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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 20 - Saturday, May 31: Rovetta - Tirano, 224km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro d'Italia, which is absolutely down to the wire! With two days to go we have four measly seconds between Alberto Contador and Riccardo Riccò. Danilo Di Luca moved to within 21 seconds, using a bold downhill attack and local boy Paolo Savoldelli to make a difference. Today is another monster 224-km affair and if you haven't heard of the Mortirolo or Gavia yet, you will today!

12:08 CEST    47km/177km to go
We are 47km into the race and so far there is a truce between the 143 riders that took the start this morning. Mickaël Chérel (Française des Jeux) and Dionisio Galparsoro Martínez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) didn't survive yesterday, so we had to cross off another two riders from the list.

12:11 CEST   
The first 15km were downhill, but after that it was already a gradual climbing. The peloton isn't particularly crawling – in the first hour they covered 38.7 kilometres!

12:17 CEST   
The first climb of the day is the Gavia. It starts bat an altitude where most climbs end – at 1260m! You have probably heard it by now, but we'll mention it again just in case you were on some remote island the last few days: The Gavia was where Andy Hampsten made history by becoming the first and to date only US American to win the Giro d'Italia. He finished second on a stage marked by lost of snow. At the time the Gavia was unpaved, so imagine riding up 16% on gravel in the snow with a road bike.

That was like a Belgian classic mixed in with a high mountain stage. Can't get any better – or worse, depending on who you ask. Today, the climb is paved and the weather is not epic. The details of the Gavia are mind boggling:

Passo Gavia:
Length: 17.3 km
Elevation gain: 1358m
Average gradient 7.88%
Maximum gradient: 16%
'Bottom': 1260m
Top: 2618m

Andy Hampsten in the snow storm on the Gavia. Bob Roll call it the "day the big men cried."
Photo ©: Darcy Kiefel
(Click for larger image)

12:21 CEST   
Just in case you did miss it: Here is an interview with Andy Hampsten.

12:25 CEST   
The Gavia is also the point of the Cima Coppi. It is the highest point in the Giro d'Italia. At 2618m, the Cima Coppi is almost always on the Gavia if it features in the race.

12:29 CEST   
The feed zone today is in Ponte di Legno, at an altitude of 1260m. It has to be one of the highest feed zones ever in the Giro! Fortunately, they only take cold food like sandwiches and sports bars. They would have a really hard time keeping it warm up there.

12:32 CEST   
The second climb of the day is the Mortirolo. It is not as high but even steeper than the Gavia. It is one of the climbs where Marco Pantani was first noticed, in the 1994 Giro d'Italia. He was racing for Carrera back then. Remember when they were racing with the fake Jeans shorts

12:35 CEST   
The climb to the Mortirolo comes after 162 kilometres. Its numbers? Here we go!

Passo Mortirolo:
Length: 12.8 km
Elevation gain: 1320m
Average gradient 10.8%
Maximum gradient: 18%
Bottom: 534m
Top: 1854m

12:37 CEST   
When Davide Cassani was pre-scouting the Gavia earlier this year for RAI television, he got stopped cold - literally. Too much snow and he finished the ride in a snowmobile, sitting in the back and holding on to his precious bicycle. There just is no kidding with the Gavia.

12:41 CEST   
On the Mortirolo there is a Marco Pantani statue. It is fitting that he is looking behind him in the statue, as that is was what happened most of the times on the climbs. Pantani would go out of the saddle and put on a Lance Armstrong-like cadence.

The Pantani monument on the Mortirolo, where he looks behind to check on his rivals...
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

12:46 CEST   
The final climb is up to Aprica. Based on the previous two this could be considered more or less a joke, although if Di Luca or Riccò have Contador on the defensive, the Spaniard will not think it to be very funny. Another rider who lost his humour, at least temporarily, is Gilberto Simoni, who lost all chances in the overall on a typical off-day – a day many GC contenders are afraid of in a Grand Tour.

