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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 19 - May 29: Bormio - Presolana, 122 Km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:30 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the penultimate stage of the Giro d'Italia, a mere 122 km between Bormio and Presolana. But this stage - especially after yesterday's 118 km Gavia/Bormio 2000 special - is no three hour cruise with a sprint at the end. After 33 km of downhill, the climbing starts with the Passo del Mortirolo (1855m), 12.8 excruciating kilometres at an average gradient of 10.2%, with maximums of 18% in some places. Then it's back down to 450m above sea level before the Passo del Vivione (1,827m) begins at km 70. This is not as steep as the Mortirolo, averaging 6.9%, but it's loooong at 19.8 km. The summit is at km 90 and is followed by another 20 km of descent before the final climb of the Presolana (1,297m). This is the easiest of the day's three climbs, a mere 7.9 km long averaging 6.9%, but after the Mortirolo and Vivione, this is not going to be pretty.

The Intergiro point today is after the Mortirolo at Malonno (km 64), a few km before the Vivione starts.

Today's stage will pretty well determine who will wear the maglia rosa at the end of the Giro in Milan tomorrow, and it certainly looks as though Saeco's young gun Damiano Cunego will take the top prize, especially after making everyone else look slow yesterday when he sprinted to the victory in Bormio 2000.

But Cunego's success has been his team captain Gilberto Simoni's downfall. Simoni hasn't really been at the same level as last year, and although he made a bid for the victory yesterday, he was caught by Dario Cioni, who dragged Gonchar and Cunego up. Simoni was on Cunego's wheel when he jumped for the stage win, and either didn't or couldn't follow him when he went. After the stage finished, Simoni turned around and rode down the mountain to the team bus without talking to anyone, a with a sour, angry look on his face.

As Simoni passed by Cunego, who was surrounded by journalists, Gibo pointed his finger at the 22 year old Maglia Rosa and angrily said "You're a bastard...you are really stupid."

It seems that Simoni, who really wanted to win the stage was peeved for two reasons. After the chase group caught him on the ascent of Bormio, Cunego rode too hard of a rhythm, which took whatever remaining "juice" out of Simoni's legs there was.

Then Simoni thought that Cunego didn't do a very good job of leading him out, and then further humiliated the proud mountain man by sprinting away for the stage win.

After the stage, Simoni and his wife left the team hotel and went for a walk after dinner, which is when Cunego then came down to the dining room.

Ouch. Unfortunately, Saeco has an embarrassment of riches in its team, and Simoni will have to ride extremely well today in order to take the jersey back. Don't rule it out though!

14:40 CEST    26km/96km to go
The stage started at 14:05 with 140 riders signing on. There were no overnight withdrawals. With the downhill start, it didn't take long for the first break to form. 10 riders escaped, with quite a few familiar names: Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua & Sapone), Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio-Bianchi), Raffaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia), Igor Pugaci (De Nardi), Mariano Piccoli and Patxi Vila (Lampre), Nico Siymens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Oscar Pozzi (Tenax), Oscar Mason (Vini Caldirola).

After 26 km, they have 2'32. The Mortirolo is coming in 7 km, and Wegmann will want to hang onto this group to try and pick up some more mountain points. Cunego actually passed him in the mountains GC yesterday, and leads by 3 points.

14:42 CEST    30km/92km to go
Another rider in this break who is on the hunt for a jersey is Rafaele Illiano, who is third in the Intergiro standings. If he can win the Intergiro (which means he has to get over the Mortirolo) then he'll take the lead from Crescenzo d'Amore.

The break is now on the lower slopes of the Mortirolo, with the two Lampre riders leading.

14:45 CEST   
Saeco is already on the front of the peloton, stringing it out at the foot of the climb with the break 2'30 up the road. This is going to be a tough day. But one of them - Spezialetti - punctures and has to get a wheel, so they slow down a bit.

14:47 CEST    32km/90km to go
Spezialetti chases back to the peloton as the breakaways take advantage of this and now have 3'00 on the narrow roads of the Mortirolo. This is certainly a nasty climb, and already riders are being stopped.

Bertolini and Mason lead the break at the moment.

