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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 17 - Wednesday, May 24: Termeno/Tramin - Plan De Corones/Kronplatz, 133 km

Complete live report

Commentary by Kristy Scrymgeour with additonal reporting from Anthony Tan

12:09 CEST   
A brutal stage with 50km of climbing that has a second consecutive mountaintop finish. Starting in Termeno, Stage 17 goes via Passo di Pinei, over Passo delle Erbe to finish atop Plan de Corones at 2273m., with the last 5.5km up an only recently paved road next to a ski slope with sections that have a 24% grade! Watch for huge gaps to open on Stage 17's ugly final ascent, with a pure climber destined for victory.

14:32 CEST    20km/113km to go
Welcome back to Cyclingnews’ coverage of Giro d’Italia. After a tough mountain top stage yesterday where we saw Basso comfortably extend his lead in the General Classification, we are back for yet another tough mountain stage. The one everybody has been waiting for in fact. A few days ago there was a rumour that despite the fact that the road up to the top of Plan de Corones had been completed, the bad weather had slowed down the drying of the new hard packed gravel and cement layer making it extremely hard to ride up if it were to rain during the stage. Right now it is already snowing at the top of the mountain. Our reporter’s car got bogged and a truck has fallen over delaying everyone trying to get to the top. It is very likely that this last part of the stage will be cancelled. In any case, it’s going to be a very interesting stage.

Even before riders reach this last climb they must first climb Passo delle Erbe which is a 30km climb at 5% average. A short descent is followed by the ascent of Plan de Corones which is 16km long and extremely steep. It averages 7.5% with a max of 24% near the top.

Right now the riders are about 20km into the stage. The peloton is all together. Two riders didn’t start this morning. Honchar and Scarponi.

14:42 CEST   
It's three degrees at the top of the mountain and our reporter Anthony Tan has abandoned his car after it got bogged in the mud. He says that the whole last dirt/gravel section has become mud and if it's not cancelled we might very well see a rider protest during this stage. So far there is no news of any shortening of the course but we still have some time left before the riders start this climb.

14:50 CEST   
The start of the race was delayed because teams were voicing their displeasure with the course, but we'll see what happens.

Already the road is going up slightly. Not a lot of flat or downhill in this stage. When they hit the bottom of the first climb of the day they hit the steepest sections right away. After about 3km it has a 10% grade.

14:52 CEST   
The peloton is just cruising along so far. No-one who wants to finish this stage in one piece will dare attack before they get to the climbs so I don't think we'll see another solo attack like we saw with Rubiera Chavez yesterday.

14:54 CEST   
Basso was very happy with his stage win yesterday. He said "It was a fantastic feeling to win on a mountain wearing the pink jersey," he said. "I think it's something all riders dream about; certainly it's always been a big dream of mine ever since I became a pro. Of course all victories are important, but this one will always be special to me.

"The team set me up perfectly, so I was able to do my bit at the end to try and finish the job. It's really hard for me to put into words, how I feel, and I have a very tough day ahead of me tomorrow. But I do feel very happy with what we've accomplished today. The Giro is far from over and I won't preconceive me winning, but today is a day I'll never forget that's for sure."

With stages like today, anything can happen and he would have been trying to get just that little bit of extra time over his opponents yesterday as a safety barrier for what could come up in the next five days.

14:56 CEST   
According to the official website, the stage has actually been shortened and will not include the last section of the final climb. The total distance therefore has been shortened to 126km.

15:03 CEST    37km/89km to go
Nearly 40km into the race now and the peloton is all together. Another 25km until the bottom of the first mountain, which starts in the town of Bressanone.

15:09 CEST   
The stage has not been cancelled. Sorry that was my typo. They have just shortened the stage and cut off the top part of Passo delle Erbe, which is the first climb, because of the bad weather. At this point they are still doing the dirt section at the finish.

15:10 CEST   
It looks quite miserable out there. Saunier Duval is leading the peloton right now. It's raining and all of the riders have rain jackets on. It also looks cold.

