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91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 14 - Saturday, May 24: Verona - Alpe di Pampeago/Val di Fiemme, 195km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

13:55 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to our live coverage of the Giro. Today's stage starts in the city of Verona, know for being the home of the two most famous lovers in the world, Romeo and Juliet. But there won't be lot of love in today's race.

Things start out with two unranked climbs right at the start, followed by a nice long flat section of about 53 km, just enough to lull the riders into thinking things aren't so bad. Then they go up again, to another 14 km flat section. But at this point they are no longer lulled but have the Cat. I Passo Manghen looming before them. Up they go, and down again, to almost immediately start up the first mountaintop finish of this years's race, Alpe di Pampeago, Val di Fiemme.

14:03 CEST    78km/117km to go
Things got off to a quick start. At km 13, 10 riders got away: Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes), Emanuele Selle (CSF Group Navigare), Jose Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jens Voigt (CSC) and Charles Wegelius (Liquigas). By km 29 they were joined by three more: Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux). The group of 13 had built up a lead of 7'16 by KM 78.

14:04 CEST   
The stage got underway at 11:53 this morning, with four riders missing from the line-up. Not unexpectedly, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner), Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto), and Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel).

As always, our list of who is no longer in the race, not including today's:

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)

14:08 CEST    84km/111km to go
There is a snow cover on the hillside at the finish, but the road is clear and the weather seems OK. So that is a little piece of good news for the riders!

The lead is holding steady at 7'16. Back in the field, Saunier Duval and Diquigiovanni are leading the chase. Right now everybody is in the flat section, with the real climbing yet to come.

14:10 CEST   
We have had some dropouts along the way already. Rabobank's Graeme Brown and Saunier Duval's Luciano Pagliarini were the first to go, at km 50, and they were shortly followed by Jonathan McCarty of Slipstream.

14:13 CEST   
We wish a happy birthday to Australian national road champion, Matthew Lloyd of Silence-Lotto, who is turning 25 years old today.

14:18 CEST   
A lot of riders have left the race for one reason or another. Of the 22 teams, only six can continue to boast of a full complement of nine riders. Hardest hit is Cofidis, which has only four riders left in the race. Behind them are the two German teams, Milram and Gerolsteiner, who both have only five riders remaining.

Aussie champ Matthew Lloyd is celebrating his birthday. Can he celebrate like Cavendish?
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

14:21 CEST    97km/98km to go
It's lunch time now, as the escape group goes through the feeding zone.

14:24 CEST   
Astonishingly, High Road's Mark Cavendish didn't join the list of DNS's today. The 23 year-old has his eye on someday winning the purple jersey here or the green jersey in the Tour de France, and those require him getting over the mountains. "If I am too tired, it is not a case of not starting, if I am tired I won't make the time limit anyway. I will take the days as they come," he said.

14:30 CEST    103km/92km to go
Nocentini has a flat, but is able to get it fixed and back into the escape group. They are now starting up the first limb with a 7'35 lead.

14:34 CEST   
Graeme Brown of Rabobank gave it a try today, but didn't get far. The Australian has had a tough time of it in the Giro. Before the race, his DS Erik Breukink said, "He wants to see how far he can get. But in any case we are not planning on him dropping out."

14:37 CEST   
The escapees are starting up the third climb of the day, none of which has been big enough to be ranked. It won't be long, though, until the "Big Ones" are there.

14:43 CEST   
Our readers are full of questions and comments today. Peter in the UK says "Good to see Cav living up to his promise yesterday. Also, the recent world Madison was the most exciting event I've seen in a while.
Do you think Cav will make it to Milan?" Well, if we have to be honest, no, not really. But he will doubtless try and come over some of the mountains. If he is serious about his development and really wants to win the sprinter's jersey here or in the Tour de France, then he will have to learn to survive the mountains and make it to the end of a three-week race. Remember, he is only in his second year as a pro and needs to gain a lot of experience to go with that tremendous talent.

Mirko Lorenzetto has left the course – he had a bad crash a couple of days ago
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:46 CEST    104km/91km to go
Mirko Lorenzetto of Lampre is the next sprinter to give up before he hits the mountains.

