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91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 15 - Sunday, May 25: Arabba - Passo Fedaia/Marmolada (Dolomites Stars), 153km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

12:29 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' extended Giro d'Italia coverage. Today we are taking you start to finish in the Giro's Queen stage. It's only 153 km – but most of those kilometres are up and down. There will probably be a lot of unhappy people at the end of the day – not only the non-climbers who will have suffered by their exertions, but no doubt also one or more favourites who will have sadly discovered that they were not up to the challenge. The bad news: there are only about three or four flat kilometres to be found today.

12:37 CEST    7km/146km to go
The first attack came at km 2, from who else but Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) and Joaquin Rodriguez of Caisse d'Epargne. A group of eight formed quickly, with a 10 second lead, which by km 4 had turned into a five man group. This in turn became a 13 man group, which has changed yet again. We are still trying to get a list of who is where – bear with us!

12:40 CEST    8km/145km to go
Approaching the first mountaintop of the day, we have Rujano and Sella 15 seconds ahead of Karpets and Baliani. Paolo Bettini is another 15 seconds back, and 10 seconds behind him is the peloton.

12:42 CEST   
168 riders took off at 12:13, and within five minutes we had the first drop-out of the day. Matthias Russ of Gerolsteiner decided not to face today's mountains, bringing his team down to a mere three riders.

12:43 CEST   
Things really start out with a bang today, going up directly from km.0. This is the Cat. 1 Passo Pordoi, with the peloton riding 9.2 km up to the day's highest point, 2239 km. It has an average gradient of 6.9%, with a max of 10%.

But they will be finished with this one momentarily...

12:45 CEST    9km/144km to go
Sella is first over the top and gathers in a bunch of points. He should probably not lose the mountain jersey after this. He is followed, in order, by Rujano, Baliani, Karpets and Jens Voigt.

12:49 CEST    13km/140km to go
Four riders in front now: Baliani, Sella, Karpets and Rujano. They are 32 seconds ahead of a chasing group of about 20 and 56 seconds ahead of the next group.

The situation is changing by the second in the nervous beginning of this difficult stage, and it is difficult to keep up with.

12:52 CEST   
Now we have Karpets, Baliani, Sella, Bettini and Rodriguez 10 seconds ahead of the following group,which is in turn 12 seconds ahead of the main field. We believe that overall leader Bosisio is in the first chasing group.

12:55 CEST   
A 28.6 km descent is followed by, of course, the next climb, with no flat in between. It is another Cat. I, the Paso di San Pellegrino, 11.8 km up to an altitude of 1918 metres. The average gradient is 6.4%, with a
maximum of 14%. Are those legs starting to burn yet? We're not even a third of the way through the stage yet......

12:59 CEST    22km/131km to go
The five in front have a 12 second lead over Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas) who jumped out of the field. It is only 3 seconds behind him, though. We were wrong about Bosisio being in the first chase group – he is already 1'18 back!

13:02 CEST    24km/129km to go
Miholjevic has company. He, Cárdenas, Voigt and Petrov chase the five leaders. The followers are now over a minute ahead of the first big group.

13:06 CEST    31km/122km to go
The four have caught the five and become nine. Cárdenas, Karpets, Rodriguez, Sella, Baliani, Bettini, Miholjevic, Voigt and Petrov now have a 2'00 lead over the main field.

13:12 CEST    37km/116km to go
The nine leaders, who are maintaining their two minute lead, have reached the bottom of the descent. Which only means that they have reached the start of the next climb, lucky fellows!

Fortunato Baliani is in the break
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

13:17 CEST   
Evgeny Petrov of Tinkoff Credit Systems has chosen to celebrate his 30th birthday today by taking off in the escape group – we wish him a happy birthday as he hits the next climb

13:20 CEST    43km/110km to go
Everybody in the break is out of the saddle. They are now suffering on the lower slopes of the San Pellegrino, going up to 1918m in altitude.

13:22 CEST   
Petrov, Rodriguez and Voigt are making up the back end of the group for now. But everybody is pulling through and nobody is just sitting on. The break is 2'15 ahead of the peloton and they still have about 5km to go to the top of the Pellegrino.

13:26 CEST   
The peloton is passing a stream – not for the first time today. They started out right from the start, going over abridge and making sure not to drop into the wild waters. They are two minutes behind and are on the lower slopes of the mountain.

The average speed is currently 37km/h, which is very fast considering they already went over a mountain!