15:11 CEST   
At the top of the mountain when they finish, the riders can't drive down the mountain to their team cars. They have to catch a gondola down. Only one car per team is allowed all the way to the top.

15:11 CEST   
Gonchar didn't start today because of some knee problems he has had since his crash the other day.

15:13 CEST   
The rain and the cold hasn't stopped the fanatical cycling spectators at the top of the mountain. The crowds are gathering with their umbrella's and raincoats.

15:18 CEST   
Benoit Poilvet (Credit Agricole) and Dario Cioni (Liquigas) are off the front together. The have a small gap and are working well together.

15:19 CEST   
In the bunch Jose Serpa is at 68% of his max with a heartrate of 136.

15:19 CEST   

15:23 CEST   
Bettini is calling for his team car. He's looking quite cold and squinting to see through the rain. The couldn't have asked for a worse day to do this mountain stage.

15:28 CEST   
Simoni sits tucked in behind his teammates who are leading the peloton. They are on a wide open highway road. The riders in the peloton are just trying to take it easy and keep warm. Up front Cioni and Poilvet are taking even turns and have increased their gap to 1'20".

15:31 CEST   
Again they are riding past orchards and vineyards. It would be another beautiful stage if it wasn't for the weather. Apparently they will not be going up any of the first mountain today and will instead go around it. No mention of cancelling any of the last climb. Perhaps this is the organisers way of compromising with the riders.

15:35 CEST   
Anthony Tan reports that the change in the course eventuated after a heated discussion prior to the stage between the organisation and the riders. They decided to bypass the first mountain because of the rain and very low temperatures. The descent from Passo delle Erbe also has three or four kilometers of quite dangerous roads, so it was the cold and their safety that the riders were concerned about.

15:38 CEST   
Saunier Duval still has all eight riders on the front setting the pace with Simoni at the end of the train. CSC is just behind them followed by Discovery.

15:43 CEST    66km/60km to go
We are at the half way mark. The first part of the race won't be anywhere near as exciting as it could have been as it's all relatively flat now until we get to the 17km to go mark and start climbing Plan de Corones. The lead pair have two minutes on the field at this point and get out of the saddle up a small climb.

15:44 CEST   
The peloton is also on a small climb and they are all spread across the road just cruising up.

15:51 CEST   
The Saunier Duval team is still gathered at the front and have picked up the pace again over the small rise. The road is flat again now.

At the top it's still snowing and freezing. It hasn't stopped people going up there though. The crowds are huge, all waiting there with their signs and rugging up to keep warm whilst they wait.

15:53 CEST   
Aaron Olson has just rolled off the front after doing a turn on the front. His teeth looked to be jittering. He doesn't look warm.

A note of the gearing for the riders today. Team Gerolsteiner has a 34/27 gear ratio for the climb today. That gives you an idea of how steep this thing gets.

15:55 CEST   
Cioni and Poilvet look a little warmer than the rest of the riders. Perhaps they have the right idea going in a break and working a little harder to keep warm.

15:58 CEST   
It has to be said that even though we said that the roads are flat now leading up to the last climb. This is a relative term. The roads around this area are rarely flat. More like undulating.

We are also hearing rumours that the last 5km of the course may also be cancelled bringing the total distance down to 121km.

16:00 CEST   
Serpa's heartrate is still 136 at 68% of his max.

16:03 CEST   
Guttierez has just gone back to his team car with technical problems. He has six teammates back there with him to bring him back to the bunch.

16:04 CEST   
The riders are passing a field and the cows are running alongside them joining the race. One of them is attacking up the hill. They are quite fast on this steep hill.

16:08 CEST   
It's going to be a mad scramble now for the organisation to move the finish 5km back down the road. That will give the crowds at the top something to do whilst they wait. They'll all have to hike back down as it's official that they have shortened the stage now. They now finish on Furkel Pass which is part of the Corones and 1739m in altitude.