14:51 CEST   
Astana's Alberto Contador just can't seem to get away from the dentist. “The day after the time trial he went to the dentist because of a piece of tooth that was broken. Nothing special,” team spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews this morning. It is not related to his previous dental problems. “ It is the other side of this mouth than his big problem during the Basque Country.”

14:53 CEST   
The name most often mentioned as today's favourite is Gilberto Simoni of Diquigiovanni, who won this stage in 2003 on his way to his second overall Giro title. The 36 year-old hasn't shown much this season, with his best finish being third in the third stage of the Giro del Trentino.

14:56 CEST    108km/87km to go
Simoni has said, though, that his is targeting this stage. “I have some good memories, even if there is a lot of strain associated with that climb. To be able to come out and win it would truly be a beautiful thing."

His team Diquigiovanni is leading the peloton in chasing down the 13 in front, whose lead has now dropped to 6'50.

14:57 CEST   
World Champion Paolo Bettini pulls a foil-covered package out of his back pocket. He unwraps a sandwich and starts eating.

14:59 CEST    122km/73km to go
It appears to be snack time for everyone in the escape group now, as Le Boulanger also has a sandwich.

15:01 CEST   
Will Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) go for a stage win? The USA rider indicated so to Gregor Brown at the stage start, in Verona's Piazza Bra. "I will take it where I can get it. If it is today, it is today.

"I am going to try today, if I can get into a breakaway. I think I have hurt myself a bit with being so high in the GC, I should have sit up. If they knew I was not going to take the GC so seriously maybe they would let me go a little bit easier. I will try. I will try to get up the road today and see what we can do."

Vande Velde was in pink early and is in the break today
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:03 CEST   
The peloton is strung out single file now, intent on catching those 13 in front.

Current race situation

  • Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux)
  • Peloton at 7.25

15:08 CEST   
Tim of Pacifica, Calif., USA, asks if it is wise for the GC contenders to let a breakaway that contains Bettini, Voigt, Vande Velde, Rodriguez get more than 7 minutes lead? Well, yes and no. The favourites are all safely tucked in the peloton with lots of helpers, and don't (yet) have to really do any work, so that is good for them. Those up front have to spend a lot of time in the wind. But on the other hand, we all know that a lot of escape groups have been able to stay away so far in this Giro.

15:11 CEST    114km/81km to go
Oscar Gatto of Gerolsteiner, who last year finished dead last in the Giro, has now dropped out. That leaves Gerolsteiner with only four riders in the race.

15:15 CEST   
Jim wants to know what is wrong with Robbie McEwen., saying "I had not known he was hurting and was shocked frankly with the stage 12 sprint, as he usually is unbeatable when he is so well positioned. Did not seem to have it." We don't know exactly what happened, but he complained of problems with his back and left knee. Remember, the "pocket rocket" has only one win so far this season, and at the age of 35, his age may be catching up with him.

15:17 CEST   
Diquigiovanni and Saunier Duval continue to lead the chase, but everyone is on another flat section -- the last one of the day, practically -- and the lead is still at 7'40.

Current race situation

  • Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux)
  • Peloton at 7.40

15:19 CEST   
Two canary-yellow Saunier Duval riders have moved to the head of the peloton now.

15:21 CEST   
What other names are being mentioned today? The usual suspects: Klöden, Contador, Di Luca, Riccò.....

Or will it be a mountain climber, who is not a threat to the GC, while the favourites stay close together to check one another out? Sella, Perez Cuapio, Rujano , Piepoli, are all possibilities.

Who do you think will take it, and who will take over the leader's jersey? Let us know!

15:27 CEST   
Do you think their "pure sprinting" ability takes a hit from toughing it out on these stages?, asks Phil K of New York City. Well, yes, probably. But they have to get through a race to get to the sprint, and certainly the three-week races are the most prestigious, so winning a sprint and especially the sprinter's jersey, is the ultimate reward.

Riccò already won - can he add another stage victory today?
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:30 CEST   
Two Caisse d'Epargne riders lead the escape group, followed by Bettini. They are slowly starting to climb now, with a 7'10 lead.

