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Sella dominates Giro's first high-mountain stage

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Sella crosses the line

Sella crosses the line (Image credit: AFP)
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Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) attacked the others in the end

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) attacked the others in the end (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) is the surprise of the Giro

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) is the surprise of the Giro (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) was doing the team work, but also rewarded with pink

Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) was doing the team work, but also rewarded with pink (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Menchov gives it a go in the end and gained a few seconds

Menchov gives it a go in the end and gained a few seconds (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) was in the break of the day and hung on to fifth

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) was in the break of the day and hung on to fifth (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) did a courageous ride and finished in third

Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) did a courageous ride and finished in third (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) before the start.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) before the start. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego at the start

Damiano Cunego at the start (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton taking off

The peloton taking off (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) at the back of the field for now...

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott) at the back of the field for now... (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego is not doing the Giro so he can concentrate on the Tour

Cunego is not doing the Giro so he can concentrate on the Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Rasmussen and Contador the two who battled it out in the Tour until the Dane faced some whereabouts questions.

Rasmussen and Contador the two who battled it out in the Tour until the Dane faced some whereabouts questions. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Rasmussen with former colleagues from Rabobank.

Rasmussen with former colleagues from Rabobank. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Zabel doing a last-minute email check and wondered if someone could provide him with a secret to limit the suffering.

Zabel doing a last-minute email check and wondered if someone could provide him with a secret to limit the suffering. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego is all smiles as he doesn't have to race today.

Cunego is all smiles as he doesn't have to race today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego is popular in Italy and nobody was really mad at him to skip the Giro.

Cunego is popular in Italy and nobody was really mad at him to skip the Giro. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The youngsters Cunego and Contador having a chat.

The youngsters Cunego and Contador having a chat. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cunego with his young fans

Cunego with his young fans (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Contador (r) shakes hands with Rasmussen.

Contador (r) shakes hands with Rasmussen. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) is thinking about today's stage.

Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) is thinking about today's stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) gives it a go and the Russian proved to be strong today.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) gives it a go and the Russian proved to be strong today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) attacked the others as his legs were responding well in the first big mountain stage.

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) attacked the others as his legs were responding well in the first big mountain stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Contador had some trouble breathing and lost a good half minute.

Contador had some trouble breathing and lost a good half minute. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) is the surprise of the Giro so far.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto) is the surprise of the Giro so far. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Astana looked good on the lower slopes of the final climb.

Astana looked good on the lower slopes of the final climb. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) doing the team work duties.

Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) doing the team work duties. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bosisio leads his captain Danilo Di Luca up the mountains.

Bosisio leads his captain Danilo Di Luca up the mountains. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) grits his teeth.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) grits his teeth. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank) climbs well

Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Rabobank) climbs well (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Contador was suffering today and the question is if he will recover by tomorrow.

Contador was suffering today and the question is if he will recover by tomorrow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) also lost time but is hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) also lost time but is hoping for a better day tomorrow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) struggles to the finish line.

Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) struggles to the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) was bleeding on his lip, possible from too much gritting his teeth.

Fortunato Baliani (CSF Group Navigare) was bleeding on his lip, possible from too much gritting his teeth. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Contador checks on the competition.

Contador checks on the competition. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sella spent a lot of time out out of the saddle in the final kilometres.

Sella spent a lot of time out out of the saddle in the final kilometres. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Visconti struggled in with two team-mates at his side.

Visconti struggled in with two team-mates at his side. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The determined face of Gilberto Simoni as he was trying to catch back up with Denis Menchov.

The determined face of Gilberto Simoni as he was trying to catch back up with Denis Menchov. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Visconti couldn't hang on to the pink jersey.

Visconti couldn't hang on to the pink jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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There was plenty of encouragement for Visconti and the occasional push, too. But nothing helped today.

There was plenty of encouragement for Visconti and the occasional push, too. But nothing helped today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval - Scott) still shows Souvenirs from his crash, as Contador tries to hold his wheel.

Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval - Scott) still shows Souvenirs from his crash, as Contador tries to hold his wheel. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni leads the chase with Riccò hanging on.