14:49 CEST   
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported today that Lance Armstrong rode the Mortirolo yesterday, as he happens to be in Italy at the moment. He chose a 39x27 gear and described it as one of the toughest climbs he's ever ridden.

14:52 CEST    33km/89km to go
Saeco now has four riders leading the peloton with Cunego in fifth wheel and two more teammates following. They have reduced the gap to the 10 leaders to 2'40. The peloton has to really slow down on the hairpins, with Nauduzs at the back almost stopping.

Wegmann is hanging onto the back of the break.

One of the Saeco riders pulls off, his job done for the day.

14:54 CEST   
Piccoli has been dropped from the break now, leaving nine riders: Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua & Sapone), Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio-Bianchi), Raffaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia), Igor Pugaci (De Nardi), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Patxi Vila (Lampre), Nico Siymens (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Oscar Pozzi (Tenax), Oscar Mason (Vini Caldirola).

Like the Gavia yesterday, the Mortirolo is barely wide enough for one car to get up. The lower slopes are heavily shaded by trees.

Spezialetti is still trying to chase back onto the peloton, but they're not going to wait for him.

14:56 CEST    34km/88km to go
There are plenty of people out today in the bright sunshine to see the race go by.

The peloton hasn't really shattered yet, but it's certainly thinning down. Fred Rodriguez (Acqua e Sapone) is getting dropped.

The break is now 3'00 in front of the Saeco led peloton, with Piccoli 30 seconds behind the nine leaders.

15:00 CEST    35km/87km to go
The kilometres at ticking away very slowly, as the nine leaders continue their advance up the Mortirolo. It looks like Marzoli is riding a 39x27 or 29, and he's not exactly spinning. But he is pedalling quicker than the rest.

15:01 CEST   
Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet) is in the drops, stretching the break with Illiano and Wegmann going with him.

15:03 CEST    36km/86km to go
Sijmens swings off as Illiano comes through. The two are now alone. Then Illiano, Pugaci, Pozzi follow.

Meanwhile, the peloton is still at 2'53, so it's not full speed ahead yet.

15:06 CEST   
A dropped Lotto rider gets a push from a small child. Everything helps!

Illiano is still in front as Sijmens has dropped back to Wegmann, Pugaci and Pozzi.

15:09 CEST   
Illiano leads a group with Wegmann, Marzoli, Sijmens, Pugaci and Pozzi by 30 seconds or so, with the remnants of the early break scattered down the Mortirolo. The peloton is still at 3'00, led by three Saecos.

15:13 CEST   
Garzelli attacks! Simoni goes with him right away. This is interesting - the peloton is really stretched. Gonchar has to chase, and Cunego is right on his wheel.

15:14 CEST    39km/83km to go
Garzelli, Simoni and Garate lead Gonchar, Cunego, Valjavec, Cioni and a few others by about 10 seconds. The race has begun in earnest. Valjavec bridges the gap to Garzelli and co. and now there are four.

15:17 CEST   
Gonchar is slowly grinding his way up to Garzelli's group, but the gap is still 5 or 10 seconds. Simoni counters! He passes Piccoli, who is the first of the dropped breakaways to be caught.

Now Garate, Garzelli, Valjavec are leading Gonchar/Wegelius, Cunego, Cioni, Mazzoleni...

Simoni stops his attack. He waits for Garzelli again.

15:20 CEST    40km/82km to go
Cunego sits next to Mazzoleni, allowing Wegelius and Gonchar to to the work behind Simoni and Garzelli. It looks like Garate and Valjavec are coming back to these two. So we have four leading the maglia rosa gruppo by 20 seconds.

In the very front of the race, it's still Illiano leading Wegmann and co. Definitely a race within a race.

15:23 CEST    41km/81km to go
Illiano has about 2 km to go to the top of the Mortirolo, with Wegmann, Sijmens, Pugaci, Pozzi and Marzoli chasing him. Then Bertolni, Vila and Mason, then Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec. Garate is no longer with them.

Wegelius leads the gruppo maglia rosa with Cunego, Wegelius, Mazzoleni, Belli, Perez Cuapio, Brandt, Cioni - about 15 in total - 30 seconds behind Simoni.