15:34 CEST   
If Team High Road looks a bit woozey today, blame it on Mark Cavendish. The youngster waited to celebrate his 23rd birthday, which was Wednesday, until he brought in his second stage win. The team was expected to open a bottle of bubbly last night. “We usually have a bottle of champagne for someone’s birthday but I told everybody we’d wait until I won another stage,” the little Manxman said. “Winning again is a perfect birthday present for me and for the team who did a great job.”

By the way, Cavendish is the first ever British rider to win two Giro stages.

15:35 CEST   
We had the day's intermediate sprint back at km 133, and the escapees took the points this way: 1) Le Boulanger, 2) Perez Sanchez, and 3) Sella.

15:36 CEST   
The peloton has hit the climb now, and they are all up out of their seats. How long before the first non-climbers start falling back?

Current race situation

  • Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux)
  • Peloton at 7.10

15:40 CEST   
The Paseo Manghen is a loooooooong climb, with the riders going 23.4 km. It has an average gradient of 7.1%, with a max of 15%.

15:43 CEST   
Peter in the UK hopes that Robbie McEwen gets back up to speed soon. "I may be a 'pom', but I wish Robbie all the best for a speedy return. Sprint finishes are a lot less exciting without him, and his knack for popping up out of nowhere."

The breakaway's lead is dropping on the climb, now down to 6'35.

15:45 CEST   
And here is what Peter of Melbourne has to say: I have no idea who will win this stage, but i reckon Contador will be watching the contenders and if any of the other contenders look like getting away he will cover at the very least. But they have a strong team. What about Leipheimer too? Then there is Simoni, Di Luca, Riccò.. hmm wish i was watching it now!

We appreciate Peter's honesty and admit we also do not want to predict a winner today.

15:46 CEST   
Attack! Attack! Barloworld's Cárdenas tries to make it out of the following group, but is soon caught again. Sella attacks out of the leading group and has more luck, building up a small lead.

15:50 CEST   
Rusty of Red Lodge, Montana, knows who will win. "Alberto Contador is going to show the boys in the maglia rosa what the guy who won last year's maillot jaune can climb like. He will take over the GC today
and if not, in the next several."

15:53 CEST   
Sella now has a lead of 30 seconds over Rujano and Golcer, who in turn have an unknown lead over the rest of the breakaway group. The peloton is 5'50 back.

15:56 CEST   
Daniele Bennati and Milram's Marco Velo are having a nice chat at the back of the peloton, making their leisurely way up the mountain. High Road's Adam Hansen loads up on water bottles for his team-mates.

Emanuele Sella (CSF Group) is on the attack and wants to get more green points
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:58 CEST    147km/48km to go
Sella stocks up on fresh water bottles from the team car. He has 12 seconds on Golcer and 30 seconds on the rest of the breakaway group. The peloton is 6'40 back.

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) at 0.35
  • Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux) at 0.45
  • Peloton at 7.00

16:03 CEST   
Here's an interesting prediction from Matthew: "Astana and SD are going to crack Di Luca today, Contador is going to move into the maglia rosa, and Savoldelli is going to take over team leadership on LPR and win the overall with the remaining TTs."

Meanwhile the peloton zips over a bridge over a fast-moving tumbling mountain stream.

16:04 CEST   
The gruppetto is forming, with Erik Zabel at its head. Their goal will only be to come in within the time limit.

16:06 CEST   
All of the favourites are still together in the first large chasing group. But the group is getting smaller and smaller, as it grinds its way up this mountain. The next to drop out of the group is overall leader Giovanni Visconti.

16:07 CEST   
A High Road rider has pulled out a few meters ahead of the chasing peloton. Possoni, maybe?

16:08 CEST   
Visconti, sporting a snappy white bandage on his left elbow, is now falling further and further back. He still has three team-mates around him.

The High Road rider is indeed Possoni, but now he has been caught again.

16:12 CEST   
Todd of American Fork, Utah, wants to know, Do you guys think that Levi will ride in an effort to move up in the GC, or will he put all his efforts behind Contador and/or Klöden?