To avoid confusion, Aprica is not the finish. There is no mountain top finish today. From Aprica it's another 17km to the finish in Tirano, and they are almost entirely downhill.

12:49 CEST    67km/157km to go
The gradual climbing has had an affect on the average speed: 33.600 km/h after two hours of riding.

12:57 CEST   
The riders are about 20 kilometres from the feed zone. They will definitely eat all they can. The last thing a rider wants to get is a hunger knock – running out of energy.

Pantani was actually securing his Tour win in 1998 partially due to a hunger knock by Jan Ullrich. But of course without Pantani's crazy attack on the Galibier, the next-to last climb, he wouldn't have made a difference. Ullrich lost almost nine minutes and the yellow jersey that day.

Will Contador have a similar experience today? Or will he put himself in an even better position for the final time trial tomorrow? Will we see a Greg Lemond 1989 repeat, where only a handful of seconds will decide the race? What would happen if they finish with the same time? It may come down to the hundredths of seconds of the time trials!

12:59 CEST    73km/151km to go
Aha, LPR Brakes has decided to bring out the artillery. No more truce and especially not before the feed zone! Gabriele Bosisio has attacked.

13:00 CEST   
Bosisio has currently 14 seconds on the Astana-led peloton.

13:01 CEST    74km/150km to go
The latest check is 12 seconds as Astana doesn't want to repeat yesterday's mistake of letting LPR dictate the race.

13:04 CEST    77km/147km to go
The gap has now increased to 22 seconds. Maybe Astana thinks it's OK for LPR to let a rider go ahead. Or maybe they really are just tired! How exciting – in a few hours we will know what Astana was up to!

Current race situation

  • Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes)
  • Gruppo at 0.22

13:08 CEST   
Each year the "Pier to Peak" Half Marathon takes the runners from the beautiful seaside town of Santa Barbara in California up to La Cumbre Peak. 13.1 miles (21.1km) to the top at 3996 feet (1218m). Lots of cyclists also ride up there all the time. If you have and you think Gibraltar is steep, compare it to the average gradients of the Gavia (7.88%) and the Mortirolo (10.32%!). Gibraltar has 'only' 5.78%!

13:10 CEST   
Carlos José Ochoa (Serramenti PVC) was trying to counter, but he has been caught by the group again.

13:18 CEST   
The gap has gone up to 25 seconds. Astana is leading the charge with Assan Bazayev on the front.

13:19 CEST   
Bosisio has rolled down his arm warmers. He still has his rain jacket stuffed in the back pocket, but for now it looks like he won't need it. It is overcast, but dry and not too cold.

13:21 CEST   
Paolo Bettini said before the start that "yesterday was a very tough stage, also because of the weather. It was very cold. Today I hope it will be better." He added that "Contador has suffered a bit." He didn't want to comment of the war of words between Riccò and Sella. "I was cold. I wasn't there and I didn't know what was going on. I am not interested in that."

13:23 CEST    86km/138km to go
Bosisio is close to the beginning of the Gavia climb! Two riders are attacking the peloton. A Quick Step rider and one from Simoni's team.

13:24 CEST   
It is Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) and Andrea Tonti (Quick Step). They have caught up with Bosisio. Astana won't like it!

13:25 CEST   
The riders are only a handful of seconds ahead of the peloton now. Bosisio has been caught, while several riders try to counter. But now Astana is taking control of the bunch.

13:28 CEST   
Counter by a Caisse rider, together with a man from (PVC Diquigiovanni). A High Roader catches up with them. It is very confusing right now, with everyone trying to get away before the climb.

13:31 CEST    88km/136km to go
The riders have hit the three-kilometre long feed zone. But it is not relaxed, as there are still attacks. Nobody can get away, though.

13:33 CEST   
There are spectators on both sides of the road, hoping to catch a mussette as a souvenir. Currently four riders are ahead some 70 or 80 metres. It will still take a bit until a 'good' break is established.

