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89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 20 - Saturday, May 27: Trento - Aprica, 211 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Anthony Tan

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

12:45 CEST   
Preview - After Friday's ugly stage, Saturday's penultimate stage of the Giro isn't much better, with yet another 4000m of climbing and seven hours in the saddle. After a second stage start in Trento, Stage 20 climbs the Passo Tonale, then up the steep Passo Gavia to the Giro's high point of Cima Coppi (2618m), the brutally steep Mortirolo where the Memorial Pantani awaits 8 km up the ascent. Once over the summit, a 15 km descent to Edolo awaits before the final climb of the Giro up Passo Aprica. Although the final 15 ascent to Aprica isn't that hard, after almost 200 km of racing, it will be exceptionally difficult.

14:17 CEST   
Welcome back to the last two days of the Giro (and thanks to Kristy Scrymgeour for taking over from me during the week). We've got the Cyclingnews blimp anchored to a spare Dolomite somewhere between Trento and Aprica, where this 20th stage is taking place. Although before the Giro, the final week promised much in terms of keeping the race alive, it's now clear that it was probably too much. Ivan Basso is far too strong for everyone, and has merely extended his lead in every mountain stage, and now has a six minute gap over Jose Enrique Gutierrez. Then it's another four and a half minutes back to third placed Gilberto Simoni, who is unlikely to take second spot from the ever-consistent Raging Bull Gutierrez. Oh well, we have still seen some good and spectacular racing.

The battle for fourth place might be interesting today. Paolo Savoldelli is currently in that position, with 2'14 on Damiano Cunego, who is in turn just 13 seconds ahead of Franco Pellizotti. It's unlikely that any of these will reach the podium unless Simoni cracks, however.

14:26 CEST    99km/112km to go
Today's stage started at 14:45 without Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel), who has been Savoldelli's most important domestique in the mountains. The first hour was very slow: 26 km/h, and it took until 44 km before the first attack was made by mountains leader Baliani (Panaria), Trofeo Fuga Piaggio leader Edalaine (CA), Flores (Euskaltel), Bruseghin (Lampre), and Cioni (Liquigas). That group was brought back, with Lopez (Euskaltel), Serpa (Selle Italia) joining Baliani, Edalaine and Bruseghin in a counter-move. No luck, though.

Through Malé (km 55), Francisco Perez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Stangelj (Lampre) had a go, but were brought back quickly. The average speed after two hours was 27.9 km/h. Wladimir Belli, 9th on GC, pulled out after 57 km, before Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) won an intermediate sprint at Dimaro.

Saunier Duval and CSC were doing the tempo making as they started the first climb of the day, the Passo del Tonale. The group stayed together, and over the top it was Garate taking the points ahead of teammate Garrido, Baliani, Engels and Mori. Just after the climb, Bruseghin attacked with Calzati (AG2R), and the pair got a gap on the descent, which reached 1'18 at 96 km, just before the Gavia. But the pair's gap has come back to 43 seconds as the mighty Gavia has started: 16.5 km at 8%, with a maximum of 16%.

14:41 CEST    104km/107km to go
The Gavia is taking its toll. The gruppo maglia rosa is already down to less than 40 riders, while up front, Bruseghin and Calzati have been joined by Rubiera (Discovery). Bruseghin has trouble following the other two, and drops back.

14:42 CEST   
David Lopez (Euskaltel) has attacked the group in pursuit of Rubiera and Calzati. The gruppo is only 44 seconds behind the two leaders at the moment.

14:49 CEST    107km/104km to go
Lopez has caught the two leaders 3 km from the top of the Gavia, with Bruseghin still dangling at 25 seconds, then the gruppo maglia rosa at 48 seconds.

14:59 CEST    109km/102km to go
After reaching the leaders, Lopez attacks almost immediately, while yesterday's stage winner Juan Manuel Garate attacks the gruppo maglia rosa, catching and passing all the leaders. He's now 15 seconds ahead of Lopez, with another counter attacker, Jose Serpa (Selle Italia, at 25 seconds.

15:07 CEST    112km/99km to go
The leaders reach the summit, joined by Patxi Vila (Lampre). Lampre obviously has a cunning plan today. At the top of the Gavia, the highest point of the Giro at 2618m, it's Garate leading Serpa by 22 seconds, with Lopez at 26 seconds, then Vila at 0'28, then Calzati at 1'12. The front four join together on the descent, while Calzati goes back to the peloton.

The average after four hours is 27 km/h.

