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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

88th Giro d'Italia - PT

Italy, May 7-29, 2005

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Stage 19 - May 28: Savigliano - Sestriere (Le Valli Olimpiche), 190 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from John Trevorrow

Complete live report

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

14:11 CEST   
Welcome once again to Cyclingnews' commentary position in the Hindenburg IV, our very own dirigible that is powered by environmentally friendly hot air. Today we are bringing you the penultimate stage of the Giro d'Italia, which promises to be the most exciting races in living memory. Failing that, it should at least be pretty good.

Today's 190 km between Savigliano and Sestrière is a bit of a brute, you might say. In addition to two times up the 2035m Sestrière climb (km 101, km 190), there is also the seriously nasty never before used climb of the Colle della Finestre at km 164.1. This is an 18.5km monster with an average gradient of 9.2%, and is said to be harder than the Passo Gavia. Also, the final 7.9km of Finestre is on a gravel "strada bianca" that will make the climb even more difficult. It's basically going to be like riding up a dirt road.

The prized maglia rosa of the Giro d'Italia is up for grabs today, with 2002 winner Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) coming into the stage with a 2'09 gap over Gilberto Simoni (Lampre), 3'00 to Jose' Rujano Guillen (Selle Italia), 3'08 over Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), and 3'13 to Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval). If Savoldelli has a bad day, then any one of these riders could take the jersey and wear it into Milan today.

The weather at the start was perfect for the 154 riders who left Savigliano at 11:23am. It was hot, sunny, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

14:23 CEST    101km/89km to go
It was fast out of the blocks as Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Mark Renshaw (Francaise des Jeux) and Ruslan Ivanov (Domina Vacanze) set off together in the first few kilometres, with Niermann and Renshaw taking the first two sprints at Monasterolo and Ruffia, then Niermann again at Villanova Solaro and Ivanov at Torre S. Giorgio - all within the first 15 km!

None of the three riders are even a remote threat to any of the GC men, as Grischa Niermann is the best placed on GC in 58th at 1:39:07 down. So there was no attempt to chase the breakaways by the peloton. After 14 km, they already had 7'05, as Renshaw took another sprint in Villafranca Piemonte and Pinerolo. The three leaders covered 44.2 km in the first hour and built up a maximum lead of 17'12 at km 55, the foot of the 45 km ascent to Sestrière.

CSC and Selle Italia have been leading the peloton, as they want to make it as hard as possible on the climbs. Renshaw lost contact after about 75 km and is now riding alone, 5'12 behind the two leaders, who are just about at the top of Sestrière.

Cyclingnews spoke to Renshaw this morning, and he told us that he was "Confident of getting to Milan. I've just gotta get through the day and save the legs."

How do you save the legs on a day like today? "I don't know. I've got to try to optimise how to put the least amount of pressure on the pedals, because my biggest goal is to get on the podium and my last chance is tomorrow. I'm really geed for it." ["geed" comes from to "gee up"].

14:29 CEST   
Ruslan Ivanov (Domina Vacanze) is first to the top of Sestrière, with Niermann right behind him. Renshaw is coming up on his own, but is now 6'40 behind the two leaders at the summit. The gruppo maglia rosa was 15'12 back at the last check, but it should make some time up on this climb.

14:40 CEST    113km/77km to go
The peloton is now at the summit of the first climb of Sestrière, trailing Ivanov and Niermann by 14'35. Renshaw is still halfway in between, as the two leaders reach the feed zone at Cesana.

Renshaw's teammate Matt Wilson told us this morning that, "This is really the last day. I've just gotta get through it. It'll be a great race up the front but I won't see any of it."

14:51 CEST    124km/66km to go
Renshaw does a good descent, and pegs back 1'20 of his disadvantage to Ivanov and Niermann, but he's still at 5'20 back. The gruppo is being led by Andrea Peron (CSC) and is now at 14'16.

14:58 CEST   
We spoke to the maglia nera (last rider on GC), Russell Van Hout (Selle Italia) before the start today. Russell was the subject of a big interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport, where it was revealed that he started off as a tennis player, before starting cycling at 21.

"I've been copping a lot of flak from my teammates who said I made the wrong choice - I should have stuck with tennis!" said Van Hout. "I've got the standard legs like every day. I am nervous. I want to get through today but it's such a really tough day. If a group goes out the back early, it'll be hard to get in the time limit. I'm confident I'll get through, just nervous."

