The Giro may be offering its own kind of writing on the wall in the form of Ivan Basso and his apparent deathgrip on the maglia rosa, but there are plenty of fireworks left for the tifosi as the race heads into the vaunted Dolomite mountains. Legends have been made in these here hills, and the final week of the 2006 Giro might put forth a legend or two of her own.
With his nearest competition – Josй Gutierrez Cataluna of the Phonak team – 3’27” back, it would seem the Basso and his ultra strong CSC team might be on cruise control. But I’m sure the others remember his spectacular implosion in last year’s Giro, and perhaps hold out hope.
The weather was sunny and beautiful today, a true dichotomy in scenery with the beauty of the Dlomites juxtaposed against the soon to be twisted faces of the peloton making their way up these formidable mountains. Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) of the Ceramica Panaria-Navigare team was the brave soul who decided to seek asylum from the peloton after a measly 37km with a vicious attack. The group was uninterested, and off he went. Perhaps suicide, knowing that today’s stage would hold the first of the Dolomites, sure to do some rending of their own. Chavez was undaunting, and ploughed his lonely furrow to an advantage hovering just over 4 minutes, and it stayed that way until the final climb to Monte Bondone. Poor, heroic Chavez saw his lead evaporate like a drop of water on July concrete as the mountain loomed before him. CSC held the break at a reasonable distance all day long and the reeling was slow and sure.
The Bondone loomed large over the stage – there wasn’t much racing done beforehand, but 17k was all that was needed to sever all hope.
The catch came and went, with CSC powering away on the front. As the climb began, it was the work of strongman Jens Voigt that spelled doom for the weakest in the main group, as it began to shatter on the early part of the climb. Riders tossed out the backside of the group were forced to find a gear and drag themselves up the hill as best they could.
Jose Serpa of Selle Italia lit a fuse and bolted out of the front, establishing a gap. To no one’s surprise, there was no panic as the CSC threshing machine kept steady tempo on the front, and no one else ventured out just yet to join the hapless Serpa.
The Kid got a good ol-fashioned stomping from Ivan Basso on the Bondone today – he lost four and a half minutes on the climb.
As they usurped Serpa, Leonardo Piepoli of Saunier Duval went to the front and lifted the tempo, causing some marquee names some big problems. Cunego. Savoldelli. Di Luca. All in trouble, and quickly. The climb kept giving the business to the group, but the strongest of the day rose to the top to form a group of ten or so. All the while Basso looked selfless, cold, and composed, just eyeballing the others and seemingly in control. Still up front and hanging on were Sastre, Piepoli, Simoni, Gutierrez, Belli, Perez Cuapio, and Gadret. Savoldelli found a pilot fish some 15 seconds back in the form of Jose Luis Rubiera, and worked to limit his losses, protecting his 3rd place overall on the GC.
Jose Gutierrez kept up his amazing performance at the Giro, riding to 4th on the stage, just over 1:30 behind the untouchable Basso.
Piepoli surged once more, setting up his captain Simoni. Basso wavered a moment but slowly brought himself back up to, and quickly moving in front of, Piepoli, who dropped back a bit, his job done. Basso edged off the front with only the erstwhile Gilberto Simoni for company. The rest splintered behind, littering the mountainside with the chasing big names. Soon Simoni could no longer keep the pace either, and the Maglia Rosa was free off the front, quickly building an advantage over Simoni, and of course, incurring greater damage to the rest of the hopefuls behind, laboring in the Italians wake.
Basso plied his own lonely course up the second half of the climb and put serious time into every other rider in the race.
In what seemed like no time, Basso had 48 seconds on Simoni. As he worked his way through the 38 switchbacks the crowds grew thicker and thicker towards the summit, cheering Basso on. Clearly by this point the others must be conceding defeat. Basso was and is – in a word – too strong. With 1k to go a smile spread over the CSC captains face, accompanied by the well wishes of thte burgeoning crowd. He had completley decimated the field. As our friend Phil Liggett would say during the Armstrong era, it was a “systematic destruction of the peloton.” Barring any accident or illness, Basso should be in Pink in Milan come Sunday.
Jan Ullrich seems to think he’s the man for the Tour, but he’ll have a lot to overcome if he plans on sticking it to Basso in the mountains.
Crossing the line with his arms in the air and the closest man to him Simoni, at 1’17” back, it would seem the Giro is all but over. Of course, there is much climbing to come in the days ahead, but if the first foray into the Dolomites is any indication of how he’ll ride the rest of the days, it’s all sewn up for Ivan Basso.
Results Stage 16 Atop The Bondone
1. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, at 173km in 4:51:30
2. Gilberto Simoni (I), Saunier Duval, at 1:26
3. Leonardo Piepoli (I), Saunier Duval, at 1:37
4. Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Sp), Phonak, at 1:37
5. John Gadret (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, at 2:40
6. Perez Cuapio Julio Alberto (MEX), Ceramica Panaria – Navigare, at 2:45
7. Wladimir Belli (I), Colombia – Selle Italia, at 3:12
8. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 3:25
9. Giampaolo Caruso (I), Liberty Seguros, at 3:27
10. David Lopez Garcia (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 3:27
General Classification After 16 Stages
1. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, 64:35:17
2. Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Sp), Phonak, at 5:24
3. Paolo Savoldelli (I), Discovery Channel, at 9:17
4. Gilberto Simoni (I), Saunier Duval, at 9:34
5. Wladimir Belli (I), Colombia – Selle Italia, at 11:07
6. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 11:59
7. Sandy Casar (F), Francaise des Jeux, at 12:40
8. Damiano Cunego (I), Lampre, at 13:55
9. Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col), Phonak, at 14:59
10. Danilo Di Luca (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 15:18