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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 15 - Monday, May 22: Mergozzo - Brescia, 189 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Anthony Tan

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

11:16 CEST   
This dead-flat sprinters' stage to Brescia is probably the easiest stage of the 2005 Giro and the last chance until Milano for the fast men to fire. With Petacchi and McEwen out, T-Mobile's Olaf Pollack will undoubtedly be looking for a win to secure something for his efforts so far in this year's Giro.

14:26 CEST   
Welcome to today's 15th stage between Mergozzo and Brescia, a small oasis in the mountain stages to come. There are no climbs today, and the 110 Gazzetta sprint point is at km 89.4 in Cesano Maderno, just north of Milan.

14:35 CEST    78km/111km to go
Today's stage started at 12:50 with 167 riders. Axel Merckx (Phonak) didn't sign on. The early attacks resulted in Christophe Edalaine (Credit Agricole) jump clear after 23 km, joined by Ivan Mayoz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gustav Larsson (Franšaise des Jeux) and Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia). The group covered 45.3 km in the first hour, building up a lead of 3'40 at that point.

Paolo Bettini's Quick.Step men have been riding on the front, allowing the gap to grow to 1'14 after 73 km.

14:49 CEST    87km/102km to go
The four leaders increase their advantage to 5'15 after 80 km, but as they approach the Gazzetta sprint, it's come back to 3'35.

14:51 CEST   
None of these riders presents even a remote threat to Ivan Basso and the CSC team, as Gustav Erik Larsson is the best placed on GC at 1:14:55 behind. But it's up to Quick.Step and perhaps T-Mobile to do the work today, as it's a good chance for Bettini and Pollack.

15:01 CEST    92km/97km to go
Mayoz comes across the line in Cesano Maderno to win the Gazzetta 110 sprint ahead of Edalaine, Larsson and Missaglia. The group's lead is now 4'02, having covered over 90 km in the first two hours.

15:12 CEST    100km/89km to go
The temperature and conditions are perfect for racing today. It's expected to reach a maximum of 25 degrees, with winds from ESE at 7-15 km/h, which means a light head all day.

Quick.Step has got the four leaders pegged at 3'45.

15:14 CEST   
T-Mobile and Milram are also assisting the chase behind the four in front.

Big Gustav Larsson rolls through for his turn, keeping the tempo up in the break.

15:17 CEST    105km/84km to go
Danilo di Luca drops to the back of the peloton for a chat and a bidon from his team car. Meanwhile, the sprinters teams of Quick.Step, T-Mobile and Milram have the situation well under control. Garrido chats to his captain Bettini, who has a musette draped over his shoulders.

15:22 CEST    116km/73km to go
The peloton is quite strung out as it rides through the outskirts of Vimacarte, having allowed the leaders 4'28. With three teams chasing, the chances of this break staying away are near zero. What we need is a train crossing!

15:28 CEST    120km/69km to go
In the break, Missaglia takes time to refuel with an energy drink. He's one candidate to take over in the Trofeo Fuga Piaggio classification. That rewards the riders who are in breakaways for the longest, with the points scored equalling the number of kilometres spent in a break (as long as the break isn't too big). The winner of that gets a scooter.

Missaglia has 146 points, but the leader of this classification on 207 points is Christophe Edalaine, who is also in the break. Maybe the Frenchman wants to do more motorpacing after the Giro.

15:31 CEST   
Three T-Mobiles take their turn on the front - Rabon, Ludewig and Davis, then Ghisalberti for Milram.

Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas) is sitting on about 70% of his maximum heart rate, travelling at 46 km/h.

15:33 CEST    124km/65km to go
Ongarato (65% of max) and Pinotti (71% of max) are also not finding it easy in the peloton, which is quite strung out in pursuit of the break. It's a little early for a full on chase, but the front 20 riders are all in one line. Maglia rosa Ivan Basso looks serene, as usual.

15:37 CEST    127km/62km to go
With Rujano out of the race, Selle Italia is now working for Loddo (sprint) and Belli (GC). They move Loddo up to the front.

Juan Manuel Garate is riding with a bandaged right elbow and knee, a result of a crash in recent days.

15:39 CEST    128km/61km to go
The gap has come down to 3'42, from 4'28. The peloton is probably putting the pace on to get the break back to between 1 and 2 minutes, then it can leave them out there until the final 10-15 km and increase the tempo to a) chase down the leaders and b) stop any others from attacking.

15:43 CEST    132km/57km to go
The peloton rides across a bridge spanning a river as Marco Pinotti attacks from the bunch. Not sure why, as the break isn't that close - maybe he's going to meet his family. Pinotti is having to work for it, sitting on 85% of his max.