Simoni leads the chase with Riccò hanging on. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Simoni was not too impressed with his fellow racers although he surely would admit that Menchov was the strongest today.

Simoni was not too impressed with his fellow racers although he surely would admit that Menchov was the strongest today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Visconti got passed by many and couldn't hold this group either. But his team-mates stayed with him all the way to the finish.

Visconti got passed by many and couldn't hold this group either. But his team-mates stayed with him all the way to the finish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step) on the left was doing the lion's share of the work.

Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step) on the left was doing the lion's share of the work. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) was in the escape all day long but got passed by a few riders in the end.

Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) was in the escape all day long but got passed by a few riders in the end. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vande Velde couldn't hold on when Sella attacked.

Vande Velde couldn't hold on when Sella attacked. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bettini came in fifth today after spending a long time in the break.

Bettini came in fifth today after spending a long time in the break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Menchov gives it a go and a few couldn't respond.

Menchov gives it a go and a few couldn't respond. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was having a tough day in the mountains.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was having a tough day in the mountains. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana) also struggled today.

Andreas Klöden (Astana) also struggled today. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) did a courageous ride and finished third.

Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne) did a courageous ride and finished third. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Riccardo Riccò fans on the climb

Riccardo Riccò fans on the climb (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The tifosi waiting for their heroes to struggle up the climb.

The tifosi waiting for their heroes to struggle up the climb. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) hung tough today

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) hung tough today (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) was in the break and managed to secure fifth place still.

Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) was in the break and managed to secure fifth place still. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bosisio was rewarded for his work with the maglia rosa by five seconds.

Bosisio was rewarded for his work with the maglia rosa by five seconds. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Champagne for Bosisio!

Champagne for Bosisio! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Sella can't believe he could hang on but was also extremely exhausted.

Sella can't believe he could hang on but was also extremely exhausted. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Let the Sella-bration begin

Let the Sella-bration begin (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) was exhausted after the finish and his brilliant solo ride.

Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) was exhausted after the finish and his brilliant solo ride. (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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Sella crosses the line after a long solo escape and the second place rider almost five minutes back.

Sella crosses the line after a long solo escape and the second place rider almost five minutes back. (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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Sella sprays the champagne

Sella sprays the champagne (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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A happy Sella gets everyone else around him wet.

A happy Sella gets everyone else around him wet. (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) has the leader's jersey

Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) has the leader's jersey (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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Bosisio already won a stage and now he is five seconds ahead of Contador.

Bosisio already won a stage and now he is five seconds ahead of Contador. (Image credit: Maglia rosa)
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The podium kisses feel good after a long day in the saddle.

The podium kisses feel good after a long day in the saddle. (Image credit: Maglia rosa)

Menchov shines in classification battle as maglia rosa passes to Bosisio

Italy's Emanuele Sella of Team CSF Group Navigare dominated the first high-mountain day of the 91st Giro d'Italia, winning stage 14 to Alpe di Pampeago by attacking solo with nearly 50 kilometres to go on the Passo Manghen. At over four minutes back, Belorussian Vasil Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez finished second and third, respectively.

"Today someone was watching down," stated 27 year-old Sella after finishing the demainding day of 195 kilometres and two mountain passes. "All of the bad luck and now... I don't know who, but someone [was watching over me]. I had fear of being caught. In the last kilometre I suffered a lot. I really did a number."

Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), who carried the race leader's maglia rosa for the last eight stages, succumbed to the high mountain passes and lost time to the leaders. Italy's Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) took over the race lead with five seconds on Contador. "The first big climb, there were not great gaps, but up ahead there are more," said the 27 year-old rider from Lecco. "I hope the team – Paolo [Savoldelli] and Danilo [Di Luca] – can keep getting stronger. I took the jersey, but everyone worked. I have to say thanks to everyone."

