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Photo ©: Sirotti

88th Giro d'Italia - PT

Italy, May 7-29, 2005

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Stage 17 - May 26: Varazze - Limone Piemonte (Colle di Tenda), 194 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones and 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

14:14 CEST   
Welcome back to the observation deck of the recently expanded Hindenburg IV, powered by the purest water vapour and carbon dioxide. Today we are bringing you to the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, which starts on the coast in Varazze and finishes atop the 1795m climb of Colle di Tenda in Limone Piemonte. It's not an easy stage, with the climbs of Colle di Cadibona (Cat. 3, km 21.3), Madonna del Coletta (Cat. 1, km 138), Colletto del Moro (Cat. 2, km 165) preceding the final climb of the Colle di Tenda.

Today's Intergiro is at Borgo san Dalmazzo (km 117), and the stage is generally up and down all day.

14:44 CEST    120km/74km to go
The stage started at 11:50 with all 158 riders signing on. It was a very aggressive start to the stage and already on the Colle di Cadibona after 20 km, there was a group of riders out the back, chasing at a minute. The group contained Henk Vogels, Russell Van Hout and Trent Wilson, among others. Patrice Halgand (CA) won the climb ahead of Michele Scarponi (Liberty) and Michael Blaudzun (CSC). The three continued in front, joined by Verdugo, Kolobnev, and Laverde, but were caught at km 26.

After 38 km, a group of 15 riders got away, which increased to 23 before it was hauled back after 52 km. The average speed after one hour was 41 km/h, and Christophe Kern (Bouygues), and Sergei Escobar Roure (Illes Balears) abandoned after 60 km.

The attacks continued, with 10 riders going clear after 54 km. Thierry Marichal and Matthew White (Cofidis), Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), Volodymir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros), Stefano Zanini (Quickstep), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), Bram Schmitz (T-Mobile) and Rory Sutherland (Rabobank). The cash sprint at Ceva was won by Volodomir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo) as Wladimir Belli (Domina), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), and Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) tried to bridge up to the 10 leaders. Belli wasn't able to hang on, but Laiseka and Dekker joined the front group after 70 km, with the gruppo maglia rosa at 2'10.

Matt White told us today, "It was a good day yesterday, but Credit chased us down. I reckon it'll be really aggressive at the start today. It's going to be bloody hot and it's real humid out there because it's so green.

"A lot of the teams have been getting crook with bronchitis and head colds. After Stuey left they put me with some guy who was crook! Bugger that, you can't put sick riders together, that's ridiculous."

Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) crashed in the peloton after 80 km, but was able to rejoin.

The sprint at S. Michele M.vì was also won by Gustov, while Matt White won the sprint at Villanova di Mondovì (km 82). The main bunch was 4'15 back at this point, as the average speed after two hours was 42.2 km/h. After 90 km, the gruppo maglia rosa was at 5'00, but this has been brought back to 4'13 at km 110.

We spoke to Brad Wiggins (Credit Agricole) at the start, and he said that it was "Not really a day for me today, but another day closer to Milan. Personally for me, it's the time trial tomorrow. It's got a bit of a hill in it, but I think I'll go ok. The morale in the team is pretty good at the moment. We're up there in the GC, which we're pretty happy about, and of course the stage win yesterday. It's been a good tour all round for us really. I've just been playing the domestique's role in these races. I just stay with Caucchioli for as long as I can."

14:49 CEST   
The group that was dropped early on with Vogels, Van Hout, and T. Wilson, managed to rejoin the peloton well.

14:52 CEST    123km/71km to go
Stefano Zanini wins the Intergiro sprint at Borgo s. Dalmazzo, ahead of Schmitz and White. The average speed at the Intergiro was 41.45 km/h.

Brett Lancaster (Panaria) was not really looking forward to today's stage. "I'm just a little bit tired, but I'll be right. I'll see what I can do in Milan."

Brett is liking his new bike though. "It's great. It's the new model Colnago that's coming out in September. It's lighter and it's a little bit more rigid than the old one."

14:56 CEST   
Zanini's win in the Intergiro will give him the lead in that competition. He started the day 18 seconds behind his teammate Bettini, and will pick up 30 Intergiro bonus seconds for the win.

14:58 CEST    124km/70km to go
Lampre and CSC are towing the peloton, and are gradually pulling the leading 12 back. At the Intergiro it was 4'05, and a few kilometres later it is 3'58.

15:08 CEST    128km/66km to go
The leaders are approaching the steep, 7 km climb of the Madonna del Coletta. This might see the first attacks among the break.

15:19 CEST    133km/61km to go
Zanini and Schmitz are in trouble as the leaders start the climb of the Madonna del Coletta.

15:24 CEST    135km/59km to go
Cunego tows the bunch at 2'40, as the leaders get to 3 km from the summit.