15:06 CEST    130km/60km to go
The gruppo rides through Oulx with a 12'30 deficit to the two leaders, so the chase has been in effect on the steady descent towards the Finestre. Ivanov and Niermann at some 15 km from the foot of the monster climb.

15:12 CEST    135km/55km to go
The CSC train is in full flight on the descent, and well catch Renshaw on the Finestre. The Australian trails the two leaders by 6'50 now.

15:14 CEST    138km/52km to go
Ivanov and Niermann are flying along, enjoying the last part of this loooong descent before the ominous Finestre starts. At least the first 10 km of this climb is on asphalt. It's just the last 8 km that are worrying most.

The peloton is still quite large, as there wasn't a big selection made on the first climb.

15:16 CEST    142km/48km to go
Niermann and Ivanov are just 3 km from the Intergiro at Susa, which is at the bottom of the descent. They have 6'50 on Renshaw and 9'30 on the gruppo maglia rosa.

15:18 CEST    146km/44km to go
Lampre is also helping CSC in the chase, as Simoni fancies his chances today.

Niermann takes the Intergiro from Ivanov, but the pair didn't bother sprinting.

15:21 CEST    148km/42km to go
It looks like Ivanov and Niermann will start the Finestre with about 9'00 lead over the gruppo maglia rosa, which has just caught Mark Renshaw, who was with the two leaders at the start of the stage, but was dropped on the way up to Sestrière.

15:31 CEST    150km/40km to go
The peloton hits the Finestre with CSC at the front, and almost immediately, the attacks start. Illiano accelerates first, with teammate Rujano on his wheel. Simoni is up there, as is Valjavec and Garate.

Savoldelli and Di Luca are already in trouble!!

15:33 CEST   
Basso is also with the Rujano group, which is now growing. Di Luca has made it back, but Savoldelli is still chasing with Karpets and Gonchar. He looks calm though. No panic yet.

Illiano still on the front of the Rujano/Simoni/Garate group, which has about 15 riders in it.

15:34 CEST   
In front of the race, Ivanov has ridden away from Niermann, and has 36 seconds on him. The first bit of the peloton is at 7'15.

15:35 CEST   
The front bit of the peloton has Illiano (well, he has just pulled off), Rujano, Simoni, Valjavec, Basso, Van Huffel, Simoni, Di Luca, Gonchar, Lobato, Cunego, Garate. Savoldelli is chasing with another group with Belli (not Gonchar), and he's just picking up Cunego.

15:37 CEST    151km/39km to go
Simoni accelerates in the front and Rujano reacts right away. They're riding through the trees now, and it's very steep. But it's on asphalt.

Valjavec and Gonchar get up to Simoni and Rujano, as do the rest of the group. Ruben Lobato is sitting on 176/195 bpm. He's in the Simoni group too.

15:39 CEST   
Savoldelli is leading his group 15 seconds behind Simoni/Rujano's group.

Basso is dropped from the Simoni group. He doesn't look that good today. But Rujano and Simoni do.

15:41 CEST   
Rujano drives around a hairpin and signals for Simoni to come through. The Lampre man obliges.

Zampieri, who was in front for a while, is caught by the Savoldelli group, which is not quite as large as the front group of 13. Basso is dropped from the Savoldelli group. No triple stage win for him, but that's understandable.

15:43 CEST    153km/37km to go
Savoldelli is now 24 seconds behind the Simoni/Rujano/Di Luca/Garate group. He can take that back on the descent, easy. But there is still a lot of climbing to come.

Now Di Luca gets to the front. He's having a good day!

No sign of Ivanov and Niermann, who are still several minutes up the road. But they may not survive until the top of this climb.

15:46 CEST   
Di Luca looks back and sees Simoni, very impassive.

Basso is about 15 seconds behind Savoldelli's group, where it looks like Caucchioli working.

Karpets is struggling to hold this front group, which has Rujano, Simoni, Valjavec, Van Huffel, Di Luca, Gonchar, Rodriguez, Atienza, Montgomery, Parra, Lobato, Garate and Karpets. Well, Parra has just been dropped.

Savoldelli asks for more help. Bruseghin and Caucchioli oblige. The gap is 36 seconds to Simoni/Rujano etc.

15:48 CEST    154km/36km to go
The road twists and turns through the trees as more riders drop off the Simoni group, which is several hairpins ahead of Savoldelli now. The maglia rosa gets to the front and tries to lift the pace. He won't get much help.

Karpets is in trouble in the front group. He's dropped. Simoni looks back after every hairpin.

