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91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 17 - Wednesday, May 28: Sondrio - Locarno, 146km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

13:57 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to the Giro. We hope everyone had a restful rest day and is ready for a short stage, which will end in Switzerland.

We have an interesting stage today, which is difficult to classify. The first half is mostly flat, followed by a hilly-rolling section capped off by the day's one ranked climb (Cat. III), followed by a flattish final 25 km with a descending finish. The question is: escape group or mass sprint? It is the last realistic chance for those sprinters who survived the Dolomites, and they certainly won't want their struggles to have been in vain.

14:02 CEST   
This is also an exceptionally short stage, only 146 km. It is the shortest regular (non-time trial) stage in this year's Giro, just beating out tomorrow's stage which is 147 km.

14:06 CEST    11km/135km to go
146 riders took off at 13:45, and a group got away quickly. Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff) and Yann Huguet (Cofidis) had built up a lead of 2'10 by km. 11.

14:11 CEST   
As always, our list of those who are no longer in the race to Milano:

Stage 1 DNS: Maximiliano Richeze (CSF Group Navigare)
Stage 2 DNS: Igor Astarloa (Team Milram)
Stage 2 DNF: David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle – H30)
Stage 3 DNF: Bradley McGee (Team CSC)
Stage 4 DNF: Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC)
Stage 4 DNF: Dominique Cornu (Silence-Lotto)
Stage 4 DNF: Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux)
Stage 5 DNS: Nick Nuyens (Cofidis)
Stage 6 DNF: Enrico Poitschke (Team Milram)
Stage 6 DNF: Kevin De Weert (Cofidis)
Stage 6 DNF: Rene Mandri (AG2R La Mondiale)
Stage 7 DNF: Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
Stage 7 DNF: Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux)
Stage 7 DNF: Aitor Galdos (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Stage 7 DNF: Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld)
Stage 8 DNF: Steve Morabito (Astana)
Stage 8 DNF: Sergio Ghisalberti (Milram)
Stage 9 DNF: Bingen Fernandez Bustinza (Cofidis)
Stage 9 DNF: Filippo Savini (CSF Group Navigare)
Stage 10 DNS: Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
Stage 10 DNS: Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream)
Stage 10 DNS: Steve Zampieri (Cofidis)
Stage 11 DNS: Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld)
Stage 11 DNS: Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 11 DNS: Geert Steurs (Silence – Lotto)
Stage 11 DNF: Volker Ordowski (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 11 DNF: Mauro Santambrogio (Lampre)
Stage 11 DNF: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Stage 11 DNF: Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis)
Stage 13 DNS: Matteo Priamo (CSF Group Navigare)
Stage 13 DNS: Fabio Sabatini (Milram)
Stage 14 DNS: Robbie McEwen (Silence - Lotto)
Stage 14 DNS: Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 14 DNS: Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 14 DNS: Koldo Fernandez De Larrea (Euskaltel)
Stage 14 DNF: Graeme Brown (Rabobank)
Stage 14 DNF: Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Saunier Duval)
Stage 14 DNF: Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 14 DNF: Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre)
Stage 14 DNF: Jonathan Patrick McCarty (Slipstream)
Stage 15 DNF: Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval)
Stage 15 DNF: Matthias Russ (Gerolsteiner)
Stage 15 DNF: Iñigo Landaluze Intxaurraga (Euskaltel)
Stage 15 DNF: Christian Pfannberger (Barloworld)
Stage 15 DNF: Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval)
Stage 15 DNF: Dario Cataldo (Liquigas)
Stage 16 HD: Raivis Belohvosciks (Saunier Duval)
Stage 16 HD: Mathew Hayman (Rabobank)
Stage 16 HD: Paolo Bossoni (Lampre)
Stage 16 HD: Christopher Sutton (Slipstream)
Stage 16 HD: Lander Aperribay (Euskaltel)
Stage 16 HD: Thomas Fothen (Gerolsteiner)

14:16 CEST   
Only 146 riders ended Stage 16 on Monday. Think this is a low number? Not necessarily. Here are the number of riders who have ended stage 16 in the past five years: 2007 - 143 riders; 2006 - 165 riders; 2005 - 158 riders; 2004 - 145 riders; and 2003 - 138 riders.

14:22 CEST   
Ignatiev has a good reason to get in an escape group and try to make up a little time. He came into this stage in next-to-last place overall, nearly three hours down.

Mikhail Ignatiev will try to use his time trial skills to stay away today. For now he has two companions
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:29 CEST   
Of 22 teams, only five of them came into today's stages with all nine starting riders: LPR Brakes, Caisse d'Epargne, High Road, Quick Step and Diquigiovanni. Hardest hit is Gerolsteiner, which is down to two riders, while Cofidis can only field a squad of four. Four teams are down to five riders.