13:35 CEST   
We have six riders on the front with 23 seconds: Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rabobank), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step), José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne), Francis De Greef (Silence - Lotto), Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare)

13:38 CEST   
Dmitry Kozontchuk is having a hard time, already at the bottom of the Gavia! He was gapped with Seeldraeyers , but the Quick Step rider was able to catch back on. Kozontchuk is struggling behind.

13:40 CEST    91km/133km to go
Contador is close to the front. He will like the current break better than having an LPR Brakes guy in there.

13:41 CEST   
Kozontchuk has caught up with the group. A Barloworld rider tried to go up as well, but didn't make it. H is passed by Alessandro Bertolini (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), who is now in the front seven. 40 seconds is what they have, as they tackle the lower ramps of the Gavia.

13:44 CEST   
Kozontchuk already keeps jo-joing on the back. He won't last very long. It doesn't help when people jump and have the climber's irregular rhythm. Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio is the next to go.

13:46 CEST    96km/128km to go
Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld) has moved up to the group, while Cuapio keeps putting on the pressure. Evgeny Petrov has caught his back wheel, while Seeldraeyers finds it too hard.

13:47 CEST   
Of course at the back of the peloton the first riders are losing contact. Cuapio and Petrov have now an good gap on the others. They are 28 seconds ahead of the peloton.

13:49 CEST   
No snow yet, but with the climb in its full swing, it promptly has started to rain! There goes the idea that maybe today is better, though the start was at a pleasant 21 degrees, with little wind and a humidity of 71%. Now, it's 100%!!

13:51 CEST   
Rujano is catching up with the front duo. It is less than 10km to the top of the Gavia. It looks as if the break has formed now.

13:55 CEST   
LPR Brakes has managed to get a rider up the road, with Alessandro Spezialetti. But this time Astana is attentive and has sent Antonio Colom after him. Charly Wegelius has also made the cut. Cárdenas and Baliani of CSF are the others in that group, which is half a minute behind the three leaders.

14:00 CEST    104km/120km to go
Three kilometres to the top for Cuapio, who is now by himself

Andreas Klöden (Astana) is out of the race. A big blow for Astana, as the riders head up the Gavia
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:01 CEST    105km/119km to go
BIG NEWS: Andreas Klöden (Astana) has abandoned the race. A valuable helper for Alberto Contador is now out of the race.

14:07 CEST    106km/118km to go
Les than a kilometre to the top and the gap from Cuapio to Rujano is 25 seconds. The Contador group is already at 1'30.

14:09 CEST   
Behind, the group with Colom, Baliani, Petrov is 45 seconds back, whereas the Cárdenas, Wegelius, Seeldraeyers trio points at 1'07

Current race situation

  • Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare)
  • José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 0.25
  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana), Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) and Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) at 0.45
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld) and Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) at 1.07
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 1.30

14:15 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) was asked before the start if he has still a chance to win the race. He is currently in fourth, two minutes behind. He giggled for a little bit, then said "To be honest: No." He added, "Yesterday I suffered." But he knows that the Mortirolo is the chance to attack Contador. And maybe Bruseghin is understating his chances. If he can gain just a bit of time today, he may get the psychological advantage of doing the time trial of his life!

14:21 CEST   
We don't know yet why Klöden has abandoned the race. Yesterday, he was pulling very hard for Contador on the climbs and in the flats. He did the lion's share of the work together with Colom. Colom is in the break still. We will try to confirm the reason why Klöden had to give up the race. It surely is a blow for Astana. Yesterday, Contador praised everybody about their performance.

Maybe Levi Leipheimer can step in for Klöden, but we haven't seen much in the second week of the US American. He, too, maybe suffering from the fact that his preparation was not at all targeted for the Giro.

Levi Leipheimer is behind Contador, but the last few days wasn't able to pull in the front
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:22 CEST    109km/115km to go
The riders are now in the neck-breaking descent. We can just hope that there will be no crashes on the wet roads.

14:30 CEST   
For the Belgian readers, yes, Francis de Greef was briefly in a break. But with the flurry of attacks and counter attacks after the feed zone he found himself back in the peloton. We don't know where he is right now, but we know he has a bright future ahead of him. Last year he was the Belgian U23 time trial champion and finished 10th in the World Championships in the same event. The 1.92m giant rides for the Silence-Lotto team.