15:27 CEST    42km/80km to go
Illiano is now 2'32 in front of Cunego's group, but there are several groups in between. Sijmens and Pugaci are at 36 seconds, then Wegmann, Marzoli and Pozzi at 1'00, then Bertolini and Vila, then Garzelli, Simoni, Garate, Valjavec together at 2'00, then Cunego's group which has about 10 riders left in it. Gonchar, Wegelius, Cunego, Mazzoleni, Perez Cuapio, Cioni are all there.

15:29 CEST    43km/79km to go
Illiano is near the top of the Mortirolo now, with less than 1 km to go. He is riding through massive crowds on these tiny roads. He'll certainly go over the top first, and should be able to get his sought for Intergiro points.

Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec are about 500m behind Illiano, with the rest of the early break in between.

15:31 CEST    43km/79km to go
Illiano will take the points at the top of this climb, which has been dedicated to Marco Pantani this year. It's been a good ride by the Italian, who once again got himself in the early break. Let's see if Wegmann can pick up some points.

15:33 CEST   
Garzelli, Simoni and Valjavec catch Vila just near the top. They cross 1'15 behind Illiano. No sign of the rest of the break...

Ahh - Wegmann took the points for second in front of Pugaci.

Wegelius leads the maglia rosa gruppo at 2'00, just behind Garate.

15:35 CEST    45km/77km to go
McGee comes across at 2'39 in the company of Brandt, Moos and a few others, so he'll need to make up 40 seconds on the descent to catch the maglia rosa gruppo, which has about 10 riders in it, including Wegelius, Gonchar, Mazzoleni, Garate, Belli, Cioni, Perez Cuapio and Zaugg.

Marzoli has crashed on the descent of the Mortirolo. Also, Belli has punctured out of the maglia rosa group.

15:40 CEST    48km/74km to go
Belli is chasing now, as we see Simoni's group has caught Marzoli, who crashed. That means we have Illiano in front, chased by Wegmann, Pugaci, Sijmens, Pozzi, then Simoni, Garzelli, Valjavec, Marzoli and Vila, then the gruppo maglia rosa.

The Petacchi bus come over the top 8'24 behind Illiano.

15:43 CEST    50km/72km to go
Marzoli is flying down the Mortirolo descent, which is extremely technical and very steep. The next group behind him contains mountains leader Wegmann along with Pugaci, Sijmens and Pozzi. Then the Simoni/Garzelli group of five, then the gruppo maglia rosa, being led by Popovych now.

15:46 CEST    55km/67km to go
the McGee/Pellizotti/Brandt group has caught the gruppo maglia rosa on the descent, so there's now about 15-20 riders in this group. Francis Mourey is also there.

15:49 CEST   
Garzelli and Simoni are working hard together in their little chase group, which also contains Valjavec, Patxi Vila, Ruggero Marzoli, Oscar Pozzi and Nico Sijmens.

Wegelius and Gustov continue to drive the gruppo maglia rosa about a minute behind Simoni.

All the time, Illiano is in front with Wegmann and Pugaci chasing.

15:51 CEST    58km/64km to go
The maglia rosa group has grown to 20 riders now and has a couple of Fassa riders in it working hard for Cioni.

In front of them, Illiano leads the stage ahead of Wegmann/Pugaci, then Garzelli, Simoni, Valjavec, Patxi Vila, Sijmens, Marzoli and Pozzi are all together.

Belli has made it back to the maglia rosa group.

15:54 CEST    61km/61km to go
Illiano should be able to make it to the Intergiro ahead of the rest, acheiving his goal for the day. Wegmann and Pugaci were 30 seconds behind him at the top of the Mortirolo, but they haven't been spotted since - ah, here they are. Simoni's group should get them soon.

One rider we forgot: Alessandro Bertolini, who must have had a brilliant descent as he is now with Illiano! So we have two leaders.

15:56 CEST    63km/59km to go
Codol and Bruseghin are helping out two De Nardi riders in the gruppo maglia rosa. They're going to ride as hard as possible before the next climb to try and close the gap to Simoni and co. Gonchar, Cioni, McGee, Mourey, Popovych are all there with Cunego in that group.

