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Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage 15

The Giro continues its jaunt in the high mountains. Today there are four climbs on the schedule, including a final climb up to Lecco Piani dei Resinelli. Will we finally some action by the favourites?

The fun and games in the mountains continue. Will another escape group make it to the end? Will the favourites finally wake up and start actually racing? Will the World road Champion make it to the finish within the time limit? The answers to these and many more questions will be available in a few hours!

The peloton will face four climbs today: Valico di Valcava, Categorny One, km 85.3; Forcella di Bura, Category Three, km 124.4; Culmine di San Pietro, Category Three, km 144; and the mountaintop finish, Piani dei Resinelli, Category Two, km 169.

Oops.  San Pietro is Category Two, not Three.

Northern Italy was hit by a strong earthquake early this morning, with deaths being reported. We offer our sympathies to all involved.

The weather is not really co-operating today. It is raining and 14°C at the start.

179 riders took off at 12:31. We suspect the missing starter was Jeremy Hunt of Sky. Earlier today Geraint Thomas tweeted: "Man down in Italy, Jez off to become a dad. He'll be missed!! Been on the front pulling the peloton or Gruppetto for the last 2wks #respect"
 

It is indeed Hunt. He was, by the way, next to last in GC.

It is indeed going to be a tough one today.  Take a look at this video, previewing today's stage!

162km remaining from 172km

10km already done, and still no attacks! Come on, guys.....

The first climb is the most difficult. It starts at km 73 and tops out at km 85, so about 12 km. The average gradient starts out easy enough, at 3.1%, then climbs to 7.6%. Suddenly it jumps to a maximum of 17% with the average for much of the last third being 11.6%,  before coming back down to 7.5% at the end.

154km remaining from 172km

We have to riders trying to get away, Bonnafond (AG2R) and Rabottini (Farnese Vini). Let's see if they get away with it.

Looks like they are doing it.  Their gap is now 1:47.

Ryder Hesjedal doesn't have to fear these two, as they are waaaay down in GC.

The third climb, up the Culmine di San Pietro, is just under 10km long. It features a passage of up to 12% before introducing a tiny descent, then it goes up again to the top.
 

Let's take a look at that final climb up to the finish line. The last three km climb some 2000 metres. The first two thirds of the climb are 7.9% gradient, and it then ends up with a more gentle 6.3%. Easy peasy, right?

Fränk Schleck has abandoned the race. He has been complaining of shoulder problems since his run-in with Alex Rasmussen a few stages ago.

137km remaining from 172km

The gap has now jumped to 4:10 for the two escapees.

Don't be surprised to see Ivan Basso do something here today.  This is, after all, more or less his home turf. Ivan Basso. His favourite training climbs are a few valleys to the west of the fearsome Valcava and the final schlep up to Pian dei Resinelli. However the 2006 and 2010 Giro champion is close enough to home to feel at a distinct advantage today.
 

134km remaining from 172km

These two are flying!  Bonnafond and Rabotttni have built their gap up to 6:45 already, only 38km into the day.

Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Barracuda slipped back into pink with his surprise attack yesterday.  Here's how the top ten looks at the moment:

1     Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda     59:55:28      
2     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     0:00:09      
3     Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team     0:00:41      
4     Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat     0:01:05      
5     Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:01:06      
6     Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team     0:01:07      
7     Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team            
8     Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling     0:01:19      
9     Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD     0:01:20      
10     Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox     0:01:21

Mark Cavendish (Sky) is facing his biggest challenge in the remaining stages: not the other sprinterss, but the climbs! Right now he is still leading the points competition by a healthy margin.

1     Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling     106      pts
2     Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team     64      
3     Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox     53      
4     Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team     52      
5     Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda     50      
6     Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team     49      
7     Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team     48      
8     Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team     43      
9     Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli     36      
10     Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale     33      
 

127km remaining from 172km

Two riders in the peloton couldn't wait any longer and have taken off: Matthias Frank (BMC Racing Team) and Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil).