14:33 CEST    111km/113km to go
Rujano has been caught by the group behind and in fact is now dropped, together with Petrov. Hence, the duo of Baliani and Colom are the only chasers of Cuapio. Cárdenas is two minutes back and Wegelius a further eight seconds behind.

The Contador group has shrunk to some 50 people.

14:36 CEST   
Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) noted this morning, "Either you you win today or you lose it, we will see on Aprica. ... The Giro is still open. To have the [pink] jersey today would have been an extra bit of morale and motivation. I am not lacking the grit and if I have the legs I will try again today.

"We will see, it goes how it goes. I hope it turns out like yesterday."

Current race situation

  • Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana) and Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 0.30
  • José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) and Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems)
  • Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld) 2.00
  • Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) at 2.08
  • Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step) at ?
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 4.54

14:43 CEST    120km/104km to go
After four hours of racing, the average speed is 30.100 km/h. Even the speedy downhill couldn't make the average go up further.

14:55 CEST    128km/96km to go
The Contador group is now about five minutes back. We are a few kilometres from the intermediate sprint in Bormio. Imagine that, a sprint in 1222m of altitude!

14:57 CEST   
Of course, Cuapio is the sole leader and will not have to contest the sprint. And Colom and Baliani behind will more likely try to catch the leader than to waste energy.

15:00 CEST   
Andreas Klöden dropped out because he is sick, Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer. "He has been sick for a week, but stayed in the race in order not to weaken the team. Yesterday evening it already didn't look good for today. He probably went to deep yesterday." He added, "Andreas has a respiratory infection. It is difficult to say now, but it could be a lung infection. He had a fever all night." Maertens concluded, "he was a super team-mate for Alberto Contador."

15:03 CEST   
The condition over the Gavia weren't as bad as 1988, but there still was a lot of snow on the side of the road. Cuapio in fact stopped at the top to put his red rain jacket on. It is better to be safe than sorry, as a downhill in those conditions can get very chilly very quickly.

15:05 CEST    134km/90km to go
Cuapio of course went over the sprint 'expo 2015" in Bormio in first, followed by Baliani and Colom.

15:06 CEST   
But now the chasing duo has become a trio as Baliani and Colom have caught Cuapio. That puts two CSF riders in the front group.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) is pulling hard in the break right now
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:10 CEST    138km/86km to go
A quick update on the situation after the sprint in Bormio: Petrov is the lone chaser, 2'30 behind, as Rujano dropped back. Cárdenas and Wegelius are riding together, 3'12 behind. The Contador group is at 6'00.

Simoni's PVC Diquigiovanni team is pulling like crazy right now.

15:12 CEST   
Rafel tells us that Contador was upset yesterday, because stage 19 was in fact 10km longer than it was supposed to be, according to the race route provided by the organization. Yes, we noted that, too. It's probably not a great motivator when your bike computer tells you that it is about time for the finish line, but then you haven't even started the final climb yet!

Current race situation

  • Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio and Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare), Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) and José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) at 3.30
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 6.00

15:15 CEST   
A big day for the German teams in the Bayern Rundfahrt: Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher wins the 25km time trial, and the leader's yellow jersey goes to Christian Knees of Milram.

15:17 CEST    150km/74km to go
Behind the three leaders of Colom, Baliani and Cuapio, there is a quartet chasing with Wegelius, Cárdenas, Rujano and Petrov. They are three and a half minutes back, while the peloton is at 6'00

The peloton is still led by Simoni's team, but also by LPR Brakes. The gauntlets are down.

The weather is still mediocre, but not too bad. Rain is on and off (currently off).

15:20 CEST   
Wegelius is out of the saddle, in second position. But the break seems to be waiting now for the fast approaching peloton. No need to kill yourself.

Riccò sits right on Contador's wheel. The Spaniard shouts some instructions in his radio. We would love to know what he just said!

