22/05/11 - 09:40
Conegliano - Rifugio Gardeccia
Giro d'Italia • Stage15

Conegliano - Rifugio Gardeccia

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No sign of Anton as yet, so Scarponi will be up to 2nd place on the podium tonight. Contador will stay in pink, with Nibali, despite losing time, in 3rd.


Gadret takes fourth, at 2:30. Rujano at 2:36. Nibali pips Rodriguez at 3:37. Then Kreuziger at 4:00. What an amazing day's racing.


Garzelli will hold on for second - just. Meanwhile, Scarponi is just metres behind the pink jersey! On to the gravel goes Garzelli. And he crosses the line at 1:40 for second. Contador comes home 10 seconds later, and Scarponi 7 seconds further back.


Nieve wins! What a titanic effort to chase down Garzelli and take the biggest and best scalp of his career.


The end is in sight as Nieve hits the gravel section that will take him the last 100m to the finish.


Nieve is getting closer to the finish, but it's now the steepest part of the climb. He should hold on for the win, but Garzelli may well be nipped for 2nd place by the pink jersey.


They have been in the saddle for almost seven and a half hours. What a day!


Scarponi has dropped Gadret - or vice versa. Contador passes the banner. The Spaniard could take his fourth second place if he catches Scarponi.


Under the one-to-go banner for Nieve, who will certainly win today. Garzelli is well over a minute back now - and there's more chance of Contador catching him than the Italian catching Nieve.


Nieve approaching the flamme rouge. What a ride.


Bakelants, one of the early escapees, is caught and passed by Contador.


Before yesterday, Basque team Euskaltel had never won a stage in the Giro. Now they'll have two in two days.


Contador has about 15 seconds on Gadret and Scarponi.


Nieve has 30 seconds on Garzelli.


Meanwhile, Nieve is getting near the top. He goes over a few concrete sections of road. This will be a second Grand Tour victory for him after a stage scalp in the 2010 Vuelta.


Contador already has 20 seconds on Nibali. He is just sensational.


Rodriguez also feeling the pain.


Nibali is with Menchov and losing time fast.


Now Contador is distancing both Gadret and Scarponi. Ruthless riding from the best rider in the world right now.


Gadret and Contador are the only riders who can go with Scarponi. Kreuziger and Nibali in trouble.


Arroyo has already cracked, as Scarponi, in the red jersey, piles on the pressure.


Contador is back with the men he momentarily let get away as they approach the start of the climb.


A double dig from Nieve sees Garzelli dropped and surely the Spaniard is going to make it a Basque double this weekend...


The climb up the Rifugio Gardeccia is just 6km but opens with a 12 per cent gradient and ends with a 14 per cent section. Oh, it's also a gravel track at the end.


Nieve catches Garzelli as they pass the 6-to-go banner and start this final climb.


Nieve is just 8 second behind now, with Bakelants three minutes down.


The rain returns as Garzelli edges towards the final climb of the day.


Meanwhile, further up the field, Nieve is just 20 seconds behind a tiring Garzelli as he bids to become the second Euskaltel rider in as many days to win in the Giro.


ATTACK: Rodriguez puts in a dig to open up a gap. Contador is caught napping and Nibali attacks as well!


Anton is still off the back of this chasing group. Contador has a scare when Nibali breaks clear with a few riders.


What a descent from Nibali! The Italian is now back with the maglia rosa group - a Herculean effort. Kreuziger looks over his shoulder and sees his former team-mate and mentions it to Contador, who looks stunned.


The pink jersey group contains Contador, Scarponi, Gadret, Menchov, Kreuziger, Arroyo, Rodriguez, Rujano and Weening. Anton is off the back of this group, as is Nibali.


After Garzelli we still have a series of riders out there alone: Nieve at 45, Bakelants at 3:00, Sella at 4:15 and Di Luca somewhere after that. The pink jersey group are 6:27 back. Nibali another 50 seconds.


The good news for Nibali is that Anton appears to have cracked today as well. He's not riding in the Contador group, so the Italian may preserve his place on the podium if he gets it together.


Start the clock for Nibali, who almost comes a cropper putting on his wind shield before the summit. The Italian is 57 seconds down - and even Nibali with his downhill skills will find it hard to return to the others.


Rugano leads the chasers over the summit, just catching Pieter Weening before. The gap's about 6:25.