In front, it's still Illiano and Bertolini working together.

15:59 CEST    65km/57km to go
Pugaci has dropped back to help De Nardi chase in the maglia rosa gruppo. We now have Illiano/Bertolini in the lead, followed by a group of eight with Wegmann, Garzelli, Simoni, Valjavec, Patxi Vila, Sijmens, Marzoli, Pozzi at 1'10, then the gruppo maglia rosa at 2'25.

16:00 CEST    67km/55km to go
Illiano takes the points at the Intergiro (km 66) ahead of Bertolini. That means Illiano will take the blue jersey today.

Simoni is now talking to his team director in the Saeco car as his eight man group closes in on Illiano and Bertolini. Who knows what the Saeco tactics will be today...

The gap at the Intergiro is 1'13.

16:02 CEST    68km/54km to go
The gruppo maglia rosa comes through the Intergiro led by Pugaci and Wegelius at 2'12. So Simoni's group is one minute ahead of Cunego's group. On the GC, Simoni is 3'07 behind Cunego.

16:05 CEST    69km/53km to go
The two leaders are now en route to the Passo Vivione, and Bertolini takes the chance to stretch his quads. The changes of rhythm in these mountain stages really make it tough on the legs.

16:06 CEST    70km/52km to go
The maglia rosa group is now 40 seconds behind Simoni/Garzelli's group of eight, and 2'00 behind Illiano and Bertolini who are just starting the Vivione. 20 km at 6.9% in front of them.

16:09 CEST    71km/51km to go
Garzelli leads Simoni at the foot of the Vivione. They have already lost Wegmann, and Vila and Marzoli are being dropped too.

The maglia rosa group is now being led by Piccoli, Wegelius and Pugaci.

Illiano and Bertolini have been caught by Simoni's group. So we have Simoni, Valjavec, Sijmens, Bertolini and Illiano leading the maglia rosa group by 40 seconds.

16:11 CEST    73km/49km to go
Illiano, Bertolini, Garzelli, Simoni, Valjavec, Marzoli, Sijmens are the leaders on the Passo del Vivione, with Wegelius towing the maglia rosa group at 1'15. Marzoli is yo-yoing off the back of the lead group.

16:12 CEST   
Tonkov gets to the front of the peloton and wags his finger at the TV moto for driving too close.

And then there were five: Simoni, Garzelli, Sijmens, Illiano and Valjavec. Bertolini and Marzoli are dropped.

16:14 CEST    74km/48km to go
Simoni, Valjavec and Garzelli are working together on the climb with Sijmens and Illiano sitting on. Sijmens is impressive.

All the time in the bunch, it's Wegelius leading Pugaci then a couple of Fassas.

16:16 CEST   
By the way, in the TEAG Hainleite race in Germany, won by Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Jan Ullrich finished 5th in his first race back. He's not done yet...

16:17 CEST   
Wegmann has now been absorbed by the peloton. He has picked up some mountain points today, but if Cunego gets some more at the end, then he will pass Wegmann.

Still five leaders, with 1'20 lead on the peloton. Simoni asks for his team car again for a bit of advice.

16:19 CEST    76km/46km to go
Ruggero Marzoli is about 30 seconds behind Simoni's group, but will probably be swallowed by the peloton, which is now led by Pugaci. Tonkov is chatting to the Fassa Bortolo riders.

Sijmens has been dropped by the front riders, so it's Simoni, Garzelli, Valjavec and Illiano.

16:22 CEST    78km/44km to go
Pozzi, Bertolini and Vila have been absorbed by the peloton, leaving a total of six men in front on the Vivione. Four leaders together, with Sijmens and Marzoli chasing/being dropped at various intervals. The gruppo is still at 1'10, so Cunego's maglia rosa is not under threat by Simoni. And this does force Gonchar's De Nardi team to chase hard.

16:24 CEST    79km/43km to go
The gruppo maglia rosa has a good 30 riders in it still, having just caught Marzoli. Pugaci and Wegelius are doing all the work. There are still 11 km to go to the top of the climb.

