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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia.
Today's stage is a 201 kilometer dash from Ferrara to Asolo. In between the start and finish the riders will face a relatively flat first 120K before the road begins to rise, before the start of Monte Grappa. There are no fewer than nine different approaches to this summit that has been used three times in Giro history - 1968, 1974 and 1982. As you would expect from the Giro, the race tackles it from Semonzo, which presents a difficult route for riders. The road averages a tad under eight per cent for its 18km with ramps of 14 per cent, then drops steeply back to the plains before a short kick up to the finish in Asolo.
At the start this morning we have sunny, clear skies. We're predicting sun all day with highs of 25 c, and a slight wind from the east. Right now the Cyclingnews blimp is hovering over the start line as riders begin to roll off. We're ready, are you? We've got a musette stuffed with energy bars with us, sun cream and of course a rain jacket should the weather turn. As for the music in the blimp today, we'll we're going to begin with a bit of Vivaldi.
As you get settled here are a few stage details:
Vertical climb: 2,110m
Highest point: 1,675m
Terrain: High mountain
Category: Road Stage
Towards the climb the riders will ride across hallowed ground, through a cemetery. They will ascend the Strada Giardino, just one of nine routes to the summit - another unusual and intriguing aspect of this fascinating mountain.
It's a long climb, as are all the climbs up Grappa: almost 19km, with 21 tornanti (switchbacks). And it's a steep climb, as are all the climbs up Grappa, with an average gradient of eight percent, a 2.3km section at 10.8 percent, and ramps of up to 15 percent.
On the first part of the climb, the road is lined with stately cypresses and other vegetation which offers a little shade, but the second, harder, part is all in the open, exposed to scorching sun. It's one of the hardest routes up a mountain where, on a scale of one to five, all the routes are rated 4-5+ in difficulty.
Read this excellent feature about the climb here, written by April Pedersen Santinon. Thank you, April.
There are no non-starters this morning but yesterday we had a number of riders quit the race. DNFs for Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox, Morris Possoni (Ita) Sky Professional Cycling Team , Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions, while Jack Bobridge (Aus) Garmin - Transitions did not start.
After nearly two weeks of racing the GC looks a bit like this (see below). There are a number of questions. How tired is Porte? Remember it's his first Grand Tour and there are reports that he's sick. Secondly, who from Arroyo, Kiserlovski, Tondo, Agnoli, Efimkin and Gerdermann is the biggest threat? Thirdly, have the race's original favourites of Vino, Basso, Nibali and Evans given them too much time? They've certainly let Carlos Sastre back into the race after the Spaniard had a truly atrocious first week. Needless to say, some but not all of these questions will be answered on today's stage.
1 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 56:20:56
2 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:01:42
3 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas-Doimo 0:01:56
4 Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:03:54
5 Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:04:41
6 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:16
7 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 0:05:34
8 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:07:09
9 Laurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:07:24
10 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:08:14
And we are off.
Here is where some of the other favourites sit on GC:
13 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:09:48
14 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha 0:10:06
15 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:11:10
16 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:18
17 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:11:39
18 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia 0:12:05
19 Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:12:21
20 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:12:32
21 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:12:53
22 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:12:54
Vladimir Karpets was a big winner yesterday, moving up from 19th place and gaining time on the likes of Evans and co.
Information is a bit sluggish right now but the riders have covered roughly 20 kilometers already and Liquigas are currently on the front of the bunch controlling affairs.
Apologies that last update was incorrect. Twenty kilometers, covered, not remaining.
Want to know how hard the climb is? Here's Scarponi's take on it. "The Grappa's really tough and long. That said, the descent is so long that a lot of riders who have been dropped will regain touch before the valley. I know Asolo well because my wife's from just up the road. I can see a small group going away early and staying clear, then 30 or 40 approaching Asolo together and breaking up on the last hill."
He has a point about the long descent, it's a perfect opportunity for some of the weaker climbers to get back on but if you're a GC contender and you're dropped on the climb by some of your competitors it's going to hurt you. Perhaps not just physically, but mentally too. But back to the race and we've got a break forming at the front. There were a few attacks but this one looks to have settled. Names to come.
So our break consists of Markus Eibegger (Footon), Damien Monier (Cofidis), Steve Cummings (Sky), Alessandro Bisolti (Colnago), William Bonnet (Bbox), and Filippo Pozzato (KAT).