It's dry on the other side of the mountain as Garzelli continues his fast descent beside a reservoir.


Garzelli crosses the summit of the Passo di Fedaia. Nieve comes across 39 seconds down.


Nibali is more than 30 seconds behind the pink jersey group.


A rotund fan with ginger hair runs alongside Garzelli topless shouting in the Italian's ear. After about 10 seconds of puttign up with this, Garzelli clobbers him with his elbow and he gets the message.


The heavens have opened! The rain lashes down on Vincenzo Nibali, riding alone in pursuit of the pink jersey group.


Garzelli, his face a picture of focused pain, is still out ahead. He has 7:45 on the pink jersey group.


Rujano is leading the pink jersey group. Kruijswick has been dropped but Gadret is still there. As is Arroyo, who shared some choice words with his compatriot Contador when the two passed just now. Kreuziger is there too. And Menchov. And red jersey Brambilla.


Hoogerland is now caught by Contador and Kruijswick, who have in turn caught Arroyo. Further back, Nibali gets a tug from his Liquigas team car while picking up a fresh bidon.


Quite a few of the initial breakaway riders are being caught and past - including Popovych, Sastre and Deignan.


Nibali dropped by the group which includes Rodriguez, Gadret, Kreuziger, Dupont, Scarponi and Menchov.


Nibali is at the back of the main group. He's not an explosive rider and he takes time to settle into climbs - just look at yesterday on the Zoncolan. But the Italian is probably suffering from his attempt to break clear on the last descent, that's for sure. And now he's been dropped.


Only two can follow the pink jersey: Rabobank's Kruijswick and Rujano of Colnago.


ATTACK: Contador goes on the inside of the bend and jumps clear! He's a machine.


So, it's actually Nieve on his own in pursuit of Garzelli. Bakelants has been dropped. Seeldraeyers is the next man, then the Sella/Di Luca bad-boy reformation duo, and then a few stragglers before Arroyo and the pink jersey peloton. A dog almost jumps out in front of Garzelli, but the owner tugs it back on its leash.


Rodriguez, Kreuziger and Gadret all riding fast on the front of the peloton, putting pressure on Contador. It seems that everyone is queuing to gang up on the Spaniard today.


Garzelli has 1:28 on the chasing group, which includes Nieve, Bakelants, Sella and Di Luca.


Nibali's nice effort comes to an end as he's swept up by the pink jersey group. One fears he may have put so much into that descent that he'll suffer on this climb. Meanwhile, Arroyo attacks again and jumps clear. Garzelli still has 8:22 to play with.


The road surface of the Passo Fedaia is pretty ropey. You certainly wouldn't want to be coming down it the other way.


One more withdrawal: Brett Lancaster (Garmin-Cervelo)


Garzelli rides through a pretty gorge and past a stunning waterfall. That initial breakaway group is scattered all over the road now.


Di Luca and Sella have joined forces in a former bad-boy double act in pursuit of their compatriot Garzelli.


Funnily enough, there was an intermediate sprint at the base of the Fedaia. Needless to say, Garzelli took the points. He's 1:05 ahead of Nieve and Bakelants, with 10 riders following at 1:30. The gap to Nibali is 8:40 while the pink jersey peloton is a further 30 seconds back, possibly more.


Nibali is pushing it and has to check his line and speed onto a tight bend. He could have stacked it then. The peloton is coming back together behind a chasing Contador. Pictures from the finish show the rain lashing down. This is going to be an interesting hour or so of riding.


Acqua & Sapone's Stefano Garzelli is on to the Cat.1 Passo Fedaia. Also known as the Marmolada, it features 11km of climbing at an average of 8.3 per cent. The last 6km are all more than 10 per cent while the maximum gradient is a huge 18 per cent.


Contador is with Arroyo, Anton and Scarponi as they chase down Nibali, who has quite a large gap.


Italian Garzelli has 1:25 seconds on the chasing group, which has swept up Hoogerland. Between them ride Nieve and Bakelants, at 44 seconds.


And still Garzelli's on the downhill - and he's about nine minutes ahead, which goes to show how much ground Nibali could make here on the descent.


Nibali has a sizable gap now on the descent - but we're only taking seconds. Interestingly, neither he nor Contador have any team-mates in this streamlined bunch, so come the next ascent they'll be isolated.