14:32 CEST    32km/114km to go
The lead is now 8'05, after reaching of 8'10 a couple of kilometres ago. Apparently the peloton had remembered that the stage wasn't very long and if the trio with time trial specialist Ignatiev would get too much of a lead, they could potentially not only reach Switzerland ahead of the peloton, but even foil the sprinters.

14:43 CEST   
Which are the four teams which are now down to five riders, you are asking yourself. (Yes, you are, we heard you.) They are Barloworld, Euskaltel, Saunier Duval and Milram.

14:47 CEST    40km/106km to go
Liquigas is leading the chase, and the lead is holding at 8'12.

14:52 CEST   
We wish a happy birthday to Wim Van Huffle of Silence-Lotto. The Belgian is turning 29 today. He turned pro in 2002 with Vlaanderen-T Interim, before joining Predictor Lotto in 2005. Van Huffle won the mountain jersey in the Volta ao Algarve this year. He went into today's stage in 52 position, 56'22 down.

14:56 CEST   
Looks like the peloton is going to get a break with the weather today. The forecast is for 25°C to 27°C, and sunny! But the bad news is that the clouds are going to start moving in and the forecast for Thursday
through Saturday calls for a lot of the wet stuff to come down again.

15:00 CEST   
At km 42 the race hits the coast of Lake Como, which is of glacial origin. It is one of the deepest lakes in Europe (over 400 meters). The mild climate has attracted visitors for thousands of years. It has appeared in two recent movies, "Ocean's Twelve" and the James Bond film "Casino Royale".

15:04 CEST    52km/94km to go
The lead is now exactly seven minutes, as they all zip along in the sunshine.

15:08 CEST   
The race started in Sondrio, in northern Lombardy. This area is famous for its vineyards, but we doubt that the riders have had much of a chance for a tasting party.

15:10 CEST   
The Lombardy region is known for its rice dishes, including Minestrone alla Milanese,with vegetables, rice and bacon, and Risotto alla Milanese, rice with meat stock, saffron and cheese. And there is cheese, with Gorgonzola and Mascarpone being the best known.

15:14 CEST   
Let's take a look at the three escapees. Mikhail Ignatiev is the furthest back of the trio, as we mentioned. The 23 year-old was born in St Petersburg, Russia. His biggest success has been the Olympic Gold Medal in the points race in 2004. He had a number of successes on the road last season, winning the Trofeo Laigueglia and stages in the Tour Méditerranéen, Ster Elektrotoer, Regio Tour and the Vuelta a Burgos. He hasn't had any luck this season, though.

15:17 CEST   
The trio is now preparing to say goodbye to Lake Como and turn west at the town of Menaggio. The town first became a tourist centre in the 18th century and still features many old hotels and villas.

Liquigas and High Road are leading the chase, and the lead is still around 7 minutes.

15:19 CEST   
Ignatiev leads the trio on one of the rolling climbs of the day. Liquigas and High Road must have picked up the speed, as the peloton is strung out single file.

15:25 CEST   
Yann Huguet turned 24 earlier this month. He turned pro last year with Cofidis, where he brought in second place finishes in the Tour du Finistere and the GP Plumelac-Morbihan.

Danilo Di Luca can take it easy today
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:27 CEST    55km/91km to go
There's about six minutes between the leaders and the peloton. Danilo di Luca (LPR Brakes) and Andrea Tonti (Quick Step) are having a little chat.

15:29 CEST   
This just in: Australian Allan Davis sprinted to second place in the Tour of Belgium, behind Belgian Kenny De Haes. In a nervous finale, with Silence-Lotto taking charge of things in the final kilometres, de Haes knew when to get to the front, as the twisty, narrow finish didn't allow for much passing. Gert Steegmans finished third.

15:33 CEST   
Francesco Gavazzi is the third of the young leading trio. The 23 year-old is a second year pro with Lampre. His highest finish last year was third in the Japan Cup. Gavazzi was fourth in the Worlds U-23 road race in 2006.

15:36 CEST    73km/73km to go
We're about halfway now, and the lead is six minutes. The three are sharing the lead work as they go down a small decline. Behind them, the peloton is going up through narrow streets in a town.

Contador was relaxed on the rest day, but will have to stay alert today
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:40 CEST   
Liquigas leads the peloton, followed by High Road, which is, in turn, followed by Rabobank. Leader Alberto Contador is safely tucked in amongst his Astana team-mates.