Pippo was the last rider to join the break and they've currently got a lead of around 15 seconds. This could work.
Pozzato is the highest placed rider on GC. He's currently 37:38 back on Porte.
Of course the world of cycling has been turned on its head in the last few days with allegations made by Landis and then counters from Armstrong, all relating to Landis' confession that he doped during his time at Postal, as well as his implication of several other riders and team staff. While the Giro is going on thousands of miles away I only think that it's fair to mention this subject as it could have implications on the sport's future.
Here is a link to the very latest developments while here's a link to the emails Radioshack published yesterday. Whether they're the complete trial is unknown but they do make interesting reading. Whatever the conclusion(s) let's just hope that the governing bodies investigate all of these claims. Whether someone 'talks to themselves in the peloton' is irrelevant. Everyone deserves to be heard.
And the gap is now up to 2:35 so it's safe to say that the pattern for today's stage is well and truly set.
In fact the break is now speeding along at close to 40 mph. The gap increasing rapidly.
The break has now reached Monselice and their lead is 4:50 on the bunch.
Filippo Pozzato has of course won a stage in the Giro - stage 12 to be precise - and his confidence will already be high. Not that he needs confidence of course. Cummings has won a stage but he has been aggressive in the race already. He's got a new lease of life after his time at Barloworld.
The average speed after the first hour of racing is a whopping 51kph and the lead has gone out to 8:38.
Saxo Bank are starting to timidly put some bodies on the front now. With Porte in their team and the young Aussie leading the race it's their duty to keep things under control. At least until the start of the climb .
Of course the race heads to the Veneto region, not far from Pozzato home town of Sandrigo near Vicenza. The stage actually passes through Castelfranco Veneto, the home town of Alessandro Ballan.
Damien Monier, 27, has been with Cofidis since 2004. His biggest successes have been on the track, as he was first in the individual pursuit in the French national championships in 2003 and 2005. This is his second Giro, having ridden it previously in 2008, and fourth Grand Tour, as he has also ridden the Vuelta a Espana in 1007 and 2009. This season he has brought in top ten finishes at the Classic Loire Atlantique and in two stages of the Vuelta Asturias. In this his seventh year with the French team, he is still looking for his first professional victory.
Could Pozzato win his second stage of this year's Giro? It would certainly make up for his poor Spring that was hampered by illness.
130 kilometers to race and the break is stable at around 8 minutes now so Saxo are doing their job in keeping things together. In the main field the favourites are all close together. The aim of the exercise is for them to keep as much energy as possible and not to waste any time in the wind. Their teams will be trying to keep Evans, Basso and co as fresh as possible for the big climb of the day.
A bit more on our breakaway riders. Let's take a look at Eibegger. He's a 25-year-old Austrian riding for the Spanish-based team Footon. This is his first ProTour season, after three years with the Professional Continental team Elk Haus, which stopped at the end of 2009. The current Austrian road champion can look back to four victories last season, including a stage in the Bayern Rundfahrt. This year he finished sixth overall at the Tour de Langkawi. He is currently 46th overall in the Giro – his first career Grand Tour – at 45:48 minutes down. So not a bad year so far...
The road is gently starting to rise in sections now and the chase behind is starting to work. The gap now under 8 minutes.
Cadel Evans admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport that all the overall leaders are tired after two weeks of hard, aggressive racing, but pointed out the decisive stages begin today.
"Were racing as if we haven't looked at the profile of the last week," Evans said. "We're always flat out and so it's inevitable that we're tired. If Vinokourov wasn't tired he would have raced differently at L'Aquila."
"My GC position isn't great but my days have arrived and that makes me optimistic. It'll be crazy on the Grappa climb but I'm especially looking to the mountain top finishes. Did you see what happened at Montalcino? If I've got the legs, I'm going to attack. If my legs are good, every occasion is good to pull back time."
Evans only has four BMC teammates to help in the final week and his rivals know it. But he knows it too and is ready to take on any attacks the other favourites might be planning.
"I'm ready for anything and everything. Near Porto Recanati the other day, the sprinters' teams worked all day and then didn't close the gap. That seemed foolish to me. Scarponi and Vinokourov played games too. They said 'Lets go steady' then attacked.."