15:50 CEST    155km/35km to go
Cunego is dropped from the Savoldelli group, which now trails Simoni and co. by 44 seconds. They'll need at least 2'00 at the top because Il Falco can go downhill fast.

Di Luca puts his radio earpiece back in. He looks somewhat drawn.

The front group: Rujano, Valjavec, Van Huffel, Simoni, Di Luca, Gonchar, Atienza, Montgomery, Lobato, Garate.

15:52 CEST    156km/34km to go
It's now 49 seconds between the two main groups. Caucchioli is leading the chase with Savoldelli, who keeps looking back. No help there. Everyone in this group is not here because they enjoy the company.

Simoni and Di Luca are working well in front, but Rujano is not doing a great deal in third wheel.

15:53 CEST   
Savoldelli is using a fairly small gear, but he's still got a couple to spare for later. Simoni looks like he's got a 27 cog on the back.

15:55 CEST   
Savoldelli is now working hard, as Selle Italia's team car drives past his group, which means the gap is more than a minute.

Simoni asks Rujano to do a bit of work, but the man in green is glued to third wheel. Garate and Lobato are next, then Valjavec.

The Simoni group is 4'50 behind sole leader Ruslan Ivanov. Remember him?

15:56 CEST    157km/33km to go
Savoldelli's group is now half the size of the Simoni group, which still has 10 men in it. Savoldelli has Belli (who isn't working of course, as Gonchar is in front), Bruseghin, Ardila, Caucchioli and now Parra.

15:57 CEST   
Montgomery is dropped from the lead group as Simoni and Di Luca continue their relentless forcing on the Finestre.

It's Joaquin Rodriguez, not Lobato, in the Simoni group.

15:59 CEST   
Savoldelli is eating and drinking on the climb, and is feeling better. He grabs a bottle from a soigneur on the side of the road. He now has Belli on his wheel, with Caucchioli and Ardila following. The gap is down to 47 seconds!

16:00 CEST   
Caucchioli is dropped from Savoldelli's group, which now numbers three. Savoldelli, Belli and Ardila. That's it. Ardila is not much use to Savoldelli though, but the maglia rosa has grown a new set of wings after refueling. 41 seconds!

Simoni is setting a strong tempo in front, with Di Luca and Rujano following.

16:02 CEST   
They're on the dirt road now, with Simoni leading the group. This could be interesting, as punctures are a high probability.

16:02 CEST   
Simoni's group has less than 7 km to the summit. Leader Ruslan Ivanov has about 6 km, maybe a bit more.

16:04 CEST   
Di Luca pushes the pace and now there are just five riders left in this group: Rujano, Simoni, Valjavec, Di Luca, and Garate. They are less than 3'00 behind Ivanov.

Garate is now in trouble! Four left.

16:06 CEST    157km/33km to go
It's just Di Luca, Simoni, Rujano and Valjavec leading the remnants of their group as the Finestre gets harder. Savoldelli, Belli and Ardila are still together, some 40-50 seconds back.

No sign of Niermann yet - he's still behind leader Ivanov somewhere.

16:07 CEST   
It's all Di Luca and Simoni, as Gianni Savio gives Rujano a bottle on the climb. Valjavec hangs on in fourth wheel.

16:08 CEST    158km/32km to go
Looks like Savoldelli got a bottle too from the Discovery car. He is 1'15 behind Simoni's quartet. He can lose 2'09 before he loses the jersey.

Valjavec is dropped. And then there were three. Rujano hasn't done a turn yet. And Ivanov is still 2'00 in front.

16:09 CEST   
Di Luca now in front, looking good today. Simoni looks very smooth, while Rujano is suffering a little. Savoldelli is doing all the work in his group, because Belli won't work, and Ardila can't. He's 1'15 or so behind Simoni's trio.

16:11 CEST    159km/31km to go
It's an interesting climb, but it's not too bad yet because it's dry.

Valjavec and Garate aren't too far behind Simoni's group, and they could get on on the descent.

The Lotto car goes past Savoldelli's group and they swallow a cloud of dust. 1'22 between Simoni's group and Savoldelli.

16:12 CEST   
Behind Savoldelli, Caucchioli, Parra and Karpets are trying to get back to him.

Rodriguez and Montgomery are caught and passed by the maglia rosa.

16:14 CEST    160km/30km to go
Savoldelli is now 3'04 behind the leader Ivanov, as Belli actually does a turn. But Simoni's group is at 1'22, which means the important gap is 1'42. Simoni is now virtually very close to pink.

