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Welcome back to the Giro d'Italia! We are entering the third, decisive week of racing with a treacherous post-rest day stage 16 from Limone sul Garda to Falzes in Tyrol. The last ramp to the finish line could hold some surprises...
Hello and welcome back to the corsa rosa. The Giro has entered its final week in the Alps, the decisive phase for the GC riders. Today's stage 16 from Limone sul Garda to Falzes in South Tyrol over 173 kilometers is "only" a medium mountain stage, but after the rest day on Monday, it may hurt more than expected, especially if the race is fast.
The riders have now started in Limone sul Garda, a beautiful little village on the shores of Lake Garda. It's partly cloudy and temperatures are mild at about 15°C. There's a risk of rainshowers later on in the day but with a little luck the conditions will remain dry. Temperatures in the finish are expected to rise to 20° this afternoon.
Radio Corsa has not given us any information yet on possible breakaway attempts. Let's take a look at the stage ahead.
On paper, today's stage looks rather easy and the title of "medium mountain stage" seems to fit it, but only just. It has about three non-categorised climbs on the menu, and the profile shows a long, false-flat uphill for the second half of the stage. But looking at it more closely, we find that the two last climbs, and especially the ultimate one up to Falzes, could be quite leg-breaking depending on the speed of the peloton in the finale.
GC teams will be anxious to control one another, and the last climb averages 8.6 percent gradient on 2.3km, including a pavé section and a ramp of 12 percent. It's an ideal springboard for an attack, even if the finish line is located another two kilometers of flat terrain away.
Even current race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) could take to the forefront today, as the last climb suits his caracteristics as an explosive rider on short but steep climbs. In today's L'Equipe, he moreover admitted that he needs to make up more time on former maglia rosa Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) if he wants to preserve his lead to Milan. And the Spaniard knows that he will be under attack on the long mountain ascents towards the end of the week.
"I think that an advantage of one minute and a half on Basso and Scarponi before the time trial should be enough, but I'll need a bit more on Hesjedal - about two minutes," Rodriguez said. He currently has 30 seconds on the Canadian.
We've had one non-starter this morning, Stefano Lucatelli (Colnago). There are 174 riders still in the race.
Right now, the peloton is still together and riding very fast.
It looks like a group of about 12 men has been able to pull away. We'll find out who they are - just a minute.
We have 13 riders in the lead:
Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team), Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), Enrico Battaglin (Colnago-CSF Inox), Victor Cabedo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Geoffrey Soupe (FDJ-Big Mat), Jack Bauer (Garmin-Barracuda), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack), Cesare Benedetti (NetApp), Luke Roberts and Manuele Baoro (Saxo Bank).
They have 23 seconds.
But the time it took to identify the group, they have already been caught...
The bunch is still racing very fast and they will be up against the first climb soon, where we can expect further attacks.
Indeed, they have just passed the village of Sarche and are now making their way up to Vigolo Baselga.
Unfortunately, it's started raining on the course. Temepratures are up to 18°C.
If the peloton continues at this speed, we could soon see it split into pieces. The pace is ferocious.
Today's finish in Falzes (or Pfalzen for the local German-speaking population) reminds us of Damiano Cunego's victory there in 2004. That day the Italian took the pink jersey and started an almost legendary battle with his then teammate Gilberto Simoni.
There are a lot of attacks and counter-attacks at the front of the race at the moment, but nobody is able to get a gap.
They have passed the first hurdle of the day, now on the descent. The average pace should be something around 47 km/h during the first hour of racing.
49 kilometers since the start of the stage one hour ago. Amazing!
Gruppo compatto, folks.
The official average speed of the first hour is 49.8 km/h. Including a hill that had more than 200 vertical meters to tackle. What a leg-breaker after a rest day... We wonder whether a first gruppetto has already been formed, but we have no information on that.
The parcours is now more or less flat, and the bunch continues to race hard. We will soon reach the Province of Bolzano (Bozen).