Meanwhile, Garzelli is still on his solo descent out at the front of the race. But back with the peloton, Nibali has already come to the front on the descent and is opening up a small gap. Dangerous, but exhilerating, riding from the Italian. And those wet roads do look slippery!


ATTACK: Contador decides enough is enough and jumps clear in pursuit of Rodriguez and Arroyo. Only Rujano can join him, but it seems more an exercise of pride than anything else. With the descent coming right up, Nibali knows he'll catch them up on the downhill.


Contador is back on the front of the peloton, alongside three team-mates. Both Nibali and Kreuziger are there too. Arroyo and Rodriguez are only just a bit further up the road - a pretty futile attempt to break, to be fair.


Garzelli moves into the lead in the mountains jersey classification with that ride - he picked up 21 points there, plus 9 earlier, meaning he's well clear of Alberto Contador for the time being. Maybe the bald Italian will be in green tomorrow?


Stefano Garzelli, wearing the No.1 bib, passes over the summit of the Giau to take the prestigious Cima Coppi prize awarded to the first rider to cross the Giro's highest peak. Nieve comes over 51 seconds down. A massively tiring Hoogerland takes third, 1:25 down, despite his early break. Nine riders then cross the line at 1:47.


ATTACK: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and David Arroyo (Movistar) break clear of the podium. They both lost a bit of time over the last two days, Arroyo in particular.


The mountain is still partially covered in snow, which explains all that liquid on the road. Garzelli has just one kilometre to ride before the summit. Five Liquigas riders lead the peloton.


Hoogerland tries to hold Garzelli's wheel but stands no chance. The Italian zooms past and will surely go on to take the Cima Coppi atop the Giau. Nieve now has Hoogerland in his sights. And they're now riding together, but it looks like the Dutchman won't be able to hold on for long.


Garzelli has Hoogerland in his sights as he passes Didi the Devil. Nieve has dropped back a touch. Back in the bunch, pink jersey Contador must have slipped back to see his team car because he's somewhat off the front.


Nieve and Garzelli are now working together in pursuit of lone leader Hoogerland, who is clearly tiring and will be caught before too long.


Garzelli has broken clear of the chasing riders in pursuit of Hoogerland and a second career Cima Coppi prize. The Italian is about one minute down, and Nieve just approaching. The others are a further 10 seconds back.


"Has anyone on this cycling thread predicted correctly a­ stage winner in this Giro?" asks Paula below. The answer is yes: this humble live commentator predicted Cav's double, plus Rujano's win. And a tip for today? Hmm... not Hoogerland, unfortunately.


Johnny gets a little tug from his team car as he picks up a fresh water bottle. Cav would be impressed by that, stylistically. Hoogerland looks exhausted. There's a lot of water on the road, possibly from a passing mountain stream. It's not rain, because the sun is still out.


Hoogerland's got more than a minute now. Meanwhile, Aramendia and Kuchyncki both drop back from the chasing group...


Since its introduction in 1965, the Cima Coppi has never been won by a Dutchman, so that might explain Hoogerland's motivation. Last year it was taken by Johann Tschopp atop the Passo di Gavia - and the Swiss rider is in with a shout today, for he's in the break. In 2009 it was Stefano Garzelli, who's also in the break. The prestigious prize has only once been fought on the Giau - back in 1973 when it was won by Spaniard Jose Manuel Fuente.


Saxo and Liquigas sharing out the duties on the front of the peloton, riding at 9:20 from the breakaway. Hoogerland has 40 seconds on the chasers as he zips down a downhill stretch before the Passo Giau starts proper.


Hoogerland, his shirt unzipped, ploughs on up the nursery slopes of the Giau. He attacked on his birthday, he attacked a few days later, now he's doing it again. Could the Dutchman take the Cima Coppi today or has he showed true naivety by going too early?


ATTACK: The ever-combative Johnny Hoogerland goes for an early one! The Vacansoleil rider ditches his breakaway companions and goes for it alone.


The leaders are onto the early slopes of the massive Passo Giau, the tallest peak in this year's Giro. Rising to 2,236m, the 16km climb has an average gradient of 6 per cent but a maximum of a staggering 16 per cent. As the highest climb in the race, it is also the race's Cima Coppi - awarded in honour of the Italian legend Fausto Coppi.


Aramendia has managed to rejoin the leaders after dropping back after the last climb.


CLOSE SHAVE: Weening almost ploughs into a fan sitting on a bench as the leaders bust through a small town.


