Italian Champ Bruseghin conquers Oropa

Italian Time Trial Champion Marzio Bruseghin showed his skills are also effective on the vertical...

Maglia Rosa Di Luca adds time, Piepoli shows mountain strength

Italian Time Trial Champion Marzio Bruseghin showed his skills are also effective on the vertical slopes by conquering the 12.58-kilometre climb to the Santuario di Oropa in 28 minutes and 55 seconds. Maglia Rosa Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) marched up the mountain to take third, behind mountain goat Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir). He kept his race lead and in the process earned precious seconds on his rivals.

With a time of 28'55", 32 year-old Bruseghin took his second win in his eleventh year as a professional. He crossed the line next to the Santuario dressed in the Maglia Tricolore, the reward from his first pro win, which came on June 20, 2006, in the Italian time trial championships.

Bruseghin passed into the professional ranks in 1997 with Brescialat and then from 1999 to 2002 he raced in Spain with Banesto. In 2003, he returned to Italy to serve as a gregario for Petacchi at Fassa Bortolo and, starting with 2006, working for Cunego at Lampre-Fondital. He is currently in second overall, 1'03" behind Di Luca, but will dedicate himself in the coming stages to his team captain.

The rider from Piadera di Vittorio Veneto, Italy's north, just edged out Leo Piepoli, who comes from the south, in Puglia. Piepoli stormed through the early time check at kilometre 9.4 with a time of 21'02" and then arrived at the summit, clad in the best climber's Maglia Verde (on loan from Di Luca), with a time of 28'56".

Piepoli's time knocked out Captain America, David Zabriskie, who arrived in his national TT champion's jersey with the provisional best time of 29'14". It was a small ray of light for Team CSC considering that the team's manager, Bjarne Riis, was admitting to doping at the same moment in Denmark.

"To lose by one second always hurts," said Piepoli who ended the day with a time of 28'56". "But this is another result to confirm a condition that, especially in the mountains, sees me up with the front-runners. There are some regrets but the verdict is accepted, also because Saunier Duval's Giro does not end here at Oropa."

Clad in the pink colours of race leader, Danilo Di Luca rolled out of the start house in Biella last. He smoothly rotated his gears, bettering Piepoli by four seconds at kilometre 9.4 but falling short where it mattered, at the line, by eight seconds. However, he did gain 21" on Garzelli, 30" on Cunego, 32" on Schleck and 58" on Simoni.

"For me it was important to add something more on the other rivals," Di Luca confirmed. "Milano is still a long ways off."

He commented on his growth as a GC rider. "I have always thought to win a Giro. Maybe now it is closer than ever. I know my characteristics well and my abilities. When I turned pro, I always believed it was possible and then, at 30 years-old, I started to think it was the time to try winning the Giro.

2004 Champion Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) closed the day at 29'33", just behind Garzelli and Mazzoleni. After the stage he was happy with his team's performance and he is looking forward to Sunday's Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Wednesday's Monte Zoncolan.

"I am happy for [teammate] Marzio because he is a specialist against the clock and it is good for the team," noted a relaxed Cunego. "I am satisfied with my time. I did more or less what I wanted to do for this stage. We [the favourites] are all still together in the same time range. ... Di Luca went well but the Giro is still long. There are still some big days to go."

Youngster Andy Schleck (Team CSC) rode impressively in the first half of the stage and finished the day just ahead of Julio Pérez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Two-time Giro winner, Simoni, rounded out the top Giro contenders. He prefers the longer mountain passes, where he can get his diesel engine up to running speed.

"I gave all I had," said 35 year-old Gibo at the finish. "Evidently I did not recover well from yesterday's stage, and honestly I expected something better. Today's distance won't jeopardize anything, even if it confirms that Di Luca, in this moment, is going really well."

He noted of his teammate, winner of stage 10, "I am sorry for Piepoli; after yesterday's work on the Izoard, more than anyone else, he deserved this win."

How it unfolded

Today's uphill time test from Biella to the Santuario di Oropa was a short, steep and difficult stage which gained 734m at an average grade of 5.8%, with steepest pitches of 13%. It was a tough, irregular climb and the short distance limited the time differences between the Giro contenders and made even more difficult as it came after Thursday's tough mountain stage to France.

Huge crowds of tifosi were on hand Friday as the lined the ascent to the Santuario to cheer on their Giro heroes. One Giro rider who didn't take the start was Discovery Channel leader Yaroslav Popovych. The Ukrainian rider had hurt his back and knee in the stage 11 finish line crash and was feeling the pain in yesterday's mountain stage, losing over 6'00". "It was very hard to decide to stop at the Giro d'Italia, but I know it is the best decision. I still have many races left this year, including the Tour de France, so all is not lost. I expect to recover quickly and be back in good form for the remainder of 2007," said Popovych.

Friday, the first rider to approach the 31 minute barrier was Quickstep's young talent Visconti, who posted a good time of 31'12". Then Panaria's magic Mexican Julio Pérez Cuapio took off like a rocket on the flat first two kilometres, then powered through the first time check at five kilometres with the fastest time, and was then 1'13" faster than Visconti at the second time check. With his face a picture of pain, Pérez Cuapio finished under 30 minutes in 29'38", 1'34" faster than Visconti and had gained 21 seconds on Visconti in the last three kilometres, to take the race lead.

Clad in his stars & stripes jersey of American time trial champion, CSC's David Zabriskie passed through the first time check at five kilometres, the same time as Pérez Cuapio. Alternating between his handlebar extensions and his brakes, Zabriskie looked smooth and strong as he hit the steep middle section of the ascent. Meanwhile, Lampre's Marco Marzano, a former Giro d'Italia dilletante winner finished in 30'29" for the second fastest time. At the second time check, Dave Z was 16" faster than Pérez Cuapio as World Road Champion Paolo Bettini didn't ride like a turista and had a good effort wearing his Quickstep jersey.