Eleven riders just managed to get a little gap but they've been caught... We'll identify them anyway, as they may try again later!
The breakaway attempt included:
Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team), Io Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lucca Mazzanti (Farnese Vini-Sella Italia), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Belisol), Nicolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), José Herrada Lopez (Movistar), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Matthias Brändle (NetApp), Manuele Baoro (Saxo Bank) and Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil).
Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Euskaltel) gets a wheel change.
Manuela Baoro of Saxo Bank was in both breakakway attempts. Perhaps he'll try again?
We are getting confusing messages from Radio Corsa. It looks like the break has gone through. Give us another minute to make sure.
It looks like the break has been successful. They are ten riders though instead of eleven, Lagutin is missing.
Here are the names again:
Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team), Io Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lucca Mazzanti (Farnese Vini-Sella Italia), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Belisol), Nicolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), José Herrada Lopez (Movistar), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Matthias Brändle (NetApp) and Manuele Baoro (Saxo Bank).
The breakaway has 4'30" - finally, the peloton is taking things a bit easier.
The break is entering the feed zone. Their advantage continues to grow while Lampre leads the field at a leisurely pace.
None of the escapees is a threat on GC, the best-placed rider is José Herrada at more than 32 minutes off the leader.
They have six minutes over the peloton now.
It seems almost certain that today's winner will be one of these ten men in the break. It's highly unlikely that the peloton will organise a chase if it gives the group such a substantial advantage at this point.
We might see the gap reduced when the GC favourites control each other on the last ascent, though.
The bunch has passed the feed sone now and the riders are scanning through their bags.
Riders are chatting happily, relieved that the first two hours of racing are over and they now finally have a decisive break...
The gap is still increasing. Up to 7'49" now acording to race radio.
The breakaway is doign a good job. Of these ten riders, seven have already accumulated escape kilometres at this Giro for the Premio della Fuga classification.
Best-placed rider for this prize is De Marchi (282 points). Olivier Kaisen of Lotto-Belisol however leads the classification nicely with 639 points.
His teammate Lars Bak has already won a stage in this Giro, stage 12 in Sestri Levante last week.
Tyrol is a beautiful region with lush green mountains and river valleys. A few tunnels will be coming up on the course now and block the view...
What an extreme stage today. Very fast during the first two hours and now it is so slow that the break will soon have a ten-minute advantage!
Of the teams represented in the break, five have not had a victory yet at this Giro: NetApp, Euskaltel, Omega Pharma, Rabobank and Saxo Bank. The pressure to perform later on will thus be on them...
We've reached the ten-minute mark. Less than 60 kilomteres to go. Katusha is doing a little work at the front of the bunch but it is all but truly motivated.
Here comes the next tunnel as the bunch rides on a two-lane road on the right side of a river.
The course has been pretty flat in this last hour but it is now gradually going uphill until the finish in Falzes. There are two more serious hills in the finale: One with about 28 kilometres to go and a last one five kilometers to the line.
Manuele Baoro from Saxo Bank gets some advice and an energy bar from his DS in the car. Mazzanti from Farnese is also "on the phone" through his earpiece.
He's even taken a look at the road book from the race commissaire's car! Perhaps he wasn't paying attanetion this morning at the team briefing??
The break's advantage is up to eleven minutes. No wonder each rider is personally taking the time to refresh his knowledge on the stage finale.
We've pointed it out earlier, but for those who have just joined us the last climb is treacherous.
It begins with about five clicks to go, and averages 8.6 percent gradient on 2.3km, including a pavé section and a ramp of 12 percent. It's an ideal springboard for an attack, even if the finish line is located another two flat kilometers away.
The sun is coming out! This will make the rest of the stage even more pleasant, especially for those riders in the peloton who have done their deed for today.
It looks like this stage could be record-breaking in terms of distance between the winning group and the peloton at this Giro. The gap is now at 12'25" and even though there are four Katusha riders, and some FDJ men at the front of the bunch, it is continuously increasing...