15:21 CEST   
The Wegelius group is only half a minute ahead of the peloton.

15:24 CEST   
The riders are approaching Grosio. It is slightly downhill, going from 890m to 653m. No wonder the peloton is doing 59km/h. The break is on a flat stretch, four kilometres further, and ride along at 43km/h.

15:25 CEST   
Colom has still his rain jacket in his back pocket. Looking to the mountains, he may need it again before not too long.

15:26 CEST    149km/75km to go
75km to go and the bunch is still led by PVC Diquigiovanni and LPR Brakes

15:28 CEST   
Bormio is in the province of Sondrio, Lombardy. The population is about 4,200, but in the winter it is a lot more. It is well known for its skiing, as well as a hot spring spa.

15:29 CEST   
The quartet of Wegelius, Cárdenas, Cuapio and Rujano is safely back in the bunch.

The leaders are less than four minutes ahead of the bunch.

15:34 CEST    157km/67km to go
Daniele Pietropolli, Nardello and Bosisio are pulling the Contador group along at 55km/h, as they are getting close to the beginning of the climb, at km 162.

15:37 CEST   
The peloton is passing some ruins in Grosio, the Castello di San Faustino. Looks like nobody has done any work on them in a while.

15:39 CEST    162km/62km to go
The passage of the town Mazzo in Valtellina is very narrow, and there are a few cobbles (but Italian ones, not like in Paris-Roubaix). Fortunately for the break, there is a paced part in the centre. The three can pick the best line, while the riders in the peloton are required to take it as it comes.

15:40 CEST   
Maybe it was the cobbles, but more likely it was the Gavia that zapped Cuapio of his energy. He drops back and leaves Colom and Baliani on the front.

The Mortirolo starts!

Current race situation

  • Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) and Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 3.20

15:44 CEST    164km/60km to go
The first four km are not too bad, but then it goes to 18%!

Bettini is already at the back of the group, while the average after five hours is 34 km/h. It is still Simoni's team on the front.

15:45 CEST   
Simoni is in second spot, just ahead of Riccò. Ivanov is the only Simoni helper left. Savoldelli is dropping back!

15:46 CEST   
Sella is getting to the front, also with his rain jacket in the back pocket. Pellizotti is watching him and Van den Broeck is looking on as well.

15:46 CEST   
The road gets narrower, with the riders not more than 3 abreast. Leipheimer is still there. Maybe he has a better day today.

15:47 CEST   
Menchov is there, as well as his team-mate Ardila.

15:48 CEST   
Leipheimer is riding in second spot, behind Ivanov. Leipheimer can't possibly get any lower he looks like he is riding half a metre below the others!

15:49 CEST   
Baliani does all the work in the front. Colom will save his strengths for later, when he will be expected to help Contador.

15:50 CEST   
LPR has taken over from Ivanov in the front. Gustav Larsson and Karpets are riding behind. Gusev from Astana is having trouble, he is trying to come back, but has a gap of a few metres.

15:52 CEST    165km/59km to go
We are about 2.5km into the climb. The group is maybe 20-25 strong. One rider missing is Vincenzo Nibali. That means Pellizotti has no helper. And Savoldelli has already dropped back, too.

15:53 CEST   
Good news is that the sun is coming out. Will it stay like that? In the mountains you never know. Golcer is making the pace, with Di Luca in second spot.

15%!! It starts to get interesting.

15:55 CEST   
A fan is running alongside for a bit. The gap is 3'07 to the front, with Cuapio 1'38.

Simoni attacks!!!

15:56 CEST    166km/58km to go
Riccò follows quickly, but the rest of the group is attentive

Now Sella makes the pace. Contador looks good, controlling things. It is very, very steep.

15:57 CEST   
Everyone is out of the saddle, but nobody can make a difference, Riccò rides on the left, Sella on the right and Contador in the centre. What a race!

15:58 CEST   
It looks as if Bruseghin is in trouble.

Rodriguez takes off, with Pozzovivo taking his wheel. They have 50m on the group.