15:44 CEST    76km/70km to go
Milram has moved up to help with the chase. The pace looks to be fairly high. Are the sprinters' teams afraid they waited too long? Will there be a mass sprint today or not? Let us know your predictions

15:54 CEST   
They are over the border! The peloton crosses from Italy to Switzerland, without stopping to show their passports.

15:55 CEST    88km/58km to go
The Swiss air is good for the peloton, they have now cut the lead down to about five minutes.

15:57 CEST   
And in yet another race, sprinter favourite Gerald Ciolek (High Road) won the first stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt, ahead of Fabian Wegmann and Karsten Kroon.

15:58 CEST   
That is the German youngster's first win this season. He has had to take a back seat to team-mate Mark Cavendish, who hopes to take his third Giro stage win today.

16:01 CEST    88km/58km to go
The lead continues to drop, it is now 4'20.

Mark Cavendish has a good year and is overshadowing Gerald Ciolek, who is winning, too. Today in Bavaria.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:03 CEST   
The day's intermediate sprint will be held in Lugano, which is, you will not be surprised to hear, on the banks of Lake Lugano. It is known for its tropical climate, palm trees and all.

16:04 CEST   
The peloton flies through town in single file, enjoying the sunshine and warmer temps. High Road leads the charge.

16:06 CEST   
Don't count out Diquigivanni's Danilo Hondo in a sprint finish today. The German has an extra incentive, as he lives in the Locarno area.

Current race situation

  • Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Yann Huguet (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 4.20

16:09 CEST    95,4km/51km to go
Gavazzi pulls away and takes the sprint points. He is not related, by the way, to Pierino Gavazzi, as Andy C. asked us. Pierino, too, used to win sprints in the early 80s and rode for (I think) Atala", Andy said.

16:10 CEST   
Aaron of London says, "I'm pretty sure Casino Royale was filmed in Montenegro, posing as Lake Como...not sure but think this is the case." That may be. We don't know We are a cycling journalist, not a movie expert.

16:12 CEST    96km/50km to go
The lead continues to plummet. The peloton passed the intermediate sprint 3'33 behind the escapees.

16:16 CEST   
Tom K. wants to know who is still in the race for Slipstream. That is easy to answer: We simply look at our much crumpled and marked up start list, and come up with: Julian Dean, Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar, Danny Pate and Christian Vande Velde.

16:17 CEST   
Speaking of Ryder Hesjedal, he thoroughly enjoyed the climb up to the Plan de Corones on Monday, calling it "spectacular! Easily one of the coolest time trials I have ever done.”

Ryder Hesjedal thoroughly enjoyed the time trial on Sunday, unlike other riders, who had complained
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:20 CEST   
Simon Ross of Quebec City, Canada, asked, "why can't the riders switch to a TT bike during a race, say 40km before the line, and try to go solo to the line? And if it is a matter of finishing the race/stage with the same kind of bikes they started with, couldn't the riders choose to start with a TT bike in those "small" stages like today?"

Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake tells us it's a good idea, but...It's against regulation to use TT bars. You can't have any extension forward past the handle bar. For a while, they allowed small extensions, spinaci bars, but banned that, too. It's for safety reasons, as in the TT position you have less control over your bike and with the bunch riding together, it would likely cause more crashes.

16:22 CEST    106km/40km to go
Alberto Contador squirts a power gel into his mouth. Judging from his facial expression, it is not particularly delicious. 2'55 for the leaders now. Looks like we will have that mass sprint after all.

16:24 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer is at the head of the Astana contingent around Contador. We haven't seen a lot of his distinctive USA champion's jersey in this race, not nearly as much as expected.

16:27 CEST    111km/35km to go
The leading trio hits the 35 km mark. Ignatiev pours a Coke out of a can into his drink bottle while continuing to go full speed. Please do not try this yourselves.

16:31 CEST   
The next moment of significance will be the day's ranked climb, a mini-mountain by the name of Passo di Monte Ceneri. It's maximum gradient is 7% but the average is all of 1.7%.

16:31 CEST   
It's too much for Huguet, though. He falls back on the way up.

16:33 CEST    112.7km/33.3km to go
Gavazzi takes the mountain points ahead of Ignatiev. We do not think that he will prove to be a threat to King of the Mountains jersey holder Emanuele Sella, though.

16:33 CEST   
The peloton is now on its way up, with Liquigas and High Road still in the lead.

16:34 CEST   
And they cross the line only 1'56 later!

16:35 CEST   
Ignatiev and Gavazzi take the descent. Huguet will probably be absorbed by the peloton soon.