Best climber is Michal Golas of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but we may well see a change here today.

1     Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep     34      pts
2     Jan Barta (Cze) Team NetApp     24      
3     Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli     24      
4     Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team     22      
5     Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli     15      
6     Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team     11      
7     Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox     9      
8     Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan     9      
9     Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team     7      
10     Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp     7      
 

127km remaining from 172km

The gap for Bonnafond and Rabottini is now 8:50. Behind them, Francesco Failli (Farnese Vini) and Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) have now joined Frank and Denifl.

And let us not forget our youngsters.  Here are the top ten best young riders:

1     Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling     59:56:47      
2     Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling     0:00:20      
3     Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:01:37      
4     Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Barracuda     0:01:47      
5     Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox     0:02:18      
6     Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:02:27      
7     Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD     0:04:31      
8     Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team     0:13:41      
9     Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox     0:28:01      
10     Fabio Felline (Ita) Androni Giocattoli     0:32:33      
 

122km remaining from 172km

Well, so much for that. The chasing foursome has been caught by the field.

We've come 50km already, and the climbing will start in another 20km.

180 riders finished yesterday's 14th stage, which means that 18 rides had dropped out so far. That is actually pretty good in comparison to past years. In 2011, we saw 173 riders at the end of stage 14, and only 164 in 2010.

180 riders finished yesterday's 14th stage, which means that 18 rides had dropped out so far. That is actually pretty good in comparison to past years. In 2011, we saw 173 riders at the end of stage 14, and only 164 in 2010.

Andrey Amador won yesterday's stage.  It was a stunning accomplishment for the Costa Rican rider who suffered a vicious assault in his homeland in 2010.  He is now looking forward to a great cycling future.

113km remaining from 172km

The gap is up to over eight minutes, as the intermediate sprint approaches.

Cavendish is still the only rider to have won more than one stage, having won in fact three. So that make Sky the only team with three wins. But both Androni Giacattoli-Venezuela and Movistar have two stage wins each.

And of the 13 stages with individual winners, we have winners from eight different countries: US, Great Britain, Australia, Colombia, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Costa Rica.

Tom-Jelte Slagter of Rabobank is actually looking forward to the upcoming climbs The 22-year-old said the Giro has given him lots of confidence, and he talked to Cyclingnews about it here.
 

Slagter's teammate Graeme Brown is the next sprinter to throw in the towel and abandon the race.

Bonnafond has taken the intermediate spring. And Giovanni Visconti of Movistar is the next to abandon.

Damiano Cunego was not Lampre's captain coming into this race, but he still held out hopes of winning. Yesterday he pretty much had to give up those hopes, losing a minute to the other favourites. Now it is up to teammate Michele Scarponi. 
 

And the climbing has started! The two leaders are on their way up the first climb of the day.

All that Hesjedal really wanted to do yesterday was to “see how the legs would respond.” Well, obviously, they answered well enough that he was able to move him back into the pink jersey. And now he is beginning to think he can actually win this race.

Ivan Basso is currently fifth overall at 1:06 down, but he is not dissatisfied and is in fact looking forward to a tougher stage today than yesterday.

The race started this morning with another minute of silence, this time in honour of those who died in the earthquake this morning.

Remember that intermediate sprint? We now now who got the points: Bonnafond ahead of Rabottni, Cavendish, Golas, Rosseler and Eisel. Nice to see Cavendish actively defending his red jersey.

And remember that weather we had at the start? It is about the same at the finish: rain and 10°C.

Emanuele Sella of Androni attacks out of the field on the climb.

Turning things over to Mark for a spell......

95km remaining from 172km

Thanks Susan. Cavendish's performance in the intermediate sprint means that he now leads Joaquim Rodriguez by 110 points to 64 with a week to go.

85km remaining from 172km

Thanks Susan. Cavendish's performance in the intermediate sprint means that he now leads Joaquim Rodriguez by 110 points to 64 with a week to go.

