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88th Giro d'Italia - PT

Italy, May 7-29, 2005

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Stage 15 - May 23: Villa di Tirano - Lissone, 154 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from John Trevorrow and Tim Maloney

Complete live report

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

14:00 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 15 of the Giro, a decidedly transitional run down the Valtellina. You may notice some discrepancy between the headers above and the originally announced course; because of snow on the top of the Forcola di Livigno, the day's only climb which would have been a mere 10 km or so into the stage) and heavy rain in the valley below, the organisers have decided to truncate the stage by starting after the climb and, more to the point, the 35km or so of slippery descent that would have followed it. The riders in fact signed on at the original start in Livigno this afternoon and then hopped into the team cars to get over the mountain to the new start at the village of Villa di Tirano.

The remaining course is, although it is surrounded by mountains, basically flat, culminating in two laps of a 5.8 km finishing circuit (with the stage time, we are informed, to be taken at the start of the circuit). Tailor made for the sprinters, and as most of them have already gone home, the odds on another win for Alessandro Petacchi have to be pretty short; he is also still in the hunt for the points jersey, but current holder Danilo Di Luca looks on present form likely to pick up more points in the remaining mountain stages, while Petacchi will only conceivably collect any today and on the final stage into Milan.

We'll be here all afternoon to bring you all the action, if there is any, and to comment on the pretty views over Lake Como if there isn't.

14:27 CEST    25km/129km to go
One rider who won't be involved in any action there may be is Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) who was the only non-starter of the day; however, by way of compensation his Belgian team-mate Roy Sentjens has gone on the attack alone. He now has a lead of 1.25 over a not very excited peloton.

14:48 CEST    40km/114km to go
Heading westewards down the Valtellina (mainly noted for skiing and some rather good wines) Sentjens is still opening the gap, albeit not spectacularly; he is now 2.27 in front, riding the first hour at a fraction under 40 kph. Petacchi's Fassa Bortolo train are leading the bunch, keeping the lead from getting too out of hand.

14:59 CEST    50km/104km to go
Fassa are still keeping Sentjens under control; this stage is too short for them to let him get a silly distance in front but his current 2.35 will not be enough to worry them unduly: they won't want to get him back too quickly - it would just encourage someone else to go instead. It's still raining on the race, and at the finish as well, so the finishing circuit may be a bit on the slippery side.

15:25 CEST    64km/90km to go
At the feed Sentjens has 2.45 lead; behind him the bunch is moving fairly briskly, lined out, with Gustov, Codol, Zabriskie and Bruseghin leading them along the side of Lake Como, which would be rather picturesque if you could see much through the murk; as it is the far side is only visible in outline with a lot of low cloud.

Sentjens does have some form in these conditions - the weather is reminiscent of the day he won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne a couple of years ago. He'll be lucky if he can pull anything similar off today, though.

15:45 CEST    83km/71km to go
The bunch are now coming back to Sentjens, whose lead is now back under two minutes as he passes through a tricky cobbled street in Varenna, now parallel with the point where the lake divides, with the Ghisallo looming to the riders' right; no such climbing to do today, though. The bunch gets through the tricky passage without problems; nobody's doing anything too silly. It's still Gustov and Codol setting the pace, and a cluster more Fassas in their blue rain jackets following them.

15:56 CEST    93km/61km to go
1.18 lead for Sentjens now as the peloton start taking an interest in the Intergiro sprint, with Bettini moving up towards the front of the bunch.

Further back Giovanni Lombardi (CSC) takes a tumble; he's up and going again without any obvious injury, but only after getting rather annoyed with his bike and having a quick chat with Bjarne Riis.

16:01 CEST   
Another inconsequential crash at an awkward junction - slippery roads and inattentive fans standing on traffic islands seemed to be involved - splits the bunch briefly, but no lasting damage is done.

16:12 CEST    104km/50km to go
QuickStep have a train set up for the Intergiro sprint in Lecco at the end of the lake, where Bettini is in with a good chance of taking over the blue jersey as well as scoring points towards the maglia ciclamino. Sentjens passes through first; he's still riding steadily.

Betting takes second place in the sprint, 1.04 down, with his team-mate Stefano Zanini third; blue jersey Krauss is only fifth which gives Bettini the lead in that competition. The bunch then settle back and regroup a bit as they cross the river and the Fassa team take their places again at the front.

16:22 CEST    111km/43km to go
There is a bit of a drag up to Galbiate, and Sentjens is riding a pretty low gear up it and is getting caught; he's probably done all he can by taking the Intergiro. The climb provides an opportunity for Selle Italia to get their share of TV time, in this instance by sending Rafaele Illiano up the road. He gets clear, strips off his rain cape and hands it to a conveniently located TV motorbike and looks to be closing the gap quickly.

16:27 CEST   
On the descent now; Liquigas are moving forwards in the bunch to protect Di Luca, maybe just to keep out of the way of any trouble, or else because he fancies his ability to outsprint Petacchi today.

A Discovery rider punctures - can't see who it is, but he gets a quick change and is back on the road.

Illiano catches Sentjens; the paid pass one each side of a roundabout and Sentjens has a bit of trouble getting back up to Illiano.