Hoogerland putting in a shift on the front. Such an explosive rider, the Dutchman. But like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.


The gap has grown back to over the 10-minute mark. So Nieve's back in the virtual pink jersey position.


Call of nature time for the leaders - but instead of stopping and losing time, they just do their business discreetly on the side of the road as they ride. I wonder whether anyone has ever crashed while taking a leak? I would be messy...


Weening looks huge compared to the other escapees. It might be simply that the 6'1'' Dutchman was just pedalling next to the pint-sized Sella, who must only be a few inches over five foot.


The two leading groups have come back together, but they've lost one rider - Euskaltel's Aramendia is about 50 seconds off the pace.


Race leader Alberto Contador looks calm as me munches on his lunch on the front of the peloton. That's a big mouthful. Bertie pats team-mate Kasper Larsen on the back. The Dane is riding with his jersey unzipped. Saxo and Liquigas are on the front.


CRASH: Euskaltel's Juan Jose Oroz must have taken a tumble on the descent because images show the Spaniard limping into an ambulance. His race is over.


Confirmation of the points atop the Cat.2 Forcella Cibiana: 1. Garzelli (9), 2. Sella (5), 3. Hoogerland (3), 4. Bakelants (2), 5. Tschopp (1).


The others in the leading group of seven riders are Seeldraeyers and Tschopp. They still have about 35 seconds on the chasing 11 riders.


The first group includes Di Luca, Bakelants, Popovych and a couple of others, as well as Sella and Garzelli. Nieve, who was virtual pink jersey on the road, is in the second group for the time being, 35 seconds down. The peloton is a further 8mins back. Liquigas are leading the descent. The next big climb is the Cimi Coppi - the Giau.


Garzelli and Sella have been caught by a few of the chasers. The leading group split on the descent and are riding 25 seconds apart.


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The peloton is now also on the descent, trailing the leaders by 9:02.


Garzelli and Sella are zipping down the descent together, a cluster of seconds ahead of the following escapees. Back in the peloton, it's Liquigas on the front setting the pace.


Hoogerland attacks in a bid to snatch those mountain points, but Italians Sella and Garzelli react, with the latter crossing the summit of the Forella Cibrani in first place.


Saxo Bank are coming to the front of the peloton, in view of Nieve's virtual pink on the road.


Another withdrawal to report: Colnago climber Domenico Pozzovivo. The Italian has been short of form this year and calls it a day.


Some outside-the-box predictions for today coming in below. Halfwheel suggests Quick Step's Jerome Pineau, while Thomas thinks Johann Tschopp is the man to watch from the breakaway. Derek Adams is going for Philip Deignan, whilst Ra has his money on Seeldraeyers. Oh and Thomas, you're correct - the points atop the Giau are not doubled, but there will be bonus points for the first two over.


The 18-man leading group is onto the second climb of the day, the Cat.2 Forella Cibiani, which climbs 10km at 7 per cent.


A reminder of those 18 riders in the break: Garzelli, Tshopp, Pirazzi, Nieve, Sastre, Di Luca, Losada, Pasamontes, Petrov, Weening, Deignan, Sella, Hoogerland, Aramendia, Kuschynski, Seeldrayers, Popovych and Bakelandt. The gap is still just under 10 minutes.


The leaders are approaching the feeding zone with a 9:45 advantage.


The lead has stabilised: it remains 9:20 but with all those major tests lying up ahead. Reading your comments below, some of the names thrown in the hat for the win today are Nibali, Scarponi, Menchov, Garzelli... Is anyone going to think outside the box a little?


Of course, the highlight of today's stage is the climb of Giau, which is the site of this year's Cima Coppi prize - awarded to the first rider to reach the Giro's highest peak. There will also be double king of the mountains points atop the 2,236m summit. In honour of Italian cycling champion Fausto Coppi, it's quite a prestigious prize so expect one of the Italian riders to give it their best shot. In fact, it could be the reason why Garzelli is out ahead today.


Bakelants has managed to join the leaders, making a more-rounded 18-man group. They're 9:20 ahead of the peloton, making Euskaltel's Mikel Nieve virtual maglia rosa on the road. The riders are on a bumpy plateau following a minor climb, and will now descend towards the feeding zone before tackling the remaining four gruelling climbs.


The leading group - which includes Sastre, Di Luca, Garzelli, Nieve, Sella, Weening, Popovych, Deignan and Hoogerland - now have 8:25 on the peloton.