15:20 CEST    115km/96km to go
On the long descent, Vila and Serpa have opened up a gap over Lopez and Garate, who trail at 37 seconds. The peloton is another half a minute back.

15:23 CEST    118km/93km to go
Garate is back in the peloton now, getting a bidon from a teammate. He did what he had to and won the Cima Coppi on the Gavia, taking the mountains jersey in the process. The bunch of 35-40 is led by Saunier Duval and CSC.

15:29 CEST    132km/79km to go
Caruso is sitting on 124/192, or 64% of his max heart rate at 50 km/h on this descent. The two leaders, Vila and Serpa, are in Bormio now, with a good 40 seconds over the peloton. They turn into the narrow, paved streets and pay a flying visit to the town.

As the road goes uphill for a bit, Serpa takes the lead and opens up a gap over Vila. Serpa won a couple of stages in Langkawi this year.

15:32 CEST    135km/76km to go
Serpa exits Bormio, and takes the 110 Gazzetta sprint Vila has been caught by the bunch, which is just 35 seconds behind the lone leader. A Saunier Duval rider leads it under the banner.

15:34 CEST    138km/73km to go
There's still quite a bit of descending to do. From the top of the Gavia (2618m), they go down to Mazzo di Valtellina (552m) in a total 55 km.

Sella sits on 60km/h at 125/197, 63% of his max, as big Jens Voigt drives the bunch.

15:41 CEST   
Lobato, Voigt, Gustov, Basso and Julich are second through sixth in the Gazzetta sprint.

Danielson's DNS this morning was because he had the flu, he told us.

15:45 CEST    142km/69km to go
There are now two Sauniers on the front: Lobato and Trentin, with the CSC train close behind. Serpa still leads the race by about half a minute.

15:49 CEST    150km/61km to go
The average after five hours has increased, as one would expect on this descent, and it's 30.1 km/h. Still the two Sauniers leading the bunch through the valley down towards Mazzo di Valtellina.

16:00 CEST    154km/57km to go
Serpa comes back to the mini-peloton, which is now in full flight towards the Mortirolo. Gruppo compatto.

16:08 CEST    166km/45km to go
And the peloton hits the Mortirolo, 12.8 km at 10.3% average, and a maximum of 18%. Lobato leads the rapidly thinning peloton, which is maybe down to 20 riders. Cuesta is right there for Basso

Ghisalberti's heart rate has gone up to 161/190 (84% of max) at 13 km/h.

16:10 CEST    167km/44km to go
Pellizotti is already in trouble: he's the sixth on GC, and looks like losing that.

Now CSC's Cuesta and Gustov take over as the riders ascend through the trees, with sun shining through at certain intervals. In some places the road is maybe a couple of metres wide at most.

16:11 CEST    168km/43km to go
Gustov takes over in front, as Caruso's heart rate goes up to 175/191 (91% of max) at 14 km/h.

Sastre is dropped, and rides very very slowly to recover. Rubiera is dropped, along with Serpa.

16:13 CEST   
Gustov's tempo has put plenty of riders in trouble. Garate and Pena are at the back, or just off it. And Unai Osa (Liberty Seguros).

Now we just have Gustov, Basso, Gutierrez, Cunego, Piepoli and Simoni. The usual suspects.

16:15 CEST   
Gustov does his work, then Basso decides to test the leaders. He can't crack them, and Gutierrez, Simoni, Piepoli, then a suffering Cunego come back. Savoldelli is chasing in a group with Casar, Garate.

Basso goes again. That can't be good for the rest.

16:15 CEST   
And Gutierrez and Cunego crack, as Basso ends up with his two mates, Simoni and Piepoli.

16:17 CEST    169km/42km to go
Now it's Basso with Simoni, as Piepoli can't follow the pace. Gutierrez and Cunego are chasing, as Basso puts the pressure on again. This climb is amazingly steep. Masses of tifosi are out to watch.

16:19 CEST   
Piepoli tries to come back, as Gutierrez drops Cunego. The latter is 18 seconds behind Basso and Simoni, while Savoldelli is just with Caruso now, 43 seconds behind the leaders. Cunego needs over 2 minutes on Savoldelli to take fourth on GC, but he only has 25 seconds now.

16:20 CEST   
Basso and Simoni continue to cooperate, with Piepoli in third, then Gutierrez weaving all over the road ahead of Cunego in fourth.

