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Giro d'Italia 2011: Stage 18

Hello and welcome to today's live coverage from the Giro d'Italia. It's stage 18 from Morbegno to San Pellegrino Terme.

Many riders will know today’s roads well, since they pass through one of the heartlands of Italian cycling: the province of Bergamo.

After heading towards and alongside Lake Como, the route moves south through Lecco and Bergamo before turning north again towards the town of San Pellegrino Terme. Before that, though, lies the Passo di Ganda. At 1,060m, it isn’t even middling by Giro standards but could still offer an intriguing finale, since the twisting descent off it runs into the finish. Bet on a breakaway staying clear but if the overall title is still up for grabs, watch for action on the descent.

One rider from around these parts is double Giro winner, Ivan Gotti. He in fact rode this stage of the race with Nibali during the Liquigas rider's training. Here's a picture of Gotti playing soccer!

Scarponi says:

“If anybody’s weakening, they’ll get hammered if their team isn’t up to it. I think the stage winner will probably be somebody who can’t win the Giro but at this point it’s all about who’s strongest. I’ve got a feeling about this stage for some reason.”

 

130km remaining from 151km

No attacks so far in the stage by the way but today's stage looks similar to yesterday's in profile.  Today's climb is a tougher prospect so we could see some action from the favourites. It's more likely that we'll see attacks from riders sitting just outside the top 10, but who are still dreaming of a high place in GC.

Lots to talk about in the news but lets start with Contador's CAS hearing being moved. It was scheduled for June but it could now take place in July or even September, meaning a Tour de France start is looking more and more likely. Contador's legal team will be more than happy with the delay, the UCI won't comment but hopefully we'll have something from CAS later today.

In other news this young man (the one of the left) could move next door to Quick Step.

Gilbert's agent:

"There are about five teams genuinely interested in him, among which his current employer"

 

120km remaining from 151km

Still no action from the main field as yet, but there's plenty of time for that. A number of teams will be looking for the win as we've got some very tough mountain stages and a TT left after today and there are some teams that need to make a stronger impression on the race.

Liquigas, BMC, Garmin, Sky, Geox are amongst some of the teams that haven't won a stage, although Garmin did wear pink.

@dnlbenson UCI says "Contador's case will never never never move to July or September"

@russtee Thu, 26th May 2011 13:33:20

You had me there for a second!

Over 50 kilometres completed and still not action from the bunch.

If they don't spring into action soon I'm going to be forced to talk about Ivan Gotti's career. Please help me out here guys.

@dnlbenson 1st hor avg. speed 53,1 km/h #giro

@toutneant Thu, 26th May 2011 13:39:51

As for the weather, we've got blue skies and sun.

And here's where we stand on GC:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 68:18:27
2 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:58
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:05:45
4 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:35
5 Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad 0:09:12
6 José Rujano Guillen (Ven) Androni Giocattoli 0:09:18
7 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:22
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Geox-TMC 0:09:38
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:09:47
10 Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:10:25

Sivtsov was yesterday's big winner, moving back into GC contention. The HTC-Highroad looked down and out a few days ago but because of the time gained yesterday he at least looks good for a top ten place on GC. Top five might be a bit of a stretch though.

Now we've got some action. A number of riders trying to break away including two from Katusha.

Astana, Movistar, Androni are also present but there's not much cohesion to any of this at the moment. The intent is there at least.

Movistar again trying their luck but it's not going to work.

Pirazzi meanwhile, has just pulled over at the side of the road and got a hug and kiss from who I hope is his wife or girl friend.

Maybe his mother? In fact I have no idea from up here in the blimp, she seemed to give two riders hugs.

A larger group of around 15 riders has a gap now but the bunch don't look to keen letting them go. This time it's Sky who are doing the damage.

RT @spokesmen: Soooo, the CAS hearing for Contador may be delayed till after the TdF? The implications don't bear thinking about

@cyclingfansanon Thu, 26th May 2011 13:45:01

68km remaining from 151km

And the field are all strung out as they head through the feedzone, a place to normally attack but the bunch are speeding along I can't see anything happening just yet.

But Sella takes a flyer and has five or six riders with him. The move looks doomed though with too many teams chasing. Everyone wants to be in the move today so it's no surprise that so many attacks are being jumped on and brought back.

Onto a small climb and RadioShack are the next team to launch an attack. it's a good spot to make a move, a few teams have come across, to who I think is Deignan.

The Irishman is giving it a real go here, driving the break along. They've got a small advantage on the bunch, not much, but this move could stick.

We're still climbing and Deignan is still doing the work, there are two Liquigas riders and a Lotto rider. The Irishman looks back to see what's going on but it's not splitting up.

60km remaining from 151km

Less than 60km to race and we've got just one rider off the front as we hit the outskirts of Bergamo. He's about to be caught, so it's all back together again.

The bunch split to pieces on that last climb actually. The main favourites seem to be together but suddenly this stage has come alive in term of both the win for today and perhaps the GC. Contador leans over his shoulder and spots Scarponi - his closest rival on GC.

