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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 17 - May 27: Brunico - Fondo Sarnonico, 153 Km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:16 CEST   
Welcome back to the live coverage of the 87th Giro d'Italia brought to you by Cyclingnews. There are just four stages to race in this edition of the Giro, and the maglia rosa is by no means decided as the next three stages (including this one) are in the mountains. Today's 153 km stage from Brunico to Fondo Sarnonico is considered a "transitional" stage, as there is only one categorised climb in it, the Passo della Mendola (14.8 km at 6.5%). It's summit is at 50 km to go, and after the descent the riders will pass through Fondo Sarnonico (km 113) before doing a 40 km finishing circuit. Although there are no categorised climbs in this lap, the last 25 km is pretty much all uphill to the finish. Today's Intergiro sprint is at km 133, so the contenders for the blue jersey will have to get over the Mendola first.

In the maglia rosa once again is Saeco's dynamic young star Damiano Cunego, who ripped through the field during Tuesday's stage 16 to put nearly four minutes into maglia rosa Popovych and a good three minutes into the other top GC riders. Saeco's tactics were impressive that day, demonstrating how to make the most of having riders in the early break. Of course it helps a bit when your team has the two best climbers in the race. You have to feel a little bit sorry for Simoni, who certainly came to the Giro to win again, but has had to share the limelight with someone of Cunego's calibre. But Simoni is by no means finished, and we could see some more fireworks from him in the coming stages.

14:40 CEST    77km/76km to go
The stage so far has been quite animated, owing to the fact that everyone has fresh legs after yesterday's rest day, and also because today is not such a savage day so it could be an opportunity for a lesser rider to escape the clutches of Saeco.

145 riders started in Brunico at 13:02 and there were no overnight withdrawals. After 8 km, Bo Hamburger (Acqua e Sapone) launched the first attack, which was unsuccessful. The peloton kept up a very high speed (the first part of this stage is downhill) and after 35 km, the next attack went with Philippe Gilbert, Jan Svorada, Sergey Avdyeyev, Daniel Schinder and Renzo Mazzoleni. This didn't last long at all, but the attacks continued.

After 49 km, Svorada and Pagliarini (Lampre) crashed with Andrea Tonti (Saeco) and Tadej Valjavec (Phonak). The two Lampre riders were badly hurt and had to abandon the race.

The peloton covered 51.65 km in the first hour, and the attacks kept coming. Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio) was quite active and after 66 km he escaped with Oscar Pozzi (Tenax). The pair now have a 1'30 lead after 77 km, with Saeco controlling a very fragmented peloton.

14:48 CEST    83km/70km to go
Pozzi and Bertolini have stretched their lead out to 2'43 as Saeco rides a controlling pace in the peloton. Neither of the pair are close to Cunego on GC, with Bertolini the best placed in 69th at 1h06'45 down. But there may be other teams willing to take up the chase.

14:50 CEST    85km/68km to go
The two leaders are now passing through the feed zone at the foot of the Passo della Mendola, with 15 km of climbing in front of them.

14:54 CEST    87km/66km to go
The peloton passes through the feed zone 3'36 behind the two breakaways, but should start to pick up the pace a bit on the climb.

14:57 CEST   
As the bunch reaches the climb, there is a counter attack by 11 riders - not sure of the names yet.

15:04 CEST    90km/63km to go
The two leaders Bertolini and Pozzi have 4'10 now as Stefano Garzelli counter attacks! Unfortunately for Saeco, Damiano Cunego has a problem with his bike and can't chase straight away. He gets back to the peloton, but not before Garzelli catches the 11 chasers.

15:08 CEST   
Pozzi and Bertolini now have 2'52 on the next group of chasers (with Garzelli) on the Passo Mendola. Saeco is leading the peloton with four riders.

15:12 CEST   
Stefano Garzelli, Rinaldo Nocentini, Cristian Moreni, Giovanni Lombardi,
Fortunato Baliani, Rafaele Illiano, Igor Pugaci, Daniele Righi, Alexandre Moos, Volodomir Bileka, Giuseppe Muraglia and Renzo Mazzoleni are all part of the first chasing group, although several of them are being dropped now.

Muraglia, Lombardi and Renzo Mazzoleni have been caught by the peloton, which is not riding super hard, as Garzelli is not a big threat at the moment.

Bertolini and Pozzi have 2'00 on the next group of six riders with Garzelli, and 2'18 on the maglia rosa. Figueras has been dropped out of that group and is 4'00 down.