Now there are three leaders: Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec. Illiano has been dropped.

16:27 CEST    80km/42km to go
Illiano loses time quickly and is now being caught by the gruppo maglia rosa.

Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec are now 1'31 ahead of the gruppo. This almost puts Simoni into a second place on GC. Allowing for bonus seconds, then it does.

16:29 CEST    81km/41km to go
Garzelli settles into his rhythm on the second half of the Viviano, clearly riding better in the second half of the Giro than the first half. His cooperation with Simoni is interesting, but understandable. Garzelli wants the stage win while Simoni wants to move up on GC...but how much?

16:31 CEST    81km/41km to go
Wegelius has dropped off the front of the gruppo, leaving Pugaci to set the tempo for Gonchar. This is going to be tough for Gonchar, who'll have to do a fair bit of work himself.

16:33 CEST    83km/39km to go
The leading trio is now on a steeper part of the Vivione, and Pugaci is having a tough time keeping the tempo up in the gruppo maglia rosa. McGee is hanging on the back of the group, which is about 20 strong. He is really hurting today.

16:34 CEST   
Illiano and Sijmens have been caught by the gruppo. Just Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec in front now with 1'30+.

16:36 CEST    83km/39km to go
The three leaders are still swapping off together as the roads narrow on this long climb. 1'41 behind them, it's Igor Pugaci (De Nardi) leading his captain Gonchar, trying to limit the damage to his GC place. Gonchar is now in virtual second place on GC. Cunego's maglia rosa is not quite in danger though.

16:38 CEST   
Mazzoleni and Cunego are talking to each other in the gruppo now, which is 1'47 behind the leading trio. Cunego can lose 3'07 to Simoni (or a bit less, given bonus seconds) if he is to keep the maglia rosa. But there's still one climb to come. Now Cunego probably knows how Simoni felt a few days ago when Cunego was up the road en route to the stage win and the jersey. Cunego could probably close the gap, but there's no way that would be allowed by the team.

16:40 CEST    84km/38km to go
Simoni goes back to third wheel again in the break, which still has 1'45 on the gruppo. Pugaci leads the group, followed by Gonchar, Tonkov, Cunego and Mazzoleni. There are still three Fassa riders in there too: Cioni, Bruseghin and Codol.

16:42 CEST   
By the way, this stage is not an uphill finish. After the last climb of the Presolana, it's about 2 km of descending to the finish, although the sprint is actually uphill.

Other names in the gruppo maglia rosa: Popovych, Brandt, Perez Cuapio, Sijmens...McGee is still there, just

Gonchar takes over from Pugaci. He has no more teammates left. Maybe he'll get some help from Lampre.

16:43 CEST    85km/37km to go
Cunego sits on Gonchar's wheel as he and the gruppo chases Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec. This will be interesting. Gonchar is really under pressure here.

16:45 CEST    86km/36km to go
The Vivione gets steeper now as Gonchar leads the chase behind Simoni and co. Emanuele Sella attacks the group, and there is no reaction.

There's still 4 km to the top of the climb. It's heavily wooded here, and the roads are still very narrow.

16:48 CEST   
Sella has got a bit of a gap now as he chases Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec. He's pedalling very fast and is 1'18 behind the leaders. Gonchar is pedalling very slowly, as usual, and has brought the group back to 1'35.

McGee is off the back again, but not by much. Still 15 riders in the maglia rosa group. Cunego is sitting in second wheel, looking comfortable but nervous.

16:51 CEST    88km/34km to go
Garzelli, Simoni and Valjavec continue to work together as Valjavec signals for his team car. It's a bit flatter here.

Sella is making great ground on Simoni's trio, but the Gonchar-led maglia rosa gruppo is not doing too badly either. Second place is up for grabs today.

16:54 CEST   
Gonchar grinds away on the Passo del Vivione, 1'24 behind the three leaders Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec, who have 3 km to go to the top.

Meanwhile, Sella is just 58 seconds behind the three leaders, going very well.

McGee is now at the back of the caravan, 30 seconds off the gruppo.