16:22 CEST    170km/41km to go
The two leaders put more time into Piepoli as they take another sharp hairpin. Cunego has caught the Raging Bull Gutierrez, and reaches that hairpin about 15 seconds behind the leaders.

16:23 CEST   
Caruso, still at 91% of his max, is down to 8 km/h. This is a steep climb.

16:25 CEST    171km/40km to go
Basso gets an unwelcome shower of water on his neck from a tifoso, and pushes him away annoyed. Then a Basque fan waves his flag next to the two Italians in the lead. Cunego and Gutierrez are about to catch Piepoli, but are 38 seconds behind the two in front.

Caruso rides away from Savoldelli now.

16:26 CEST   
And now Caruso is caught by Savoldelli :-) They are already 1'30 behind the two leaders. That means Cunego is about 1'30 away from taking fourth from Savoldelli.

16:28 CEST    172km/39km to go
Basso does another turn now, looking every bit the boss of the Giro. But kudos to Simoni, who has fought from a long way back to move into third overall. He needs over four minutes on Gutierrez to take second in Milan, but that's doubtful today.

16:29 CEST   
Caruso gets a huuuuuuuge push from a fan on the Mortirolo. Oh well, can't always stop that. Savoldelli doesn't get one as he follows 10m behind the Liberty rider.

16:30 CEST   
One fan pushes his friend into the path of the CSC team car. That's probably not good for his life expectancy.

16:31 CEST    173km/38km to go
Basso drops back to the car and grabs a bidon, as Simoni continues with his rhythm. Basso comes back to the Saunier man's wheel.

Behind them, Piepoli still hasn't been caught by Gutierrez and Cunego, who has dropped off the Phonak man's wheel.

Another hairpin, the trees thin out a bit, then it's back into the dappled sunshine on the narrow road of the Mortirolo.

16:33 CEST    174km/37km to go
Gutierrez is now at 50 seconds, with Cunego at 53, Caruso already at 2'05 and Savoldelli at 2'10. Savoldelli has about a minute left of his advantage on Cunego, but it's only for fourth on GC.

Another tifoso pours a bottle of water on Gibo's back, and he doesn't seem to mind as much.

16:38 CEST    175km/36km to go
Gutierrez edges away from Cunego, while Piepoli in third manages to limit his losses to 36 seconds to the leaders. He could get them on the descent.

Caruso and Savoldelli are caught by Garate. The former is at 9km/h at 88% of his max.

16:38 CEST   
Gutierrez has done a lot of solo climbing in this Giro. He looks as though he's suffering, but he has limited the damage to just under a minute so far.

16:42 CEST    176km/35km to go
Cunego is now 1'10 behind the leaders, while Gutierrez and Piepoli ride together at 45 seconds behind Basso and Gibo. Savoldelli, Caruso and Garate fall further back to 2'40, but Savoldelli can make some of that up on the long descent.

16:44 CEST    177km/34km to go
Basso and Gibo are now just 2 km from the summit of the last really tough climb in this Giro. The two are cooperating well. Guti and Piepoli are still at 45 seconds, with Cunego closing the gap a bit. But Savoldelli's group has fallen back to 3'05.

16:45 CEST   
Piepoli doesn't help Gutierrez, as his teammate Simoni is in front. Six hours raced, at just under 30 km/h.

The fans up here are insane.

16:46 CEST    176km/35km to go
Under 35 km to go, and Simoni looks good. Gutierrez has dropped Piepoli and chases the two in front at 1'09. But Cunego catches Piepoli now, and the two close in on Gutierrez.

16:47 CEST   
There should be a minimum level of dress required for some fans...

16:48 CEST   
Basso leads Simoni towards the top of the Mortirolo, cheered on by billions of screaming tifosi. Watch those flags.

16:49 CEST    179km/32km to go
Basso gets a few friendly taps from the crowd as he speeds past. It's dangerous, but it's cycling. He leads Gibo all the way to the top, but he won't take the mountains jersey back from Garate.

16:51 CEST    180km/31km to go
Order is maintained. Simoni takes second on the Mortirolo behind the king, Ivan Basso.

In third place is Gutierrez, who drops Cunego just at the top and crosses at 1'08. Then Cunego, then Piepoli.

16:52 CEST    181km/30km to go
Basso leads on the descent - carefully. Simoni takes his wheel. But doesn't take the lead. It's a pretty technical and narrow descent.

The Savoldelli group has been joined by Casar, who will probably move into sixth on GC today as Pellizotti is gooooone.