We think that is a good question and that the definite decision as to who will end up being Astana captain has not yet been made. However, we would be more likely to think it would be Contador or Klöden. We also think that if Leipheimer is told to ride for his captain, whoever it may be, he would of course do that and not take off on his own.

16:13 CEST   
The first chasing group is about 25-30 riders now, with all the favourites still there. Sella goes his lonely way up, but probably doesn't have time to notice the lovely scenery -- woods and water.

16:16 CEST    150km/45km to go
Sella is now 1'38 ahead of Rujano, and 2'18 ahead of the rest of the escape group. The first chasing group is 7'45 back, and the maglia rosa has fallen to 8'15.

16:17 CEST   
Doug in Pennsylvania picks a fellow American today. "My pick is Levi, Astana has 3 cards to play. I doubt Levi's their #1 favourite or has the form to win the overall.I will take Klödi for the over-all, after winning Romandie and with the time trials remaining, I like his chances!"

16:20 CEST   
"It will be Di Luca...he is very keen to show himself, and will throw down the gauntlet...he's been waiting for this opportunity to unleash his fury for over 11 months. Beware the Killer! " says Adam. We assume that is not High Road's Adam Hansen.......

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes) and Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at 2.00
  • Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes) and José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 2.50
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 3.14
  • Peloton at 8.00
  • Group with Giovanni Visconti at 8.51

16:24 CEST   
Not a lot of changes in the makeups of the various groups, but the time differences keep getting bigger. Sella has two minutes over Rodriguez and Kiryienka, with Golcer and Rujano 2'12 back. Bettini, Wegelius, Nocentini and Voigt are 3'14 back. We don't have the time for the first chasing group but Visconti has dropped to 8'51 down.

The only Austrian in the race, Christian Pfannberger of Barloworld, has now dropped off the back of the chasing group.

16:28 CEST   
Sella continues to build up his advantage as he goes up. He is now passing a lot of snow, which fortunately is all on the side of the road and not on the road. Lots of spectators here, one of whom brought his dog. The dog was bouncing on the road and came dangerously close to Sella.

16:29 CEST   
Sella called for his team car and has now stocked up again on food and drink. He pulls on a thick jacket as he sprints to the top. with a lead of over 9 minutes!

16:30 CEST   
Contador and Di Luca are both near the front of the chasing group. It will be a while before they hit the snow fields and the top of the climb.

16:34 CEST   
Sella's lead is 2'42 over his closest chaser, and nearly 11 minutes ahead of Visconti.

16:36 CEST   
"The most difficult day will be tomorrow I think," maglia ciclamino Daniele Bennati noted to Gregor Brown this morning in Verona's Piazza Bra. "I hope I can find a way to save myself. I hope there is a good alliance for the ride to the finish."

16:37 CEST   
Still 1 km to go up to the top for the favourite's group, which still contains 25 or so riders. They are now approaching the snow. We hope that the dog has been restrained.

16:38 CEST   
They are being accompanied by a young man wearing viking horns and boxer shorts, and nothing else.....

16:39 CEST   
Kiryienka went over the top as second and Rodriguez was third.

16:40 CEST   
No one is jumping out of the group to grab the last mountain points or try to get away. They are more concerned with putting on jackets and picking up something to eat and drink.

16:40 CEST   
And they finally cross the top 10'57 behind Sella!

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at 2.42
  • Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes) at 3.00
  • José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 3.40
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 5.28
  • Peloton at 10.57
  • Group with Giovanni Visconti at 12.43

16:43 CEST   
Sella crouches down and flies down the mountain alone.

Doug in Pennsylvania doesn't know who will win today, but he has his eye on the overall story. "
Seems like as usual the GC will play out on the last climb. Contador does not need to attack. He will follow wheels. I'm not sure if Klöden or Leipheimer can attack like Contador can... They are both strong riders... maybe they can pull away and keep going... Leipheimer would be the first one to attack if Astana wants to attack at all today... Then Klöden gives it a go... Of course all the contenders will keep a close eye. My dream is the Astana train uphill and they finish together and go 1-2-3 on GC then it's game over."

16:44 CEST   
Maglia rosa Visconti crossed the mountaintop nearly two minutes behind the favourite's group at 12'45.