16:55 CEST   
Sella continues to fly up the climb, going the fastest of any of the groups. He is the lightest rider in the Giro at 54 kg, so he likes it when it goes up. The climb gets steeper and narrower now through the pine trees.

The Gonchar-led gruppo maglia has about 15 riders in it still.

16:57 CEST    88km/34km to go
Sella is riding his heart out to try and catch Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec before the top.

In the maglia rosa group: Gonchar, Cioni, Cunego, Brandt, Perez Cuapio, Laverde, Popovych, Tonkov, Mazzoleni, Belli, Garate...

16:58 CEST    89km/33km to go
The crowds are getting thicker now as they cheer Simoni's trio to the top of the Passo del Vivione. Sella is coming though - he can see the motorbikes. He's 52 seconds behind. The Cunego group is at 1'23.

Cioni has punctured! Very bad luck.

17:00 CEST   
All the time it's Gonchar leading the chase at 1'24 behind the three leaders. He has effectively made up 20 seconds since he started working. Cunego is on his wheel.

Garzelli and Simoni have dropped Valjavec with 1 km to go!

17:01 CEST   
The trees thin out here at the top, but the crowds are thick. Snow lined peaks are either side of the riders, and it's a fantastic view today.

Cioni is back with the gruppo maglia rosa.

17:01 CEST    90km/32km to go
Garzelli leads Simoni to the top of the climb, and has put time into Valjavec and Sella too. It's 1'08 back to Sella.

17:03 CEST    91km/31km to go
The maglia rosa group is now 1'43 behind the leaders as Garzelli takes the points at the top of the Vivione ahead of Simoni. Then Valjavec comes through at 25 seconds.

17:05 CEST    92km/30km to go
Sella grabs a drink or some food just before the top of the climb. He's 1'20 behind Garzelli/Simoni at the top.

Cioni has another flat tyre. Luckily he has a teammate there to give him a wheel again. That's bad luck.

Popovych attacks the group, but Cunego reacts. The group is together at the top, 1'53 behind the leaders.

This is an extremely technical descent.

17:07 CEST   
The descent of the Vivione has started, and it's Garzelli and Simoni leading, with Valjavec and Sella chasing at 30 seconds and 1'25 respectively. Then Popovych is really hammering the maglia rosa group. It's extremely dangerous. One of the Lampre riders crashes - Garate?

17:08 CEST    92km/30km to go
It was Garate who crashed. Belli was just in front of him. Popovych doesn't care, and he has Cunego and Mazzoleni on his wheel. Is extremely risky. Sella is caught.

17:10 CEST    93km/29km to go
Sella is passed by Popovych, Cunego and Mazzoleni. He is immediately in trouble, but hangs on.

Can they catch the three leaders though? 30 km to go.

17:11 CEST   
Tonkov is catching the Popovych group now, and is going past Sella. Popovych must know this climb very well, as he's taking a lot of chances.

Tonkov goes off the side of the road. No crash though. Laverde passes him.

17:13 CEST    95km/27km to go
This is one of the most technical descents I've seen. Narrow roads and so many corners! Tonkov is catching Perez Cuapio and Zaugg in front of him. But Popovych, Cunego and Mazzoleni are still ahead, chasing Garzelli, Simoni and Valjavec.

17:15 CEST    97km/25km to go
Popovych continues to lead Cunego and Mazzoleni in pursuit of Garzelli and Simoni. Valjavec has caught the two leaders again.

17:16 CEST    99km/23km to go
Valjavec gets a drink from his car as the descent flattens out a bit. Garzelli is on the front with Simoni tucked behind him. The Popovych/Mazzoleni/Cunego group is at 1'36.

17:17 CEST    100km/22km to go
Popovych has to do all the work in the chase as Mazzoleni and Cunego won't chase down Simoni of course. No sign of Gonchar - he could have lost his second place on GC on this descent.

17:19 CEST   
The three leaders are in Schilpario, 1'05 ahead of Popovych, Cunego and Mazzoleni. Interesting position. They're riding on cobbles now in this small town.

Gonchar is at 1'23. He still has his second place, just...

