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83rd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 13 - June 4, 2000

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Stage 13 - May 27: Feltre to Selva Val Gardena, 195 km

Casagrande maintains his cool while others crack

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

A nine man break left the peloton behind with 92 kilometers to go, and with 50 k's to go, the group is down to seven. Chepe Gonzales from Aguardiente Selle Italia, Ricardo Ochoa and Jose Javier Gomez from Kelme, Dimitri Konyshev from Fassa Bortolo, still in the maglia ciclamina, Tomas Brozyna from Banesto, Vladimir Douma from Panaria and Richardo Nocentini from Mapei are the riders in the lead at the ascent of Passo Fedaia, also known to the riders as 'Marmolada'. They have already passed over one cat 1 climb, and before the day is over they will pass two more. Does it sound frightening? It did to Mario Cipollini, so not surprisingly the big headed sprinter is no longer with us in this race.

The main group of riders follow at 1.30, but there are also riders in between them. Riders that have been dropped from the front group, but also riders on their way up to it. Roberto Conti from Vini Caldirola is setting the pace in the peloton, or what's left of it, in favour of Francesco Casagrande. All the favourites are there, right behind Casagrande. Chicken-blonde Tonkov, Wladimir Belli, Stefano Garzelli and Gotti. No sign of Di Luca though.

Ivan Basso, team leader of Amica Chips, Orlando Rodrigues from Banesto, Andrea Peron from Fassa Bortolo, Mariano Piccoli from Lampre, Santi Blanco from Vitalicio Seguros, Axel Merckx and Paolo Lanfranchi from Mapei and Alvaro Gonzales de Galdeano from Vitalicio Seguros are the riders in between the leaders and the peloton. Roberto Conti is closing in very quickly on them though, so they have to leave the fading group to survive.

Tomas Brozyna, JJ Gomez and Chepe Gonzales break away from the others, or let's say they have the best legs right now, the others just can't follow. Paolo Lanfranchi and Santi Blanco are the closest chasing riders, so you can see that some changes are going to take place soon. Conti will bring the small groups back, and a new group of climbers will form. Better climbers. Douma and Konyshev are caught, and so is Nocentini. All the riders further up the road are in striking distance as Conti says goodbye and hands over the almost empty road to Casagrande.

Casagrande instantly rises the speed, in order to lose as many riders as possible. Gilberto Simoni from Lampre sits in the group, as does Leonardo Piepoli from Banesto, Wladimir Belli, Stefano Garzelli, Dario Frigo from Fassa Bortolo, Ivan Gotti and Hernan Buenahora from Aguardiente Selle Italia. Tonkov is no longer with them, he is having a hard time. Lanfranchi drops back with Tonkov, but he is not able to follow his team mate. Tonkov has probably blown it for today.

Stefano Garzelli moves away from the front group together with Francesco Casagrande. Ivan Gotti manages to follow, but while Stefano and Francesco are climbing aggressivly and smooth, Gotti's style leaves much to wish for. Oh well, as long as it works...

Casagrande looks behind, it is certainly cleaned up now. Dario Frigo is chasing on his own further down the road. Santi Blanco is one of the riders who were ahead when Garzelli and Casagrande attacked, but he is now caught and passed by them, while he could be of some use to Frigo who follows after them. Garzelli is starting to look a bit tired, is it temporary or will he blow? Casagrande rides to kill them both, and Gotti lets a gap grow in front of him. With a huge effort, Gotti gets back on Garzelli's wheel, but right now Casagrande is the strongest rider no doubt. Santi Blanco has to let go of Dario Frigo, who has started to recover now. He is climbing really well here.

Tonkov is already thirty seconds behind Francesco Casagrande who is trying to make his way through a wall of hands that wants to push, grab and touch the maglia rosa. The same hands are pushing Dario Frigo to wuthering heights.

Gotti has to let go just before the mountain prize. Saved by the bell, he passes the line 30 metres after Francesco and Stefano. Frigo's at twenty seconds. Garzelli almost causes Gotti to hit the deck when he throws his bidon into the little Italian's wheel. Gotti didn't see it, that makes for a calm descent then.

The road down the mountain is of the fast type with almost no serpentines, just endeless foggy valleys wherever you look. Hernan Buenahora, Santi Blanco, Wladimir Belli, Gilberto Simoni and Piepoli follows at about a minutes distance. Danilo di Luca passes the summit two minutes after the leaders. Frigo has reached the three leaders, and the chasing group which now also contains Tonkov, is about to join the leaders. Savoldelli is a part of that group as well.

Casagrande is in charge of the speed, and it's nothing else but top speed. Paolo Lanfranchi gave everything he had together with Chann McRae to get Tonkov back up with the leaders, and just when the climb of Passo Sella starts, he is there, but they are no more. Jose Luis Rubiera from Kelme attacks right when the climb begins and with him follows Santi Blanco who has found an extra gear. Oh, they are tough on Tonkov now. He still has Noé with him, but lately Noé has not been riding exclusively for Tonkov. Especially not now when he attacks at a time when Tonkov is already in big trouble. Gotti chases after Noé, and the problem is over for now.