15:29 CEST    134km/60km to go
A few kilometres from the summit of the climb of the Madonna del Colletto, the break has fragmented; Zanini and Schmitz were dropped first, then a group of five moved clear: Patrice Halgand, Angel Gomez, Roberto Laiseka, Rory Sutherland and Matt White; Sandy Casar has just got across to them, and the remainder of the former group are now a short half a minute down.

The bunch are being towed up the climb by Damiano Cunego, still 2.40 down.

We spoke to Rabobank's Rory Sutherland this morning, and he was expecting a hard day. "Yeah, it's going to be tough and the temperature's high, so it's going to be a real hot one. It's up and down all day. I'll try and get up the road in a break today, but with that ,finish it's going to be hard to stay there. I probably won't be riding for the win, probably riding just to get my name up there and do something but I'll have a go. If they rode it easy and just went up the climb, it wouldn't be so bad. But that's not going to happen.

"We've only got five riders left. We're all going out with bronchitis troubles, which are effecting everybody."

15:39 CEST    139km/55km to go
Patrice Halgand leads the sextet over the summit; the residue of the break follows at 55 seconds, while Steve Zampieri has jumped clear of the maglia rosa group who are following 2.35 down.

15:53 CEST    154km/40km to go
CSC are now working with Discovery; good to see that Ivan Basso is looking much more like his normal self.

Ahead, Volodimir Gustov has got clear of Hruska and Dekker (who are close to being caught by the 70-ish strong bunch) on the descent and is nearly up with the six leaders; however, their lead is now down to 1.15. The chase is somewhat less than full out for the moment; we soon have the climb of the "wall", Colletto del Moro, with the final climb to the Colle di Tenda starting immediately at the foot of the descent .

15:55 CEST    161km/33km to go
Gustov has been caught too, leaving just six leaders in front of the small, CSC-led peloton: Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval), Roberto Laiseka (Euskaltel), Rory Sutherland (Rabobank), Matthew White (Cofidis), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux).

15:59 CEST    164km/30km to go
Gustov hasn't made it across - indeed he and all the others who were dropped in the break on the last climb have now been caught. The sextet now have just 1.05. Laiseka is looking a bit tired. In fact it's down to 30 seconds under the 30 km to go banner.

Behind them CSC are still doing the work, in the form of MIchael Blaudzun resplendent in his Danish champion's vest.

16:02 CEST   
At the beginning of the 3 km climb (the steep bit is at the top) it is Matt White who makes the first move, but he is rapidly caught, and then it is Roberto Laiseka who, looking tired or not, shows his climbing abilities and rides clear.

Laiseka can't keep up the rhythm and Vasseur sweeps past him. Riders are being shed out of the back of the bunch (Cunego again setting the pace) in some numbers now.

16:07 CEST   
Vasseur's climbing is put into the shadow as the bunch swallow him up as this wooded climb pitches up towards its cruel 17% stretch, preceded by his erstwhile companions. Bettini is among those dropped from the gruppo maglia rosa; Cunego and Simoni are side by side at the front of the bunch and the race now.

16:09 CEST   
Di Luca, Basso and Savoldelli are all hot on the heels of the two Lampre riders, but Serguei Gonchar is now one of those dropped.

Maglia verde Rujano moves up to third wheel.

16:12 CEST   
Basso leads over the top, followed by Simoni and Rujano. Di Luca, Savoldelli, Cioni and Karpets are all well up too. Bettini has lost the best part of 50 seconds.

The descent is winding and decidedly technical, but nobody looks to be trying to push the pace too much on it.

16:18 CEST    169km/25km to go
Domenico Pozzovivo does manage to crash in the descent; the leading bunch of 25 or so raiders are now through the village of Robilante and on the false flat that gradually pitches up to become the climb of Limone Piemonte.

Bettini gets back on as the group eases up a bit, and immediately goes on the attack; Samuel Sanchez and Matthias Kessler, but they are soon caught again.

16:25 CEST    174km/20km to go
Schleck is setting the tempo for the bunch for the CSC team and Basso in particular; this isn't enough to stop another dozen or so chasers from tagging on.

Sanchez takes another dig; after a bit of after-you-no-after-you stuff he is joined in an interesting looking group by another five riders including Basso and Schleck; the Luxembourger goes straight top the front to ride tempo again; they have a hundred metres or so lead over the gruppo maglia rosa. The road here is well engineered and broad, so they are not vanishing into the distance yet.

Savoldelli goes back to his car to take the last chance for a fresh bottle or two.

Trent Wilson (Colombia-Selle Italia) was not looking the best when we talked to him. "The whole team's got head colds except for Russ. He's got bronchitis. Everyone gets sick but now we just keep getting knocked down. One minute you crash, next minute you've got sore legs, then you get a head cold.

Russell Van Hout added, "I'll stay in the group for as long as I can today to help our little man."

