Hi everyone, welcome to our live coverage of the 20th and penultimate stage in the 89th Giro Ciclistico d'Italia. The ultimate day in the "Mountain Men Festival" gives a last opportunity to shake up the GC; barring a catastrophe (and/or post-race modifications the Vuelta a España 2005 way, as rumours from Spain say at least 4-5 riders in the current top 20 spots of the Giro overall could be involved in the most recent doping scandal ...) the top places overall at the end of the stage will be the same as at the end of the whole Tour of Italy in Milan twenty-four hours later.
Saturday's last trip over the mountains, from Trento to Aprica over 211 km, was described as follows in our Giro route special report dating back to this past winter (when the course was first unveiled):
"And later comes the penultimate day of racing, when we'll be graced with a stellar ride of 211 km. between
Trento and the Aprica resort (back to the Giro maps for the umpteenth time); and in between these two places
stands (tall) three little thingies going under the respective names of Gavia, Tonale and notably the mighty
Mortirolo. Yes, the Mortirolo. One of Europe's toughest ascents - if not the toughest -, with an average grade of
12.4% that speaks for itself. And no place for the rider legs to take a break. Most if not all cycling fans know well what the Mortirolo is about, and keep memories of the great bike fights we enjoyed each time the race hit this climb located at the border between the Brescia and Sondrio provinces of Lombardy, even if it has happened only six times to date. Fantastic climbers like Marco Pantani (in 1994) and Roberto Heras (half a decade later) made history here, albeit the first time the Mortirolo name was written on the Giro map it was a mountain goat from the Andean hamlet of Santa Cruz de Mora, Venezuela, who stole the show: Leonardo Sierra. Now we have another mountain goat from the same Venezuelan village, a little tiny big climber who rules the hills the same way, or even better. And will José Rujano prove capable of following in his fellow townsman's steps, smoking the field on the Mortirolo - just like Rujano himself did on the western Alps on the penultimate day of the 2005 Giro - and making one last gift to the man who led him to the world-class cycling scene, Selle Italia-Colombia's manager Gianni Savio, before the Venezuelan moves to the ranks of UCI Pro Tour team Quick Step-Innergetic?"
The answer to such last question is a resounding "no!". Señor José Rujano isn't in the Giro d'Italia peloton any
longer. His 2006 performances were nowhere near the ones he delighted us with one year ago, the man pulled out
of the race for "unclear" reasons the past Saturday, on the Passo San Carlo descent with just 3k to the line,
and his questionable behaviour wasn't appreciated by his next squad Quick Step either. We're gonna see Rujano
with his new outfit at the upcoming Tour de France anyway; it's not about him today, it's all about the other
Girini, and amongst them several guys with the potential to make fireworks and gift us with another epic
battle in this corner of the nation. From Ivan Basso, at his last challenge before he can finally celebrate his first ever Grand Tour triumph, to Gilberto "I'm gonna attack again for I'm still looking for that damn stage win" Simoni, from José Enrique "Guts" Gutiérrez Cataluña to Gibo's domestique Leonardo Piepoli The Flying Trullo, ready to fly again on his own but even more ready to help his leader, from Danilo Di Luca (but after yesterday's vain efforts in the long "breakaway of the day" it will be hard for him to recover and have legs good enough to attack again) to Liquigas teammate Franco Pellizotti, from Fortunato "I want that Green Jersey" Baliani to fellow Panariaman Julio Alberto "Lucky" Pérez Cuapio (that promised he'll try and get into a breakaway today), and from Damiano "still looking for redemption" Cunego to Emanuele Sella, Tom Danielson, Paolo Savoldelli et al.
The Tonale Pass (km. 83), at the border between Trentino and Lombardia,
covers 15.2 km. with a gain in elevation of 918 metres and gradients from 6 to 10%. The Gavia ascent (km. 109), climbed for the first time in the 1960 Giro, is the "Cima Coppi"
(highest mountain in the race) of this year's event, it covers a distance of 16.53 km and reaches gradients up to 16%, but the average grade is about 8%. And once the race makes its way into Lombard soil, there's the aforementioned Passo del Mortirolo. And the following descent into the line (31 km. from the Mortirolo summit) at Aprica, that plays host to a Giro stage finish for the sixth time in the race history.
Stage plan and altimetry, as well as detailed climb profiles, available below. Please click for bigger images.
89th Giro d'Italia - Stage 20 (Trento to Aprica, 211 km.) Live Coverage
Please use the F5 key to refresh the page and get the latest updates from today's stage.
1120 CEST - The last mountain effort in the 89th Tour of Italy got underway under sunny skies and in temperatures around 20°C (at the startline, but it's expected to go down to 9-10°C on the climbs) at 1045 AM local time. A field of 152 rolled out of the Trentino-Alto Adige main city, on the way to the western part of the same Italian region. Amongst the starters wasn't Discovery Channel's TOM DANIELSON.
The stage was predictably off to a slow start, with the peloton keeping together over the first sixteen kilometres of racing.