13:27 CEST    46km/107km to go
Giovanni Visconti is in the peloton, easy to spot. Not because of the pink, which he lost yesterday, but because of the Italian Champion jersey. He has no pressure today.

13:29 CEST    47km/106km to go
The peloton is catching up on this climb, as the lead is down to 1'47.

13:32 CEST   
LPR is leading the peloton. Of course they have not only the pink jersey (Bosisio) but also the defending champion Danilo Di Luca.

13:35 CEST   
Di Lucas is surrounded by his team-mates as they lead the chase. The peloton is starting to string out single file as it climbs.

13:37 CEST   
LPR is doing its work well, the break is now down to 1'40.

13:39 CEST   
The peloton wends its way past a field of horses, who fortunately ignore the cyclists. We wonder what Erik Zabel thinks when he passes them – he has had his experience with the equines!

13:41 CEST   
There are about 100 riders in the peloton, so it looks like we have already lost a goodly number of non-climbers. Unfortunately we don't know how far back they are, or who is in that group.

13:43 CEST   
It has either started to rain or the riders are getting cold looking at the snow-covered mountains around them. There is a flurry of activity in the escape group, as they pull on jackets.

13:45 CEST   
How timely – our man at the race, Gregor Brown, just checked in with a weather report. "Nice day here in the Dolomites. The riders lined up under partly cloudy skies to depart for the true 'tappone' of this year's Giro d'Italia, 153 kilometres and five major passes. Despite a sunny start, we had to use our windshield wipers on the drive of the course. "

13:46 CEST    49,6km/104km to go
What a surprise, Sella is the first over the mountain and adds more points to his total. The peloton hits he top 1'54 later.

13:48 CEST   
The peloton tears down the 12 km descent. We think that it has gotten smaller.

Sella looks to defend his green jersey today
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

13:50 CEST    54km/99km to go
The peloton seems to be pulling apart on this descent, but not seriously. They will probably all come back together again at the bottom. The pink jersey is clearly visible near the front.

13:52 CEST   
The riders are strung out single file as they go down the hairpin curves.

Current race situation

  • Vladimir Karpets and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Fortunato Baliani and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld), Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas), Jens Voigt (Team CSC) and Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Peloton at 1.54

13:56 CEST   
They are dropping down to 778 metres before taking on the next climb, a small Cat. II by the name of San Tomaso Agordino. They only have to ride 4.3 km up this one which features a maximum gradient of 11%.

14:01 CEST   
Roger in Ballarat, Australia, asks the Blimp Man how Jens Voigt is doing in the break. First of all we must point that we are the Blimp Woman. Then we must say that to no one's surprise, Jens looks fantastic and is doing his share of lead work. We only wonder why it took him so long to get into a break, or was he perhaps purposefully waiting for this stage?

Looking back at the answer, we feel compelled to point out that while we may be the Blimp Woman, we in no way actually resemble a blimp – just to clear up any potential misunderstandings!

14:03 CEST    60km/93km to go
The lead is now 1'20, as the chase continues. Joel has another CSC question and wants to know if Gustav Erik Larsson is in chasing field. We must admit that we do not know exactly who is in that field.

14:06 CEST    67km/86km to go
The leaders are starting up the next climb, San Tomaso Agordino, having added to their lead in the last few kilometres. It is now the easy-to-remember 2'22.

14:08 CEST   
Mauricio Bosisio was the surprise winner of the pink jersey Saturday, with a whole five seconds' lead over Alberto Contador. He will continue to work for his LPR Brakes captains Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Savoldelli, but in the meantime, "I want to enjoy this day and this sensation."

He figures he can probably take some of the pressure off his captains and help to confuse the other teams. "It is an advantage according to me and the team because the others have to work to watch me as well."

14:13 CEST   
They are still all working their way up, with 2'10 between the leading group and the peloton.

14:15 CEST    72km/81km to go
And the leaders hold that 2'10 lead as they go over the top.

14:19 CEST   
Well, you will never guess who went over the top first and snapped up the points – Sella! Now that is what we call a surprise.. Second was Cárdenas and third was Karpets.

14:26 CEST   
There are cycling fans around the world, and we prove this with a note from Ogi in Bulgaria, who asks our opinion of Caisse d'Epargne's chances today. "Is Rodriguez looking well after yesterday's efforts? And what happens to Rujano?"