16:28 CEST   
Caruso, Tiralongo, Cioni (best placed on GC, 9th at 6.40), Basso, Schleck and Lobato are the six riders in question. Schleck is burying himself, tongue out, and Lobato was just clocked at 92% of his maximum heart rate. Basso and Cioni in particular look quite comfortable and riding within themselves.

They have pulled out a lead of 40 seconds. Behind the usual suspects from the Selle Italia team have moved up behind the Lampres who are setting the tempo, with Parra on the wheel of Simoni.

16:34 CEST    179km/15km to go
The impressive Schleck is still burying himself, while the wired-up Lobato made it to 95% of max HR a moment ago (it's not clear who he's working for, since he's certainly not going to keep that up all the way to the top). They are sharing the work and still pulling away as the gradient steadily increases (we are not officially even on the climb yet) - 1.13 at the 15km to go banner.

16:38 CEST    181km/13km to go
Schleck leads them through the cobbled streets of the village of Limone Piemonte and to the point at which the climb is officially recognised; the lightweight Lobato drops back a bit.

Behind Patxi Vila and Cunego are towing the train, with Rujano riding close behind Simoni in fourth and third wheels.

1.30 lead at the official foot of the climb; Basso is clearly having a good day.

16:42 CEST    184km/10 km to go
Parra, Savoldelli and Di Luca are all up at the head of the group still; Gonchar is among those who have made it back up since the previous climb. Savoldelli is riding a smaller gear after the manner of Armstrong, while Di Luca is looking perhaps a little less stylish than he does sometimes.

Vila has dropped off the front of the maglia rosa group, work done.

16:49 CEST    186km/8km to go
Schleck is still grinding out the kilometres, sitting in a small gear as are the five following him; behind Cunego and Simoni are out of the saddle, and the lead has stabilised around 1.40.

Bettini is dropped once more. Van Huffel and Ardila have moved up to ride behind Cunego.

16:53 CEST    188km/6km to go
As they turn off the main road onto the steeper, narrower asphalt that leads to the top Giampaolo Caruso attacks, and Schleck sits up as his team leader jumps past to counter.

Basso powers past Caruso, and rides clear alone, despite the best efforts of press motorbikes to get in his way on the corners.

Ardila is now leading the gruppo maglia rosa, and the gap has closed to 1.16; that was probably measured before the attack though.

16:55 CEST   
Wim van Huffel attacks from his team-mate's back wheel, and Rujano and CUNego react to chase him. Simoni pushes the pace, Savoldelli goes with him, and Di Luca is in trouble.

16:57 CEST    189km/5km to go
Simoni powers past Belgian, then Rujano and Garate get up to Simoni's wheel.

Savoldelli, Gonchar, Van Huffel and Karpets are chasing together. Van Huffel is dropped.

17:02 CEST    192km/2km to go
Savoldelli is fighting back and is only ten seconds down on Simoni now, with Garate, Karpets and Gonchar among the group with him; Di Luca looks like being the big loser. Basso is going away from them, though.

17:04 CEST   
Basso looks clear for the stage win, while Simoni and Rujano have pulled away again a few seconds from Savoldelli, whose group also includes Parra and Valjavec.

17:06 CEST    193km/1km to go
Basso starts the last kilometre of the climb; this will make up for some of his earlier disappointment.
Savoldelli is riding fairly comfortably. Rujano is ahead of Simoni now, and they have 25 seconds on the maglia rosa.

17:07 CEST   
Ivan Basso comes up to take the line for his first victory of the season, a brave effort that should exorcise the ghost of the Stelvio.

Rujano leads out but Simoni comes past him and looks to have the bonus seconds for second place in the bag but the Venezuelan gets his second wind and nips through on the line. Wim Van Huffel gets away from the Savoldelli/Garate group to take fourth, and the maglia rosa comes in losing 25 seconds on Simoni; Di Luca rides a good damage limitation exercise and comes in 2.50 down on Basso, losing about 1.15 on Savoldelli and 1.40 on Rujano and Simoni (who thus move up into third and second on GC, just). A good move by Simoni, but not enough to threaten the maglia rosa seriously if the time trial tomorrow goes to form.

Thanks for following today's stage with us here on Cyclingnews; join us tomorrow for the final 34 km time trial from Chieri to Turin over the evil-omened Superga mountain, where the great Torino football team of the 1950s was wiped out in a plane crash and where Marco Pantani broke his leg on the descent in the 1995 Milano-Torino. May tomorrow not be a day for following that sort of tradition.


1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                      5.15.46
2 Jose' Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia                  1.06
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                              
4 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto                              1.32
5 Ivan Parra (Col) Selle Italia-Colombia                            1.48
6 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                    
7 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team   
8 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                          
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems                   
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears                           
11 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                         1.55
Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                               2.50

General classification after stage 17

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team     81.24.50
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                              0.58
3 Jose' Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia                  1.24
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                             1.26
5 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir                     2.11
6 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                              4.05
7 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole                           4.26
8 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare                    6.27
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears                              6.44
10 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                         6.47

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