Gilberto Simoni throws in a counter attack and Hernan Buenahora follows him. Stefano Garzelli wants to do the same, but hey, Casagrande ain't letting him go. Savoldelli, Piepoli and Gonchar are having a tough time, but occassionally the pace slows down just enough for them to get their breath back. The spit is dripping from Buenahora's chin, as he chases after the Spaniards. Simoni has already reached the two riders up front, and man, he counters when he reaches them!

Garzelli attacks and attacks, but cannot get a major gap. Suddenly Casagrande decides to go, and now Garzelli has no problems with getting away. The one most likely to bring him back is in front of him. They quickly reach Buenahora who is able to match their pace. Savoldelli wants to get away from the group as well, Belli looks at him but doesn't react. Fifteen kilometers to go and maybe one or two to the finish. Rubiera pushes away a respectless fan. There's plenty of them. Rubiera loses some ground to Simoni. They are so amazingly high up in the mountain now, the scenery is so magnificent.

Blanco is passed by Garzelli, Casagrande and Buenahora on their way up. Santi Blanco seem to be on his way down though, but one thing about the Spaniards is that they never say die. Simoni is the rider who passes over the summit first. Blanco hangs on behind Casagrande & Co for dear life. Savoldelli who finally got away from the little chasing group passes over the summit of Passo Sella 1.10 after the leaders. Is the gap too big for Il Falco to bring back on the descent?

Rubiera has caught up with Simoni again, there is five kilometers of downhill racing before the finish. Casagrande, Garzelli, Buenahora and Blanco are fifty seconds behind. Savoldelli on the other hand has already forgotten about the killing climbs, and seem to wonder why he didn't bring a 55x9 for this part of the road. With or without it, he reaches Casagrande's group.

The road goes up in a little bump, and Buenahora is having severe problems folloing the others, Savoldelli grips his bars in the drops and tries to go away, again Casagrande ruins his day. His attack brought something good though, as it got the pace up even faster. Savoldelli is chasing the two leaders flat out. They are close, but Rubiera and Simoni are also close to the line. They have 48 seconds when they pass under the red flag, and it is much too hard for Savoldelli to bring back.

Simoni looks like he isn't going to sprint, he looks really relaxed. Don't wait too long, cause they are coming. The final meters are full of turns and Rubiera takes advantage of the last curve. While Simoni slows down, Rubiera speeds up and takes the shorter way through the bend. Simoni tries to sprint, and gets within a bike length of the victory but Rubiera won it in the last curve.

Complete Live Report

Welcome to stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia. On the first mountain stage four days ago Francesco Casagrande impressed and took quite a solid lead but lost all but four seconds on the TT the day after. So it's still an open race. The question is if not the more experienced Giro specialists like Belli, Gotti, Simoni and Tonkov spared themselves a bit for the tougher mountain stages. And how long can young di Luca go on? You will get some answers today.

Come along on the rocky road to Selva Val Gardena from Feltre. Three major mountain passes will sort the field out: Passo di Falzarego a 16.4 km climb at 5.49 percent, Passo Fedaia, 14.1 km at 7.51 with the last 5.5 kms at 11.04 and finally Passo Sella, 11.6 km at 6.45 percent, all of them at altitudes over 2000 metres. One rider is already sorted out: Mario Cipollini has done his bit, one day in pink and one stage won, his 30th in the Giro. He did not start today.

15.30 CET - The stage so far: Nine riders broke off some six kilometres before the Intergiro in Cortina d'Ampezzo: Brozyna (Banesto), Duma (Panaria), points jersey holder Konyshev and Peron (Fassa Bortolo), Ochoa (Kelme), Nocentini (Mapei), Valoti (Mobilvetta), Chepe Gonzales (Selle Italia), and Intergiro leader Guidi (Francaise des Jeux) in the blue jersey.

Guidi won the intergiro sprint ahead of Konyshev with two minutes to the peloton. The first climb Falzarego: Chepe Gonzales first ahead of Brozyna. The group was split here. We are right now in the second, hardest, climb Passo Fedaia. Five riders remain up front with the main field, 20 riders, 38 seconds behind. The five are Brozyna, Nocentini, Gonzales, Ochoa and a so far unidentified Vitalicio rider. A number of riders are also in between.

Casagrande attacks now, and he looks fine. Tonkov counters though and hangs on, and the rest too. Casagrande is alone in Vini Caldirola, Gotti comes up at the side to take a look and falls back. Psychology.

15.40 - Belli seems to be a little in trouble, and also Tonkov leaves a little gap on the lightest gear, he seems finished. Casagrande has only two followers now, it's Gotti and Garzelli. They will catch Santiago Blanco soon, the last rider from the leading group. Tonkov has got some help now from two other Mapei's but they are actually leaving him behind. He seems to have given up.

Casagrande, Garzelli and Gotti, in that order, passes Blanco. Casagrande looks cool. Garzelli looks in pain. But Casagrande has to do all the work in the steepest part of "la Marmolada". Frigo is also on his way up to Blanco. Garzelli leaves a gap now and Gotti is farther behind, but Garzelli comes back and also Gotti. They have problems now.