85km remaining from 172km

Over in America, the Tour of California finishes this evening. Rabobank's Robert Gesink put hios injury nightmare of the last few months behind him on yesterdays seventh stage, taking the win and the lead in the overall GC. Read all about it right here.

85km remaining from 172km

Over in America, the Tour of California finishes this evening. Rabobank's Robert Gesink put his injury nightmare of the last few months behind him on yesterdays seventh stage, taking the win and the lead in the overall GC. Read all about it right here.

80km remaining from 172km

Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) goes with Sella to form a second breakaway duo.

Txurruka has been involved in numerous breaks and attacks in this year's Giro so far. Will him and Sella be able to bridge the gap to the leaders? They clearly fancy their chances as they get stuck into this gruelling category one climb, which is one of the most testing of the entire 21 stages.

I wonder if there are any celebrities lining the roads today? Italy's lake district is a haven for the rich and famous. The likes of Madonna, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Branston all have properties here.

And the three leaders have almost made it to the top of the Valcava climb. Only the small matter of three more categorised climbs to go...

And Rabottini drops Bonnaford and is riding solo it appears. Back down the road, Losada and Carrara join Sella and Txurruka in pursuit.

75km remaining from 172km

Astana seem to be controlling the pace back in the peloton for Tiralongo and Kreuziger.

And Susan has returned from a well-earned lunch break, folks...handing you back to her now.

Looks like Mark managed to kickstart the race into actually becoming a race! Good job!

The weather is, however, totally abominable. Wet wet wet....

Here are the first three over the first climb of the day: Rabottini, ahead of Bonnafond and Pinotti.

Meanwhile, Cunego and two others have also attacked out of the field.

Not much fun taking this ascent on the wet roads and heavy rain.

And to prove our point, Pinotti slips out on a wet corner and hits the ground.

69km remaining from 172km

Only 69km to go for Rabottini, who has reached the bottom of the descent.

The favourites' group very carefully negotiates a hairpin curve.

The chase group is now at the bottom, and it doesn't appear to be actually raining at the moment.  Everything is gray and wet, though.

Selle, Bruseghin, Losada, Txurruka and Carrara have moved off from the chase group, while Ulisi has fallen back to Cunego.

There seems to be only a handful of secons between the chase group and the field. And yesterday's winner Amador has moved up to the chase group.

The situation right now is very fluid (if you will pardon the pun). Rabottini doesn't let that bother him and just keeps on going.

Former Spanish rider Pedro Horillo, who crashed out of the Giro d'Italia three years ago on the Culmine di San Pietro descent, has sent a letter to RCS Sport thanking them for all their support following his crash. This year's Giro d'Italia climbs the same road before facing the climb to the finish at Pian dei Resinelli.

Rabottini drops back to the team car -- or possibly it came up to him -- and appears to ask about the route.

Cunego thought that his hopes were over yesteday, but look right now he is in the virtual leader's jersey!

The chase group is 5:19 behind Rabottini, with the peloton (with Hesjedal) at 9:43!

Wonder how that gap got so large so quickly? Did the peloton get depressed by the weather and just said, let them go?

Pinotti is said to be about a minute behind the chase group.

Lecco has hosted a stage finish of the Giro d'Italia three times: in 1956 won by Albani, in 1960 won by Anquetil and in 1984 won by Bruggmann. Lecco also hosted the finish of the 2011 edition of Il Lombardia.

Rabottini has now started up the penultimate climb, the Forcella di Bura.

Cunego, as we said, is now the virtual race leader, by about two minutes. If the peloton doesn't do something soon, it may just be too late.... that is a lot of time for them to try and make up on the remaining stages.

Pinotto still dangles somewhere behind the large chase group. He just had a chat at the team car, perhaps asking, shall I continue to chase? Because after all, he is not all that far down on GC....