15:45 CEST    134km/55km to go
In the front group, Missaglia gets a bottle from both directors in the Selle Italia car.

Pinotti waves to some fans, so he's obviously on home ground today.

15:47 CEST    136km/53km to go
Pinotti is happy as he rides past his people, stopping and greeting his partner as the peloton rolls by. No time for anything more than that. There's a race on.

15:49 CEST    139km/50km to go
Engels, Davis, Scarselli, Knees, Gonchar, Rabon, and three more Milram riders lead the peloton. Ongarato's heart rate is now down to 53% of his max at 42 km/h.

Pinotti is chasing back on through the caravan.

15:53 CEST   
The average speed after three hours is still a brisk 44.8 km/h. The Giro has definitely changed in the last two years, as the Italian-dominated races tended to do the first two or three hours at 30 km/h.

Maybe that's why the climbers like Simoni and Cunego are getting pummelled so much, because the pace is so high on the flat that they need to use more reserves than the bigger riders to keep up. That's my theory, given free of charge.

15:55 CEST    141km/48km to go
Jan Ullrich is rolling along, near the front of the bunch, looking at least as relaxed as Basso. He's not spinning at the moment though.

16:00 CEST    145km/44km to go
The gap goes down to 3'25 as the break approaches the final 40 km. Less than an hour of racing to go, and the peloton is starting to string out again.

16:05 CEST    147km/42km to go
It's under three minutes now, and we can expect the three sprinters teams to keep the tempo up from now on. It's still pretty relaxed in the bulk of the peloton.

16:07 CEST   
Discovery moves Savoldelli up to the front of the bunch, where T-Mobile is still there with their three riders.

The breakaways aren't giving up, of course. They're still working smoothly as their advantage falls to 2'40.

16:10 CEST   
It's a beautiful day out there as the bunch rides past endless fields on the flatlands in this northern part of Italy.

16:12 CEST    149km/40km to go
The leaders go under 40 km to go, and have less than two and a half minutes lead. There are hardly even any corners today. It's a classic sprinters' stage.

16:14 CEST    151km/38km to go
The bunch goes under 40 km to go 2'32 behind the break.

Missaglia leads it now, the smallest man in the lead group.

16:17 CEST   
Jan Ullrich goes to the back of the bunch to pick up a bunch of bidons for his hard working teammates in front. He puts one in each pocket, and hands them off as he cruises up the right hand side.

16:20 CEST   
Der Jan finishes off his job with a coke for Scott Davis: "Don't want it" Ullrich shrugs and chugs it down.

16:23 CEST    156km/33km to go
The leaders again: Christophe Edalaine (Credit Agricole), Ivan Mayoz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gustav Larsson (Franšaise des Jeux) and Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia). They escaped after 23 km and have been away for 133 km.

The bunch splits on a roundabout, and reforms.

16:24 CEST   
Savio hands a can of coke to Missaglia.

Koen de Kort (Liberty) sits on 61% of his max at 45 km/h.

16:28 CEST    159km/30km to go
Under 30 km to go, and the lead is still around 2'15. T-Mobile and Milram are at the front, chasing, with a couple of Quick.Steps still there. Milram has the biggest presence, trying to get one of their sprinters, Rigotto or Lorenzetto in the firing line.

16:34 CEST    162km/27km to go
Gonchar and Rabon are both sporting bandages from crashes. Many riders do at this stage of the Giro.

16:36 CEST    166km/23km to go
Milram's Alberto Ongarato (another good sprinter) is on 116/185 (62% of max) at 44km/h as the bunch goes under 25 km to go. 2'18 is the gap, but now things should increase if the sprinters are serious about winning today (and they appear to be).

16:38 CEST    168km/21km to go
Rabon drives the bunch through Rovato, with Scott Davis on his wheel. Scott is the older bro of Allan Davis, who is the faster of the two.

16:41 CEST    169km/20km to go
The leaders are now under 20km to go, and can probably start to believe in their chances a little. Two minutes is handy, but the bunch has the advantage in this sort of flat terrain with a headwind.

16:44 CEST    171km/18km to go
Well, the pace has suddenly increased, and the bunch goes under 20 km to go just 1'36 behind the leaders.

If anyone is wondering why Milram has been working in the sprints, it's because despite losing Petacchi, they've got three half decent sprinters: Lorenzetto, Rigotto and Ongarato. The latter is sitting on 68% of his max now. Milram could probably leave all the work to T-Mobile and Quick.Step, but it's still good training and practice for when Petacchi returns, and that's what they're paid for. The Milram train hasn't been as good as, say, the Fassa Bortolo train of years past.

16:46 CEST    173km/16km to go
The peloton is strung out at the back, but there's still a bit of a bunch just behind the front 15 riders. Ullrich sits well back, not getting involved in today's sprint.

