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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

88th Giro d'Italia - PT

Italy, May 7-29, 2005

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Stage 16 - May 25: Lissone - Varazze, 210 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from John Trevorrow and Tim Maloney

Complete live report

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

14:24 CEST   
Welcome back one and all to the Hindenburg IV for Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro d'Italia. We're in the final five days now, and after yesterday's second rest day, today's 16th stage takes us from Lissone to Varazze over 210 km. After 150km across the flat roads of the Po River valley, the stage climbs the Bric Berton ascent, once used in Milano-San Remo, then heads down to the Ligurian riviera and the finish in Varazze, on the Mediterranean coast.

The Bric Berton comes at 30 km to go, so it could provide a springplank for an attack. Otherwise the sprinters teams will likely control it for a mass finish.

The other point of importance today is the Intergiro sprint at Novi Ligure (km 122). Bettini took over the lead in that competition the other day, but only has two seconds spare on Sven Krauss, so it's likely to be a close battle.

The weather is beautiful: 28 degrees and sunny at the start. You can't argue with that!

14:45 CEST    120km/90km to go

The stage started at midday with all 159 riders left in the race. After 20 km, a group of 11 riders managed to get away, with Renier (Bouygues), White (Cofidis), Van Hout (Selle Italia), Ivanov (Domina Vacanze), Verdugo (Euskaltel), Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo), Wilson (FDJ), Hruska (Liberty), Schnider (Phonak), Pozzato (Quick.Step), and Korff (T-Mobile).

Van Hout was very motivated to get into a break today, because the stage goes through his former living place of Novi Ligure. But the group only managed to get a minute's lead after 33 km, and was brought back at km 51. 40 km were covered in the first hour.

The second hour was covered at an average speed of 44.9 km/h as a group of 22 riders got clear and hovered 30 seconds ahead of the Fassa Bortolo controlled peloton. The group contained White and Ivanov (again), Illiano, Leukemans, Vogels, Belli, Bramati, Christensen, Moreni, Gustov, Jégou, Bonnaire, Grillo, Zubeldia, Urweider, Eltink, Niermann, Pinotti, Rodriguez, Peron, Lombardi and Schmitz. But after 92 km, this group met the same fate as the first, and the peloton hauled it in.

Petacchi then made an attack with six others, which lasted approximately 2 kilometres. No-one is going to let him go easily!

Shortly before the 100 km mark, a group of 18 riders got clear, and they have stayed away for now. The group contains: Javier Ramirez Abeja and René Andrle (Liberty Seguros), Alessandro Vanotti (Domina Vacanze), André Korff and Eric Baumann (T-Mobile), Lilian Jégou (Française des Jeux), Dmitriy Fofonov (Cofidis), Christophe Le Mevel and Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole), Christophe Brandt and Björn Leukemans (Davitamon - Lotto), Mathieu Claude (Bouygues Telecom), Addy Engels (Quickstep), Uros Murn and Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Dario Andriotto (Liquigas - Bianchi), Frank Schleck (Team CSC), Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo).

At km 111, it has 3'45 lead.

14:48 CEST   
The best placed rider on GC in the break is Christophe Brandt, who is 40th at 45 minutes down. So there's no incentive for Discovery channel to chase, or any of the other GC teams for that matter. Also, Alberto Ongarato is up there for Fassa, so that might take the pressure off Petacchi's train. And finally, none of these riders are a threat to Bettini's Intergiro lead, so there's no point Quick.Step chasing.

The break therefore has all the elements of being successful.

14:50 CEST   
Koldo Gil (Liberty) has abandoned the race at km 92.

15:02 CEST   
We spoke to Francaise des Jeux' Matt Wilson at the start today, and the Australian said, "I feel really good. I'm going to try and get up the road in the break today. If not, I'll see what I can do at the finish."

15:09 CEST    132km/78km to go
The average speed after three hours is an impressive 45.4 km/h, and the 18 man break now has an 8'05 lead at the feed zone in Basaluzzo over the peloton, which hasn't shown much interest in chasing.

The Intergiro in Novi Ligure was won by Vanotti, from Ignacio Gutierrez and Dario Andriotto.

15:14 CEST    137km/73km to go
The gap keeps going up, and it's now 8'53 with 73 km to go. It's possible to get that back, but the motivation of the peloton is questionable today. It'll likely be one of these 18 in front who wins the stage in Varazze.

15:17 CEST    140km/70km to go
We spoke to Brett Lancaster (Panaria), who is still sick, but hoping to get through until the end. "I've still got a pretty bad head cold and a bit of bronchitis, but the legs feel good."