16:11 CEST   
A CSC rider has just received a wheel change and will have to chase back alone. It looks like Sastre who did such a great job on the mountain for Basso yesterday.

16:12 CEST   
A Discovery rider is stopped on the side of the road and putting on arm warmers and leg warmers. It's Savoldelli. He is obviously freezing but he's going to have a hard chase back on.

16:12 CEST   

16:15 CEST   
A couple of CSC riders have gone back to help Sastre back on. A Rabobank riders is also back there with them after having stopped with a mechanical. The lead duo now have 2'43" on the field.

16:18 CEST    86km/35km to go
Cioni looks a bit miserable out there but the pair look good and they are both working well over this undulating terrain.

16:21 CEST   
The latest time gap is 1'51" so the Saunier Duval team is bringing this back now.

Cunego also just stopped for a bike change. It could be that they are all stopping to change bikes before the mountain so that they have their mountain gearing on.

16:22 CEST   
Or because the steep bit has been cancelled they don't actually need the really small gears anymore so they are swapping to their bikes with the normal gearing.

16:23 CEST   
Cunego's teammates are pacing him back on. They are just reaching the back of the peloton.

16:25 CEST   
One of the Saunier Duval riders is squeezing his hands together trying to get some blood running through them. Cioni is on the front of the break with his mud mustache. Quite a look he's got going on there.

16:26 CEST   
They are on smaller roads now as they get closer to the mountain. The leaders get out of the saddle for another small roller.

16:29 CEST    91km/30km to go
About 30km to the finish now and the gap is 1'38". Saunier Duval seem to have picked up the pace a little and the bunch is more strung out. They are traveling over one of those roads built on the side of the mountain with a drop off on one side as they climb through a gorgeous little valley alongside a stream.

16:31 CEST   
The road is starting to go up and people are struggling on this foothill that leads up to the final climb.

16:33 CEST   
We are presuming Savoldelli is back in the bunch although it's hard to tell right now.

16:34 CEST   
The leaders have just gone over a dodgy bit of road. It was quite rough and there seems to be quite a bit of construction going on along this section of the road.

16:39 CEST    100km/21km to go
Just over 20km to the finish now so not long until the start of this climb. Another 8km or so. Saunier Duval still lead. They've been on the front for the entire stage to give Simoni every chance on today's climb. He had a good race yesterday but couldn't quite hand on to Basso. He did move up to fourth on GC and will be aiming to improve on that today. He's only 17 seconds behind Savoldelli on GC now.

16:41 CEST   
Lampre has just moved up in the peloton bringing Cunego closer to the front for the start of the climb. They slot in behind the Saunier Duval guys. The rain seems to have stopped momentarily but it's still cold. The riders in the bunch are continually trying to warm up stiff and tight joints.

16:43 CEST   
The gap has fallen to below a minute now so not long until these two get swallowed up. The latest time gap is 35". Some of the riders are taking off their raincoats now preparing for the climb. They don't want to be lugging wet rain jackets up the climb.

16:45 CEST   
A Discovery rider is having trouble with his bike and has stopped on the side of the road. It's not Savoldelli. We've spotted him up near Basso at the front.

16:45 CEST   
Iliano has attacked. They have just started to climb and he has opened up a gap on the field and is coming up upon the lead pair.

16:47 CEST    112km/9km to go
They have just gone through the 110 Gazzetta sprint. They have 9km to go!

16:48 CEST   
Iliano caught and passed the leaders and now has about 11 seconds on the field. The climb is not steep yet.

16:50 CEST   
He's out of the saddle and looks quite comfortable but his lead is dropping and the climbs winds up past a small village and through wide open highland fields. Basso has taken off his black rain jacket to reveal the pink jersey.

16:52 CEST   
Riders have started to get dropped on the climb. It's splitting up a lot already. CSC has a rider on the front setting the pace. There looks to be about 30 riders left in the front group.