Asked about perhaps forming an alliance with another team, Evans said: "Have you not realised we're all racing against each other?"
Seems Cunego's actions have set the tone and now Acqua e Sapone have come to the front to signal their intent for Garzelli. Two trains now on the front of the bunch, both leaders nicely tucked in from the wind. Cunego, his small frame tucked over his bike has he quickly surveys those around him, while Garzelli looks straight ahead.
The result from the work on the front is that the gap is continuing to come down. Perhaps they've started chasing a little bit too early but we'll see.
Exactly 100 kilometers left to race now and the peloton are starting to mobilize more domestiques at the front now. They've raced so hard in the last two weeks but there's no rest. The first hour was raced at over 51 kpm.
The Italian favourites at the Giro all expected some early attacks on the Monte Grappa climb.
"Waiting for the final kilometres doesn't make sense. We've got to blow open the race in the first five kilometres of the climb," Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) is not worried that some riders might get back on after the Grappa climb, during the flat finale to Asolo, or that he could get dropped. Asolo is 41km from the summit of Monte Grappa but 24km is a technical descent, Basso least favourite terrain.
"It's all about what you've got in your legs. We've got to try," he said.
"It's one thing going down the Poggio after a short climb, and something after a hard race and a 20km climb. I'm not afraid."
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) is a great on descents but predicted that the race will explode on the climb.
"Someone will go on the descent but first there will be a battle on the climb. We've got to make as hard as possible, force a selection and then see who has anything left."
That means we've got around 50K until the leaders reach the bottom of the day's climb.
The leaders have a gap of 6:20 to the peloton.
We have an intermediate sprint coming up in a few kilometers for our leaders to contest. With the lead now down to just over 6 minutes.
The leaders have crossed the finish line for the first time. Just around 80-odd kilometers to go and the Monte Grappa.
Results from the sprint:
1 Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)
2 Steven Cummings (Sky)
3 Alessandro Bisolti (Colnago)
Lampre are still doing most of the work to cut the lead group, but BMC are also there too.
A slight rise for the leaders now and Pippo takes a turn at the front now. Back in the peloton and Basso's Liquigas boys move to the front to help the chase.
Scott Sunderland has left team Sky.
Here's news on Sky and Sunderland parting ways
So Lampre at the front followed by Liquigas. Basso and Nibali have a lot of pressure on them today. They've talked a good game in the press saying they'll attack.
The leaders are looking a little ragged at the moment as we glide by Monier who jerks around in the saddle.
Pippo sips his energy drink and the Colnago rider sees him, looks down and reaches for his own drink.
So what's going to happen today? There's a long downhill section after the climb but we'll see fireworks on the slopes, with some riders looking to pull back as much time as possible. The ideal situation for Basso, Evans and co would be for them to slash Porte's lead but for the Australian to stay in yellow.
Evans doesn't have a strong team, he's only got five riders left so he won't want to take too much responsibility at this stage in the race as the third week is very hard.
The leaders are just around 8 kilometers from the base of the climb.
How will Porte handle today? It's a huge test for the young man.
Our six leaders all out of the saddle as they sprint through some twisting corners. The Katusha car comes forward and Pippo picks up another bottle.
Pippo picks a pink bottle. Alliteration there.
Liquigas are now firmly on the front of the peloton. They'll be hoping to set a furious pace on the lowers slopes. That's where the climb is at its steepest. The gap continues to come down.
The leaders are on the lower slopes. Just 19K for them to go. And then they'll descend.
Alessandro Bisolti (Colnago) is the first rider to attack and he's clear. Cummings next on the road.
Alessandro Bisolti takes it in turns to get out of the saddle, looks back at the Sky rider and then carries on.
Cummings doesnt have the same acceleration so he's just riding at his own pace. And now there are two leaders.
Liquigas now on the lower slopes too and the pace is fast. Very fast and riders are being dropped every where.
Agnoli and then Szmyd. Nibali and Basso just behind and up front Cummings is dropped again. The rest of the lead break is all over the road and they'll be caught soon.
Bisolti doesn't look to bad actually but the pace from Liquigas is furious and unrelenting. Simoni is dropped and has to pick his way through the field. Porte is still with the main group and looks good.
Basso we can see, with Cunego, Evans and Wiggins. This group is around to thirty riders and Porte is slipping to the back of the group.