We noticed that Brett was sporting a brand new Colnago, a reward for winning the prologue. "It's a bit lighter than my previous one, and it feels good. I'm not like some riders - I can just jump on a new bike and settle in."

Today, Brett's plan A was to work for his sprinter. "I suppose I'll get Grillo up there for another attempt," he said. But now it looks like Plan B is in action.

15:23 CEST    143km/67km to go
Of this leading group of 18, the fast men look to be Uros Murn (Phonak), Andre Korff (T-Mobile) and Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo). But a group of this size is unlikely to come to the finish together, so we'll have to wait and see who makes the winning break.

The gap is still going up: 9'32 at the 140 km mark.

15:24 CEST   
Russell Van Hout (Selle Italia) told us this morning, "I've bit of a role now to look after our little man [Rujano] now that he's up there. There's a few opportunities, and if I see anything, I'll just get into it. The team's going so well and the morale is so high, everyone's geed. We're that happy."

15:31 CEST    147km/63km to go
British rider Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) is having a good Giro, working hard for his team leader Danilo Di Luca. "I wasn't in much shape to speak last time," he told us today.

We asked him how the Liquigas team is going: "We're riding above our own expectations, and above the expectations of everyone else. This last week can give anything really, either good or bad. We've actually already won our Giro."

But Di Luca's a genuine chance for the win. "Yeah, 25 seconds isn't much. When he was an amateur, he was known as a GC rider. The big surprise to people is that he's been able to keep his form for this long."

Wegelius crashed in the wet stage on Monday. "Yes, I had a bit of a fall the other day. Cioni took his rain jacket off, the sleeve got caught in the handlebars, and down he went.

The gap to the 18 leaders is now over 10 minutes: 10'20. It is now rapidly becoming irrelevant as the leaders start the longish climb of Bric Berton.

15:44 CEST    160km/50km to go
Discovery is setting a steady pace on the front of the peloton, with Savoldelli in about 6th wheel. Michael Barry is leading. He told us this morning, "We'll have our work cut out for us, for sure," referring to the job to keep Paolo in pink.

The 18 leaders are at 10'50 on the Bric Berton.

15:46 CEST   
It's a hot day and it's showing, with Jégou riding up with his jersey completely unzipped and his heart rate monitor showing.

Speaking of which, in the peloton, Fabio Sacchi is sitting on 150 bpm of his purported max of 185, while Manuele Mori is on 177/195. The heat raises your heart rate, that's for sure. Pity it doesn't raise your max.

15:46 CEST   
Vanotti attacks on the climb! First rider to do so of the 18 man group.

15:47 CEST   
The Bric Berton is quite narrow, and Vanotti is quickly out of sight. But there are reactions coming now, with four or five riders going after Vanotti.

15:48 CEST   
Addy Engels (Quick.Step) and Frank Schleck (CSC) have bridged up to Vanotti now.

15:50 CEST    164km/46km to go
Christophe Brandt also bridges up to the leaders, and now Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) gets on the back. Five leaders: Alessandro Vanotti (Domina Vacanze), Addy Engels (Quickstep), Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto), Frank Schleck (Team CSC), Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole).

15:52 CEST   
The five leaders have 25 seconds on the rest of the early break, where Andrle and Baumann are working to close the gap.

15:53 CEST    166km/44km to go
The Bric Berton is not a really tough climb, and it goes up and down in several places. Leukemans is trying to get across on his own.

15:56 CEST   
We spoke to Rory Sutherland this morning, and the Rabobank rider was feeling good. "I feel healthy, the sun is shining again, and I was happy to get through the weekend, that's the most important thing. Now it all seems to be getting a bit closer to getting back to Milan. But you never know what can happen every day."

You looked good the other day?. "Errrr...I wasn't in heaps of trouble. You've gotta be smart enough to know the days to take it easier. The day up the Stelvio, it was the smart option to take it a bit easier, to go in the gruppetto. If you're not up there for GC, and you know your group's going to come in on time...But it was hard for everyone, even in the last group.

"We'll just see what happens now, but I wouldn't mind trying to do a real good ride in the time trial. Apart from that, try and get in a breakaway, and see how it goes. It all depends on how you're feeling in the race and how everyone else is feeling, but the motivation is OK, that's alright."

15:57 CEST    168km/42km to go
Leukemans can't get across to the leaders and now Fofonov tries. He's nearly on the back of them.

