially in the rain. The peloton is single file, full gas now.
1706 CEST - The time is being neutralized, so that GC contenders can take it easy off the back of the bunch until the line, and let the sprinters and their teams do their jobs up front. Michael Barry gingerly comes round a tight corner, leading the peloton with maglia rosa Savoldelli tucked in on his wheel. Third wheel is the start of the Silver Train, who are going to take over soon. Take off, Michael! The Canadian can really blister on the flats.
Just pondering: while Galvez is a good bike handler and has been prominent in the sprints so far, my mind does go back to 2003, when he wiped out on a corner, taking Mario Cipollini out of the race in a pile-up. Meanwhile, Perez Cuapio crosses the line (for the first time) minutes after the peloton, his Giro is going from bad to worse...
Yes, that was ugly indeed, back when Galvez was with Kelme. He tried to jump Cipo on the inside, heading into a sharp corner in the rain. Not a smart move at all. That ended Cipo's Giro that year.
1709 CEST - Another Aussie on the move: it's Matthew Wilson that attacked the field and took a few seconds out of them all! The bunch looks a bit indecisive, as Fassa Bortolo dwell in their chase slightly.
'Twas a brief move though, as Wilson sat down and waited for the bunch to catch him as the last lap bell is ringing. All the big Aussie sprinters are gone, so it's up to Wilson to keep up the Aussie-Italian war, after all.
He had 3 seconds anyway, I think it was safe to say he wasn't going to make it!
1711 CEST - And here we go - the last lap! Some half a dozen kilometres to the final sprint. Wilson is persisting nonetheless...
Indeed, the Aussie hasn't given up the fight. But his chances to make it to the line are close to zero.
Fassa Bortolo is all over the front of the peloton. They are all about winning this one. Zabel moves up behind Petacchi. On the wheel of Petacchi, it's two Men in Pink - Olaf Pollack with Erik Zabel behind him. Wilson has a 20-metre lead only - he gets caught. Pollack is capable of a good sprint himself. Gruppo compatto.
Bettini, Galvez and Grillo are also up there, as is another Illes Balears rider. Cadamuro there as well. And here comes the Fassa Leadout machine: Velo, Ongarato, Tosatto and Petacchi. The elbows are flying behind the Fassa train. Lilian Jegou gives another attacking burst for Francaise des Jeux.
1715 CEST - 2K to go. Henk Vogels and Robert Forster are also right in the thick of things. It's not raining anymore, but the roads are wet at Lissone. The Fassa train gets up to full speed.
The Italians don't want anyone named Lilian taking this stage from them. Lombardi caught Petacchi's wheel. But it's the Quicksteps coming down in full force - under the flamme rouge, Quick Step bring Bettini, with Forster on his wheel, to the front. Things are a bit disorganized.
1716 CEST - here comes the last km ...Petacchi starts the sprint and wins!!!
Petacchi started his sprint early. Ete almost came around him in the last metres, but AleJet held onto his lead and won by half a bike-length - he rectified that quite well. He went up along the left barriers, then came to the center of the road and turned on the power. Zabel could not come past him. A fine sprint by Petacchi, and also by Zabel to take 2nd.
Meanwhile, Galvez and Phonak's Clerc fell during the sprint, and then started arguing. Galvez always seems to be quite a cool customer, never showing much emotion, even in victory - see his nonplussed non-celebration in the first stage of this year's Criterium International.
Bettini is now the man to beat in the Points Competition.
Brief Stage Results
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) 3h 32m 41s
2. Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team)
3. Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
4. Simone Cadamuro (Domina Vacanze)
5. Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo)
6. Paride Grillo (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare)
7. Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto)
8. Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner)
Ivan Basso's getting lots of applause from the crowd at Lissone. Will the Team CSC leader continue, or pull out an start his Tour de France build-up? The man and his boss Bjarne Riis will make a decision tomorrow.
By the way, 2003 winner Chris Newton won Stage 2 of the FBD Insurance Ras, outsprinting the evergreen Malcolm Elliott in a two-man sprint. (Hard to believe - Elliott rules in the sprint. Newton must have tricked him.)
All right race fans, Tuesday is the final rest day for this edition of the Giro, and on Wednesday the race hits the Pavia province, home of our illustrious Fabio. Thanks to Fabio, Locutus and Andy McDobbin, by the way, for their great commentary today. See you all right here on Wednesday, when this terrific race continues! Full results to come.