1140 CEST - Many expect Gilberto Simoni to make a last attempt at stamping his authority on the race with a stage success, which would mean much more to him than his umpteenth Milan podium finish. And Saunier Duval's team manager Mauro Gianetti, interviewed shortly before the start, just confirmed: Gibo has been giving a shot at victory throughout the race, and today's stage will be no exception to the rule. Simoni is going to attack again. Italy's reigning champion against the clock, Marco Pinotti, who had his day of glory as he made the top spots in the Pontedera ITT nine days ago, promised that he'll place himself at Gibo's disposal one more time.
But even when it comes to taking line honors, they'd better watch out for a certain Ivan Basso. again. At least if you look at the pre-stage comments from CSC's uber-veteran Giovanni "Directeur Sportif on the Road" Lombardi: "I think that Ivan will try something on the last real climb of the Giro (the Mortirolo)" the man from Pavia said. And also Paolo Bettini said that, in his opinion, Ivan Basso might well want to seal his triumphal Giro with a last showdown.
The Maglia Rosa holder himself kept a low profile (as usual) instead. Talking to RAI's Alessandra De Stefano minutes prior to the start, Ivan Basso confessed that he doesn't know yet what he'll do on today's climbs, the Mortirolo in particular. He'll just see how things pan out on the road before making any tactical decision. Whether he was telling the truth or not, there's one thing the man from Varese is sure of: today will be just another damn tough day in the saddle, with his legs struggling and struggling again.
1200 CEST - The peloton keeps a very low pace in this early piece of the stage. Only 26 kilometres were covered in the first hour.
1215 CEST - More of the same at the km. 33 check, with the bunch still as one while winding through the roads of the Valle di Non (Non Valley). The first slopes of the Tonale climb are still 30 km. away.
1230 CEST - About 40 kms. into the stage it's still Gruppo Compatto, keeping a darn slow pace under the Trentino clouds, and entering the Val di Sole area.
1231 CEST - Here comes the first thing really worthy of mention! Dario David Cioni of Liquigas started the fireworks at km. 43, Marzio Bruseghin, Christophe Edelaine, Fortunato Baliani and Iker Flores followed. But the group, driven by Simoni's Saunier Duval closed down on their move. And by the time they reached the town of Caldes (km. 46), the peloton was almostback as one.
Almost we said, as in fact Panaria's Baliani, Lampre's Bruseghin, Crédit Agricole's Edelaine and newcomers José Serpa of Selle Italia, Jurgen van der Walle of Quick Step and David López Garcia of Euskaltel tried to break away again. The lined-up peloton, with CSC and notably Saunier Duval up front keeping a high pace, stays withing striking distance howewer.
1240 CEST - They got a few minutes of TV exposure but were quickly reeled in. The skirmishes continue though, with Bruseghin and Baliani really unable to give up the fight (Marzio was on the move two days ago, he must have very good legs in spite of the thousands kilometres he has covered so far in the race) as the pack made it to the Non Valley main town Malé. And at the same they are really uncapable of making the gap. The first uphill piece leading to the foot of the Tonale is getting closer.
1248 CEST - More and more riders have a shot a breaking away as the stretched peloton is rolling out of Malé. But all attempts have proved fruitless so far in the stage. The CSC Army regains the front of the peloton as the next mov, from Illes Balears' Pérez and Lampre's Stangelj, is chased down and the group is together again on the way to the bridge over the Noce river. The average speed went up to 28 kph after two hours.
1250 CEST - The next thing worthy of mention ain't good news: WLADIMIR BELLI has pulled out of the race at km. 56! The knee problems he's been suffering in the last days has won the battle over the man's will to finish in the top 10 places overall what is supposed to be his last Giro d'Italia. "My good placing on the GC and the fact that I may be racing the Giro for the last time are the only things that keep me going", the Selle Italia veteran said before the stage. But enough was enough ... also for the gutsy Bergamasco. That's just too bad, but cycling is like this after all.
1254 CEST - Nothing new as the pack marches on the grey roads of Trentino, and under the grey skies of the same region. Team CSC and Saunier Duval keep marshalling the peloton.
1300 CEST - Saunier Duval continue to mix in on the front with Team CSC as the race hits Mezzana (63 km.). Both teams look their respective leader has stage victory as their man target of the day. A couple kilometres earlier France's Maxime Monfort of Cofidis got some media exposure as he won the prize sprint at Dimaro.
The quiet ... after some small storms, but before the BIG storm, continues.
1305 CEST - Lampre's Paolo Fornaciari jokes with Paolo Bettini off the back of the field, and gets back into the middle of the bunch to fulfill his first water-carrying duties. The race is about to hit the Tonale Pass.
1312 CEST - The peloton is tackling the first slopes of the first difficulty of the day. Saunier and CSC keep dictating the pace on the front. Now there's one "yellow rider" with the whole Basso Armadad on his wheel. The Tonale summit is 13 kms away.
Are we going to enjoy another clash of giants between the top two riders of those teams? Saunier Duval's boss Pietro Algeri, recently interwiewed "on the road", thinks so, but also expects Piepoli to make the gap on the Mortirolo with Basso and Simoni; in his opinion the stage should turn into a three-man thing.
