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It takes two to tango

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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare)

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare)
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Laverde and Baliani

Laverde and Baliani
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso is looking

Ivan Basso is looking
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Time to celebrate

Time to celebrate
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Today's scenery was spectacular

Today's scenery was spectacular
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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One of the world's biggest bike races

One of the world's biggest bike races
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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And they turn left...towards victory in Milan

And they turn left...towards victory in Milan
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso celebrates

Ivan Basso celebrates
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Basso and Bettini before the start in Aosta

Basso and Bettini before the start in Aosta
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) gets ready to ride this morning

Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) gets ready to ride this morning
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is relaxed before the start in Aosta

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is relaxed before the start in Aosta
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Today's scenery was spectacular to say the least

Today's scenery was spectacular to say the least
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders are dwarfed by some massive mountains en route to Domodossola

Riders are dwarfed by some massive mountains en route to Domodossola
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Security, get that devil away from the riders!

Security, get that devil away from the riders!
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego ride together during stage 14

Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego ride together during stage 14
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tunnel time for riders on stage 14 heading up to Gran San Bernardo

Tunnel time for riders on stage 14 heading up to Gran San Bernardo
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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'So he was like, you know...'

'So he was like, you know...'
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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'And then I was like, I know...' Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso share a lighter moment during stage 14

'And then I was like, I know...' Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso share a lighter moment during stage 14
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso (CSC) was once again commanding in pink

Ivan Basso (CSC) was once again commanding in pink
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso is well protected by his CSC team mates

Ivan Basso is well protected by his CSC team mates
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) does his share of the work in the break

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) does his share of the work in the break
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso sits comfortably in the bunch

Ivan Basso sits comfortably in the bunch
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso is looking every bit the race leader in control

Ivan Basso is looking every bit the race leader in control
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) finished the day tucked away in the peloton

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) finished the day tucked away in the peloton
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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CSC turn right...

CSC turn right...
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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And they turn left...towards victory in Milan

And they turn left...towards victory in Milan
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso (CSC) gets out of the saddle

Ivan Basso (CSC) gets out of the saddle
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Liberty Seguros are keeping their man Scarponi amongst it

Liberty Seguros are keeping their man Scarponi amongst it
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Now that's a building!

Now that's a building!
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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As far as race scenes go, it doesn't get much better than this

As far as race scenes go, it doesn't get much better than this
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso celebrates the end of another day in the maglia rosa

Ivan Basso celebrates the end of another day in the maglia rosa
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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One of the world's biggest bike races pales into insignificance against this kind of backdrop

One of the world's biggest bike races pales into insignificance against this kind of backdrop
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Spot the rider

Spot the rider
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ivan Basso has time to enjoy the view, and why not!

Ivan Basso has time to enjoy the view, and why not!
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The tunnel to Switzerland transported riders through the tall stuff

The tunnel to Switzerland transported riders through the tall stuff
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Laverde and Baliani celebrate after Laverde's win

Laverde and Baliani celebrate after Laverde's win
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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How sweet it is! Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes the win

How sweet it is! Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) takes the win
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Time to take a peek at where the rest are for Luis Laverde

Time to take a peek at where the rest are for Luis Laverde
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) on the podium

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) on the podium
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Time to celebrate with some champagne for Luis Laverde

Time to celebrate with some champagne for Luis Laverde
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) wins in Domodossola

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) wins in Domodossola
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) put in a satisfying effort today

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) put in a satisfying effort today
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre) takes the sprint for third

Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre) takes the sprint for third
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Bettini eases in to hold onto his sprinter's jersey

Paolo Bettini eases in to hold onto his sprinter's jersey
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) gets the win on stage 14 in Domodossola

Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) gets the win on stage 14 in Domodossola
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) rolls in to take 12th place

Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) rolls in to take 12th place
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Possibly the ugliest fan at this year's Giro d'Italia was enjoying himself

Possibly the ugliest fan at this year's Giro d'Italia was enjoying himself
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Today's stage in a word? Spectacular!

Today's stage in a word? Spectacular!
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Looks great but it's pretty damn cold

Looks great but it's pretty damn cold
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Mountains galore in stage 14 as the peloton passed through Switzerland

Mountains galore in stage 14 as the peloton passed through Switzerland
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Speed on the flats were once again pretty high today

Speed on the flats were once again pretty high today
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) rides in the sprinter's jersey

Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) rides in the sprinter's jersey
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Who's a pretty biy, then? Ivan Basso looking all angelic before todays' stage

Who's a pretty biy, then? Ivan Basso looking all angelic before todays' stage
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) wasn't in a good way after his crash, with multiple serious injuries

Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) wasn't in a good way after his crash, with multiple serious injuries
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Riders cross the Swiss border but don't have to worry about customs...

Riders cross the Swiss border but don't have to worry about customs...
(Image credit: Luc Claessen)
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Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finished with the main peloton.

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finished with the main peloton.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bobby Julich (CSC) and bike with his trademark elliptical O,Symmetric chanirings.