16:53 CEST    182km/29km to go
Cunego is a good descender, and takes over from Guti.

The Savoldelli group is over the top at 3'42, which means Cunego is in virtual fourth at the moment.

16:54 CEST   
Piepoli has tanked a bit, following at 1'48 behind the two leaders.

16:58 CEST    185km/26km to go
The pursuit is on on the descent of the Mortirolo. Simoni and Basso have a minute's advantage over Cunego and Gutierrez as they navigate the many hairpins on this 17 km descent.

16:59 CEST    186km/25km to go
The two leaders go under 25 km to go, and don't hang around. 55-60 km/h all the way, with higher speeds on the straighter sections.

17:00 CEST   
And the falcon, Paolo Savoldelli, has dropped his companions and pretty much everyone else as he tries to make up some of his deficit on this descent.

17:01 CEST    188km/23km to go
Savoldelli is beautiful to watch on a descent like this, taking the corners so smoothly.

Piepoli is now at 2'06, his descending skills seemingly deserting him today.

17:03 CEST    190km/21km to go
Savoldelli pushes it all the way, as he's sixth on the road now at 3'38. The leaders fly through Monno. Gutierrez takes another corner too wide, and loses a bit of time.

17:04 CEST    191km/20km to go
Savoldelli tucks in on a straight section and reaches warp speed. More or less.

Basso and Gibo are just about at the foot of the descent, as Basso gets some advice from Gallopin in the driver's seat of the car.

17:05 CEST    192km/19km to go
49 seconds is the gap back to Gutierrez and Cunego at 20 clicks to go.

17:07 CEST    193km/18km to go
Basso does another turn as the road continues to go down, but with fewer corners.

Gutierrez waves for his team car. He gets some food. Piepoli is now 1'44 behind the two leaders, in fifth, but Savoldelli is still 2'55 down. That's a good descent from the Falcon, and he's now back into virtual fourth.

17:08 CEST   
Gibo and Ivan swap off in front, while Guti and Cunego swap off behind at 50 seconds. Savoldelli needs to catch Piepoli, but he's got a bit of work to do.

The Caruso group lost 40 seconds to Savoldelli on that descent.

17:10 CEST    195km/16km to go
The two leaders pass through Edolo, and will reach the final climb up to Aprica. It's not a categorised climb, and averages only 3.1% for 15.4 km.

17:10 CEST    197km/14km to go
Gutierrez and Cunego go under 15 km to go in full pursuit of the two in front. 46 seconds.

17:12 CEST    198km/13km to go
Savoldelli rides through Edolo now, alone, while Basso and Simoni are already on the last climb. Will Basso go all out for this stage, or will Gibo get him?

17:13 CEST   
Savoldelli is now at 3'00: 2'15 behind Cunego and Gutierrez. So he's lost his fourth place by 1 second.

17:15 CEST    199km/12km to go
Savoldelli gets an energy gel out and swallows it for this last climb. Gutierrez and Cunego look to be losing time on Basso and Gibo. Ivan is riding out of the saddle in a big gear, looking good.

Cunego has pain written all over his face as he follows the big diesel, Gutierrez.

17:16 CEST   
Now Simoni takes over, working hard but still looking calm.

Savoldelli, sixth on the road, has to do it all on his own. He'll at least win the blue combination jersey.

17:17 CEST   
Basso gets out of the saddle again, really powering away. Simoni is good though, and doesn't let that wheel go. It's a fast climb, and they will be doing above 30 km/h on it.

17:18 CEST    200km/11km to go
And the gap has gone up to 1'12 between the front two couples. Piepoli is at over 2 minutes, with Savoldelli around 3 minutes.

17:19 CEST    201km/10km to go
Piepoli looks a bit tired now, as he has to ride alone on this climb that doesn't really suit him. He could well be caught by Savoldelli.

The two leaders steam under the 10km to go banner.

17:20 CEST    202km/9km to go
Gutierrez powers away in the big chainring, with Cunego not doing much work. Cunego has to work pretty hard to stay on the Phonak rider's wheel. They are under 10 km to go at 1'24. Gutierrez's second place on GC isn't really in danger.

17:21 CEST   
Basso and Simoni are riding about 40 km/h now. The gradient is only 1-2% here.

17:22 CEST    203km/8km to go
Basso takes over - he'll win the Giro by about 8 minutes if he keeps this up. Possibly more. He has had a superb race, really. The best climber, the best team, and just about the best time trialist.