16:47 CEST   
Over the autostrada, and the four leaders are just 1'03 ahead of the bunch.

16:48 CEST    174km/15km to go
The leaders go under 15 km to go as they ride along the main road, two lanes to themselves. Now the bunch comes through just 38 seconds behind.

16:50 CEST    175km/14km to go
Missaglia realises that it's over soon, but the break continues to work.

Gregory Rast has crashed, but is OK.

Scarselli, one of the Quick.Step workers, sits on 158/190 (83% of max) at 47 km/h.

16:51 CEST    176km/13km to go
The leaders exit one highway and enter another one, bound for Brescia.

Matt White (Discovery Channel) punctures. Saunier Duval has moved up to the front.

16:54 CEST    177km/12km to go
The battle for position begins in the bunch as the break starts to come back very quickly. The gap is no more than 15 seconds.

White has rejoined the bunch.

16:54 CEST    179km/10km to go
The pace picks up, with the same riders from T-mobile, Quick.Step and Milram expending themselves. Under 10 km to go, and the gap is just 9 seconds.

16:55 CEST    180km/9km to go
The leaders exit the highway and ride along a smaller road towards Brescia, with the bunch breathing heavily down their necks.

16:57 CEST    181km/8km to go
The break is caught with around 9 km to go, having been away for 157 km. Larsson, Edalaine, Missaglia and Mayoz sink back into the peloton, which is now at 56 km/h.

Scarselli's heart rate is up to 91% of max, as one would expect at this speed.

16:59 CEST   
Jan Kuyckx attacks with Garate on his wheel, but they get about 5 metres as Garate's teammate keeps the tempo high in the peloton. Garate was there as a stopped for Bettini. It's still 57 km/h.

16:59 CEST    184km/5km to go
Bettini sits behind the Milram riders, who have the better train. Now T-Mobile takes over with 5 km to go.

17:00 CEST   
Baguet and Garate are still up there for Quick.Step, then Ludewig and...Der Jan.

17:00 CEST    185km/4km to go
Baguet a long turn in front, then Ullrich sits ready.

17:01 CEST    186km/3km to go
Behind, the manoeuvres are starting for Bettini's wheel. Baguet does a very long turn. Quick.Step have no real sprinter to lead out Bettini, but they do their work in the final kilometres to keep the pace high.

Ullrich does a very short turn, then Rabon empties the tank.

17:02 CEST   
Bettini sits on Ongarato's wheel, with Pollack close behind. Vogels has moved up to Bettini's wheel too, and Hayman.

17:03 CEST    187km/2km to go
Guidi is up there for PHonak, and F÷rster moves up, taking the wind to sit beside the Milram train.

Now Ullrich lifts the tempo with a crushing turn.

17:03 CEST    188km/1km to go
Ullrich swings off and Sacchi comes through for Milram, with three teammates in tow. Right hander, then nearly in the final kilometre. Bettini still has Ongarato's wheel. He is quicker than the Italian.

17:04 CEST   
Ongarato is already on 94% of max at 55 km/h

17:04 CEST    188km/1km to go
Final kilometre, and FDJ comes up to the front with Arnaud Gerard.

17:04 CEST   
Around a roundabout, and into the final straight. FDJ tanks. Milram takes over again.

17:05 CEST   
Milram leads it out for Ongarato, and Bettini waits on his wheel. Then Loddo, F÷rster, who jumps first.

17:05 CEST    189km/0km to go
Loddo goes on the right side, but is boxed in, then Pollack and Bettini go head to head and Bettini gets it, just. Finally, success for Il Grillo.

17:07 CEST   
Ongarato was going OK until Loddo came up to him on the inside and pushed him. It was all Bettini and Pollack though. F÷rster was third ahead of Vogels. You can see the disappointment on the Milram riders' faces as their man didn't quite make it.

Bettini's speed at the finish was 70 km/h.

No changes to the GC, of course.

17:12 CEST   
It's all over, red rover for today. Bettini wins the stage and increases his lead in the points classification, but he'll have to work for that, as the next two stages are in the mountains, and Savoldelli and Basso will take some points back from the Quick.Step man.

Until tomorrow's 16th stage then, ciao!

Results

Provisional
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                             4.15.42
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                
3 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                   
4 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                   
5 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare           
6 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems                         
7 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone                  
8 Alberto Loddo (Ita) Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni         

General classification after stage 15

1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                            59.44.07
2 JosÚ E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                  3.27
3 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                5.30
4 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni               7.35
5 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                               8.00
6 Sandy Casar (Fra) Franšaise des Jeux                                     8.01
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                         8.14
8 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                   8.35
9 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                     8.58
10 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                          10.36
 

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