51km remaining from 172km

51km to go, and the gap is 5:15 to the chasers, with the field at 10:05. Pinotti somewhere in between.

Not surprisingly, Lampre and Vacansoleil are doing the majority of the lead work in this chase group.

Pinotti appears to be getting closer to the chase group.  Looks like he will be back with them in a few minutes.

50 km to go for Rabottini!

Pinotti has now made it back to the group. Well done.

And now we hear why it took Pinotti so long to get back and why he had such a huge gap. He had no team car near him, and the neutral material car apparently just plain didn't see him, and drove right past him. Finally AG2R helped him out.

Now he has dropped back again to get things fixed again by his own team car.

Two riders have built up a small lead over the chase group -- but no, the others have given chase and caught them.

As we noted earlier, Fränk Schleck abandoned the race early on in the stage. Apparently to the displeasure of team boss Johan Bruyneel.

Things are actually looking pretty good for Rabottini at the moment.  He still has five minutes with only 46km to go and is getting lots of visits and advice from the team car.

And he pulls on a pair of gloves as he approaches the third mountaintop of the day.

The peloton seems to have realized what is going on. The gap back to them has now dropped to 8:38.

Which means they are about 3.30 behind the Cunego group.

If we have counted correctly, we have only nine teams with nine riders still in the race. Rabobank is the hardest hit, having lost four riders.

Rabottini gets another visit from his team car. The gap back to the Cunego group remains steadily just over the five minute mark.

However, the gap between the Cunego group and the peloton continues to fall. Bunego now has only a 10-second "virtual" lead over Hesjedal for the maglia rosa.

The points on the penultimate climb went to Rabottini, Amador, Txurruka and Pinoti.

34km remaining from 172km

Sorry,that was only the second climb of the day. We still have two more to come in the next 34 km!

Rabottini smiles and laughs after his last visit to the team car. A good joke? Or has he decided he has this thing wrapped up?

32km remaining from 172km

The gap to the Cunego group has finally dropped below 5:00 -- all the way to 4:59.

And the fog is rolling in! Lovely! (Not!)

Pirazzi tries to get away from the Cunego group, which is now climbing again.

How was Ryder Hesjedal feeling about things before the start?  He was actually pretty cool about it all -- check out our video.

The chase group seems to be falling apart, as the gap to Rabottini dropes to 4:21.

If this fog gets any thicker, we may all be glad that Farnese Vini-Selle Italia has that florescent kit.

Valerio Agnoli of Liquigas is fried. He has done his duty and is happy to drop back.

Pirazzi heads into the fog, 4:05 behind Rabottini.

Looks like its starting to rain again as well...

What absolute crap weather.....

The peloton is flying along in the fog now. This always makes us  nervous.

Liquigas is firmly in the lead of the peloton.  Good thing they have rather brightly coloured kit too.

Rabottini is nearing the top of the third climb. This time we are sure it is the third climb.

Rabottini hits the top. Only 25.9km for him to go and he can win this stage!

This is a tricky descent -- in fact, the one where Pedro Horrillo went over the side unnoticed. We really don't need to repeat that!

A group of four has broken away from the chase group and caught Pirazzi.  He is now together with Cunego, Amador, Lasada and Txurruka, at about four minutes down.

Yikes, a bit of slipping and sliding going on here....

So, three minutes to the Cunego group and 5:38 to the peloton.

Cunego is going all out -- it is the only chance he has. Let's hope he stays upright.

Cunego has split from his group and seems to be on his own in chase of Rabottini.

Astana leads the peloton, followed by Scarponi and Hesjedal.

17km remaining from 172km

The rain has done its damage to Rabottini. His rear wheel slipped out on a zebra stripe and down he went. A bystander helped him get back up and going.

The team car checks in with him to make sure he is ok.

With 15 km to go, Rabbotini has 2:17 over Cunego, with the peloton at 5.58.