Matt Lloyd dangling off the back now. Porte is also at the back.
The Liquigas train are catching remnants of the early break. Porte is on Sorenson's wheel and he's going to lose a lot of time today. Can he stay in pink? Wiggins too is suffering. There's no doubt that Liquigas are the strongest team in the race.
Garzelli has also been dropped.
And Wiggins has attacked. Liquigas looked around in shock but he just flew by.
Out of the saddle and he's gone off the front.
Wiggins catches Bonnet and goes right by him. In the saddle, he's moving smoothly has he goes around a hair pin and catch Pippo. Ciao Pippo. And perfect Sky tactics with Cummings easing for Wiggins and doing some work for him.
Cummings grits his teeth. Wiggins sits behind him. There is a gap but it's not huge as Liquigas continue to set the pace behind.
Sky versus Liquigas. Two Sky riders against three from the Italian team.
Around another hair pin bend and the Sky riders are giving this everything.
Pinotti is hanging onto the Liguigas group but there's still a long way to go on the climb. Cars are passing Porte now, who is riding well but simply can't match the leaders.
Riders we need to watch are Tondo, Arroyo and Kiserlovski. I think they're all in the Liquigas group. Wiggins goes alone now. He's left Cummings.
Sastre is with the Basso group too.
Kiserlovski has been dropped. We can't confirm it yet but we can't see him with the leaders. Wiggins still looking smooth and strong.
Bisolti still on his own at the front of the race but he looks to be struggling now.
Wiggins looks back and sees that the gap isn't getting bigger and he's sitting up.
And Wiggins is caught. Liquigas still controlling the pace on the front of the bunch, or what's left of it. There are perhaps 15 riders. Evans, Cunego, Scarponi, Sastre, Basso, Nibali, Vino, Garzelli is back there too. Tondo is there too.
Porte is still hanging in there and limiting his losses.
Cioni is also in the front group too. Arroya as well I think. Evans looks down, his body tight over the bars as he powers up the climb.
Chris Sorensen is doing a great job of pacing Porte up the climb. And Bisolti makes it over a false flat but he' still got more climbing to do.
Garzelli has off the back again and has teammate with him. He'll struggle to get back on now.
So Bisolti still has around 5 or 6 K to go until the top. Will the favourites start to attack each other? What do they have left? Will they be too worried about the 40K between the top of the climb and the finish.
Sastre hands a bottle to Tondo but Liquigas still on the front doing all the work.
Chase group including Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC) Carlos Sastre and Xavier Tondo (Cervelo), Linus Gerdemann (Milram), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), Michele Scarponi (Androni), Sylvester Syzmd, Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali(Liquigas), Daminao Cunego (Lampre), Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Branislau Samoilau (Quick Step) at 1:00
Nibali makes hos move.
Gaps are starting to appear now but Nibali is dragged back by Scarponi and it's all over for Bisolti. Great ride from him. Arroyo is starting to suffer and Scarponi goes with Nibali and Evans is chasing with Basso with him. it's all kicking off. Vino, Tondo, Sastre all dropped.
Vino churning a big gear but it's not enough. Cervelo has been blown out of the back too. So we now have four leaders. Basso, Nibali, Evans and Scarponi.
Tondo and Sastre are trying to come back.
Vino is just head of the Cervelo pair but Sastre is leaving Tondo and catching Vino. It's all over for Tondo he really is struggling now.
Vino is coming back. The leaders have eased up and Sastre is almost there too.
Basso is setting the pace now. Vino about 60 meters back.
Tondo is joined by the Cioni and Wiggins.
Basso gritting his teeth, Scarponi looking fine and Nibali is sitting in with Evans just at the back.
Scarponi and Evans now in a Liquigas sandwich. Vino is still on is own but Sastre is coming to him.
Another false flat and Nibali now set the pace as Sastre and Vino join forces.
Cunego sits on the back of the Sky group.
Nibali still on the front and Evans gets out of the saddle at almost every opportunity.
Scarponi comes to the front for the first time now. Back with Porte and he's still with Sorensen.
The question now is where is Arroyo as he is best placed to take the lead.
Basso back to the front now. He looks back to check that Nibali is still with him but they're looking to distance Vino and Sastre as much as possible. They were 27 seconds back but that gap looks bigger now.
Vino leads Sastre. Basso leads the race and has Nibali with him. This is great work from Basso, you have to say.