17:21 CEST    102km/20km to go
Popovych's group is now being caught by Gonchar, Sella, Zaugg and and another rider with 20 km to go. This will help them close the gap a bit before the Presolana.

17:22 CEST    103km/19km to go
The chase group now contains Popovych, Cunego, Mazzoleni, Gonchar, Sella, Garate, Laverde and Zaugg. Eight men chasing three at 0'55.

17:24 CEST    104km/18km to go
The chase group grows as no-one wants to work. Bruseghin is back with Cioni and Brandt. Tonkov is also there. Bruseghin straight away gets to the front and rides hard. It's 1'17 to the three leaders.

McGee and Pellizotti are 1'00 behind the maglia rosa group.

17:25 CEST    107km/15km to go
Bruseghin drives the pace in the maglia rosa group with Cioni on his wheel. Less than 15 km to go now and Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec are getting close to that stage win.

17:27 CEST    108km/14km to go
There are 14 riders in the gruppo maglia rosa, which trails the three leaders by 1'26 at Dezzo di Scalve. McGee, Pellizotti and Lobato are at 1'52 behind the leaders.

17:30 CEST   
The maglia rosa group contains Popovych, Cunego, Mazzoleni, Gonchar, Sella, Garate, Laverde, Zaugg, Brandt, Cioni, Bruseghin and Tonkov, and is chasing Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec at 1'20 with less than 15 km to go. They're now on the last descent before the final climb of the Giro, the 7.9 km Presolana.

17:31 CEST    109km/13km to go
Bruseghin tows the chase group on the descent, taking the corners well and trying to make up ground on the leaders. Sella is hanging on the back of the group.

17:32 CEST    112km/10km to go
Garzelli takes a turn just before the foot of the final climb. Just 10 km to go! Simoni takes over. Valjavec is not working.

17:34 CEST    113km/9km to go
Mazzoleni and Cunego are talking to each other again in the chase group, sitting behind Bruseghin. Cunego's maglia rosa should not disappear today. It's 1'26 a the foot of the climb.

17:35 CEST    114km/8km to go
Simoni would need to beat Cunego home by 2'48 and win the stage in order to take the maglia rosa today. He's probably got the second place on GC in mind, or perhaps the stage win. But Garzelli wants that too...

17:36 CEST   
Garzelli and Simoni keep taking turns, and will have Valjavec in difficulty soon. Behind them, Bruseghin is still leading the maglia rosa and the rest of the group which has 12 men in it. Gonchar should start working soon.

McGee's group closes the gap on the lower part of the climb.

17:37 CEST    115km/7km to go
In the gruppo it's Bruseghin, Cunego, Mazzoleni and Gonchar in the front four positions. They are chasing a strong looking Garzelli and Simoni, with Valjavec hanging on.

McGee, Pellizotti, Aebersold, Zampieri, Andriotto are back onto the maglia rosa gruppo.

17:39 CEST   
Pellizotti attacks, with Cunego on his wheel. Then Cioni counters, again with Cunego following. The gap is 1'26. Dangerous for the front three. Sella tries to close the gap to Cioni and Cunego.

17:40 CEST    115km/7km to go
Cioni has to do all the work with Cunego on his wheel, and is 1'08 behind Simoni, Garzelli and Valjavec. Sella is caught by the rest of the group again.

17:41 CEST   
Garzelli looks good with 7 km to go, as the climb steepens. He looks behind for Simoni to help him. Valjavec is hangin' in there.

Cioni is making good ground on the three leaders, but Cunego is right behind him. He will keep the jersey, surely. Perez Cuapio is the next to attach from Gonchar's group behind Cioni and Cunego.

17:44 CEST    116km/6km to go
6 km to go (4 km to the summit of the climb) and Popovych is being dropped from the Gonchar group. So we have:

Garzelli, Simoni and Valjavec in front, then Cioni and Cunego at 0'57, then Perez Cuapio at 1'04, then Gonchar, Mazzoleni, Garate, Brandt, Tonkov at 1'13.

17:45 CEST   
Simoni and Garzelli are still looking comfortable together, with Valjavec there all the time. Gonchar drives his little gruppo up, 20 seconds behind Cioni and Cunego, who are 51 seconds behind the leaders. Cioni is really suffering, but he can move on GC today.