15:58 CEST   
Fofonov is now with them as they reach another mini descent. The next group is 34 seconds behind the six leaders, while the peloton is cruising along at 11'00 behind. It looks like Joachim and Bileka are leading for Discovery.

16:00 CEST    169km/41km to go
The heat and the climb are making it tough, even in the peloton, which has hit a steeper part of the climb. Some riders are being tailed off, including Paride Grillo (Panaria).

Manuele Mori is now sitting on 185/195max, while Sacchi is on 164/185. Mori doesn't have a lot left in the tank.

16:03 CEST   
The peloton strings out again on a descent as Joachim, Cruz, Barry, Bileka and Padrnos keep things under control for Savoldelli. Still 10'55 between the maglia rosa and the six leaders.

16:07 CEST    170km/40km to go
The six leaders reach the top of the Cat. 3 Bric Berton, with Vanotti taking the points from Schleck and Le Mevel. Brandt, Engels, and Fofonov follow.

Behind them is a group with Javier Ramirez Abeja and René Andrle (Liberty Seguros), André Korff (T-Mobile), Talabardon (Crédit Agricole), Björn Leukemans (Davitamon - Lotto), Uros Murn (Phonak), Dario Andriotto (Liquigas - Bianchi), Alberto Ongarato (Fassa Bortolo) at 50 seconds.

Then Lilian Jégou (Française des Jeux), Ignacio Gutierrez (Phonak), Mathieu Claude (Bouygues Telecom) and Eric Baumann (T-Mobile) further back.

16:08 CEST   
Vanotti attacks on the descent. He's really motoring on nice, smooth roads. He's got a good gap.

16:09 CEST    174km/36km to go
Vanotti is riding like he knows this climb, anticipating the corners really well and keeping the power on on the flatter bits.

16:11 CEST   
Small correction: Jégou appears to be still in the chasing group of nine, at 50 seconds from the leader Vanotti. Five riders are at about 10 seconds behind Vanotti.

16:14 CEST    178km/32km to go
In the peloton, Benoît Joachim is doing the job again for Savoldelli, who looks quite happy in pink.

The stick-like figure of Alessandro Vanotti (Domina Vacanze) still has his 20 second gap over Engels, Brandt, Schleck, Le Mevel and Fofonov.

16:15 CEST    180km/30km to go
In the peloton, it's a bit easier on the descent. Fabio Sacchi is sitting on 141/185max, and Mori on 135/195.

The leader Vanotti is in Sasello with 30 km to go. He has some climbing ahead of him now.

16:18 CEST    182km/28km to go
The first five chasers are working well together, and have pegged Vanotti back to 16 seconds on this next little climb. Schleck gets a bidon from Bjarne in the CSC car.

16:20 CEST    185km/25km to go
Vanotti suffers a bit on the climb, and gets a bidon from his team car. That'll help him a bit. He has 20 seconds.

16:22 CEST   
Tony Cruz leads the bunch over the Bric Berton, 16'05 behind the leaders. They lost a bit of time there! Not that it's really important for the GC.

16:23 CEST    187km/23km to go
Vanotti is now looking back a lot as he slows down. He's caught by the five chasers, and struggles to get on the back of them. Ouch, that always hurts after you've gone into the red.

Brandt looks great as he rides at the front. Schleck is also pretty comfy.

16:25 CEST   
The second group on the road is still a minute behind the six leaders. It looks like Murn is no longer with them, meaning there are eight chasing six.

16:27 CEST   
Leukemans is trying to get across to the leaders again - he's at 23 seconds. nice riding.

Yes, Murn is there. So there were Nine. Glad to have sorted that out.

16:28 CEST    190km/20km to go
In front on the descent, Fofonov nearly overcooks it on a corner, but he settles for taking a virtual layer of paint off the safety barrier. Engels has attacked the lead break.

16:29 CEST    191km/19km to go
As Vanotti did before, Addy Engels has attacked on the last descent of the day. He is chased by Vanotti, Brandt, Schleck, Le Mevel and Fofonov at about 10 seconds.

16:31 CEST    192km/18km to go
Engels doesn't have a big lead as the five behind keep rolling over. It's maybe five seconds as the Dutch rider continues to hammer on the twisty descent towards the coast.

16:33 CEST    195km/15km to go
Engels is slowly being caught by the chasing five, with Vanotti the first to get across.

16:34 CEST    196km/14km to go
Vanotti and Engels get together with 14 km to go, with the other four not far back.

16:35 CEST   
It's all back together now. Six leaders again.