15:58 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) and Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio at 1.07
  • Gruppo maglia rosa at 3.00

15:59 CEST   
Ouch, it hurts. Di Luca loses contact! Van den Broeck also has trouble. Some 4km to go before the top for the leaders.

16:01 CEST   
Pellizotti also is starting to lose it.

The group is about 12-15 strong and includes: Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne)

16:01 CEST   
Colom has taken off in the front and rides some 15 seconds ahead of Baliani.

16:03 CEST   
A slowing in the front has allowed Di Luca and Bruseghin and Pellizotti to return. Van den Broeck is also there.

16:04 CEST   
Simoni attacks on the left hand side of the road!

16:04 CEST   
Riccò reacts and brings the rest back up. Riccò stays active on the front.

16:05 CEST    171km/53km to go
Now Sella gives it a go, while Di Luca, Valjavec and Bruseghin have lost contact.

16:07 CEST   
Riccò tries again, but gets caught.

Then it's Sella again. The two continue their little war of words from yesterday with a little war of legs.

16:09 CEST   
The group has shrunk to Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare).

Simoni is some ten metres back. They are 2'15 behind Colom. There are tress left and right.

Colom enjoys the road, which is mostly dry now. He will get to the top before the others and will be a good help for Contador later.

A topless (male) spectator shows that the temperatures aren't too bad.

16:11 CEST   
Colom is followed by the Mavic bike. The road is not too wide. Riccò finds out by losing it and riding off-road, but he quickly gets back on the pavement.

Current race situation

  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 0.40
  • Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) at 2.13
  • Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)

16:13 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) are chasing behind.

They pass the Pantani monument. "Pantani vive siempre", a banner reads.

16:14 CEST   
Di Luca is now losing contact. There goes the Giro for the Italian. Maybe he spent too much energy yesterday.

16:16 CEST    172km/52km to go
Simoni has made it back to the group, which is now made up of Contador , Riccò, Sella, Menchov, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo and Simoni.

16:20 CEST   
Sella is pushing the pace in the front. Contador looks in a better position than yesterday. Colom has 1'40 on the group, with Baliani still dangling in between. Colom is about 2.5km from the top. Riccò is the one who has the best chances now to unseat Contador.

16:23 CEST   
Pellizotti is leading Valjavec. Bruseghin is either behind or ahead of the two.

Colom rides through a ton of spectators, close to the top. He is 1.24 ahead of the group. Baliani is at 0.55.

Menchov is now taking a pull as well.

One tifosi runs along side Pellizotti and pads his shoulder!

16:24 CEST   
Bruseghin and Van den Broeck are indeed closing in again on the Contador group. A pink bicycle is on display on the left hand side. The switch backs at the top are occupied with people!

16:25 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 1.00
  • Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) at 1.00
  • Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto)
  • Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)

16:26 CEST   
This area cannot allow campers like in the Tour. No space to park them. So we see a lot of tents pitched on the side of the road. There are still those who want to stay in the mountains.

16:27 CEST    175km/49km to go
Baliani is now taken by the chasers.

Colom is riding over the top. He gets the Cima Coppi price.

16:28 CEST   
Sella sprints the last few hundred metres, so he can get the points. 40 seconds behind Colom he crosses the top.

16:30 CEST   
A spectator almost makes Di Luca crash! A push that was meant to be helpful made him swerve to the right and almost crash into the spectators. When he catches himself he checks on the idiot.

Di Luca crosses the top 2'00 behind Colom.

16:32 CEST   
Over the top of the Mortirolo, we have the following

  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana)
  • Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) and Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 0.38
  • Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) at 1.04
  • Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) at 1.36
  • Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) at 2.02

16:33 CEST   
The descent is very technical. Partially, there are meadows, but also still forest. This is important, with the semi-wet street this could be slippery in some of the corners.

16:34 CEST   
Not sooner did we say that as Di Luca is struggling through a right hand bend, narrowly missing the concrete wall on the left hand side of the road.