Contador has to stop for a minute, as he's got something caught in his back wheel.

And the bunch is re-grouping so there's a chance for the break, which has now formed. Names coming...

Sastre, Pinotti and Deignan are all up there. Downing too. There are many 15 -20 riders.

51km remaining from 151km

51km to race and another three riders are trying to make the break. They're just about to make contact.

Three riders from QuickStep are present in the lead move.

Tankink and Pinotti had a small gap on the rest of the break but they've just been reeled in. So we've got a large break, the problem is they're not organised and certainly not all working.  They'll struggle if the peloton push the pace on the main climb of the day.

And Pineau has attacked. That's a smart move from him. He realises the break is too big and isn't going to gel so he's trying to get the more committed riders to go with him.

Pineau is still out on his own. The chasers are 200 meters back with the Contador peloton at 2:30

It look like Pineau is still out by himself but that the main break has now split up, with some riders sitting up and waiting for the bunch. The gap from the leaders to the bunch is over 4minutes.

Contador is riding alongside his teammates giving them orders. They're on the front at the moment but with the lead growing it doesnt seem like he's too worried. Contador would rather another team does all the work.

Pineau has been caught by five riders including Downing and Pinotti with the gap at 4:32.

Seeldrayers and Pinotti doing most of the work on the climb, and Downing is struggling a little bit. He's digging in but on the back.

Tiralongo has jumped out of the chase group.

And Downing has been dropped from the lead group.

Pineau has also been dropped.

Pineau has also been dropped.

Brambilla has also been dropped as Capeechi sets the pace.

Capecchi still doing all of the work on the front of the break with Seeldrayers and Pinotti happy to sit on and save their energy. We've still got a long way to go though, at least 5km to the top of the climb and the descent isn't exactly flat. It's up and down all the way to the finish.

Tiralongo has caught and passed Downing and Pineau as Lampre, Rabobank, Liquigas and Saxo Bank all share the work on the front of the bunch.

The three leaders are starting to share the work a little more evenly now.

The Astana rider is 1.10 from the three leaders. He'll struggle make that up, I think.

The three leaders are closing in on the top of the climb, their advantage to the field at around 4 minutes. 4:05 to be exact.

Brambilla is 15 seconds down on the three leaders, as Pinotti takes a turn on the front. They go over the top.

That's good riding from the Colnago rider. He's ridden at his own pace and has every chance of making it back to the leaders on the downhill section.

Visconti has attacked from the bunch. He hasn't got much of a gap though.

25km remaining from 151km

Just a shade over 25km to go now and we've still got three leaders up the road, PInotti, Seeldrayers and Capecchi.

The gap has gone out to 4:29 and the gap to Brambilla is up to 29 seconds.

Visconti has been joined by Pineau and Vicioso. To be honest it's of little importance when it comes to the stage win though. The winner wll come from these three, unless Brambilla can come up with something special.

21km remaining from 151km

The leading trio are working well still, so I think it's going to be game over for Brambilla as well.

Pinotti and Capecchi are having a few words. Three non sprinters heading towards the finish, with the gap to the Colnago rider nearly a full minute.

Lampre setting the pace on the front of the bunch and Seeldrayers looks a little ropey now on a slight rise. It's up and down most of the way before a long downhill section and then a short kick at the finish.

16km remaining from 151km

Onto the long descent and Pinotti sitting on the front as Pineau is caught by the Lampre led peloton.

The bunch are over 6 minutes down, so Pinotti will move up a few places on GC. The stage win is up for grabs though and he'll swap that for a top twenty place on GC, that's for sure.

10km remaining from 151km

Less than 10km to go. Tiralongo and Brambilla have merged but they're 1:35 back to the leading trio. Pinotti has lost contact on the descent but should come back.

Astana are leading the team classification so they'll be more than happy with how things are going at the moment.

7km remaining from 151km

Just 7km to go.

It's almost 7 minutes back to the peloton. Will the three leaders start attacking each other or will they wait for the sprint? No real strong sprinter between them, the Quick Step rider looks aggressive

4km remaining from 151km

Pinotti just drifted to the back for a minute and eyed up the opposition. he's not doing as much work as the others. He's worn pink and won a stage in the Giro already. Can he take another big win?

The real work is coming from the chasing duo but they're not really bringing down the gap.

They're all watching each other. Seeldrayers has a very good chance here but he has to race smart against the two Italians.

2km remaining from 151km

2km to go.

Pinotti on the front with 1km to go. They're going to make him lead out.

A hard left turn coming up.

Pinotti is still leading, looking around his shoulder and up against the barriers.  Here comes the turn!

Pinotti has to lead out through the last corner but Capecchi comes through with 150 to go and takes the win.

Crossing the line with his hands in the air. He had that in the bag, didn't he? Seeldrayers tried to come through on the inside with a fading Pinotti in the middle.

Unlike yesterday we had a clean sprint.

1 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
2 Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad
3 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
4 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox
5 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Pro Team Astana

Thanks for joining us today. Stay tuned for more coverage from the Giro d'Italia tomorrow.

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