Rodriguez must be tired after being in yesterday's break and finishing third on the day, but he is hanging in there again today. Rujano tried to join the break at the start but couldn't hold on. And for a podium place? Not to try and waffle out of giving an answer, but we will have a better idea of that after today's stage.

14:27 CEST    76km/77km to go
With 3 km to go before the day's sprint, the leaders have a 2'25 lead.

14:30 CEST   
The riders are now approaching what is virtually the day's only flat section – which we assume they built in only so they could have an intermediate sprint. It comes at km 79.8, just over half way. We don't expect to see the sprinters fighting it out here, though. This short flat section is also used for "Rifornimento", or the feeding zone.

14:33 CEST    80km/73km to go
The breakaway group went through the day's sprint with Bettini crossing ahead of Baliani and Miholjevic, with the field 2'15 behind.

Bettini is once again in the break
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:34 CEST   
After that little break the group heads up the Cat. I Passo Giau. This will be a tough one, with them climbing 9.8 km up to 2236 metres. The gradient is picking up: 9.4% average, with a maximum of 14%.

14:39 CEST   
Those sprint points move Bettini up into second place in the sprint ranking, giving him 88 points ahead of Mark Cavendish with 86 points. But they are both far behind leader Daniele Bennati, who has 144 points.

14:42 CEST   
Bob asks "How does Danilo look? I can’t tell from the times, nor from the comments how he’s doing. Is he pacing himself? Or is he struggling?" We imagine that Danilo Hondo is probably having a difficult time of it today.

If, on the other hand, Bob means Danilo Di Luca, we can report that he is still near the head of the field and seems to be riding as smoothly as ever.

14:44 CEST   
Will Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) do something today? "Definitely, definitely," he said to Gregor Brown in Arabba's Piazzale Funivia. "A day for the lions and not the lambs."

"A bunch of lambs," is how the two-time Giro winner critically described his rivals yesterday. "I tried, the team worked, maybe I was the first to attack. Behind they were scared."

14:47 CEST    87km/66km to go
Bettini looks to be losing touch with the breakaway group as they start up the next climb, holding on to that 2'18 lead.

14:48 CEST   
And a rider has taken off out of the escape group: Fortunato Baliani tries his way up alone. He has already built up a tidy little lead.

14:51 CEST    89km/64km to go
Baliani has 20 seconds over his former companions Miholjevic has also dropped off the back.

14:52 CEST   
Practically the whole LPR team is up at the front, pulling the pink jersey up this longest climb of the day.

14:53 CEST   
Gregor Brown informs us that the Passo Giau was the Cima Coppi (or highest climb) in 1973, the year Merckx held the maglia rosa start to end. Most of the riders in the race today weren't even born then.

14:55 CEST   
We finally see the gruppetto, which Erik Zabel is leading, but we don't know how far back they are. Sella and Rodriguez have now joined Baliani in the lead, and they are 2'42 ahead of the main field.

14:56 CEST   
Liquigas has moved into the lead work, with Wegelius and Pellizotti leading the charge.

14:56 CEST   
Kiryienka falls off the back of the main field.

Current race situation

  • Vladimir Karpets and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Fortunato Baliani and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld), Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas), Jens Voigt (Team CSC) and Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Peloton at 2.42

15:01 CEST    91km/62km to go
The breakaway group has shattered on this climb. Baliani, Sella and and Rodriguez are 25 seconds ahead of Petrov, who is ahead of Cárdenas, Miholjevic and Voigt, with Bettini 1'20 behind.

15:03 CEST   
The field has split too. Liquigas continues to lead a group with Contador and Di Luca. The maglia rosa has fallen back and is leading a chase group.

15:06 CEST    94km/59km to go
Klöden is in trouble and falling off the back of the favourite's group. They catch Bettini.

15:09 CEST    94km/59km to go
Karpets has also been absorbed back into the field, which seems to be 2'30 seconds behind the three leaders. The maglia rosa is now 3'50 behind.

15:10 CEST   
Keith asks where the three Astana favourites are. Contador is definitely in the favourite's group which is giving chase, we think that Leipheimer is in it too, and when last seen, Klöden was fighting to hang on to it.

15:11 CEST   
Pellizotti has attacked. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare) are ahead of the Di Luca group.

15:11 CEST   
CSC's German "escape artist" Jens Voigt has been caught now, too.

15:14 CEST    98km/55km to go
There is about a 10-man group giving chase. We only see one Astana jersey in there, but can't read any numbers.

15:15 CEST   
Bruseghin is leading that group, while Wegelius is losing contact with it.