1330 CEST- Another interview "on the road": Besides whining a bit about the poor coverage Gutiérrez Cataluña's performances are getting (by some Italian media at least) Phonak's Team Manager Adriano Baffi said that the Spaniard still has good legs and can do well also today: "I think he fully recovered from past efforts. Sure the Mortirolo doesn't suit his skills, and I think Basso is the main suspect to take the stage today, and that would be a well-earned stage victory by the way, but if Gutiérrez keeps going like this ... why not going for the line honors? He has surprised many in this race, and I hope he'll keep surprising again".
The Italian DS, that happens to be also Floyd Landis' team manager, had a few words about Phonak's Tour de France bid too: "With its "lightouse" Lance Armstrong no more in the bunch, it will be an open race. I hope things may go like here at the Giro, with our team getting little media coverage, but also good results". And some words about the team sponsor subject, as Phonak Hearing Systems are going to end their sponsorship at the end of the season "we 're confident that we can find a new one soon, but at the moment we are still looking for".
1335 CEST - Saunier's Aaron Olsen does an excellent job dictating the pace and driving the pack up on the Tonale. Just very few riders have lost contact to the Gruppo so far, one of whom being Team Milram's young fastman Elia Rigotto. The guy is gonna have a rough time finishing the stage and/or making it inside the time limit today, we tend to think.
1340 CEST - The Tonale summit is just 4 kms away. Aaron Olsen is impressive in his field driving efforts. He hasn't stopped pulling. The whole Team CSC sit on his wheel, but don't take turns, while Ivan Basso comfortably sits in place number nine or ten; in the meantime Danilo Di Luca drops back to his team car and pick up a jacket.
1348 CEST - Basso's teammates finally replaced Aaron up front. Lombardi and Julich set the pace in the last thousand metres of the climb, Olsen is now sitting in fourth wheel, sandwiched between the two halves of the Team CSC Armada. Basso takes it easy in ninth wheel, chatting with a Discovery Channel rider. A move from Baliani is expected soon.
1353 CEST - Fortunato Baliani lived up to expectations as he attacked about 400m from the top; but he didn't come first across the line as Garate and another Quick Step rider countered, and came around him. The Spaniard took first at the mountain prime, whilst the Panaria rider didn't get higher than third, with Garrido in between, and another Quick Step (Addy Engels) as well as Saunier's Manuele Mori filling the remaining top five spots; nevertheless he tightened his grip on the Maglia Verde of the best climber.
1400 CEST - Marzio Bruseghin on the move again! After his "flatland" attempts failed earlier into the stage, the Lampre-Fondital hardman showed that he has got a "Plan B" too: an attack at the beginning of the descent into Ponte di Legno. France's Sylvain Calzati (another "serial attacker" of this Giro) followed his move, and the pair quickly put a dozen seconds into the peloton. And at the km. 89 check their advantage had gone up to over half a minute.
1410 CEST - The breakaway is getting significant: Marzio Bruseghin and Sylvain Calzati extended their lead on the peloton to 45 seconds at km. 91, to 01'05" at the feed zone, and to a good 01'18" at the end of descent (Ponte di Legno, km. 96/115k to go).
1415 CEST - The two frontrunners reached the early slopes of the Gavia climb. And so did the peloton, trailing AG2R Prévoyance's Calzati (whose website in French is here) and Lampre's Bruseghin by one minute.
1420 CEST - The legendary Gavia started to take its toll on Bruseghin and Calzati. It took less than two kilometres for their gap over the Saunier Duval-led peloton (with Ruben Lobato Elvira replacing Olsen as "king of pace setting") cut down to just 40 seconds. The mountain is having an even bigger imapct on the main peloton of course. scores of riders are getting dropped as the march towards the summit continues. Latest updates say the Gruppo Maglia Rosa was is down to 37 men only.
1430 CEST - Chechu Rubiera attacked! The Discovery Spaniard is about to join the two leaders; but (what is left of) the bunch is on their heels, just 23 secs back.
1435 CEST -
Chechu closed down on Bruseghin and Cazlarti. We've got a three-strong front group, with Basso and all other GC top players in a group at 40 seconds, with 6k from the Gavia summit. The escapees suceeded in making some gains on their first chasers, it seems.
1440 CEST - Bruseghin paid for the efforts he sustained in the past days as well as thus far in the current stage, and just couldn't follow Rubiera and Calzati any longer. The breakaway group is down to two riders.
1445 CEST - Euskaltel's David López García attacks the filed, picks up and drops his Thursday breakaway companion Marzio Bruseghin, and continues his solo chase of Calzati and Rubiera, that also hold onto a lead of 49 seconds on the Basso/Simoni group.
1450 CEST - Marzio Bruseghin was pulled back into the field, which is trailing the new front trio (yep, Lopez García managed to get across to join Calzati and Rubiera) by 52 seconds. The Gavia summit is just three kms away, and the average speed after four hours was 27.700 kph.
Coverage continues here