16:53 CEST   
Di Luca has been dropped and a T-mobile rider has attacked and has caught Iliano. It could be Scott Davis.

16:54 CEST   
Davis moves in front of Iliano to do a turn, the field is not far behind. Jan Ullrich is no longer in the lead group.

16:55 CEST    116km/5km to go
They have gone under the 5km to go. The lead pair have been caught and Piepoli has hit the front again and accelerated like he did yesterday.

16:57 CEST   
Piepoli has the group strung out and more riders are dropping of the back. The road is narrowing and starting to get steeper. They are riding through a beautiful foresty area. Basso is pretty much alone as his last CSC rider is suffering. Savoldelli is getting dropped. He seems to have really suffered in the cold today.

16:58 CEST   
Perez Cuapio is leading the front group setting the tempo. Noe has been dropped.

16:59 CEST   
Perez Cuapio's pace has caused more riders to get dropped. He is continually out of the saddle pushing it up this climb. The group is getting smaller and smaller. Basso sits in second wheel with Guttierrez on his wheel.

17:00 CEST   
It's cold up here. Guttierez has attacked but he has Basso on his wheel. Simoni is having trouble at the back so Piepoli has left him. Simoni probably told him to try for a stage win.

17:01 CEST   
The leaders are Basso, Perez Cuapio, Gutierrez, Piepoli with Gadret, Simoni, Pellizotti, Caruso and Cunego chasing.

17:03 CEST   
Cunego has been dropped from Simoni's group now. Up front Perez Cuapio is back in the lead setting the pace. He has won three stages of the Giro in the past. On his wheel is Guttierrez followed by Basso and Piepoli. Caruso has been dropped.

17:04 CEST    119km/2km to go
Less than two kilometers to go now. Its getting steeper and narrower. Simoni is alone chasing now. Pellizotti has just closed the gap to the front group now and seems to be riding straight past them.

17:05 CEST   
Basso gets out of the saddle now with 1km to go. Piepoli attacks but Basso has his wheel. Guttierrez looked like he could go with them but is getting dropped. Basso is pushing the pace now with Piepoli on his wheel.

17:06 CEST   
The fans are mad running really close to the riders. Piepoli takes the lead again and Basso moves back into second wheel. They have a big lead over the others now.

17:07 CEST   
About 500m to go Piepoli leads and is out of the saddle. The fans are drenched but still jumping up and down on the side of the road. Basso stays on Piepoli's wheel.

17:08 CEST   
Piepoli sprints and Basso stays in the saddle and doesn't contest the sprint. Piepoli takes the stage and Guttierrez comes in for third 15 seconds down. Pelizotti comes in for fourth place.

17:09 CEST   
Cunego came in at 33 seconds and Simoni at around 50 seconds. He'll move into third place on GC now.

17:10 CEST   
Savoldelli is coming in with a group of six riders. They are 1'33" down. Danielson leads him over the line.

17:11 CEST   
It's still snowing at the top. It would have been disastrous trying to go over the new road at the top.

17:14 CEST   
Thanks for tuning in. It turned out to be a little bit different to the stage we were expecting. We'll be back tomorrow when the Giro heads east on a transitional stage through the Julian Alps, passing through Friuli, which was shaken by a major earthquake thirty years ago this month. The stage then heads into Austria for 30km before moving back to Italy. The first climb is Monte Croce Carnico, with the steep 7km Cuel di Forcia waiting with 55km to go to Gemona.


1 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                         3.21.26
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                     
3 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                0.15
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                       0.19
5 Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Mex) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare             0.28
6 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance                                      0.37
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                   0.41
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                             0.48
9 Sergio Ghisalberti (Ita) Team Milram                                   0.58
10 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                    
11 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux                                  1.15
12 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Step-Innergetic                         
13 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas                                       1.29
14 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Liquigas 
15 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 
16 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 
General classification after stage 17
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                         
2 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                5.51
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                            10.17
4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team  

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