The leaders hit a steeper section as fans line both sides of the road. We're now looking at Karpets who was dropped long ago. The pink and white jersey are both together.
It looks like a bit of rain has hit the race but nothing serious. Scarponi moves back to the front. Evans still sitting at the back and using the others to bring himself back into contention. Watch Nibali on the descent. He's one of the best int he world and he could make a huge difference. Remember how good he was last year when working with Armstrong in the Tour on the day Frank Schleck won>?
And if it's wet the riders will have to be uber careful on the descent. The leaders are close to the top of the climb now.
Sastre and Vino 40 seconds down and is Evans cracking?
They go over the top and there's a small gap. He should get back on fairly quickly but that does tell us that Evans was under pressure.
Vino leads Sastre, they're close to the summit and the gap is around a minute.
Now this is not an easy descent. There are a lot of tricky corners.
Porte is still climbing by the way, glued to Sorensen's wheel. Basso is leading the charge as Vino moves away from Sastre.
The rain is coming down a lot more now.
While it's a long descent there's still 12K or flat as well. The gaps we saw at the top of the climb could easily double.
Vino doesn't half take some risk.
I'm talking about going down hill fast of course. Scarponi and Evans together, Basso just behind. Nibali off the front.
CN's very own Les Clarke has actually ridden this very descent. "A couple of years ago I rode the descent they're on now - it's so long and fast. Fantastic."
With Nibali off the front Basso will just sit in and makes Evans do the work. That might mean Vino has an easier time chasing.
Nibali looks strong. He's on a small climb before the road dips down again.
Back in the back and Tondo and Sastre and some of the other favourities have joined up. Arroya is with them and further back we have a Porte group. Vino is some where on his own between the Sastre and Evans group.
Nibali tucks down his chin almost on the floor as he takes one corner. That was incredible.
He has had is hands off the bars for a second there and still managed to keep things together. This is a masterclass in descending as he drops the motorbikes as well. After the stage go to Youtube and look this up. Seriously impressive.
Less than 20K for Nibali who takes a gel from the car. The next group are around 40 seconds back now, while the Sastre, Cunego is getting a lot bigger.
Sastre and Tondo are now at the front of their group. Vino tucking in and takes a perfect line around a corner. Nibali now with 15K to go. He's going flat out still and the road is starting to level out.
Nibali is an entire kilometer ahead of the chasers now. Vino still stuck in between the Sastre group. Evans, Basso and Scarponi still all together.
Basso just needs to sit in here. He's being the perfect teammate but he'll know that in doing so he's gifting NIbali the leadership of the team.
Scarponi and Evans are working well together as they try and claw Nibali back. Scarponi lifts his elbow, calling Evans through to work.
42 seconds between Nibali and the chasers. That should be enough for the stage win and a big bump up the GC.
Not far for Nibali now. He'll take the stage but Riche Porte will remain in pink for another day. He'll lose a big chunk of time but it's still a very impressive ride for the first year professional . There are time bonuses at the end of the stage today, so dont be surprised if Basso makes a move or goes for it int the sprint.
5K to go for for Vino who should also finish ahead of the Wiggins, Arroyo group.
Wiggins will lose a bit of time today as well as Nibali, Evans and Basso move above him. Vino also losing some time.
Under 1K for Nibali as he heads for the stage win. The car comes level with him, shouting at him to drive more.
Scarponi leads the chase with Evans on his wheel.
Nibali has given this everything and crosses the line for the win. Start the clock
Basso leads out and takes second with Scarponi third, Evans in fourth. I made that 27 seconds on the lin.e
And here comes Vino. Out of the saddle, sprinting for every second. he comes over the line 1:33 back.
Driving for the line are the Sastre group and they finish at 2:26. Now we wait for Porte.
Sorensen is leading him. That's purely amazing effort from Sorenen who has worked all day for Porte in order to keep him in contention. The clock is still ticking. This is going to be close because Arroyo could be in pink as he's crossed the line.
Porte comes over the line at 4:44. Get your calculator out.
David Arroyo is the new leader of the Giro and will wear pink tomorrow. He leads Porte by 39 seconds.
Thanks for joining us today. Tune it later today for live coverage from the Amgen Tour of California and of course for tomorrow's Giro stage. It promises to be another cracker.