What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro ’12 St.15: Fluorescent Flier Wins In The Mist

Race report: Man, it’s miserable on the road today. It’s a strongman’s stage, not super mountainous but with barely a yard of flat road. The effects of a twelve day stretch without a rest will be accumulating nastily in the legs of the Giro gruppo as today promises a horrible selection on the final slopes. Here’s what happened …

Twenty kilometres in and on this greyest of Italian days, the fluoro colors of Farnese Vini are being flown by Matteo Rabottini and Ag2r’s Guillame Bonnafond is along for the ride. Off they go, no serious chase behind.

Unfortunately for RadioShack-Nissan, Frank Schleck has called it quits, suffering the after effects of his run-in with immovable object Alex Rasmussen a few days ago. Forty kilometres done for the break duo and they’re looking towards a seven minute gap already.

The abandons come thicker and faster now, Graeme Brown (Rabobank) and Italian champion Gio Visconti (Movistar) have had enough. It’s raining harder now and the temperature is slipping towards single-digit Celsius – Italy in May anyone?

World champ Mark Cavendish is fighting for his maglia rossa (points jersey) and nips out of the peloton for third at the intermediate sprint at around half-distance, ahead of the climbing.

The first-category Valico di Valcava is first on the menu and Rabottini drops Bonnafond and goes solo over the top. There are chase groups and counter moves forming and splintering behind all the time.

Marco Pinotti (BMC) is less than five minutes down and comes over the top third … interesting. Even more so as he slips out on a descent. He’s back up but waiting for assistance. The main peloton with Canada’s Ryder Hejsedal in pink takes the hairpins on the descent extremely carefully.

Now, the chase group looks interesting because Damiano Cunego is here … if the gap goes out enough, could the little prince be back in pink after all these years? Sella is here, too, and Bruseghin, Losada, Txurruka, Amador, Pinotti, Carrara, Larsson.

Cunego looked down-and-out yesterday … this move could lead to a Cunego/Scarponi ding-dong to possibly rival the legendary ‘bastardo’ meltdown that Simoni suffered when the upstart Cunego ran amok at the 2004 Giro.

Fifty to go and an abridged version of the Liquigas-Cannondale train has come to the fore to try and reduce the arrears.

Rabottini continues to thrash-splash his way towards the finish. Whether he hangs on or not, it’s been a breakout ride today. He’s on the Forella di Bura now with five minutes on the chase and ten to the peloton.

Inside forty to go and Rabottini still batters away. The peloton has kicked up a gear and the gap between them and Cunego is reduced to three minutes.

34 clicks to go and it’s still a phenomenal ride from Rabottini – 5’15” to the chase; 8’38” to the peloton. Fabulous stuff and his cadence just hasn’t dropped. On the climbs, he’s opting for a no gloves/flapping open long-sleeve shirt look. Smart enough, as he’ll have dry gloves and warmer hands for the descent.

Carrara (Vacansoleil) is drilling it for his team-mate Gustav Erik Larsson in the chase. Next in line are the Lampre duo Ulissi and Cunego. The gap between chase 1 and peloton is dropping under three minutes.

Stefano Pirazzi from Colnago-CSF jumps out of the chase with 32kms to ride.

The rain has eased on the category three Culmine di San Pietro, the penultimate barrier on today’s route, but it’s getting misty and murky. Riders are starting to struggle in the peloton now: Agnoli (Liquigas) is totally cooked.

Inside 30 clicks to race: 4’19” to the chase and 7’31” to the peloton for Rabottini. It’s up to Liquigas, Astana and – of course – Garmin-Barracuda to sort the chase. Scarponi (Lampre) has mates up the road so can sit in. Rabottini retrieves his gloves and jams them on. Liquigas have four on the front of the maglia rosa group, with Hesjedal sixth and a line of Astana blue next. Visibility descending the Culmine di San Pietro is improving from abysmal to limited.