Ivanov is still struggling along on his own, but will be caught by Simoni's group soon. Haven't spotted Niermann anywhere yet.

16:15 CEST   
Ivanov grinds along as Niermann follows at about 40 seconds.

Savoldelli gets a big push from a fan, and risks a time penalty.

Simoni's group has just caught and passed Niermann.

16:17 CEST   
Ruslan Ivanov has 4 km to the summit, which means he's not going to make it ahead of Simoni's trio. He's sitting on 159/190 max heart rate, so he's probably out of gas. And he looks it as he rides across the grey stones.

16:18 CEST   
Di Luca leads Simoni and Rujano past the exhausted Ivanov. Now Savoldelli is reported at 1'53 behind the leaders! Simoni in virtual pink, if he wins the stage. SAvoldelli will have to ride an incredible descent to rescue this. Even his podium position is in doubt.

16:21 CEST    161km/29km to go
Ivanov is quickly dropped by the leading trio, where Di Luca is doing most of the work. Rujano is sticking to Simoni's wheel like a limpet.

The leaders have less than 3 km to go to the summit of the Finestre. A Lampre soigneur offers Simoni a bottle and a pair of wheels. He doesn't need either at the moment.

Savoldelli is now just with Ardila, at 2'00 behind the three leaders. Van Huffel and Gonchar are at 1'05 behind the lead.

16:23 CEST    162km/28km to go
Di Luca, in a rapidly greying white outfit, is leading Simoni and Rujano towards the top of the Colle delle Finestre. It's dirt all the way to the top, and the leaders can now see the summit which looks a long way up. It's only 2 km away though.

16:23 CEST   
Ardila finally does a turn for Savoldelli. It's going to be an interesting descent - the road is asphalt, but only 3 metres wide!

16:24 CEST   
Clusters of people line the summit of the climb, clinging to the rocks.

Savoldelli and Ardila are catching Atienza now.

16:25 CEST    163km/27km to go
The gap is now 2'12! Simoni is the virtual leader of the Giro. And there's still another climb to come....

Ardila actually slows and waits for the maglia rosa.

16:27 CEST   
Savoldelli, Ardila and the crab-like Atienza, who climbs like Escartin, are now together, wondering when this climb will finish. It's pretty tough going on this dirt road.

Di Luca is incredible today. He's working in front all the way, as Simoni and Rujano follow. He could be getting himself back on the podium as a result. But Savoldelli isn't lost yet.

16:28 CEST   
Thousands of fans cheer the riders on as they near the summit of the Finestre, with snow lining the sides of the roads.

Simoni's group is hovering at 2'08 ahead of Savoldelli's trio. It's extremely close.

16:30 CEST    164km/26km to go
Di Luca is strong as he sits up and has something to eat. They reach the summit of the Finestre with Di Luca crossing first ahead of Simoni and Rujano. There was no sprint, as Di Luca did all the work.

Savoldelli's group has caught and passed Ivanov and Niermann.

16:31 CEST   
Ardila is good today, as he keeps gapping Savoldelli. But he also keeps waiting for him. Savoldelli will probably drop him on the descent now :-)

16:32 CEST    165km/25km to go
On one of the last corners, a Lotto car gets in the way of the maglia rosa group.

Van Huffel and Gonchar cross the summit at 2'00, riding through the dust. Valjavec and Garate were before them. Savoldelli's trio comes over at 2'19.

Simoni and Di Luca lead on the descent, with Rujano clinging on for dear life.

16:34 CEST    167km/23km to go
This road is insanely narrow, but at least the surface is good. The gap is still 2'23.

The top 10 over the Finestre: Di Luca, Simoni, Rujano, Valjavec, Garate, Gonchar, Van Huffel, Savoldelli, Atienza, Ardila.

16:35 CEST    168km/22km to go
Savoldelli is now leading his group on the descent, but Ardila has got his wheel and is following well. Atienza has been dropped.

The three leaders are also together. Valjavec, Garate, Gonchar and Van Huffel are in between the two groups.

16:36 CEST    169km/21km to go
Ardila and Savoldelli are now pulling back Gonchar and Van Huffel. They have them now and there are four chasers with a total of five riders in front of them.

16:37 CEST    170km/20km to go
The leading trio are now off the nice asphalt but the descent is still on fairly good roads. They have 20 km to go, and Simoni is still the virtual leader of the Giro. Just.