Cunego looks ridiculously comfortable. But he can't chase.

17:47 CEST    117km/5km to go
Garzelli and Simoni continue to swap off together, trying to keep this stage alive for them. Cioni and Cunego are 50 seconds behind them, and closing slowly. 5 km to go until the end of the stage. Cunego just has to stay on Cioni's wheel, and the Giro is his. Simoni needs to work a bit harder as Gonchar is just 1'06 behind him. He needs about 1'30.

17:48 CEST    118km/4km to go
The tifosi are cheering wildly for everyone as they come by. Cioni is riding great as he goes under the 5 km to go banner. Cunego gets a few light pushes from the crowd. The gap is still 51 seconds between the front trio and the two chasers.

Gonchar is now far behind Cioni and Cunego, and has just Mazzoleni on his wheel.

17:50 CEST   
The crowds are getting thicker now as Garzelli ploughs through with Simoni and Valjavec on his wheel. They're nearly at the top.

Valjavec is dropped. The crowds are mad!! Surely one will be run over by a moto.

17:51 CEST    118km/4km to go
Garzelli leads Simoni still, as the crowds thin out due to the barriers. Just over 1 km from the top of the climb.

17:52 CEST    119km/3km to go
It's Simoni and Garzelli leading Valjavec by a handful of seconds with 1 km to climb. Then another 3 km of descending before the finish.

Garzelli attacks! But Simoni gets him right away.

17:53 CEST   
Garzelli virtually runs into a pile of motorbikes. They can't get through. It's insane how many people are up here, but that's how it is in the mountains!

Garzelli is near the top, and Simoni is hanging on. Then Valjavec, then Cioni and Cunego.

17:53 CEST    119km/3km to go
Tonkov has caught Gonchar and Mazzoleni. They are still 1'00 behind the two leaders.

17:54 CEST   
Simoni is first over the top of the Presolana, with Garzelli on his wheel. Next will be Valjavec at 18 seconds, then Cioni and Cunego at 50 seconds.

There is discussion between Simoni and Garzelli.

17:55 CEST    120km/2km to go
The two leaders are now flying on the descent into Presolana. Gonchar, Mazzoleni and Tonkov are about 1'20 behind them.

17:56 CEST    121km/1km to go
Last kilometre now for Garzelli and Simoni. Surely it will be Garzelli's stage...

17:56 CEST   
Garzelli lets Simoni come through with 800m to go. It's an uphill then downhill finish. Simoni goes with 500m to go, but not hard.

17:57 CEST    122km/0km to go
Simoni is in front and starts as the road goes uphill again. Garzelli attacks with 250 m out and wins the stage!!! Simoni seconds, then Valjavec at 22 seconds.

Dario Cioni leads all the way for fourth, with Cunego right on his wheel. 52 seconds. He is congratulated by Cunego for a great ride. Gonchar is across at 1'23 - might *just* hold onto second on GC by one second, even with Simoni's 12 second bonus. McGee is coming home now in about 10th at 1'42. Very good ride again by the Aussie.

So Garzelli finally gets his stage win, and a great one it was too. Simoni might have dipped out on second place on GC though, but in any case, Damiano Cunego will win the Giro when it finishes tomorrow in Milano. The Kid has incredible talent, as we have seen. He was never in trouble today, although he did have other riders to do the work for their own GC interests.

Final word, we think Gonchar has kept his second place on GC. Yes he has - by three seconds. Cioni moves into fourth on GC ahead of Popovych. Garzelli is now sixth in front of Belli, McGee, Valjavec and Garate.


Very provisional
1 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie         
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                      
3 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                        0.22
4 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              0.52
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                   
Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) De Nardi                                       1.23

General classification after stage 19
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                     
2 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) De Nardi                                     2.02
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                        2.05
4 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              4.44
5 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Colnago Landbouwkrediet                    5.05
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie          5.31
7 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre                                        6.12
8 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) FDJeux.com                                     6.15
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak                                        6.34
10 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre                                   7.47

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