16:46 CEST   
Geoff wants to know where Vande Velde is, and coincidentally we know the answer to that one. He crossed the line exactly six minutes behind Sella.

16:48 CEST   
We heartily endorse the view of Chip of Portland, Oregon, who asks, "When, WHEN, will stupid humans stop doing stupid human tricks like bringing dogs to cycling events??? No matter how sedate the pet is ," I don't understand, he never acts like this at home" all the excitement can only serve to agitate the animal, because at its core it is still an ANIMAL. Be a responsible pet owner and leave it at HOME. There, I said it. Contador all the way."

What was that saying from Hill Street Blues? "Let's be careful out there, folks!"

16:50 CEST   
Sella is going up again. This is just a small "up", nothing serious.

Mike in Florida wans to know, "I noticed some team cars at the KOM, including Astana. Why would they park ahead of the GC group?" Most of the teams had soigneurs up there, handing out warm clothing, food and drink to the riders.

16:53 CEST   
Joseph thinks we need a dose of reality. "I think everybody is dreaming for their favourite. Sella is taking control of this stage Pantani style. He'll win today."

16:55 CEST   
"With a minute in hand above Riccò, Di Luca, Simoni, etc., does Contador 'just' have to hold their wheel in the mountains (and eat enough!), then wait for the final time trial?" asks Dirk d.V. "Don't the others need a minute and a half on him before the final time trial, ie. they have to gain 2 1/2 minutes in the mountains on him. So he has to hold their wheels."

Fortunately Dirk also realizes, "Much easier said that done. Glad it's not me!"

16:56 CEST   
Selle gets another visit from his team car. A long way back, the favourite's group is still all together.

16:57 CEST   
The favourite's group has turned on the speed, and it is flying down the descent in single file.

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at 1.50
  • Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes) and José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 2.55
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 5.28
  • Peloton at 10.38
  • Group with Giovanni Visconti at 13.14
  • Sprinters at 27.00

16:59 CEST    183km/12km to go
Sella powers his way through the town of Cavalese. He has a lead of apparently 27 minutes over the gruppetto. Are they in danger of missing the time limit?

17:01 CEST   
Now we know why Sella is in such a hurry. Gregor Brown tells us that the rider has set the date to marry his girlfriend Laura -- even though the wedding is not until June 8, 2009.

17:02 CEST   
Astana is definitely the favourite around the world today. Jonathan in Germany says, "Levi will be used to soften everyone up with an attack. Klödi and Contador will take turns pacing each other and hanging onto the wheels of the others who are forced to chase. Contador will kick in the afterburners in the last kilometres or so....Simoni will follow with Piepoli - Riccò will get seriously dropped."

17:03 CEST   
Dominic of Newcastle, Australia, picks Astana, too. "I'm pretty certain that today is a stage for one of the Astana boys to take. I'd say that Andreas or Alberto will try to put a bit of a time into their rivals. I'm pretty sure that each will be trying to put time into each other as well in order to become the undisputed team leader for the rest of the tour.

17:05 CEST    187,2km/8km to go
Sella starts his way up the final climb. His lead has fallen to 10'29.

17:07 CEST   
The final climb up to the Alpe de Pampeago is 7.8 km, with an average gradient of 9.6% and a maximum of 16%.

17:09 CEST    190km/5km to go
LPR leads the chase into Cavaelese, as Sella chugs his way up to the finish line.

17:11 CEST   
Simoni himself leads the chase. Who will be the first to jump out of the favourites' group to try and take some time of his rivals? Or will they all stay together today and wait for their opportunity tomorrow?

17:13 CEST   
The final climb is lined with spectators, who are enthusiastically cheering Sella on his way up. No dogs to be seen......

17:15 CEST   
At the 5 km marker, Sella had a 2'24 lead over his closest chasers, Kiryienka and Rodriguez.

17:16 CEST    193km/2km to go
Sella has almost completed his heroic ride. He is now being escorted by the Devil, who so often pops up at these mountain stages.

17:18 CEST   
Four LPR riders are leading the favourites' group, which now includes Iglinsky, who had been in the escape group.

17:19 CEST   
Sella is almost constantly out of his saddle, leaning up over the handlebars, searching for every ounce of strength he can find.