15:16 CEST   
Contador is in the group, as is Matthew Lloyd, Riccardo Riccò.

15:17 CEST   
Di Luca attacks!

15:19 CEST   
He doesn't really get away, but the group is being pulled apart.

Current race situation

  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Fortunato Baliani and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), at 1.18
  • Group with Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale), Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) at 1.40
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 3.42

15:21 CEST   
Contador now takes off powering his way ahead. He is not pulling away but joined by Bruseghin, Cuapio and others.

15:22 CEST   
Bosisio is alone, trying to make his way up the long climb.

15:23 CEST   
The three leaders are approaching the top, all wearing jackets, which is no surprise, as they are surrounded by snow fields up her near the summit.

15:28 CEST   
Gregor Brown gives us some bad news for the riders: it is raining at the finish.

15:30 CEST   
Bosisio crossed the mountaintop 4'35 down. We think that he is in a group with Klöden.

And it is raining not just in the finale but also is in this descent.

15:31 CEST   
Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), from the south of Italy, said to Gregor Brown at the start, "The squad's morale is good and I will try to build on that today. I will try to remain with the favourites and try again."

15:32 CEST   
Sella, Baliani, Rodriguez – that is how the mountain points were awarded.

15:33 CEST    108km/45km to go
The favourite's group goes down the hairpin curves – torn between wanting to make as much time as possible but also wanting to not crash!

15:34 CEST   
They are zipping along at 70 km/hour on this downhill.

15:35 CEST   
They are probably a little slower now, as they hit some more hairpin curves. Up front, Sella gets a snack from the team car.

15:38 CEST   
Now the riders in the favourite's group are all getting refreshments from their team cars It must be a flattish section here. They are still 2'15 back.

15:39 CEST   
They just need to build up their strength a bit before starting up the next little bump in the road, the Cat. II Passo Falzargo. They go another 10.3 km up, with a friendlier gradient of 5.7% – not that it will make much difference for the suffering gruppetto.

15:42 CEST   
Nibali has attacked and taken Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio with him. Nibali is only 2.09 back in GC.

15:45 CEST    113km/40km to go
Lampre is now leading the chase. Bruseghin is still in the group, and his team-mate is pulling strongly. Pellizotti looks good. Contador is in the back of the group. It looks like Voigt is still there as well.

The leaders pass the 40km to go sign.

Current race situation

  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Fortunato Baliani and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare) at 1.20
  • Group of 15 including Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) at 2.01
  • Alessandro Spezialetti (LPR Brakes), Francis De Greef (Silence - Lotto) and Matthew Lloyd (Silence - Lotto) at ?
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 4.45

15:46 CEST   
Nibali and Perez Cuapio snack on their way up.

15:47 CEST   
The three leaders are now 1'20 ahead of Nibali and Perez Cuapio and 2'01 ahead of the Contador group. We expect an extremely exciting finale.

15:50 CEST   
The Contador group has gotten bigger. They may have added the last remnants of the of the former lead group, or some riders have caught up from behind.

15:51 CEST   
The favourites group is now accompanied by the Devil. Not the usual one, but one who appears to be wearing pink long underwear....

15:52 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca is riding smoothly but looks rather disgusted. No doubt he would be happier if his rivals were further behind him.

15:55 CEST    115km/38km to go
The three in front have a lead of 1'15 over Nibali and Perez Cuapio, with the Di Luca/Contador group 1'54 back.

15:58 CEST    118km/35km to go
The three leaders are nearing the top of the climb. Behind them, Contador is alone in the group. Not only does he have no helpers, his two co-captains Klöden and Leipheimer also could not hold the pace. Guess that answers the question of who Astana will ride for.

16:00 CEST    118km/35km to go
The Contador/Di Luca group hits the 35 km marker 1'56 behind the leaders. Nibali and Perez Cuapio are somewhere in between.

16:01 CEST    120km/33km to go
And Sella, Baliani and Rodriguez are over the top, and preparing for the final descent of the day.

16:02 CEST   
It is a 10.1 km descent. Plenty of time for all the leading groups to come together – or for them to fall apart.

16:04 CEST   
Oops, they are only now at the mountaintop. Sella leads the way, of course, followed by Baliani and Rodriguez in the rain.

16:04 CEST   
Nibali and Perez Cuapio hit the top about a minute later.

