May 28, 2005
Giro decisive stage underway
It all comes down to today. Gilberto Simoni's last chance to take a third Giro, on terrain well-suited for him, but trailing Discovery Channel's Paolo Savoldelli by more than 2 minutes.
Simoni gapped Savoldelli early on the day's biggest climb, the Colle delle Finestre, and quickly got 45 seconds on the maglia rosa. Alongside Simoni are Di Luca (!), Garate, Rujano, and X others. Ivan Basso covered this break, but then fell off, back into Savoldelli's group, and then off of that pack as well. Vladimir Karpets similarly has been dropped by Simoni's group.
Now, on the dirt (!) road near the top of the climb, there are only 4 riders left in Simoni's group: Simoni, Di Luca, Rujano (who has to be looking for a stage win after a Giro of stellar climbing), and Valjavec.
Now Valjavec has been dropped. There's still another (easier) climb up to the finish, and where the riders that have been shed by Simoni's group wind up (with Savoldelli or Simoni) on the descent is going to be interesting: Savoldelli has spent most of the climb leading his group, while Simoni, Di Luca, and the others who were in their group were trading pulls.
At 4:14 Italian time, the Simoni group has 1:42 on Savoldelli! The gap has gone up dramatically -- looks like Savoldelli may have hit a wall. This is exactly the situation where Tom Danielson would have been an incredible asset.
Near the top of the Finestre, Simoni and Di Luca have 2:12 on Savoldelli, putting Simoni in the virtual maglia rosa. Savoldelli is going to have to make up some time on a 9 km descent (his specialty) and an 11 km climb (Simoni's specialty), if he's going to take a second Giro title.
Valjavec and Garate are in no-man's-land between Simoni and Savoldelli, but more than a minute up the road from Savoldelli. If Savoldelli could close that gap, would they have the legs or the motivation to work? It may be academic.
At 4:30, the leaders (Di Luca, Simoni, Rujano) are back on asphalt for the descent. Di Luca, who has been driving the break, takes the King of the Mountains points, but that's not what he's riding for -- he's trying to get back on the podium, after a disappointing ride on Thursday. Rujano has (and had even before today) the King of the Mountains competition sewn up.
Gap at the summit: 2:19.
On the descent, Savoldelli has picked up Gonchar and Van Huffel, and dropped the gap to 2:05, but CyclingNews points out the time bonuses at today's stage finish: 20, 12 and 8 seconds for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Crediting Simoni with 3rd on the day, he would still take the race lead if it ends as it is now.
Di Luca is cramping on the flats between the descent and the final climb, having a lot of trouble, trying to get hydrated. Savoldelli is about 40 seconds behind Valjavec and Garate, who are together.
Now Di Luca is dropped, and Simoni and Rujano are starting up the day's final climb, leading by 1:50. If Simoni took the stage win bonus, it would be enough, assuming Savoldelli wasn't third, but it's going to be extremely close.
Savoldelli has picked up Garate and Valjavec, and sits at 1:45. He's got a pretty good group now, with Gonchar, Garate, Valjavec, and Ardila. Di Luca is 10 seconds back of Rujano and Simoni, and that's got to hurt Simoni: Di Luca was doing a lot of the work on the last climb.
Savoldelli continues to close down Simoni: it's 1:30 now, with Di Luca between, nearly 20 seconds behind Simoni.
Simoni has been riding Rujano's wheel, and won't come around when Rujano tries to get him to take a pull, so Rujano has dropped him! He's got 5 seconds on Simoni, with Di Luca another 30 seconds back, and Savoldelli's group still closing, 1:24 behind Rujano (and 1:09 to Simoni).
Rujano started the day 3 minutes back of Savoldelli, so if he could finish with 2:40 and the day's bonus, he could take the race lead. On the other hand, Savoldelli's group is closing on Di Luca, who is just totally out of gas, so Savoldelli could take 3rd on the day. Even if Savoldelli holds the race lead, Rujano could move into 2nd overall, if he finishes with 47 seconds on Simoni.
Rujano takes the stage! Now it's all down to the gaps. Rujano also takes a 20 second time bonus.
Simoni 2nd, at 26 seconds (+12 second bonus).
Di Luca holds out for 3rd, at 1:34, with an 8-second time bonus.
Here comes Savoldelli, at 1:54 -- Savoldelli holds the maglia rosa, Simoni holds on to 2nd.
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