South Tyrol even has a few vineyards as it is not very high up above sea level. Today's stage is taking the riders from 108 to 998 metres above sea level, and going from 800m to 1000m above sea level within 2.3km.
Mazzanti of Farnese Vini has taken the points at the Traguardo Volante, the intermediate sprint.
Maglia rosa Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is having fun in the bunch, laughing at some joke. For now, it doesn't look like the GC favourites will attack each other later on the last climb.
The front group have passed the penultimate hill of the day. Everything will come down to the final ramp, but as we said earlier, the last two kilometres before the finish are flat so there is a bit of space to regroup for a small sprint. We'll have to wait and see who of the ten riders is the freshest.
Manuele Baoro (Saxo Bank) looks good and confident. By now, the riders in the breakaway are watching each other, trying to assess who's got the legs and what tactic the individual riders will ride.
Bak could also be a serious candidate for the stage win, but will the others let him go?
The gap is finally decreasing, but not a lot. We're "down" to 12'06" now.
Stef Clement of Rabobank will also look for his cances in the finale. If he can hold onto the better climbers in the hill, he may deploy all of his time trial capacities in the last flat.
The peloton has increased its pace somewhat. The GC teams are slowly bringing their leaders into position towards the front - you never know what can happen on the last climb.
Even Mark Cavendish (Sky) is doing his share at the front now, having brought his teammate Rigoberto Uran to the front.
All is calm before the storm as the riders continue their way through the river valley. It is a false flat uphill, but at this pace it shouldn't hurt too much.
The bunch passes by some castle ruins, surrounded by vineyards.
The break group is still working well together. They're waiting for the climb - but who's going to attack first? Logically, the better climbers have to give ther all, while the bigger guys can gamble and perhaps catch an attack on the last two flat kilometers.
The riders in the break are getting rid of their bottles. Show time soon!
Herrada (Movistar) is at the front as the group reaches the final ramp. He's followed by Izaguirre but they are still all together.
They are on a cobblestone section. Izaguirre is getting passed by Frank. They get a gap.
Bak has some problems with the climbers' pace. Izagirre accelerates again.
The Euskaltel rider is in front now, but the gap to his chasers is not very big. De Marchi bridges up to him.
Izagirre is extending his lead. De Marchi can't quite come up to him - he's being caught now by Frank and Herrada.
So it's Izagirre in front, chased by De Marchi, Frank and Herrada. They are about 80 meters away.
Izagirre has reached the flatter section. Now he has to hold out against his chasers.
He's getting out of the saddle and has put on the big ring. He looks back but it seems he's got the victory as the other three are attcking each other for second.
Izagirre looks comfortable even in TT positon. It will be the first win for the Basque squad at this Giro!
Izagirre pounds his chest as he passes the line.
De Marchi attacks and takes second place, Clement gets third.
The peloton has now reached the final climb, too. A Vacansoleil riders leads the field up.
Some riders are letting go at the back, and the GC group has shrunk remarkably. Hesjedal (Garmin) is followed by pink jersey wearer Rodriguez.
The GC favourites are controlling each other. Nothing's going to happen.
They are on the flat part now. Interestingly, Basso signalled his teammates not to lead the group out - until now, Liquigas has had the reputation of taking on too much responsibility for no particular reason.
The bunch has also reached the finish as stage winner Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel) has already given his first interviews.
That's it for us today. Join us again tomorrow for stage 17 to Cortina d'Ampezzo, a high mountain stage where the overall leaders will certainly not be lazy. Ciao amici!
1Jon Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi4:02:00
2Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli0:00:16
3Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:16
4Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:00:19
5José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:21
6Manuele Boaro (Ita) Team Saxo Bank0:00:37
7Matthias Brandle (Aut) Team NetApp0:00:43
8Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:00:45
9Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Belisol Team0:00:45
10Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia0:00:48
General classification after stage 16
1Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 1/2/1900 21:22
2Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:30
3Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:22
4Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:26
5Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team 0:01:27
6Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:36
7Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:42
8Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:01:55
9Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:02:12
10Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:02:13