15:15 CEST    94km/59km to go
Garzelli's group has now been caught by the peloton, which is being led by De Nardi and Saeco. Tonkov immediately attacks and catches Moos and Illiano. Bertolini and Pozzi are still 1'30 in front.

15:17 CEST    95km/58km to go
Spezialetti and Mazzoleni are riding tempo in the peloton with Cunego in third wheel. 20 seconds in front of them, Moos, Illiano and Tonkov are trying to ride clear. Another 1'12 up the road are Pozzi and Bertolini. 5 km from the summit of the Mendola.

15:18 CEST   
Tonkov has now dropped Illiano and Moos on a steep part of the climb, and is rapidly closing in on Bertolini and Pozzi. In the peloton, Cunego is being shadowed by Gonchar, who has had an excellent Giro so far and is in second overall.

15:20 CEST    96km/57km to go
Mountains leader Wegmann is in a bit of trouble on the back of the peloton - he'll want to try and hang on in order to pick up some more mountain points. Valjavec, who crashed earlier, is also hanging on.

Bertolini and Pozzi now lead Tonkov by 50 seconds, with the peloton at 1'28.

15:22 CEST   
Illiano and Moos are now being dragged in by the Saeco led peloton, which numbers about 30 riders including most of the GC favourites save for Figueras, who is having a bad day in the sprinters' group.

15:25 CEST    97km/56km to go
Wegmann is digging deep but he can't quite hang onto the gruppo maglia rosa. He fights and makes it onto the back. There's no rest!

The two leaders have about 3km and seven corners to go to the top of the Mendola. Bertolini leaves Pozzi behind just as Tonkov comes up to them.

15:27 CEST    98km/55km to go
Tonkov has caught Pozzi and should catch Bertolini by the top. Pozzi tries and gets Tonkov's wheel as the 1996 Giro winner goes by.

15:29 CEST    99km/54km to go
This climb has 15 hairpins and it's a very scenic road, but Pozzi isn't thinking of the scenery as Tonkov continues to pedal away and he is dropped. Tonkov is now up to Bertolini with 1 km from the summit.

In the peloton, Rinaldo Nocentini accelerates.

15:31 CEST    100km/53km to go
Nocentini is joined by Francisco Vila Errandonea (Lampre) and Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola), but the peloton is close behind.

Meanwhile, Tonkov leads Bertolini to the top, but Bertolini sprints for the points and takes them. Tonkov is not interested. Pozzi comes across 25 seconds behind. He'll have to desend well to catch them.

15:33 CEST    103km/50km to go
Zampieri takes the points for fourth in front of Oliver Zaugg (Saunier Duval). Laverde, Illiano, Errandonea, Nocentini are also there.

The peloton comes across at 1'40.

15:37 CEST    107km/46km to go
On the descent of the Mendola, Bertolini and Tonkov are in the lead, being chased by a long Oscar Pozzi. Then a group of seven riders with Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua e Sapone), Francisco Vila Errandonea (Lampre), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi), Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola), Luis Laverde (Formaggi), Oliver Zaugg (Saunier Duval), Rafaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia), with the 25 man gruppo maglia rosa at 1'40.

Bertolini signals for a drink from his car and gets one quickly.

Figueras is in Petacchi's group, which still hasn't crossed the Mendola.

15:40 CEST    110km/43km to go
Pozzi is not attacking this descent particularly hard, which means he'll be caught by the chase group soon. Let's see how long Bertolini and Tonkov can stay away. Tonkov is 19th on GC at 9'53, so they don't want to let him get too far away.

Cunego stops again and gets a better fitting bike. The switch is very fast and he is chasing back on with a teammate.

Figueras is over the top of the Mendola 8'30 behind the leaders. That's a big loss.

15:43 CEST    112km/41km to go
Bertolini and Tonkov have 52 seconds lead on Pozzi and the group of seven, as they navigate the descent of the Passo Mendola into Fondo Sarnonico. They are nearly at the finish line for the first time. There's a 40 km lap to do after they cross the line.

Cunego is safely back in the peloton, which is 2'20 behind the two leaders.

15:48 CEST    113km/40km to go
Bertolini and Tonkov reach the finish line in Fondo, totally committed to making this break work. The last 1000m goes up for 500m then down slightly to the finish.

Pozzi is with the seven chasers now, so we have Oscar Pozzi (Tenax), Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua e Sapone), Francisco Vila Errandonea (Lampre), Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi), Luis Laverde (Formaggi), Oliver Zaugg (Saunier Duval), Rafaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia) at 1'41. Zampieri appears to be working, which is a little odd as his teammate is up the road.