16:36 CEST   
There is an other Gavazzi in the peloton, Peter C. of Belgium tells us. "And by coincidence he rode in the top 10 of today's stage in the Tour of Belgium. His name: Mattia Gavazzi, he rides for Preti Mangimi. He is related to Pierino Gavazzi (who has won 4 stages in the Tour of Italy, and 3 times Italian national champion, and also Milan-Sanremo)."

16:39 CEST   
Santiago of Canada is picking Mark Cavendish in a mass sprint today, while Tom A. of the Netherlands hopes for World Champ Bettini to take it. Jacos of the Netherlands is crossing his fingers for the escapees.

16:40 CEST   
The peloton is flying down this descent, more unorganised than not. They just all successfully made their way around a switchback.

16:41 CEST    121km/25km to go
1'55 for Ignatiev and Gavazzi. Now that the descent is over, High Road and Liquigas move back to the head of the chasing field.

16:42 CEST   
Huguet is now back in the peloton.

16:43 CEST   
Ignatiev decides to try it on his own, and zips around Gavazzi. The Italian does not try to follow, or cannot.

16:46 CEST   
Bianchi Bob of Texas wants to know what is up with Danilo Di Luca and whether he "can come back from the Mountain TT fiasco?" Well, he certainly will give it a try. He said today, "It's not over. I will attack."

16:47 CEST   
The stage is expected to sprint to an end in Locarno, which is, believe it or not, on the shore of yet another lake, Lake Maggiore. Locarno is noted for its 1 : 1,000,000,000 scale model of the Solar System.

16:49 CEST    125km/21km to go
Ignatiev is giving it his all, 15 seconds ahead of Gavazzi and 1'30 ahead of the peloton.

16:50 CEST   
Gavazzi is now being passed back within the peloton.

16:53 CEST    131km/15km to go
High Road does a team time trial and has cut the lead to 1'21. Will Cavendish be able to profit from his team's work?

16:55 CEST   
Diquigiovanni moves up near the head of the field, keeping sprinter Danilo Hondo in mind.

16:56 CEST   
Ignatiev is leading over his handlebars, his gaze concentrated on the road in front of him. Will he actually be able to pull this off and fool the sprinters' teams?

16:58 CEST   
1'05 now for Ignatiev.

Glen in South Africa writes us from his desk at work and asks, What does "HD" in the list of those no longer in the race stand for ? That is those who missed the time cut in Monday's time trial.

16:59 CEST    136km/10km to go
It is down to 45 seconds for the leader. Will they reel him in soon or let him dangle a bit longer?

17:01 CEST   
Szalay hopes that Ignatiev will make it through to the end, saying Tinkoff deserves it.

17:02 CEST   
Liquigas, Milram, High Road -- the usual suspects are leading the peloton. It is now 30 seconds.

Current race situation

  • Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Peloton at 0.40

17:03 CEST   
Ignatiev continues on his desperate way. Thanks to the turns in this city route the peloton doesn't yet see him.

17:04 CEST   
The peloton passes along the lakeside and can now see Ignatiev.

17:05 CEST    141km/5km to go
19 seconds, and Jens Voigt shoots out of the peloton!

17:06 CEST   
High Road is not thrilled by Voigt's attack and goes after him. He is already caught. and Ignatiev is caught, too.

17:06 CEST   
Noè leads a pack of rival High Road riders at the head of the pack.

17:07 CEST   
Noè falls back and High Road takes over again.

17:07 CEST   
High Road is putting on so much speed that it is pulling the field apart.

17:08 CEST   
This is a narrow, curvy city course. Wiggins takes over the lead work.

17:09 CEST    145km/1km to go
Bettini and Zabel near the front.

17:09 CEST   
Ongarato tries to break up the High Road train but they fight back. A left hand turn,..

17:10 CEST   
Another left turn, Greipel leads out for Cavendish and Greipel wins!

17:11 CEST   
Cavendish held himself back and let his helper take the stage win!

17:11 CEST   
Cavendish let Greipel go and stayed in front of Bennati, keeping him from taking the win.

17:12 CEST   
Well, that was certainly an unexpected finish but an incredible show of team spirit. For those who asked: HD stands for hors délai. It means they missed the time cut, which was 25% of the winner's time in the time trial. What will tomorrow bring? Join us again and let's find out!

Provisional results

1 André Greipel (Ger) Team High Road
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team High Road
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
5 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana

General classification after stage 16

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana)
2 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)                0.41
3 Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni)        1.21
4 Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre)                             2.00
5 Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)                          2.05
6 Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)
7 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto)

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