Bobby Julich (CSC) and bike with his trademark elliptical O,Symmetric chanirings.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and other breakaway riders tuck for a descent.

Fortunato Baliani (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and other breakaway riders tuck for a descent.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso (CSC) started and finished the day in the leader jersey. Will he tough it out to Milano?

Ivan Basso (CSC) started and finished the day in the leader jersey. Will he tough it out to Milano?
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The light at the beginning of the tnnel

The light at the beginning of the tnnel
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton passes through an old city.

The peloton passes through an old city.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The CSC team leads the peloton

The CSC team leads the peloton
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Spectacular scenery was again a feature of the Giro as the stage climbed back into winter.

Spectacular scenery was again a feature of the Giro as the stage climbed back into winter.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mellow yellow - Saunier Duval does the feed zone thing.

Mellow yellow - Saunier Duval does the feed zone thing.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A young fan waves the Giro on.

A young fan waves the Giro on.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) claims the win

Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) claims the win
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) still has to make up over five minutes on Ivan Basso if he is to defend his title.

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) still has to make up over five minutes on Ivan Basso if he is to defend his title.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Leaderboard unchanged as CSC take charge

One of two teams with two riders in a break of eleven, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare played the numbers game to perfection today in Domodossola, showing it takes two to tango.

As Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears' Francisco Perez attacked just under the five kilometre kite, Colombian Luis Felipe Laverde quickly took the wheel of the Spaniard, smartly sitting on for a free cab ride to the finish, while team-mate Fortunato Baliani did his best to break up the chase. Then fresh as daisy, Laverde put daylight between him and his adversary - a easy-peasy sprint to earn his best-ever victory.

"It was a beautiful win today, the best of my career," affirmed Laverde. "I didn't expect it because my condition isn't one hundred percent, but I tried and got the win. We worked hard all day in the break and I knew my team-mate Baliani was working for me [when I was away with Perez].

"I knew it was important to be in the break today, but eleven riders is a lot. At ten kilometres to go, there was a lot of tension, everybody wanted to win; I saw that Perez was very smart on the climb, so when he attacked in the finale, I immediately got on his wheel."

Added Baliani: "I'm really happy for my maglia verde today, but also really happy for Laverde that he won. He deserved to win; I've raced with him for years and he's a really good rider."

Since turning professional five years ago, little-known Laverde had only the one win to his name, a stage of the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda back in 2003. Now armed with the status of a Grand Tour win and the confidence that follows, the victory will hopefully bear more fruit for the 27 year-old from Medellin.

"My first win was at the Settimana Bergamasca was a surprise because I thought there was a break at the front and I didn't know I had won. But today I knew I was in the break and going for the win!" Laverde exclaimed, smiling.

"It's difficult to be famous in Colombia; to be famous in Colombia for cycling, you have to be world champion, but maybe after today, I will be a little bit more famous."

With his rivals seemingly demoralised and the team of the maglia rosa Ivan Basso controlling proceedings in the plotone for the entire stage, Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar - the best-placed rider in the breakaway - was really the only one to profit from their near eight-minute advantage by the day's end. Consequently, the 27 year-old Frenchman catapulted fifteen places to sixth on the classifica generale, bumping the previous sixth to tenth places down one spot.

"I'm happy with the way things are going in the Giro and I hope it continues like this," said Basso. "The day after tomorrow, the stage finishes on Monte Bondone. It's a hard climb and an important stage, and we'll have a lot of work to do. Long races you win with your head, so let's see what's going to happen. Normally, I construct my win step by step, day by day."

Asked how it feels to wear the maglia rosa in his home country, Basso said: "My first maglia rosa was filled with emotion because it was the first, but for now, only one is important - the one this Sunday in Milano."

Furthermore, Basso appears to be growing stronger by the day, and the toughest mountains are yet to come. At least his foes will have a semi-day off tomorrow, no doubt scratching their heads about what to do.

"Today, I finally felt good and I could breathe with the mountain air without pollen," said 2005 champion Paolo Savoldelli. "At the Giro, I didn't expect a Basso that was so strong; I knew he would be good in the time trials but he is very strong on the climbs. And he's more relaxed and stronger this year."

On his team-mate Tom Danielson, who has been doing an exceptional job his for team leader, pacing Savoldelli up the climbs, he said: "Tom is an exceptional athlete who can climb and time trial. He tried to get in a break today and could still go in a long break on the next stages. He has a big, big future; he's only been riding as a pro for a few years and is getting a lot of experience at this Giro."