16:33 CEST    118km/36km to go
Illiano invites Sentjens to the front, but the Belgian declines. Then there is another roundabout and this time they find themselves either side of a central reservation/median divider/whatever they call it round your way, but Illiano does not make any obvious attempt to get away before they rejoin. The pair have 55 seconds lead over the rest of the field.

The road starts to rise again and this time Sentjens can't follow Illiano,; he sits up and will be caught.

Charlie Wegelius hits the deck, but he's up again.

16:37 CEST   
The rain has eased up and the capes are coming off, much to the relief of commentators trying to identify riders, but the roads are still thoroughly wet. It looks as though Cioni way also have come off at the same time as Wegelius, but nothing serious.

Illiano is still alone ahead, now with a lead up to 1.25, but on this long drag Matt White decides to have a go off the front and is off on the counterattack.

16:40 CEST   
White isn't going anywhere today; the bunch, now with a Lampre vest - Evgeni Petrov - at the front, mop him up in short order; at least he got a minute or two without spray off other people's wheels in his face.

16:45 CEST    125km/29km to go
The pace has picked up a bit now and Illiano's lead is back down under a minute. He's not looking very comfortable with the gear.

Valjavec punctures and gets a wheel from a team-mate and assistance from spectators to put it in. Not a good time to puncture, just as things are starting to pick up.

16:53 CEST    129km/25km to go
We are out onto the plain now, the mountains all behind us, and Lampre are clearly trying to keep Simoni out of trouble near the front of the race, with almost the whole team up at the front.

They have nearly caught Illiano, whose lead is now down to 20 seconds.

Julio Perez Cuapio punctures, as does Luca Mazzanti (who gets a wheel from the Domina Vacanze car). Then it's Franck Rénier's turn. We're now in the Province of Milan, which obviously has higher levels of windscreen glass on the road or something.

16:56 CEST    22km/132km to go
Illiano is still trying, mopping up vital seconds of TV coverage for his sponsors. The chase has actually eased up a little and for almost the first time in the day the bunch are spread right across the road; a good thing for the puncture victims, especially Mazzanti who might well have thought himself in with a chance today - he's getting up through the race convoy, but moving up through the bunch may be trickier.

17:00 CEST    138km/16km to go
The times for today's stage are going to be taken on the first time through the finish as a concession to safety on the finishing circuit, so the GC riders' teams are now all moving their men up to the front to make sure that nobody sneaks a gap at the critical moment or gets stuck behind a split.

The result is another acceleration that does for Illiano; gruppo compatto say the announcers at the finish, all together.

17:04 CEST    142km/12km to go
IT's now a Discovery train leading the bunch, Joachim at the head with Savoldelli in fifth wheel. There is a messy bit of cornering, but nobody comes down.

17:08 CEST    143km/11km to go
Petacchi rides no hands to take his arm warmers off while riding tight on a wheel in about tenth place. Don't try that in amateur races - the commissaires will have you out of the race before you can say [insert witticism here].

17:12 CEST   
Oh, and they went through the timing point all together, so nobody bar the odd straggler will lose any time today. Bileka leading through, then he drops off to leave Mike Barry leading the line.

Matt Wilson (Française des Jeux) takes a flyer off the front. He has 100 metres or so.

At the back of the field a lot of riders are sitting up and just rolling in from here, as they can't lose any time.

17:14 CEST    148.2km/5.8km to go
Wilson takes the bell still with a 50 metre gap as they pass the finish for the penultimate time. There are seven Fassa vests at the front of the bunch.

Zabel, Galvez and Grillo are all up there towards the front of the bunch.

17:15 CEST    3km/151km to go
WIlson is caught. Petacchi in sixth wheel, then fifth

17:17 CEST   
Zabel is on Petacchi's wheel

Wilson has punctured, but his teammate LIlian Jégou has a go; it doesn't work though.

Now only three Fassas left. Korff leading out Zabel.

17:18 CEST    153km/1km to go
Korff moves up, and the Fassa trains seems to disintegrate for a moment but reforms nicely. Bettini is up there for the points too.

17:20 CEST   
Velo leads Petacchi out under the railway bridge and Petacchi goes for a long one; Bettini and Zabel fight for his wheel; the German has a last despairing lunge but can't get past and Petacchi has his third win of this Giro, Zabel second a length behind and Bettini third.

There was a tangle of some kind between Galvez and Aurélien Clerc, and the two have to be separated. The press photographers aren't very happy with each other either - a stressful business all round, bunch sprints. Other riders trickle in for a few minutes but they will all be credited with the same time as the winners. Indeed, there's a very large autobus about 5 minutes down, if with a different load of passengers than the normal one.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          3.32.41
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                               
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step                                  
4 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Domina Vacanze                          
5 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                               
6 Paride Grillo (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare              
7 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                             
8 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                            
9 Isaac Galvez Lopez (Spa) Illes Balears                       
10 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
11 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                   
12 Carlos Dacruz (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux                         
13 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Francaise Des Jeux                         
14 Lilian Jegou (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux                        

General classification after stage 15

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team      70.54.09
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                              0.25
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                               1.48
4 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      2.11
5 Jose' Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia                   2.18
6 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole                            3.25
7 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                               4.05
8 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare                     5.50
9 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                           6.40
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears                              6.44

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