17:24 CEST    204km/7km to go
Savoldelli finally catches Piepoli just before 10 km to go. Probably won't get much help from him. More than four minutes, so Savoldelli has lost his fourth on GC. Not that there's a huge difference between fourth and fifth in a grand tour: if you're not on the podium, it's pretty much the same. There's a bit more prize money, of course.

17:26 CEST   
The last question to be answered today is: who will win the stage? Tough to pick. Yesterday, Bjarne Riis wanted Jens Voigt to win against Garate, but Voigt refused, because it didn't feel right to him as he had been sitting on the break all day. It's pretty rare you get that in the cutthroat world of pro cycling.

17:27 CEST    206km/5km to go
The two leaders now nearly have two minutes on Cunego and Gutierrez. They have a little chat.

The fourth group on the road is Caruso (Liberty), Casar (FDJ), Garate (Quick.step), Vila (Lampre), Osa (Liberty), and Pena (Phonak) at 5'12.

17:28 CEST    207km/4km to go
There will be a few reshufflings of the top 10 on GC today. Pellizotti is nowhere to be found, while Belli has dropped out.

Cunego takes a rare turn in the chase with Gutierrez. They go under 5 km to go at 1'58 behind the two in front.

17:30 CEST    208km/3km to go
We certainly have the five strongest guys in the race in the top six of today's stage. Basso, Simoni, Gutierrez, Cunego, Savoldelli (and Piepoli). The GC order is slightly different, but the names are the same.

Basso does another strong turn, and Simoni is in the hurt box. But he hangs on.

17:31 CEST   
Basso is not making it easy for Gibo. Now he's dropped him! Ouch......

17:31 CEST   
Basso twists the knife a bit more. No more presents for Saunier Duval today. He's alone with some 3 km to go.

17:32 CEST   
Simoni has cracked, a bit like he did in the penultimate stage of last year's Giro when Rujano won.

17:33 CEST    209km/2km to go
Ivan Basso has got his gritted-teeth-win-the-stage face on, as he puts 12 seconds into Simoni. The gradient was only 5%, but that's all it takes when you're strong.

17:33 CEST   
You've gotta feel for Gibo, who has come close to winning a few stages in this Giro. But Basso is the man today. And that's good that he's showing it.

17:34 CEST    210km/1km to go
Basso doesn't look back. He'll win the stage as he goes under 1 km to go.

17:34 CEST   
No doubt who is the best in this Giro d'Italia: Ivan Basso!!

17:37 CEST    211km/0km to go
Basso powers up the finishing straight with his teeth still clenched, winning this monster stage in just under seven hours. He gets a shower from some spectators, and takes a photo of his new baby out of his jersey as he crosses the line to win.

Simoni rolls across in second, cruising, at 1'18. Not looking happy, but that's how it goes.

17:38 CEST   
Cunego sits on Gutierrez's wheel in the final kilometre, but surprisingly takes a turn with 300m to go. Cunego sprints, and takes third at 2'51. Gutierrez keeps second on GC.

17:42 CEST   
Savoldelli and Piepoli come up to the line next, but are over five minutes behind the winner. The gap is 6'03 as Savoldelli crosses for fifth ahead of Piepoli. Ouch. And that's just the top six.

17:44 CEST   
The next group to come in is led by Casar, from Garate and Pena at about 7'30. Caruso and Vila were also in that group.

17:53 CEST   
The gap between first and second on GC is over nine minutes now. And for the top five on GC it's just under 20 minutes. Well, it hasn't been exactly nailbiting :-) But with a final week like this on top of a hard first two weeks, it's to be expected. Basso has made amends for last year. He also takes over the purple points jersey, but Bettini might get that back tomorrow in Milan.

And speaking of Milan, we'll see you all there tomorrow as we drift the Hindenburg V gently westward for the final stage. Can Pollack do it, or will Bettini score again? Or maybe a breakaway? Something to ponder this evening...


1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                             6.51.15
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                               1.17
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                     2.51
4 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems            
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                6.03
6 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir     
7 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux                                     7.26
8 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Step-Innergetic                        
9 Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                
10 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                     
11 Unai Osa Eizaguirre (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                   
12 Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital                     
13 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team   

General classification after stage 20

1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                            87.37.33
2 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                  9.18
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                              11.59
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                    18.16
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team               19.22
6 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux                                    23.53
7 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Step-Innergetic                          24.26
8 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                        25.57
9 Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                  26.27
10 Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital                     27.34
11 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                            28.00
12 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                      28.17


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