How it unfolded

Stage 14 departed Piazza Chanoux in Aosta at 11:16am with 171 racers taking to the road - Giovanni Bernaudeau (Bouygues Telecom), Moises Aldape (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas) were not among them, however. This was a transitional mountain stage that started in Aosta, climbed up the Passo Gran San Bernardo and through the tunnel before it descended to Switzerland for a final climb up Passo Sempione and fast descent back into Italy for the finish in Domodossola. There were attacks from the very beginning of the stage as the climb up to Passo Gran San Bernardo began in Aosta itself. Swiss squad Phonak heard the call of the alpenhorn and was looking to get away, especially Johan Schopp, who lives in Sierre at the 118km point of today's stage. After 13km, Gerolsteiner's Ronny Scholz had enough and abandoned

Past St.Leonard with 5km to the KOM atop Gran San Bernardo, 11 riders managed to extricate themselves under the impulsion of Johann Tschopp and Steve Zampieri (Phonak), with Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Fortunato Baliani and Luis Laverde (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Ivan Parra (Cofidis), Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre-Fondital), Raffaele Illiano (Selle Italia) and Iker Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi) making it a rather strong party of escapees. At the GPM where Casar took the mountain points ahead of Balliani, the break had 50" before entering the long tunnel into Switzerland.

After one hour, and with plenty of climbing going on, the pace was a lively 28.6 km/h - as the break came out of the Swiss side of the tunnel, their lead was 2'40 on the gruppo maglia rosa. After a tough day to La Thuile yesterday, CSC wasn't interested in chasing the escape, who had extended their lead after 85km in Saxon to 6'50 as they traversed the upper Rhone River valley. After two hours of racing, the average speed had stabilized to 41 km/h due to a persistent headwind.

CSC was still riding a steady tempo on the front of the gruppo maglia rosa, with Basso looking relaxed. Andoni Aranaga (Euskaltel) abandoned after 80km, then in Ardonne after 94km, Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), wearing the Maglia Verde of best climber, crashed hard into a traffic island and abandoned with a broken collarbone.

In Brigg at the foot of the Passo Sempione with 66km to go, it was Francaise des Jeux's Sandy Casar who took the 110 Gazzetta intermediate sprint and the escapees began the 20km ascent up the Sempione with a lead of 7'55". The status quo remained between the break, although Flores made a solo move halfway up the climb, but the headwind slowed him up and the message from his team car was to chill out after a few kilometres. CSC still led the gruppo maglia rosa as they ascended the Sempione, and at the KOM atop Passo Sempione, as a few raindrops began to fall among the snow capped peaks, it was Balliani who crossed first and earned enough points to take over the maglia verde.

There were now 46km to the finish in Domodossola, with 20km still in Switzerland as the 11 break riders began the long, fast and cold descent to the final flat 7km to the finish. 9'30 behind the break, the Basso's group crossed the Passo Sempione as the riders plunged down the rapid mountain road at 100km/h. As the break passed from Switzerland back to Italy, no one stopped to have their passports stamped and had managed to hold their advantage of nine minutes over the gruppo maglia rosa. With two fast finishers - Stefan Schumacher and Sandy Casar - in the break, Phonak and Panaria would certainly try something to get away using their two riders in the break.

CSC's Blaudzun, Gustov and Bobby Julich were on the front down the descent as the Ossola Valley approached with a relaxed, smiling Ivan Basso resplendent in his pink tunic. With 15km to go to the finish in Domodossola, the break's advantage had dropped to 8'30. First to attack was Parra, who was ably covered by Casar, but the headwind slowed them down. Enjoying a big lead on the main group, those in front were afforded plenty of time for tactical manoeuvres. As a short tunnel began, Parra surged once more and was countered again by Casar. Flores attacked next but it came from too far back and Zampieri covered him. Perez then made a move with 6km remaining - it was good enough to get away but Laverde managed to get across and Phonak had hit the front of the selection to try and pull back this two man move that had quickly gained eight seconds' lead.

With 4km to ride, the front duo had stretched their slim advantage to 10 seconds as Laverde had started to work. The chase couldn't get it together, however, so it seemed both Spaniard and Colombian had it wrapped up with 2km to go. Perez tried to drop Laverde on the pave' section in Domodossola, and although the chase was getting close, Laverde's Panaria teammate Balliani kept breaking up the rhythm to help his teammate. In the last 800 metres the front duo had just five seconds over the chase which prompted Perez to go long. This didn't surprise Laverde, and with a solid sprint the little Colombian took the win.

Laverde's victory in Domodossola was a second career win for the 27-year-old, with Perez securing second and Tiralongo taking the sprint for third, seven seconds behind the front duo. Sandy Casar was the day's biggest beneficiary, with the Frenchman riding into the top 10 on general classification courtesy of the break, which takes him to 6th, 8'01" behind race leader Basso. Liquigas led in the gruppo maglia rosa at 7'44 as Paolo Bettini finished 12th and held onto his maglia ciclamino of best sprinter.

Stage 15 - Monday, May 22: Mergozzo-Brescia, 182 km

This dead-flat sprinters' stage to Brescia is probably the easiest stage of the 2005 Giro and the last chance until Milano for the fast men to fire. With Petacchi and McEwen out, T-Mobile's Olaf Pollack will undoubtedly be looking for a win to secure something for his efforts so far in this year's Giro.

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