16:05 CEST   
Matthew Lloyd falls out of the favourite's group just a few metres short of the mountain top. The first in the group go through 2'02 after the leaders.

16:06 CEST   
It is a very wet descent, and cold. Not only is it raining but the road is very wet.

16:07 CEST   
The Contador group manoeuvres a hairpin curve in a tunnel. We hope it is well-lit.

16:08 CEST   
The two CSF riders have pulled slightly away from Rodriguez, but only a few metres.

16:10 CEST   
The maglia rosa is now 5'30 back. The Contador group is strung out, going downhill as fast as it dares.

16:13 CEST   
Sella now has 102 points in the mountain ranking. In second place is Vasili Kiryienka with 28 points. Looking at the remainder of the race, it is certainly theoretically possible for Sella to not win the green jersey, but that seems unlikely.

Current race situation

  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Fortunato Baliani and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare) at 0.58
  • Marzio Bruseghin and Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Danilo Di Luca, Jure Golcer and Alessandro Spezialetti (LPR Brakes), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Alberto Contador Velasco and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale), Francis De Greef and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 2.02
  • Matthew Lloyd (Silence - Lotto)
  • Group including Andrea Noè (Liquigas), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) at 4.50
  • Gruppo maglia rosa including Andreas Klöden (Astana) at 5.30

16:14 CEST   
Nibali has caught the three leaders. Rodriguez continues to be the last of that group. Perez Cuapio is flying down behind them in an effort to catch up.

16:16 CEST   
After this nice long descent, the riders can start thinking of the finish line and a well-deserved rest. They only have 13.3 km to go – but unfortunately those 13.3 km go up with an average of 8% and a maximum of18%. This is the mountaintop finish of the dreaded Passo Fedaia Marmolada.

16:17 CEST   
Perez Cuapio an now see the four in front. If he joins them, that would give CSF three riders in the group of five. What a Giro this little team is having!

16:19 CEST    133km/20km to go
Perez Cuapio has caught the leaders. Rodriguez continues to hang back one or two metres, but is not losing touch.

16:21 CEST   
1'44 back to the Contador/Di Luca group, which is being led by an LPR rider.

16:22 CEST   
We have been asked where Levi Leipheimer is. We only know that he disappeared out of the leading group quite a while ago.

16:23 CEST   
Chris of Summit County, Colorado, wants to know what the finish looks like. We imagine it is like what he sees out of his window. A long and nasty climb up, with snow all around (but not on the road) and with rain coming down.

Current race situation

  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Fortunato Baliani, Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Marzio Bruseghin and Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Danilo Di Luca, Jure Golcer and Alessandro Spezialetti (LPR Brakes), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Alberto Contador Velasco and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale), Francis De Greef, Matthew Lloyd and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 1.44
  • Group including Andrea Noè (Liquigas), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) and Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval - Scott) at 4.00
  • Gruppo maglia rosa including Andreas Klöden (Astana) at 5.41

16:26 CEST   
The favourites' group is taking the ascent carefully – what is the point of crashing and breaking a bone?

16:28 CEST    138km/15km to go
Piepoli has crashed and sits on the side of the road. It doesn't look like he will continue.

16:30 CEST   
Sella takes off again. He looks back and goes for it. Needless to say, his team-mates won't give chase, and the others in the group would have a hard time alone.

16:31 CEST    141km/12km to go
The leaders have started up the final climb, with Sella taking off. Di Luca now leads the favourites' group as it starts up, too.

16:33 CEST   
We passed Chris' question on to Gregor Brown, who tells us, "After the Serrai di Sottoguda the riders will enter the final demanding 5000 metres of this stage, with the most of the switchbacks coming with about 2000 metres remaining. The final two switchbacks come at 600 metres – a right and then a left – leaving a section of 15%. A left hand turn leaves the final 75 metres."

16:33 CEST    143km/10km to go
Sella is up out of the saddle and going for his second stage in a row.

16:34 CEST   
Rodriguez seems to have lost touch with his fellow escapees, as they cross he 10 km banner 51 seconds after Sella.

16:35 CEST   
This is actually a debut for the Marmolada as a mountaintop finish in the Giro. Who can forget Mexican Julio Perez Cuapio attacking on this climb on his way to winning the 16th stage in 2002?

16:37 CEST   
And the favourites' group hits the 10-km mark over two minutes back.

16:38 CEST   
Sella is up out of the saddle on a steep section in a village on his solitary way up.

16:39 CEST   
He is now out of town and going through a relatively flat section surrounded by cliffs and stone walls.