The rather small peloton is now led by De Nardi and Saeco at 3'00. Some very light rain is falling. McGee and Gilbert are there, as are Wegmann, Brandt... Astarloa, Schnider and Aebersold are trying to catch the peloton.

15:51 CEST    118km/35km to go
With 35 km to go, Alessio's Alessandro Bertolini and Vini Caldirola's Pavel Tonkov are looking good for the stage win, but we'll see how close the chasing group of eight gets. It doesn't look like Cunego's gruppo maglia rosa is interested.

Bertolini's not a bad sprinter, so Tonkov will have to try and get rid of him if he wants to win. It should be an interesting final 20 km.

15:52 CEST    119km/34km to go
The leaders are now on another descent, and are really motoring. Bertolini is about as low as you can get on a bike without having an operation. Tonkov chooses a more conventional position. Bertolini switches to the "Obree chest on the bars position", which is pretty fast.

15:55 CEST    123km/30km to go
Petacchi's autobus comes through 9'12 behind the leaders with 40 km to go. Figueras will lose big time today if he doesn't abandon - he mustn't be feeling well.

15:58 CEST    124km/29km to go
The leading pair keep pushing each other from behind on the descents. Maybe it's faster. They pass under the 30 km to go banner at high speed.

The eight chasers, Pozzi, Nocentini, Vila Errandonea, Zampieri, Gobbi, Laverde, Zaugg and Illiano are still around 1'30 behind. Zampieri has stopped working.

Cunego's gruppo maglia contains a good 30-40 men now. That's more than a few good men.

16:01 CEST    128km/25km to go
Basque reader Egoitz has informed us that Francisco Vila Errandonea is better known as Patxi Vila. That will save some typing I think!

25 km to go for the two leaders, who are getting close to the Intergiro. Bertolini is taking the corners very well, and obviously knows the roads. The chase group of eight is at 2'15 with the peloton at 3'45.

16:03 CEST    130km/23km to go
In the chase group, seven of the eight are rolling over smoothly, with Zampieri sitting on, as he has Tonkov up the road. But Tonkov and Bertolini are continuing to pull away from the chasers. It's 2'34 at 25 km to go!

16:06 CEST    132km/21km to go
The road goes uphill again now to the Intergiro, then a short descent followed by the final uphill slog to the finish.

The peloton is being led by Lampre, Saeco and De Nardi, who probably don't want to let Tonkov get too far in front. But they've given him 4'35 already, which will just about put him in the top 10 on GC, given that Figueras is losing a swag of time today.

16:09 CEST    133km/20km to go
Tonkov and Bertolini are both suffering a bit now, but they're going better than any of the groups behind them. They reach the Intergiro in Cles with very few people out to watch. There's a few more at the Intergiro line, where Tonkov rolls across ahead of Bertolini, but there was no sprint.

16:12 CEST    135km/18km to go
Nocentini comes through for his turn in his slightly hunchback style in the chase group, which is now 3'02 behind Tonkov and Bertolini. Nocentini takes third place at the Intergiro in a sprint with Illiano. The rest don't bother.

Gobbi drops back to his team car for a bottle. He may be asked to stop working in the chase group, as De Nardi and Saeco are working on the front of the peloton.

16:14 CEST   
Gobbi is now back with the peloton, leaving seven chasers behind Tonkov and Bertolini. Tonkov looks better when the road goes uphill.

Nocentini and Illiano have opened up a bit of a lead on the rest of their chase group.

16:15 CEST    137km/16km to go
The peloton passes the Intergiro 3'55 behind Tonkov, who has just attacked Bertolini. He goes hard, even though it doesn't look like it as he has such a smooth style. Bertolini can't hang on, and is gone.

16:18 CEST    138km/15km to go
Tonkov now leads Bertolini by a good 30 seconds, and is surely en route to a deserved stage win. The next group of seven is back together, with Illiano leading the way on the climb. The peloton is about 1'00 behind the chasers and 3'50 behind Tonkov.

Tonkov passes under the 15 km to go banner, riding a slow cadence but a very strong tempo.

16:19 CEST   
It's raining a little more now as Tonkov passes through Revo. It's been a cool, misty day in the mountains today.

Zaugg counterattacks the chase group, which has dropped Pozzi.

16:21 CEST    140km/13km to go
Zaugg is caught by the rest of the group, and Illiano counters. It's a race for second (or third) place, as Tonkov and Bertolini are still up the road. Illiano is caught. In this chase group: Illiano, Vila, Nocentini, Zaugg, Zampieri, Laverde.

