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Giro07 St.16: Garzelli Licks ‘Em In Lienz!

PEZ called it – those nasty bumps in the last 50 km of today’s stage set the perfect stage for more exciting racing as Sefano Garzelli did the business again – and he did it in style – going solo and holding off the chase on the flat finale.

Stage 16 – Tuesday, May 29: Agordo (Dolomiti Stars) – Lienz (Austria), 189 km
Ah, la dolomiti. Ah, Austria. Ah, il Giro! The only thing certain was that the day was up for grabs given the circumstances. Yesterday’s rest day settled into the peloton’s legs and the GC’s top spot looks to be mostly calm and the fact that weather to start today was atrocious made the possibility of something kind of quirky getting away all the more real.

One would certainly think to keep an eye on those trying to dethrone Di Luca – the likes of Simoni, Mazzoleni, etc, will be throwing all their teams’ resources at the Liquigas rider, but then again, all reserves might be kept in order to face the monster climb of the Zoncolon tomorrow. Perhaps an upstart would try to get to Austria first. Last one to the schnitzel table is a rotten egg!

The course had two obstacles of note today, the Passo di Campolongo and the last three bumps into Linez (see the PEZ Story here) before an almost pan flat 17k circuit to the finish. It could suit a breakaway rider if one chose to display the cajones.

However the initial racing was anything but, as the group rode some serious piano action in the opening kilometers. The weather was bad and snow was falling on the Campolongo.

After gruppo compatto for most of the day, a group of nine finally decided they wanted to go, and did just as Il PEZ himself predicted on the climb of the Anras, no danger men included.

As they started the Vergein climb, wouldn’t you know it? Stefano Garzelli dug deep and launched himself after the front runners as the lead group splintered a little and only Caucchioli, Serrano, Mangel, Rubiera, and Bernucci were away.

Garzelli put in a big move, raising some eyebrows (but not ours) as to why he’d go “American Flyers” and leave so early. There was 40 + k and one big bump ahead yet to go, but he was allowed to leave as his status as dangerous has downgraded. Despite his brilliant win in Briancon a few days back, he lost too much time on stage 15 to worry any of the gc boys.

Stefano closed the gap to the leaders and the race found a new rhythm as the lead group became a dedicated seven. Pietro Caucchioli (Crйdit Agricole), Ricardo Serrano (Tinkoff Credit Systems), Laurent Mangel (Ag2r Prйvoyance), Josй Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel), Benoоt Joachim (Astana), Garzelli, Lastras, Dean, and Mangel were there, with over 2 minutes in hand.

While the break dueled at the front in pursuit of stage glory, the Liquigas team endured the painful job of keeping the leaders in check.

The descent saw Garzelli once again surge, and he dropped his short term breakaway partners. There was the Bannberg, then a long, flat ride to the finish, and one had to wonder if Garzelli had the legs to hold everyone off in Austria. The Cat 3 climb of the Bannberg, with it’s 5% average gradient, waited for all, but Garzelli would get there first. The gap was then three and a half minutes to the main group, but under 20 seconds to the first chase group.

The weather broke as Garzelli just started hammering his bike up to the top of the climb splintering his break mates behind him sunshine sprinkling on wet roads.

The main group seemed fairly disinterested, as they allowed the lead to get to almost 6 minutes as the flat run in began. Garzelli’s recently detached breakaway mates fell to 44 seconds back, as he made a clear all-or-nothing move.

That’s stage win #2 for Garzelli this year at the Giro and #8 overall.

The second chase had the sprinters in it. Julian Dean, Laverde, etc. but the first chase group threw their all into the pursuit of Garzelli, pulling a high tempo, everyone coming through, closing the gap 35 seconds with just under 10k to go.

At 5k to go, the chase broke down though, as pulls were missed, so Llastras fired off the front, only to be marked immediately. Serrano then jumped. None of this helped to narrow the 35 to 40 second gap. Cat and mouse continued.

Garzelli’s mouth hung open, head bobbing, arm warmers pulled up, his check written. Could his legs cover it?

Yes, sports fans, they could. Stefano Garzelli was paid handsomely for his somewhat suspect move, and he won in fine solo fashion. Bravo Stefano!

The peloton, paying homage to the brutality they will face tomorrow on the Zoncolon, rolled in a lazy 8 minutes later, Di Luca safely tucked therein.

Today was a good day for the opportunist Garzelli, but tomorrow once again the true contenders will show their faces. Get your one-of-a-kind Giro coverage at Pez tomorrow!

Results: Giro 07 Stage 16
1. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffи Mokambo
2. Laurent Mangel (Fra) Ag2r Prйvoyance 1.01
3. Ricardo Serrano (Spa) Tinkoff Credit Systems
4. Josй Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel
5. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crйdit Agricole
6. Pablo Lastras (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
7. Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Tinkoff Credit Systems
8. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quickstep-Innergetic

Giro 07 GC After Stage 16
1. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
2. Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana
3. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
4. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir
5. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital

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