Igor Anton's win yesterday propelled the Basque rider up the standings to third place, just one second behind Vincenzo Nibali. With the pair 3:20 and 3:21 behind Contador, many say it is now a fight for second place.


One rider is trying to bridge the gap between the peloton and the leaders. It's Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto).


The leading 17-man group have 4:12 over the peloton as they rip through the valley in the second - and last - flat section of today's stage.


Confirmation of the order over the Cat.1 Pian Cavallo summit: 1. Sella (15pts), 2. Hoogerland (9), 3. Popovych (5), 4. Seeldraeyers (3), 5. Aramendia (2), 6. Kuchynski (1).


Who do you think will win today's stage? Can anyone topple Alberto Contador? How many minutes will Johnny Hoogerland lose to the stage 15 victor? Would a victory for Di Luca or Sella leave a nasty taste in the mouth? How would a real Belgian pronounce Seeldraeyers? Send in your thoughts below...


The 11 chasing riders have joined the six leaders to create a psuedo 17-strong super-group. They have 3:30 over the pink jersey group on the descent from the Pian Cavallo. With the calibre of some of the riders in this group, it should stay out for quite some while - perhaps right until the final climb of the day.


Two more withdrawal's to report on today: Frantisek Rabon (HTC) and Manuel Cardoso (RadioShack).


Of the leading group, Sella is the best placed in the GC, 15:54 down on Alberto Contador. For the chasers, it's Nieve who's best placed at 9:08. As such, no need for Saxo Bank to be too concerned for the time being.


The 11 chasers in full: Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Johann Tschopp (BMC), Carlos Sastre (Geox), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago), Evgeni Petrov (Astana), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Danilo Di Luca (Katusha), Luis Pasamontes (Movistar), Philip Deignan (RadioShack).


The chasing group includes the likes of Danilo Di Luca (Katusha), Stefano Pirazza (Colnago), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (Geox) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone). So, it's not too shabby a collective. Olivier Kaisen, who was in the initial break, has been dropped by both the leaders and the chasing group. So it's six up front, then the 11 chasers at 1:40, then Kaisen 20secs back, then the peloton at a further 1:10.


Sella and Hoogerland have been caught by the chasing group. A second group of 11 riders are 1:40 back, while the pink jersey peloton is at 3:10.


Sella and Hoogerland have dropped their five breakaway compations on the initial slopes of the first category Pian Cavallo climb. The duo have about 30 seconds on the chasers, with the peloton a further 1:45 back.


One withdrawal today: South African fighter Robbie Hunter (RadioShack). Unlike most sprinters, Hunter decided to ride two more stages after the final flat stage on Thursday. He said this was so he could do some mountain training, but yesterday's wet finish atop the Zoncolan finally proved too much.


Those seven riders in the break: Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli), Kevin Seeldraeyers (QuickStep), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Katusha), Olivier Kaisen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Francisco Aramendia (Euskaltel).


Another break has formed on the road ahead of the first climb of the day. It includes Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) as well as those two riders who tried their luck earlier - Sella and Hoogerland. Full info coming up.


Owing to a series of cancellations, protests and general mishaps, yesterday's stage, for all its eventual fireworks, was something of a farce. Our blogger tries to explain why, although many people think he clearly got the wrong end of the stick...


Today's stage is ridiculously brutal. Ok, yesterday we had the Zoncolan - but that came after a cluster of lower category climbs. No such relaxation today: we have one 2nd-cat climb and four 1st-cat climbs, including the Giau (the highest peak in this year's race, at 2,236m), the fearsome Fedaia and the long final climb to the Val di Fassa summit finish, which culminates in a tricky gravel section. This could be even more arduous if the forecast rain arrives...


ATTACK: And early break attempt by Androni's Emanuele Sella and Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland is thwarted by the peloton.


Yesterday belonged to Spain, with Igor Anton (Euskaltel) winning atop the Zoncolan and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) further strengthening his grip on the pink jersey with yet another assured ride.


They're off! The start to today's gruelling stage was brought forward owing to concerns about the rainy conditions which might meet the riders later in the day. Currently, it's a fresh but bright day in Conegliano. In fact, the sun is out and the skies blue.


Welcome to live coverage of the toughest day of the 94th edition of the Giro d'Italia - a 229km trek through the mountains which features four first category climbs, including the race's highest peak.