Charly Wegelius is working on the front of the peloton for Gonchar/De Nardi.

16:23 CEST    142km/11km to go
Tonkov has 11 km to go but behind him, Bertolini hasn't given up on second place. Fantastic ride by the Russian. The group of six is at 3'00 with the De Nardi/Saeco led peloton at 4'08.

16:24 CEST    143km/10km to go
Pavel Tonkov, working very hard now, has 10 km to go to the finish, and a lot of it is uphill. Bertolini is riding better, and is 1'00 behind.

16:27 CEST    145km/8km to go
Tonkov motors past the 9 km to go mark, with some more flat kilometres to ride before the final kick up to the finish. The '96 Giro winner is showing today that he still has what it takes, and may even end up on the same time as his team captain Garzelli on GC. He'll need another minute on the maglia rosa group though, which is 4'00 behind him.

16:28 CEST   
Illiano has attacked the chase group, which is being caught by the peloton now. It's 3'40 with 10 km to go for the peloton/8 km for Tonkov.

16:29 CEST    146km/7km to go
The De Nardi train leads the gruppo maglia rosa up to the remnants of the chasing group. So we have Tonkov leading, Bertolini chasing at a minute, Illiano at 3 minutes, and the peloton at 3'40.

There's another attack from the peloton - a Domina Vacanze rider - Alessio Galletti.

16:32 CEST    147km/6km to go
Tonkov gets 6 km to go and is well on track for the stage win. Bertolini should be able to hang on for second place, but third will be interesting. Illiano is still out there, while Galletti has a small lead on the peloton which is led by three De Nardis.

Galletti keeps trying, but he can't hold off the group.

16:33 CEST    149km/4km to go
Tonkov has 4 km to go, 2 of which is climbing. Bertolini is at 1'20, Illiano at 3'30 and the bunch at 3'52. Saeco hasn't been working much, leaving it to De Nardi.

16:34 CEST    150km/3km to go
Tonkov passes the Devil with 3.5 km to go. No greeting is exchanged.

The maglia rosa group is now quite large, maybe 50 riders strong. The De Nardis are really driving it with Wegelius and Borghi on the front. Illiano is caught.

16:35 CEST   
This is a tough section of the course with 3 km to go. Tonkov is handling it ok, as is Bertolini, who is pedalling a very small gear.

16:36 CEST    151km/2km to go
The peloton hits the last climb with 4 km to go, but it won't catch Tonkov, who is just about at the 2 km mark. A great ride by the Russian, who attacked on the Passo della Mendola.

16:37 CEST    151km/2km to go
The Devil jumps up and down as the peloton goes by.

Tonkov is 1'41 ahead of Bertolini with 2 km to go, as he reaches Fondo. The peloton shouldn't catch Bertolini now either. Saeco has taken over and is riding hard.

16:39 CEST    152km/1km to go
Tonkov is cheered by the hundreds of fans as he enters Fondo Sarnonico and its narrow streets. Bertolini will take second place, but third will be interesting. Perhaps McGee will try and take his time penalty back?

16:40 CEST   
Ardila attacks the peloton, and Saeco doesn't change its rhythm at all.

Tonkov has 1 km to go, and will take a very nice solo stage win. He passes a few Flemish flags with 800m left.

16:40 CEST   
Tonkov reaches the top of the little climb with 500m to go, then continues driving it all the way to the line.

16:41 CEST    153km/0km to go
Tonkov wins stage 17 with a great ride!! Bertolini is on his way to second place, and Ardila has been caught by the peloton.

16:44 CEST   
Mazzoleni leads Cunego, Garzelli, Simoni, Gonchar and McGee in the peloton, as Bertolini crosses the line 2'14 behind him.

Ruben Lobato takes a flyer for third place but is caught by McGee and Cunego on the line. Close sprint - looks like McGee got third and 8 seconds bonus.


1 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie         3.40.05
2 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                       2.15
3 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com                                   2.49
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                  
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                       
6 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo                
7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie           
8 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                  
9 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres                     
10 Ruben Lobato Elvira (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir     
11 Juan Manuel Garate Cepa (Spa) Lampre     
12 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems         

General classification after stage 17
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                   76.44.15
2 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi                                  1.14
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                  2.22
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                      2.38
5 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com                                   4.04
6 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre                                      4.20
7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie        4.26
8 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                            4.31

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