16:36 CEST   
Pellizotti is pulling a Savoldelli, passing the motorbikes left and right. The RAI moto can't keep up, s the Italian then does a Sean Yates, passing the cars so close! It was so quick, for all we know he may have gone underneath!

16:37 CEST   
Pellizotti is now in the Contador group! That was one nice piece of descending.

16:39 CEST    180km/44km to go
Colom is still pedaling ahead of the group, but he will now wait for the others.

Bruseghin and Van den Broeck have also made the second group. And Colom has of course not won the Cima Coppi. That was earlier, on the Gavia. He still deserves a prize for that ride up the Mortirolo.

16:44 CEST    184km/40km to go
We don't see Valjavec in the Contador group. Meanwhile, the Colom and the second group are at the bottom of the descent.

Karpets is catching up with Di Luca, which indicates the Italian doesn't catch up with the others. The gap is given with 1'08, but that may be just to the second group, not to Colom.

16:45 CEST   
Pellizotti is sitting at the back of the group, trying to hide his action: His right leg unclipped, he tries to shake off a cramp!

16:47 CEST    189km/35km to go
Colom is some dozen seconds ahead of his captain. He goes aero, but doesn't otherwise spend too much energy. The road is still downhill a bit, as the riders pass the 35km to go sign.

There are a few houses here, as they are on the outskirts of Edolo. They pass a short tunnel.

16:48 CEST   
Colom is back with the group now and immediately goes to the team car and gets some food and drinks.

The sun is out and Edolo is very nice, with the river on the left. The whole town has come out to see Di Luca win the Giro. They are a bit disappointed to see him some 1'28 behind, crossing the town with Karpets.

16:50 CEST    192km/32km to go
Sella goes! He wants another stage win. He attacks as soon as the town ends and quickly gets a gap. The GC contenders are thinking about another battle. Not the one foe the stage win, but the one for the Corsa Rosa!!!

16:51 CEST   
Bruseghin gets impatient. He moves to the front, then turns his head and makes a gesture, inviting the others to stop kidding around and get back to terms with Sella's attack.

Colom, happily chewing away on a sandwich, sits in second wheel.

16:54 CEST    194km/30km to go
Bruseghin continues to argue, now with Colom directly. Sorry Marzio, but Astana has different interests, no matter how much you point towards Sella, who is continuing to increase his lead. It's more than half a minute.

16:55 CEST   
Simoni counters!

16:56 CEST   
Colom tries to hand a banana to Contador, but he is busy arguing with Riccò.

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) at 0.13
  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana), Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) and Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 0.54
  • Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) at 1.28

16:58 CEST   
Neither Sella nor Simoni are a threat for Contador. It is up to Riccò to attack the Spaniard, instead of preventing him from eating his banana!

16:59 CEST   
The pink boy Contador even has a pink handlebar tape! Only his banana is yellow. But he won't be able to ride the Tour this year, to match colours of current food and Tour leader's jersey.

17:02 CEST    199km/25km to go
Simoni is trying hard, but can't close the gap to Sella. The road is twisty, but fairly wide. The DS of Sella is going ballistic. He hangs out the window and tells him the gap: "25 seconds . Andiamo!!! Andiamo!!" That wasn't loud enough, so he repeats: "ANDIAMO!! ANDIAMO!!!"

17:04 CEST   
Contador waves the others through to do some work. The group is a minute behind the leaders. Even though we are in no-man's land, there are barriers. No spectators to hold back, but it serves to put up banners with advertisement!

17:08 CEST   
Van den Broeck took a pull earlier, but now it is Menchov and Bruseghin. The latter is particularly motivated. Di Luca and Karpets are trying to get back to the Contador group, which has slowed a bit. It may be possible for them.

We are already on the climb to Aprica. It is so subtle it is hard to see, but the riders do feel it as they struggle along.

17:08 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare)
  • Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) at 0.54
  • Antonio Colom Mas (Astana), Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) and Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) at 1.34
  • Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) and Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) at 2.43

17:10 CEST    204km/20km to go
Sella is less than three km from the GPM. Simoni is already a minute back.