16:39 CEST    171km/19km to go
The road opens out a bit now and the landscape is fairly bar. But they're heading towards the trees now.

It's 2'05, which means Sav is back in virtual pink. Well, there are 20, 12, 8 second time bonuses too...

16:40 CEST    172km/18km to go
Savoldelli is picking up time, gradually, but it might not be enough as the foot of the descent is getting close for the three leaders.

Gonchar is having problems following the pace of Savoldelli, Ardila and Van Huffel.

16:41 CEST   
Simoni takes a good line around yet another hairpin, while Rujano decides to check out the scenery and nearly goes straight ahead. He corrects, and is back with the leaders.

Still 2'03. Savoldelli will need a lot more than that to save his Giro.

16:43 CEST    175km/15km to go
Di Luca sits in third wheel, trying to refuel and get some feeling in his legs. No sign of Garate and Valjavec, but they're still in between the two small groups.

The road is flattening out now as Simoni grabs a bidon from a team car. Di Luca is having problems with cramps. Rujano grabs a bottle too. 15 km to go.

16:44 CEST    176km/14km to go
Di Luca is cramping badly and gets a bottle from the Liquigas car. He can barely pedal. But he tries. Probably a result of all his work on the Finestre.

16:44 CEST   
Garate and Valjavec are now together, about 40 seconds ahead of Savoldelli's quartet of chasers.

16:46 CEST    177km/13km to go
Ardila and Van Huffel are now working with Savoldelli, while Gonchar is doing his best to hold on. There is nearly a crash between a moto and the Lotto car. That was close.

Rujano and Simoni are working together now, as Di Luca is dropped. The gap is 1'50 to Savoldelli. Di Luca is pedaling again though, and is at 11 seconds.

16:47 CEST   
Rujano is now doing a lot of work, and Simoni will need all the help he can get. They're on the flat before the last climb, and Savoldelli's group is still making up time.

16:48 CEST    178km/12km to go
Di Luca looks like a bike rider again and is hammering back to Simoni and Rujano.

Meanwhile, Valjavec and Garate have been caught by the Savoldelli quartet. That could help the maglia rosa.

16:49 CEST   
Simoni and Rujano should wait for Di Luca, as they need his power now. The group behind numbers six: Savoldelli, Valjavec, Garate, Van Huffel, Ardila, Gonchar.

16:50 CEST   
Rujano is now working very hard, with Simoni following. They ain't working for Di Luca. This might even cost Simoni the Giro.

16:51 CEST    180km/10km to go
Simoni is on the front with a little grimace, but he still looks good. They go under 10 km to go, and now the climb to Sestrière starts again. They have 9 seconds to Di Luca and 1'40 to Savoldelli's group.

16:51 CEST    180.5km/9.5km to go
Savoldelli asks for some support from the Discovery car, and he gets a bidon. He drinks half of it.

16:52 CEST    181km/9km to go
The chasers go under 10 km to go at top speed, 1'37 behind Gibo and Rujano. Wow, what a finish this will be!

16:53 CEST    182km/8km to go
Simoni and Rujano are past 9 km to go, and Rujano is giving it full gas. Di Luca is at 18 seconds, and is not coming back. Oh well.

16:54 CEST   
Ardila, Gonchar, Savoldelli, Valjavec, Garate and Van Huffel are all working hard to chase down the three in front, and save their respective GC places.

Rujano obviously doesn't want Di Luca to come back, as he's not far behind him on GC.

16:54 CEST   
The road starts to steepen as the chase group pulls it back to 1'30. If Simoni wins, he needs to beat Savoldelli by 1'50 to take the maglia rosa.

16:55 CEST   
Simoni grimaces as he unloads some weight out of his pockets. Rujano does another big turn.

16:56 CEST    183km/7km to go
Simoni now gets out of the saddle, but the two leaders are still losing time. 7 km to go and it's just 1'27. Simoni gets rid of more food.

Di Luca is not done yet. He's at 15 seconds.

16:57 CEST    183.5km/6.5km to go
Rujano now in front, working hard out of the saddle. Di Luca chases at 25 seconds. The road is now climbing a bit more steeply, but it's a much nicer road than the Finestre. 1'28.

16:58 CEST    184km/6km to go
Savoldelli is out of the saddle, obviously hurting a lot. Ardila leads and the gap is 1'24. Ardila is having a good ride today.