16:40 CEST    146.3km/6.7km to go
No doubt it looks flatter to us than it feels to Sella.

16:41 CEST   
Sella passes a beautiful waterfall, but has no time to look.

16:42 CEST   
The favourites' group makes its grim way up. Will someone try to break out or will they continue to huddle together as "lambs", as Simoni called them?

16:44 CEST   
They have now been underway 4 and a half hours, but it probably seems like a lot more.

16:45 CEST    147km/6km to go
Sella has a lead of 1'45 over this followers. He has to be buoyed along by the cheers of the many spectators lining the road.

16:46 CEST    148km/5km to go
The end is now in sight for Sella – will he be able to hold out another 5 km?

16:47 CEST   
Jens Voigt has fought to stay with the favourites' group, but seems to be losing contact now.

16:48 CEST   
Klöden leads a chasing group, but he is not in the favourites' group. He is further back.

16:49 CEST   
Pellizotti tries to get away. Di Luca and Riccò pull the group up behind them in chase.

16:50 CEST   
The man with all those blond curls can't really get away, as the favourites' group crosses the 5 km mark.

16:53 CEST   
The favourites' group is 3'33 behind Sella. Bruseghin falls out of the group. Menchov, Riccò, Pellizotti, Contador are all still there.

16:54 CEST   
Riccò tried to get away and now there is a group with him, Menchov, Contador and Pozzovivo. They are a few metres ahead.

16:55 CEST   
Pozzovivo takes off, yet another one of the CSF team. He meets and passes Baliani.

16:56 CEST   
Riccò goes again, followed by Menchov and Contador. The three pull away.

16:56 CEST   
They have caught Rodriguez and Riccò goes again. Menchov tries to go with him but can't. Contador doesn't try.

16:57 CEST   
Contador is catching up to Menchov. Sella is nearing the top now.

16:58 CEST   
Contador has caught Menchov, but they are not near to Riccò.

16:59 CEST   
Di Luca and Simoni are catching up to Contador and Menchov.

17:00 CEST    152km/1km to go
Or rather they are chasing. Sella has not far left to go.

17:00 CEST   
Simoni is about to catch Contador and Menchov. They can see Riccò, who is not that far ahead of them.

17:01 CEST   
Sella has an escort of enthusiastic fans who are running behind him.

17:01 CEST   
Sella continues to grind his way up, alone again.

17:02 CEST   
Simoni and Di Luca have finally caught Menchov and Contador.

17:03 CEST    152km/1km to go
Sella finally has hit the flamme rouge. Riccò is flying along behind him. Contador has taken off to catch Riccò.

17:03 CEST   
Menchov, Di Luca and Simoni are still together.

17:04 CEST   
Contador is getting closer to Riccò. There are many people on the road.

17:05 CEST   
Riccò passes under the one-km mark. He is only a few metres ahead of Contador, who in turn is only a few metres ahead of the three followers.

17:06 CEST   
Sella looks as if he is standing still on that difficult final steep section. But he holds on to his lead and has plenty of time to celebrate in the rain. This time he pulls his jersey up and kisses it.

17:07 CEST   
The three followers have caught Contador. Riccò remains ahead of them. Menchov and Simoni fall back.

17:08 CEST   
Menchov falls back further, while Riccò has a good lead over Di Luca.

17:09 CEST   
Pozzovivo had escaped earlier and comes over the finish line in second, just ahead of Riccò, with Di Luca in third. Simoni and Contador come over together. We assume that Contador will take over the pink jersey.

17:10 CEST   
The remains of the favourites' group come in one by one.

17:11 CEST   
Andreas Klöden is still on his way up, totally alone.

17:12 CEST   
Klöden catches and passes Matthew Lloyd. His team-mate Iglinsky crosses the finish line.

17:15 CEST   
We are still waiting for the announcement of the new GC leader. We will not wait for the gruppetto to come in, but hope that they at least make it within the time limit.

17:16 CEST   
As expected, Contador takes over the maglia rosa, with Riccò second and Di Luca third.

That was an exhausting day for all involved. But the torture continues tomorrow, with the much-dreaded mountain time trial. Join us then!

Provisional results

1 Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)                4.53.24
2 Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare)
3 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)
4 Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)
5 Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana)
7 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto)

General classification after stage 15

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana)
2 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)          0.33
3 Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)                     0.55
4 Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre)                       1.18
5 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)                        1.20

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