17:12 CEST    207km/17km to go
Towards the top there are again all the people of Aprica out on the street and waving little flags. Good thing that there are barriers here. No danger for Sella, as he passes the GPM.

17:13 CEST   
Simoni is next, but he will not be able to catch Sella. Over the top, he is already over a minute back. 1'10, to be exact.

17:14 CEST   
Menchov leads the chasers. They cross at 1'37. Riccò will have to try something. he needs a time bonus. But even with that, Contador may clobber him in the time trial.

17:16 CEST   
Di Luca rides along with Karpets, with some rock formations on the steep right hand side. Maybe he can come back for some vacation to enjoy the views that he is missing right now.

The weather definitely is cooperating now. Sunshine in Italy!

17:18 CEST    211km/13km to go
The flag waving tifosi cheer on Karpets and especially Di Luca. However, the Italian's face can't hide the disappointment, as the duo crosses the GPM 4'15 behind Sella.

17:20 CEST    213km/11km to go
It's an easy descent and allows Sella to go really aero. He virtually sits on his crossbar. The road is wide, with wide corners where you don't have to slow down.

Simoni turns around. He keeps going but realises that he will not win the stage.

17:22 CEST    214km/10km to go
The descent is very fast. Only ten to go.

Rodriguez has attacked out of the Contador group.

17:23 CEST   
Sella is still descending, the turns are now much sharper; real hairpins, as the altitude is only 500m an the air pressure starts to increase again.

17:25 CEST    217km/7km to go
This part of the descent is definitely more technical. The road is narrower, as Rodriguez cautiously goes down. There are also some wet patches, as we are in the forested area again.

Sella is already in the town of Bivio.

17:27 CEST    219km/5km to go
Sella passes the 5km to go sign. He will get his third stage win, as he still has a minute on Simoni.

17:28 CEST   
Rodriguez is closing in on Simoni. The time bonus may not be disputed by Riccò and Contador, then.

17:29 CEST    221km/3km to go
Bruseghin is leading the group, but they are just pedaling home now. It doesn't look like they really want to catch Rodriguez.

17:30 CEST   
Simoni grits his teeth. He really wants to get second place, but has to be worried about the Spanish champion catching up with him.

17:31 CEST    222km/2km to go
The road is now just straight, as the river runs to their left. Straight as it is it is more like a canal.

17:32 CEST   
The riders now cross the river. They make a left over a bridge, where many people have gathered. Then they go the other way, again with the river to their left.

17:32 CEST    223km/1km to go
Sella has entered the centre of Tirano.

17:33 CEST   
Sella makes a sign with his hands. 1-2-3. Yes, that's how many wins he has!

17:34 CEST   
Simoni enters the flamme rouge.

17:36 CEST   
Sella raises both hands as he crosses the line. A few tears are in his eyes, too.

17:36 CEST   
Simoni powers home in second, 1.04 back. Rodriguez gets third, at 1.21.

17:37 CEST   
Riccò sprints! He wants that 'win' against Contador. And he gets it.

17:37 CEST   
But drama behind, as Van den Broeck and Pozzovivo crash! The Belgian is not happy with the CSF rider.

17:39 CEST   
Di Luca comes in 5'26 behind!

17:49 CEST   
Di Luca dropped from third to seventh in the overall. He is now only a handful of seconds ahead of van den Broeck. Remember that the Belgian is U23 TT champion! So Di Luca may find himself further down in GC tomorrow.

Riccò has four seconds to make up on Contador, but the TT abilities of the Italian are not known in a situation like this. Contador defended himself against Evans in last year's Tour and kept the maillot jaune, so he has the advantage of experience. That and the advantage of starting last and getting the time checks.

17:53 CEST   
Well, another exciting stage, even though Di Luca now has to say good-bye to defend his title and Riccò didn't manage to get the pink jersey.

Sella shows three fingers on the podium, while Contador receives another pink jersey. He is smiling , knowing that he has survived one of the most important days in this year's Giro.

Thanks for joining us and ciao until tomorrow.

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