15.48 - Casagrande takes the mountain prize with Garzelli on his wheel, Gotti some 20 metres behind and Frigo passes 20 seconds behind and might catch them on the way down. Gotti is already on Garzelli's wheel before it actually starts going downhill. Tonkov passes with Noé. The downhill ride is quite straight and allows very high speeds. Frigo is still behind at 21 seconds. Belli is 51 seconds behind with Simoni, Buenahora, Blanco and others.

15.55 CET - Tonkov was one minute behind at the top. Di Luca is reported to be two minutes behind. Frigo is catching the top trio now. Behind them a bigger group is assembling. Buenahora, Simoni, Belli, Tonkov and some more Mapei's, probably Nocentini and McRae, and now Savoldelli is coming up, and he knows how to ride down hill. Gonchar is also along and the gap is 40 seconds. The group is closing in and might have catched them in Canazei in the valley.

16.00 CET - di Luca is 2.40 behind and will not be able to catch the front quartet, but the chasing group will. They are now down in the valley, latest report says 15 seconds. In the following group also Piepoli and Merckx and three Kelme riders when the next climb starts. McRae and Nocentini are left behind immediately. The group caught the leaders when the last climb started.

16.05 CET - A Spanish attack, it's Rubiera (Kelme) and Santiago Blanco (Vitalicio) who get a gap. Casagrande doesn't look too keen on covering so the Spaniards are left alone for a while but the little peloton, some 15 riders, going up Passo Sella. Noe´attacks back in the group but is caught and Simone counters. Buenahora tries to catch Simoni alone. Too far back right now: di Luca and Hruska, fourth and fifth overall.

16.10 CET - Garzelli tries an attack but then Casagrande wakes up and covers. A minute later Gotti attacks but Casagrande has no problems to restore order. The Spaniards are now 15 seconds ahead of Simoni and another 30 ahead of Casagrande's group where Buenahora tries again which doesn't bother Casagrande too much. Gotti tries again but Casagrande follows easily but the group is getting smaller.

16.15 CET - Garzelli and Gotti keep on attacking but Francesco Casagrande has no problems in Covering. Piepoli and Savoldelli are in trouble though and also Gonchar. It's a dozen riders following Casagrande now. Gonchar and Savoldelli are back again. But Frigo seems in trouble instead and is 50 metres behind with Rebellin and a Kelme rider.

1620 CET - Simoni is on his way up to the Spaniards now. He is eleventh, 1.44 behind, after a bad ITT but he is an excellent climber. He attacks immediately when he passes the leading duo but they tag along. Buenahora still ahead of the Casagrande group where Garzelli attacks but everybody is on. Question is when Casagrande will attack.

16.25 CET - Francesco Casagrande is the only one who can follow Garzelli. Gotti, Belli and Piepoli and the others has a gap up. Blanco is left behind in the front while Buenahora on fourth soon will be accompanied by Garzelli and Casagrande. Little Piepoli up front in the next group with Gotti.

It's Garzelli doing the job now. Casagrande waits and Buenahora tags along. Gotti, Belli and the others loosing ground and Savoldelli is attacking there, Gotti tries to cover but seems very human for the moment.

16.30 CET - Casagrande's body is rolling a little now, he looks tired for the first time. Noé has started riding in the third group for Tonkov, while Simoni leaves Rubiera behind approaching the top in the crowd. Thousands of people are clinging to the cliff sides or standing along the road. There is a narrow corridor in the middle of the road for Simoni to ride in.

Simoni takes the mountain prime, Rubiera second while Blanco is caught by Garzelli, Casagrande and Buenahora at the top and now Savoldelli is coming, he is 1.10 behind when the down hill starts. He is the one of the few that is capable of taking a minute down the mountain.

16.35 CET - Casagrande gets a gap for a little while to Garzelli on the way down, Garzelli who did all the job going up the mountain. Simoni up front is going for the stage win, Garzelli is a good sprinter and so is Savoldelli if he catches them. Rubiera has caught Simoni now with eight kilometres to go. Savoldelli in seventh is the fastest right now, and the motorcycles have problems following Savoldelli who has Casagrande and the others in sight now.

16.40 CET - The leading duo has 50 seconds to the followers at 5 kms to go but now they have Savoldelli along. A little climb now, Garzelli attacks again but Buenahora is the only who suffers. Up front the duo sticks together. In the group Savoldelli attacks with 3 kms to go. It's 48 seconds up now. Simoni will advance in the Giro now.

16.45 CET - Simoni wants as many seconds as possible so it looks good for Rubiera while the followers pass the km banner. Rubiera is not interested in any speed now so Simoni has to do the job himself and he even leads out for Rubiera but the sprint is uphill but Rubiera wins as expected. The pursuers come in with Garzelli in the front up the finishing straight 31 seconds down ahead of Buenahora and Savoldelli. The Gotti group is coming more than a minute behind. Gontchar first here at 1.28.

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