This is it! The last stage that anything big could happen, after today only an accident, an act of God or a scandal (it’s happened before) could stop Ivan Basso winning this year’s Giro d’Italia, he has to get over the Passos of the Tonale, Gavia (Cima Coppi) and the much talked of Mortirolo (Cima Pantani) in this 211 kilometre stage from Trenta to Aprica.
A nice warm day for the riders at the start, an easy few kilometres with the CSC team leading things along as the road starts to climb from the village of San Michele all’Adige after only 15 kilometres. As usual the coverage on Italian RAI 3 is brilliant, live action, nearly the whole stage from start to finish, pity Eurosport like tennis so much!
So, to the race, the Tonale first was taken by yesterday’s winner, Spanish Champ, Juan Manuel Gatate (Quick-Step), looking for mountains points, over the snow covered slope of the Gavia (Cima Coppi), it was Juan Manuel Gatate (again) on his own with Jose Serpa (Selle Italia) at 22 seconds, David Lopez (Euskatel) at 26 seconds, Patxi Vila (Lampre) at 28 seconds, followed by Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel) and Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r) and the peloton with the Pink jersey at 1 minute 20 seconds.
The already dwindling peloton plies the upper slopes of the Gavia.
The big battle now is for the mountains jersey, Garate wants it! At the start of the day Fortunato Baliani (Panaria) had 51 points, Basso (CSC) 46 and Garate with 39, so it’s within his grasp with a lot of points on offer today.
Serpa headed off on his own, through the Town of Bormio he had 35 seconds on the Pink jersey group of about 40 riders, Saunier Duval are doing the chasing but CSC are not far away, Voigt goes to the front and the speed goes up to 60 kph and is in their sights. Lobato of Saunier Duval came forward to have words and things calmed down a bit, but not for long as CSC had other ideas and it was business as usual, CSC or Saunier Duval towing.
Juan Manuel Garate rode another great day in the mountains, securing the Mountains Classification in the process.
The Mortirolo looms large in the distance, it’s 12.3 kilometres long, has an average of 10.8% rise, but varies between 6% and 18%, the riders will have to climb 1329 meters from bottom to top. Lobato splits the group and blows up, Gutierrez (Phonak) is it trouble but hanging on to Basso, the leaders are now taking this mountain by the scruff of the neck, Basso is piling on the pressure, Piepoli and Simoni (Saunier Duval) stay with him on the steepest part, Gutierrez and Cunego (Lampre) are not too far behind, Savoldelli (Discovery), Caruso (Liberty), Garate and Casar (FdJ) getting on terms with the mammoth slope. Basso and Simoni drop Piepoli, Gutierrez and Cunego together, then Savoldelli and Caruso, the others in the race were no where to be seen. Garate gets back up to Savoldelli as Gutierrez tries to get up to Piepoli on his own as the little prince, Cunego, cracks. This a long, long mountain and by the summit, through a massive crowd of Tifosi, Basso first, Simoni second, then Gutierrez and Cunego at a minute, next up was Piepoli 45 seconds later, Savoldelli, Garate, Caruso and Casar were next at 3 minutes 15 seconds.
Paolo Savoldelli made one of the most impressive descents in recent memory to set up an epic pursuit between himself and Cunego for hold over 4th Place overall…Il Falco ended up on the losing end though.
Big down hill now to the village of Edolo before the 500 meter climb to the finish at Aprica in 15 kilometres, it was now cat and mouse with the groups chasing each other, some getting closer and some not, demon descender, Savoldelli, managed to catch Piepoli, so it was Basso and Simoni, followed by Gutierrez and Cunego, then Savoldelli and Piepoli and Garate, Caruso and Casar over 5 minutes back, no group was making much time on the other.
Simoni and Basso once again were at the head of affairs…until Basso turned on the afterburners and left Simoni bitter and angry behind.
Basso put the pressure on and just rode away from Simoni within 2 kilometres of the line, Basso could smell the victory and pressed his advantage home, both arms raised to the sky with a picture of his new son, Santiago, in his hands, Simoni over a minute later for second, Cunego and Gutierrez nearly 3 minutes after Basso and the others? Who cares? Basso is the King, the only change is Savoldelli loses his fourth place to Cunego, Garate did enough to take the Mountains jersey, so thats one jersey Basso has not got.
Doesn’t get any more dominant or impressive than Ivan Basso this incredible Saturday.
That’s the Giro 2006 as good as over, so I can get out on my bike a bit more before the Tour de France, taking a leaf out of the book of news coming out of Spain at the moment, I’ve made an appointment with a gynocologist to see if he can do anything for my form!
Stage 20 Result:
1st Ivan Basso (CSC) in 6.51.15
2nd Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir at 1.17
3rd Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) at 2.51
4th Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) same
5th Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) at 6.03
6th Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) same
7th Sandy Casar (Franзaise des Jeux) at 7.26
8th Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step) all same
9th Victor Hugo Peсa Grisales (Phonak)
10th Giampaolo Caruso (?-Wьrth Team)
Overall After Stage 20:
1st Ivan Basso (CSC) in 87.37.33
2nd Josй E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) at 9.18
3rd Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) at 11.59
4th Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) at 18.16
5th Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) at 19.22
6th Sandy Casar (Franзaise des Jeux) at 23.53
7th Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step) at 24.26
8th Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 25.57
9th Victor Hugo Peсa Grisales (Phonak) at 26.27
10th Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital) at 27.34