The group has nearly caught Cunego again. He is not giving up easily, though.

12.5km to go and the final climb has not yet started...

The Lampre car moves up to the Cunego group, and the Farnese group to Rabottini. He still has nearly three minutes gap.

We've not heard anything at all about the gruppetto. We assume they are back there somewhere and will make it up to the finish in the time limit.

Most, if not all, of the favourites are still together in their group. Not sure if Pozzovivo is there.

He is in fact back amongst the team cars and working his way up.

Rabottini carefully negotiates a roundabout. He really doesn't want to hit the tarmac again.

7km remaining from 172km

The gaps now: 2:29 to the Cunego group, and 4:10 to the Hesjedal group, with 7.5km to go.

Rabottini now heads up the final climb of the day. The stage win is only 7 km away!

Pirazzi gives it another try, jumping from the Cunego group.

Cunego doesn't react to Pirazzi's attack, but keeps on going in his own rhythm.

Sylvester Szmyd and Ivan Basso at the head of the Hesjedal group, followed by two Astanas and Hesjeal.

Amador is out of the Cunego group. Guess he has dropped back.

5.5km to go and 2:19 to Bunego and 3:34 to the Hesjedal group.

Didi Senf, the Tour Devil, is here.  He is all in pink, so should we call him the Giro Devil?

The numbers keep getting smaller and smaller....

Rabottini is getting a lot of support from the fans along the roadside.

The Hesjedal group has now caught Amador.

Losada jumps from the Cunego group. Txurruka goes with him - Cunego does not.

Losado and Txurruka are with Pirazzi.

Rabottini is suffering. Only 4km to go...

Cunego is only 10 meters or so behind the other three chasers.

The gap to Cunego has grown again.

3km remaining from 172km

Things are looking bleak for Rabottini. The gap to the three chasers is now only 1.23, with 3.5 km to go.

Cunego is now 1:30 behind Rabottini, with the Hesjedal group less than a minute behind him.

Rabottini is still hanging on to the lead, but we are not sure of the gap to the three chasers.

Losado pulls away from Pirazzi and Txurruka.

And now Szmyd has had to drop back from the lead work in the Hesjedal group.

Basso still leads the group - will we see some attacks?

There are maybe 12 riders in that group now.

Scarponi gives it a go!

Cunego and Scarponi are now together.

1.5km to go for Rabottini.

Rodriguez charges in search of taking the red jersey back. He is gapping Hesjedal.

Rodriguez has caught and passed Pirazzi and moves up to his teammate Losado.

Rodriiguez moves past his teammate and is even getting closer to Rabottini!

Evidntly Rabottini doesn't know that Rodriguez is ther, and he passes Rabotini with only a few hundred meters to go!

The duo approach the finish line and Rabottni sprints to take the win after all!

The victory for Rabottini with Rodriguez second and Losado third.

Hesjedal crosses the line about 40 seconds down, and is rid of the maglia rosa again.

Rigoberto Uran crosses the line about 1:47 down.  He really looks all in.

What an attack from Rodriguez! The favourite's group quietlly worked its way up, and then he put in an amazing effort to catch the leader. It looked like he held himself back when Rabottini pulled around him within sight of the finish line, but the Farnese Vini rider surely deserved the win today.

Rodriguez now leads the overall standings by 30 seconds over Hesjedal and 1:22 over Basso.

It may be a while until the final rider crosses the line today, we don't think we will wait around.

That's it folks. Thanks for joining us. Tomorrow is a much needed rest day for everyone, but be sure to join us again Tuesday for more climbing pleasure.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia5:15:30
2Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
3Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team0:00:23
4Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling0:00:25
5Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
6Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
7Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox0:00:29
8Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team
9John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi

General classification after stage 15
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team65:11:07
2Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda0:00:30
3Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:22
4Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:01:26
5Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team0:01:27
6Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:01:36
7Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:42
8Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling0:01:55

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