16:37 CEST    198km/12km to go
The leaders are now racing through the valley, still descending, towards the Ligurian coast. The sky is bright blue and it's a perfect day.

The next group of eight is at 55 seconds. They're not coming back. Looks like Leukemans is still in between them and the leading break.

16:38 CEST   
Le Mevel, who has a decent sprint on him, does a bit of a turn in the break. Then Schleck, Brandt, and Engels. Fofonov rolls through for his turn, then Vanotti. All riders are taking very short pulls.

Leukemans is hanging at 32 seconds, the eight chasers at 50 seconds, and the peloton is at 18'00.

16:40 CEST    201km/9km to go
Less than 10 km to go and it's the same six, who are nearing the foot of the descent. Once they hit Albisola Marina, they turn right and head along the Via Aurelia to Varazze.

Leukemans is caught by his chase group.

16:41 CEST   
Le Mevel adjusts his shoe straps. Don't do them too tight! Speaking from recent experience, it's painful when you cramp in your feet.

16:42 CEST    202km/8km to go
The leaders ride through the shaded streets of Albisola Marina. Plenty of palm trees here. They hit the Via Aurelia.

The six are working pretty well together. Who has got the legs to attack? The chasing nine are only at 46 seconds.

16:44 CEST    204km/6km to go
Under a tunnel and alongside the coast now, the six leaders are going in the opposite direction to Milan-San Remo. The gap to the chasing nine is 42 seconds as they hit 6 km to go. It ain't over yet!

16:45 CEST    205km/5km to go
Less than five clicks left in stage 16, and the six are still riding together. Brandt, Engels, Vanotti, Le Mevel, Fofonov and Schleck are the men in front. The chase group of nine is at 45 seconds. They shouldn't come back unless the front group stops cooperating. Doesn't look like it at the moment.

16:46 CEST    206km/4km to go
The leaders are on the outskirts of Varazze, in Celle Ligure. They're really motoring and there has not been an attack yet.

16:47 CEST    207km/3km to go
The road twists and turns along the coast, and it's a beautiful day for a swim. Maybe in about an hour...

3km, and it's very watchful.

16:48 CEST   
Engels rolls through for his turn, then Fofonov. Engels immediately takes the Kazakh's wheel. Then Le Mevel does a hard turn, but no attack.

16:48 CEST    208km/2km to go
The group hits two kilometres to go and is still rolling along at a good speed. Everyone is nervous - who wants to make the first move?

16:49 CEST   
Vanotti does a feint in front but it's nothing.

The chase group is still at 46 seconds.

16:50 CEST    209km/1km to go
They reach the 1 km to go banner. Brandt attacks, but Vanotti is right there. Then Le Mevel counters and gets a gap!

16:50 CEST   
Le Mevel looks back and sees no-one has countered. He hammers down a small descent and has 5 seconds. He looks good to win.

16:51 CEST    209km/1km to go
Last kilometre now and Le Mevel is clear by 5 seconds. More.

16:51 CEST    209.5km/0.5km to go
Christophe Le Mevel reaches 500m to go, looks back and sees that they're not coming. He will win the stage!

16:52 CEST    210km/0km to go
Frenchman Christophe Le Mevel crosses the line to win his first pro race. Brandt attacks for second and gets it, at nine seconds, but is extremely annoyed at himself. Vanotti takes third ahead of Fofonov.

The sprint for seventh is won by Ongarato ahead of Murn and Jégou.

17:16 CEST   
For those interested, the peloton comes through to the finish led by Discovery and Quick.Step. No point in sprinting, even though Pozzato does, and he wins it for 19th place. The gap is 22'16. Well, the leading riders, in particular Brandt and Le Mevel, will move up a few spots on GC that means.

Le Mevel sprays both podium girls with spumante, after failing to open the first bottle (twist the bottle, not the cork). No changes to the other jerseys, and Bettini (intergiro and points) and Rujano (mountains) will keep their leads in those classifications.

That's all folks until tomorrow!


1 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole                       4.50.51
2 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                            0.09
3 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Domina Vacanze                            0.16
4 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis-Le Credit Par Telephone       
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                   
6 Addy Engels (Ned) Quick.Step                                   
7 Alberto Ongarato (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                               0.50
8 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                      
9 Lilian Jegou (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux                         
10 Andre' Korff (Ger) T-Mobile Team                              
11 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Credit Agricole                      
12 Dario Andriotto (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
13 Bjoern Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                    
14 Javier Ramirez Abeja (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team       
15 Rene' Andrle (Cze) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team                  

General classification after stage 16

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team  
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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