The favourites fought for the overall classification on the 7.7-kilometre Pampeago. After Simoni's Diquigiovanni team did its muscle work, the reins were handed over to Di Luca's LPR Brakes. It had four men – Di Luca, Savoldelli, Bosisio and Spezialetti – through the village of Tesero, one kilometre into the climb.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Andreas Klöden (Astana) were distanced while a lead move started to form. Italy's Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group Navigare) accelerated at 1600 metres remaining to force out Vuelta a España champion Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni), Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence-Lotto). Astana's Alberto Contador was gapped, followed by Di Luca at 1200 metres.

Simoni, Pellizotti and Van den Broeck each accelerated, but it was Russia's Menchov who moved free, gaining nine seconds over the others by the finish.

"I saw that no one was moving. I said 'I have to try,'" noted Italy's Pellizotti. "I could not wait, I tried and it went well. Today is the first true climb in the mountains, I wanted to see how I was. ... I am content with how I went, the condition is there and we will go on from here."

With Pellizotti was Italy's Riccò, already a winner of two stages in this Giro d'Italia. "This morning, I did not feel good," revealed Riccò. "I had some flu [symptoms] from the other cold days. I could not breathe the way I wanted to. I gave my most and I hope for the best. I hope I will have better breathing over the next days."

Two-time Giro d'Italia winner, Simoni, was not impressed with the fellow leaders. "A bunch of lambs," he declared. "I tried, the team worked, maybe I was the first to attack. Behind they were scared. ... I tried a little bit on the Pampeago. I believe that if you are able to cause some pain you have to try."

Di Luca passed the line 26 seconds after Menchov and 13 after Simoni and Van den Broeck. "We did our work," said last year's Giro d'Italia winner. "I lost a little bit of time, but in the end it went well and the Giro is long. I am good, maybe I lack a little bit. Tomorrow, is another day. If I feel good, I will try.

"Now we are in the maglia rosa. ... I am happy for Bosisio and it gives me an advantage."

Di Luca and Riccò noted the time loss of Spain's Contador, who was dropped before the final kilometre. He lost 36 seconds to Riccò and 19 seconds to Di Luca, but still is the best placed of the favourites. "I didn't have the day I was hoping for," Contador confessed.

"I've been struggling with allergies and it really affected me today. The legs couldn't respond as they normally would have. To be five seconds from the maglia rosa is disappointing. I'm not happy with how things went at all."

How it unfolded

163 riders took to the official start at 11:53. A few riders opted for an easy way out today. Not surprisingly, they were mostly sprinters. Robbie McEwen (Silence - Lotto), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) and Koldo Fernandez De Larrea (Euskaltel - Euskadi). But also Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) decided to leave the Giro prematurely.

After 13 kilometres, 10 riders took off. Christian Vande Velde (Slipstream), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes), Emanuele Selle (CSF Group Navigare), Jose Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne), Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jens Voigt (CSC) and Charles Wegelius (Liquigas). They were joined by three more, Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux), to make it the break of the day.

By kilometre 29 they already had 3'10" over a peloton that seemed tranquilized by the daunting mountains. The race started immediately with an uphill, to the Cerro Veronese. The first hour was raced at a moderate 32.1 km/h. The gap quickly extended to 5'12", as the break tackled the second climb of the day, up to Fosse. To add insult to injury, neither climb offered mountain points.

Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre) had another crash, after 45 kilometres. And at kilometre 50, Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and Luciano André Pagliarini Mendonca (Saunier Duval - Scott) decided it was enough for this year's Giro and climbed off their bikes.

The lead extended to six and a half minutes after sixty kilometres. At km 63, Bettini, who was in the break, had a flat, but quickly got back on. The gap increased to 7'16" and after 90km it was at 7'40". Nocentini flatted after 100km, but was also quickly back in the echelon of the break.

After 104 kilometres, Lorenzetto had enough of the crashes for this year's Giro and also stepped off his machine. The gap was reduced to seven minutes. The first three hours were raced at an average speed of 37.3 km/h. The gap, which had dropped below the seven-minute mark, started to climb again and was at 7'35" at kilometre 114. That was when Oscar Gatto (Gerolsteiner) followed suit to the guys ending the race in the broom wagon.