As Astana's Paolo Savoldelli started, looking to get some time back he lost on stage 12, Dave Z was still looking smooth and fast as he entered the last kilometre and then finished in 29'14" at a 25.860 km/hr average, 24" faster than the Mexican to take the lead in stage 13. Clad in the Maglia Verde of Best Climber, Saunier Duval climber Leo Piepoli was next up, and started slower in the flat, but as he hit the ascent, pure climber Piepoli, who weighs 52kg, just flew up the climb and by the second time check after nine kilometres, he was 4" faster than Zabriskie! At the summit finish, Piepoli sprinted home after a great final three kilometres in 28'56" to smash Dave Z's time by 20", with an average speed of 26.129km/hr.

Piepoli's Saunier Duval teammate Riccardo Riccò had a fast start and was already 8" ahead of Piepoli at the first time check, while behind him, Tinkoff's Petrov started with the fastest at the first time check and was powering up the climb. Savoldelli finished the stage at 30'41", posting the seventh fastest at that point, the same as his Astana teammate Yakovlev.

As CSC's Bjarne Riis was confessing his doping sins on a split screen, his team's young talent Andy Schleck was second fastest at five kilometres as atop the climb, Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) had an excellent ride, posting the third fastest time of 29'29" to that point.

After his super fast start, Petrov had slowed and at second time check was third fastest, 9" slower than Piepoli. Now on the course, Lampre-Fondital's Cunego looked fresh with a low profile wheel in front and a high profile wheel in the rear as he pedalled at a fast pace on the first slopes to the Santuario di Oropa.

In the finale, Saunier Duval's Riccò had cracked a bit and lost 40" to Piepoli in last three kilometres to post 30'46", while Maglia Rosa Di Luca's teammate Fast Franco Pellizotti blasted in at 29'17" and had lost only 4" to Piepoli in the final three kilometres. Meanwhile, the Giro's Best Young Rider Andy Schleck was burning up the road and at the second time check, he had already moved past Caisse d'Epargne's Arroyo into third place on GC.

Saunier Duval leader Simoni had a good time at the first time check, but the 35 year-old from Palù di Giovo seemed to have heavy legs. Maglia Rosa Di Luca was out for the win on Stage 13 and had the second fastest at first time check and was already putting time into all his rivals, except one. Simoni wasn't on a brilliant day as he tried to maintain a regular pace, but Italian TT champ Marzio Bruseghin, second on GC was honouring his maglia tricolore with a superb start.

At second time check, Cunego was riding well, 26" slower than leader Piepoli and just faster than Simoni, while Petrov finished third fastest in 29'26", clearly paying dearly for his fast start. Schleck was fourth fastest at the second time check at 15", while Simoni had slowed, losing 32" to Piepoli at the second time check and then finishing in 30'01".

Ascending to the Santuario di Oropa between two walls of tifosi, Maglia Rosa Di Luca was showing his class and was looking like a winner. Damiano Cunego had punched it over the last three kilometres to finish in 29'33", seventh fastest, gaining 28" on Gibo Simoni. But the story of the day was unfolding over the last few kilometres of stage 13, as Italian TT champ Bruseghin had just set the second fastest time at the nine-kilometre point. Andy Schleck had also paid for his fast start and lost 20" to Piepoli in the last three kilometres, but still set the excellent time of 29'35".

On the final slopes to the Santuario di Oropa, there was a pitched battle for the win between Bruseghin in his Maglia Tricolore and Danilo Di Luca in his Maglia Rosa for the stage victory. Lampre's Bruseghin was simply magic over the final three kilometres and finished just one second faster than Saunier Duval's Piepoli in 28'55" to take the lead in stage 13.

Two minutes behind, Maglia Rosa Di Luca was going all out but the noise from the cheering crowds limited his ability to hear the split times in ear piece. He tried his hardest to win his third stage at the 2007 Giro, but Di Luca fell short by just 9", posting a 29'03" to finish third. Bruseghin took his second career win after the victory in the 2006 Italian TT championships and moved to within 55" of Maglia Rosa Di Luca.

Best Young Rider Andy Schleck was ninth on the stage, and as his close rival Arroyo wilted and Schleck moved in to third on overall GC, 1'57" behind Di Luca, while Arroyo slipped to sixth on GC at 2'51". Damiano Cunego's strong ninth place finish moved the 2004 Giro winner into fourth on GC at 2'40" and Cunego's Lampre-Fondital team looks to be good for the next week, being able to put pressure on Di Luca's Liquigas squad with three riders (Bruseghin 2nd at 55" / Cunego 4th at 2'40" / Vila 5th at 2'44").

Tinkoff's Petrov is on the move, currently seventh on GC at 3'11" and looking to move up, while Saunier Duval-Prodir leader Simoni finished 13th on the stage, losing 1'00" to Maglia Rosa Di Luca and stayed at eighth on GC 3'32". Special mention to Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone), who after his gutsy ride yesterday to Briançon recovered well to finish sixth on today's stage and Di Luca's Liquigas teammate Franco Pellizotti, who was fifth today at 22" and could be precious help to his team leader.

Stage 14 - Saturday, May 26: Cantù - Bergamo, 192 km

The Giro weekend opens with a stage from the furniture city of Cantù in Brianza to the dynamic city of Bergamo, via the Lecco arm of Lake Como, then over the 26-kilometre ascent of Passo San Marco above Morbegno, and the final ascent of La Trinità-Dossena with 40 kilometres to go to Bergamo. No sprinters will survive while Astana's local lads Paolo Savoldelli and Eddy Mazzoleni, along with Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile) will be looking to shine in their hometown.

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