16:59 CEST   
Savoldelli is really digging deep, the pain showing on his face, the pedaling rhythm a bit sloppy. But at the moment, he's still in pink.

Simoni is hurting too, but never shows it that much.

17:00 CEST    185km/5km to go
Ardila continues to drive the pace in Savoldelli's group. He has Van Huffel there, who is 26 today.

Rujano and Simoni have 5 km to go and are giving it everything.

17:01 CEST    185.5km/4.5km to go
The climb is steeper now as Rujano asks Simoni to do a turn. Nope. Simoni stays put.

17:02 CEST    186km/4km to go
Di Luca is now at 33 seconds, but he could hold on for third place. The chasers are going well.

Rujano is leaving Simoni behind!! Simoni empties a bidon over his face and grits his teeth to hold on. Ouch. Ouch.

17:02 CEST   
Simoni has got it all to do as Rujano rides away, slowly. He has 5 seconds.

17:03 CEST   
Rujano might be on his way to not only a stage win, but also second on GC! Or first...

17:04 CEST    186.5km/3.5km to go
Jose Rujano has 8 seconds on Gibo. He needs more than that.

17:05 CEST    187km/3km to go
Gibo is fighting hard, but he's not coming back to the Incredible Hulk.

Di Luca is 55 seconds behind Rujano. His podium in Milan is not going to happen, but he has ridden a great race.

Savoldelli is 1'35 behind Rujano. He looks like saving the Giro.

17:05 CEST   
Simoni is full of pain now, trying to get to the top. He has 1'27 on Savoldelli's group, which is catching Di Luca.

But it's Rujano who will win the stage. He has 3 km left.

17:06 CEST   
Simoni fights and fights, as does Savoldelli, who looks a little stressed. Van Huffel is following him, now does a turn. Savoldelli is lucky he has riders with him.

17:06 CEST   
Ardila has dropped off Savoldelli's group. No surprise there.

17:07 CEST   
Simoni gets it together and looks slightly better, but can he do enough to put 1'58 or so (not counting bonus) into Savoldelli?

17:08 CEST    188km/2km to go
Simoni out of the addle as Rujano reaches 2 km to go. The Venezuelan ex-coffee planter will win the stage. Gibo is at 22 seconds.

17:09 CEST   
Savoldelli still has a bit of work to do, but it looks like he'll keep the pink. He would have struggled without the Lotto boys, but that's racing.

Van Huffel leads that group now. The Belgian is strong. There aren't many climbs like this in Gavere!

17:10 CEST   
Di Luca is past 2 km at 1'25. Savoldelli is at 1'53 from Rujano!!

17:10 CEST   
Rujano struggles as he reaches 1 km to go. He's there. Now it's easier. He needs to beat Sav by 2'41 to win the Giro. Oohlalala.

17:11 CEST    189km/1km to go
Simoni is past 1 km to go, still 20 seconds behind Rujano. The Giro is very much up for grabs.

17:11 CEST   
Rujano reaches 500m to go and looks a bit tired, but he will win the stage, his biggest victory in his career. What a ride by the tiny Venezuelan! Second on GC? First?

17:13 CEST    190km/0km to go
Rujano crosses the line, having given it everything on the last climb. Incredible ride by the mountains leader, who is definitely the best climber in this race. He wins the stage with a determined grimace, slowing in the final metres.

Simoni is next at 26 seconds.

17:15 CEST   
Di Luca comes in third at 1'34, looking annoyed with himself. Then Garate leads the maglia rosa group in at 1'54, then Van Huffel, Gonchar, Valjavec then Savoldelli at 1'53. Savoldelli saves it!!!

17:21 CEST   
In the end, the top 3 on GC remain the same, even though Simoni came within 28 seconds of the maglia rosa, and Rujano within 45. Di Luca and Garate keep fourth and fifth, and Gonchar sixth.

It was a thriller in Sestrière, that's for sure. Had Simoni stayed with Rujano, who knows?

Well, that's all folks until tomorrow's final stage into Milan, and after that I think we'll need a new blimp. Or at least a new hot air tank.


1 Jose' Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia                5.49.30   
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                               0.26
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                              1.37
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      1.53
5 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                               1.55
6 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                            
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team   
8 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                 
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon-Lotto                 2.38
10 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare                    5.06

General classification after stage 19

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team      88.01.43
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                               0.28
3 Jose' Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia                   0.45
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                              3.26
5 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      4.11
6 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                               4.22
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears                              11.15
8 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole                           11.38

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