The intermediate sprint at Borgo Valsugana after 137 kilometres was taken by Yoann Le Boulanger (Française des Jeux), ahead of Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare). The gap was around the seven-minute mark. This also indicated the looming mountain, as the Passo Manghen was to start only a few kilometres later.

Sella was of course the first to open the attack in the front, hoping to get the mountain points. That acceleration shattered the group completely. Félix Rafael Cárdenas Ravalo (Barloworld) was the one who attacked out of the peloton, but he couldn't get away.

Sella got clear, with Rodriguez and Golcer chasing. The main peloton completely disintegrated, with the sprinters looking to build the autobus. Visconti started to get dropped when the race hit gradients of around 13 percent.

In the front. Golcer couldn't hold the pace and soon was back in the group. Rodriguez held on, but with seven kilometres to the top, he was already a minute behind and not far ahead of the rest of the chasers. Golcer and Kiryienka managed to move up to Rodriguez again.

In the main peloton, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli was driving the pace, an indication that Simoni felt well. Eventually, the following groups formed: Sella in the front, with Rodriguez and Kiryienka chasing behind. Then Golcer and Rujano, followed by a quartet, with Bettini, Voigt, Nocentini and Wegelius.

The main group was eight minutes behind, with the pink jersey, Visconti, a further minute adrift.

Close to the top, Sella took out his vest, got bottles and food and prepared for the descent. Kiryienka and Rodriguez followed behind, 2'42 later. Then came Golcer at 3'00" and Rujano at 3'40". The Bettini group crested the top 5'28" behind. The group of favourites reached the top 10'57" later, while Visconti and his faithful Quick Step team passed the top almost two minutes later.

On the descent, Rujano joined Golcer again and together they reduced their gap to 2'55" at the bottom. Rodriguez and Kiryienka were 1'50" behind Sella when the latter started to approach an uphill after the descent. That wasn't the start of the climb yet, though. Sella added to his lead again, when he crossed the 15km to go sign. Rodriguez and Kiryienka were at 2'18" and Rujano and Golcer at 3'35". The group came through at 10'29".

Sella kept the pace up over the flat part and started the last eight kilometres by himself. The uphill was 7.7 kilometres, to be exact. Behind, Bettini and Nocentini moved up to join Rujano, while Golcer was dropped from that group.

Five kilometres from the finish, Sella still had 2'24" over the first chasers, with all the favourites at 10'00". Visconti was losing more ground and his pink jersey was in danger of changing colour back to his normal Quick Step white.

The devil himself was chasing Sella up the road, who looked set for the stage win. Sella spent a lot of time out of the saddle, which helped him to keep that pressure on the pedals, while the group of favourites started to thin. Leipheimer was the first of the Astana favourites to drop back, followed by Klöden.

Sella crossed the line some ten minutes ahead of the peloton and five minutes ahead of second-placed Kiryienka.

Simoni was the first to give it a serious go, with three kilometres remaining. That stretched the group thin even more, with Di Luca and Contador finding it hard to follow the pace. Franco Pellizotti felt strong and went to the front, but Denis Menchov had none of it and took over. He gapped the others, and Simoni was the first chaser. Jurgen Van Den Broeck did another strong ride and kept close, as did Pellizotti.

Eventually, Riccardo Riccò caught up with less than two kilometres to go.

Bettini made it to the finish with a face of pain, saving three quarters of a minute to the favourites. A strong Menchov led the chasers home, with Contador moving into second place in GC, despite losing some 45 seconds.

Stage 15 - Sunday, May 25: Arabba - Passo Fedaia/Marmolada (Dolomites Stars), 153km

Stage 15 will be the second of three stages with mountaintop finishes in this year's Giro d'Italia. It takes in six serious climbs, including the 11.8-kilometre Passo di San Pellegrino, the 9.8-kilometre Passo Giau and the finale, 13.35 kilometres up the Passo Fedaia. Though the Giro d'Italia has never finished on the Passo Fedaia, it has been used in some memorable stage battles. In 2002, Julio Pérez attacked on the climb to get mountain points and kept going to win the stage, and in 2006, Juan Manuel Gárate kept going after the climb with his escape companions to eventually win the stage.

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