17:21 CEST   
Birthday boy Matthew Lloyd moves up near the front of the favourites' group, near Savoldelli, Di Luca, Klöden, Simoni.

17:21 CEST   
Sella has hit the 16% section and finds the going hard, not surprisingly.

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at 2.53
  • Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 4.55
  • Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes)
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC) at 7.10
  • Peloton at 9.46
  • Group with Giovanni Visconti at 13.14
  • Sprinters at 27.00

17:23 CEST   
One has to wonder what some fans think: why are the barriers there? To keep them out of the road, of course. Is that so difficult to understand?

17:24 CEST   
The favourites' group seems to have shrunk again, to about 20-25.

17:25 CEST   
We can recognize Di Lucas, Savoldelli, Klöden, at least one other Astana rider.

17:26 CEST    194km/1km to go
Sella finally hits the 1 km marker, but still has to work hard to climb up -- and to avoid all the "fans" standing in the road.

17:28 CEST   
Simoni, Pellizotti lead the chase.

17:28 CEST   
Sella disappears into a tunnel in the last 300 meters.

17:29 CEST   
The favourite's group has split, with about 8 riders ahead.

17:31 CEST   
Fortunately Sella emerged from the tunnel and still has enough energy to zip up his jersey and kiss his wedding ring before crossing the finish line.

17:31 CEST   
Kiryienka comes over second. Klöden seems to be falling off the back of the group.

17:32 CEST   
Menchov passes Contador. Klöden is no longer in the group, and now Contador falls off too.

17:33 CEST   
Menchov moves into the lead with a good ten meters ahead.

17:34 CEST   
Di Lucas has to let the others go. Menchov passes Vande Velde, who had been in the escape group.

17:36 CEST   
Menchov has built up quite a lead. Riccò is still in the group, while Di Lucas falls further back. But now Riccò can't keep up.

Pellizotti, Van Den Broeck and another are still together. Contador seems to be moving up.

17:36 CEST   
Simoni is the third one.

17:37 CEST   
Contador can't catch them. And it has started to rain slightly.

17:38 CEST   
Rujano crosses the finish line as fourth.

17:38 CEST   
Bettini comes over at 7'52, with a pain-filled face. The rest of the former escape group continues to trickle across the finish line.

17:40 CEST   
Menchov crosses, followed some 10 seconds later by the next followers. Di Luca is nearly 20 seconds behind him.

17:40 CEST   
Contador comes in at 9'40, and Klöden at 9'56. Leipheimer has long since fallen back. Not at all the day expected of the Astana Armada.

17:42 CEST   
Exhausted riders straggle over the mountaintop finish line, happy to see their soigneurs with drinks, jackets and welcoming arms.

17:44 CEST   
Visconti is wearing his pink jersey for the last few minutes. It has been 14 minutes and he is still not at the finish.

17:46 CEST   
Visconti makes his way up with two helpers. Does he maybe have a chance to hold on to his lead?

17:46 CEST   
NO, not likely, he looks exhausted and still has 500 meters.

17:46 CEST   

17:48 CEST   
Small groups of riders continue to come in. The pink jersey is still not there.

17:48 CEST   
He comes in at 18'03. He will no doubt also lose his white jersey for the best young rider, too.

17:50 CEST   
Now it is time to haul out the calculators and figure out who gained how many minutes against who and who lost so many and and and.... much too complicated for our simple brain!

17:50 CEST   
But it looks like it will be Contador, if we have counted correctly.

17:54 CEST   
It is not Contador! Gabriele Bosisio of LPR Brakes takes the coveted maglia rosa, ahead of Contador, Bruseghin and Riccò.

17:56 CEST   
That was it for today. The finale turned out to be an exciting one. And if you liked those mountains, just wait until tomorrow! The biggest question is, who will still have the strength to conquer the mammoth climbs Sunday? Join us again for Stage 15!

Provisional results

1 Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Group Navigare                      5.37.15
2 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Tinkoff Credit Systems
3 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Caisse d'Epargne
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank

General classification after stage 14

1 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          
3 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre
4 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott
5 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes

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