Pirazzi has been caught by Cunego, Amador, Losada and Txurruka. They’re just 2’46” down on the leader. The Pinotti faction is a little over a minute back on them.

Rabottini drops like a stone and the road looks a little drier now. Cunego nearly overshoots a corner. Nervous times: this descent is the one that nearly killed Pedro Horillo a few years ago. The peloton is bunching right up on the corners. No chances being taken.

18 kilometers left for Rabottini, still looking super. Cunego is a solo chaser now, going all out for the pink jersey.

17.4 kilometers to go for Rabottini, now looking less super as he loses it spectacularly on a left-hander. His mechanic is on him in a split-second, up, check bike, jump on, push off, GO! The leader flies through a village, lots of thick white-painted lines on the road. He needs to be very careful in these damp conditions. Adrenaline flows, and right now he’s going just as fast as he was pre-tumble. Cunego is caught by Txurruka and company.

14 clicks to go. Rabottini has 2’11” on the chase group. It’ll be tight now with the finishing killer climb to come. It’s only a category two climb but the Pian dei Resinelli is a hammer blow to the legs on such a tough day, averaging over 7% gradient. The team cars take turns to roll up and talk to the chasers.

Ten kilometres left: Rabottini’s drills it under the banner, hands draped over the drops. Luca Scinto, the DS, has the car within touching distance and screams encouragement. Cunego’s looking for help in the group, gesturing the others forwards.

Inside eight to go: Rabottini has another heart-in-mouth moment on a treacherous roundabout. It’s two-and-a-half minutes to the chasers, and a snip over four to the peloton. He’s climbing now, helmet strap swinging wildly and he’s blowing for air. Not surprising – he’s been battering himself out front since kilometre 18!

Pirazzi attacks the Cunego group. Then, further uphill, Losada and Txurruka do the same. Behind, the maglia rosa is looking good, sitting just behind Basso in the peloton.

Three clicks left for Rabottini and he’s got 1’35” in hand. Hang on, mate! Pirazzi, Losada and Txurruka chasing frantically with Cunego gapped.

Alberto Losada goes again and ditches Pirazzi and Txurrruka. Behind, the implacable Sylvester Szmyd simply smashes it on the front of the peloton, more or less for the whole climb. He pulls the peloton to within thirty seconds of the chase.

Inside two to go for Rabottini. Basso and Kreuziger up the pace in the peloton! Now Scarponi! Cunego is caught! Not even a sideways glance from his capo.

Rabottini flanked by tifosi, howling at him to go, go! Losada is almost on him. Joaquin Rodriguez jumps the chase now!

Last kilometre for Rabottini! Nothing in it now! Rodriguez catches his Katusha mate Losada who paces him.

Rodriguez screams past Rabottini, but the Italian hangs on! Now, last corner .. Rabottini goes for the inside line, holds it and Rodriguez can’t/won’t come past. The young Italian gets his stage win. Brilliant ride. But Rodriguez has enough of a gap over Hesjedal for the pink jersey.

Super exciting end to the stage and a nice (possible?) display of sportsmanship from Rodriguez to allow the youngster to have his day. Tomorrow is a rest day, but Tuesday will see more mayhem in the mountains.

Keep it Pez!

Giro 2012 Stage 15 Result, Busto Arsizio – Lecco/Pian dei Resinelli, 172kms

1 Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Farnese-Vini 5hrs 15’ 30”
2 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha Team same time
3 Alberto Losada (Spa) Katusha Team +23”
4 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Sky +25”
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale same time
7 Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox +29”
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana
9 John Gadert (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
10 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same time

Giro 2012 Overall After Stage 15

1 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha Team 65hrs 11’ 07”
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda + 30”
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale + 1’ 22”
4 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana + 1’ 26”
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana + 1’ 27”
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD + 1’ 36”
7 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar + 1’ 42”
8 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Sky + 1’ 55”
9 Dario Cataldo (Ita) OmegaPharma-QuickStep + 2’ 12”
10 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-BigMat + 2’ 13”

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