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Post Stage Analysis

Bertagnoli Wins Solo Thanks to Cervélo TestTeam
Basso goes on the attack, but fails to advance

9 Big Photos from Stage 15sirotti

May 24 update: The early breakaway survived again today, and Leonardo Bertagnolli celebrated a solo victory in Faenza after a lengthy ride off the front of the Giro. Bertagnolli's win came thanks to a questionable call from the Cervélo management to call Serge Pauwels back from the break to support team captain Carlos Sastre. The big move of the day came from Ivan Basso, who made a big effort to climb up the general classification by attacking on the second to last climb, the Monte Casale. Despite the contributions of Stefano Garzelli who joined Basso's move, Basso never achieved more than a minute over the group of the favorites. Behind him, alliances shifted and changed among the other general classification riders, and they succeeded in neutralizing the Liquigas-Doimo rider's attack. The top of the general classification remains largely unchanged after today's very fast stage.

After 16 kilometers of racing, a break of sixteen riders escaped from the main field. With nearly every team represented, the break was clear for take-off. The group included: José Serpa and Leonardo Bertagnolli of Diquigiovanni-Androni, Lars Bak of Saxo Bank, Daniel Navarro Garcia of Astana, Eduard Vorganov of Xacobeo-Galicia, Andriy Grivko of ISD-Neri, Marco Pinotti of Columbia-High Road, Pablo Lastras of Caisse d'Épargne, Marco Marzano of Lampre-Ngc, Serge Pauwels of Cervélo TestTeam, Nikita Eskov of Katusha, Gorazd Stangelj of Liquigas-Doimo, Mauro Facci of Quick Step, Matteo Montaguti of LPR Brakes, Alessandro Donati of Acqua & Sapone, and Hector Gonzalez Baeza of Fuji-Servetto. Over the first climb of the day, the Passo dell'Eremo, the break had 3:26 over the main field. Rabobank worked steadilly to keep the break in check.

Still, the break continued to build its advantage, and over the Colle Carnevale, the gap increased to 4:40. Nothing to worry about here for the general classification riders. Everyone in the break today sat several time zones out of contention for the general classification with the exception of Tadej Valjavec, who threatened the top ten position of both Thomas Lövkvist and David Arroyo. With 50 kilometers to race, the break achieved its maximum advantage of 6 minutes.

Then the real race began. In sight of the Monte Casale, Liquigas-Doimo took over the pace-making. Only Gilberto Simoni was missing from the group of favorites. Simoni has never found especially good form in this Giro, and suffered badly in the heat on the road to Faenza today. The climber from Trentino, who has twice won the Giro d'Italia, finished 18 minutes behind the winner today and is now out of the race for the general classification.

As they approached the lower slopes of the Monte Casale, Liquigas-Doimo continued to raise the pace and the main field shrank precipitously. Clearly, Liquigas-Doimo had something in mind. Soon Ivan Basso attacked out of the group. Danilo Diluca quickly came across, bringing the race leader Denis Menchov with him. Gruppo compatto. Less than a kilometer later, Basso attacked again, this time more strongly. Daylight opened up between Basso and the Menchov group. Sensing a chance for a stage win, Stefano Garzelli bridged across to Basso and began to work with the Liquigas rider. David Arroyo also tried to bridge, but failed to make it. Behind, Alessandro Spezialetti of LPR Brakes went to work on the front for Diluca. Working together, Basso and Garzelli steadily built an advantage over the Menchov group led by Spezialetti and over the summit of the Monte Casale, they held 40 seconds.

Down the technical descent from the Casale, Garzelli and Basso held their advantage over the other general classification riders. Up the road, the early breakaway had begun to splinter, but the survivors still held 2:00 over the Basso-Garzelli group. The remaining four in the break included: Serge Pauwels of Cervélo TestTeam, Leonardo Bertagnolli of Diquigiovanni-Androni, Marco Marzano of Lampre-Ngc, and Marco Pinotti of Columbia-High Road. The others scattered along the road between the break and the main field. On the road to the final climb of the day, the Monte Trebbio, Liquigas-Doimo rider Gorazd Stangelj dropped back from the break to help Basso. Stangelj drove hard in the flats as Basso and Garzelli approached the Monte Trebbio.

At the base of the final climb of the day, there remained three main groups on the road. A group of four, Pauwels, Bertagnolli, Marzano, and Pinotti, sat 1:45 ahead of the Basso-Garzelli group. Basso and Garzelli, meanwhile, held an advantage of 1:02 over the group of the maglia rosa. All the favorites except Simoni remained in the favorites group. Only Diluca had a team-mate, and Spezialetti continued to work on the front. Less than 30 kilometers remained to race.

As the pitch of the Monte Trebbio steepened, Basso and Garzelli continued to hold their advantage over the favorites group, while chipping away at the lead of the break. Behind the Basso-Garzelli group, Spezialetti at last ran out of legs. Carlos Sastre went to the front and made tempo for a short time. Marzio Bruseghin and Lance Armstrong dropped off the pace. When none of the other favorites proved willing to contribute to the chase, Sastre backed off. The gap to Basso held at 1:09. Soon Kevin Seeldrayers began to contribute to the pace-making in the gruppo maglia rosa. It's not entirely clear what Seeldrayers intended with his efforts. Perhaps the young rider was simply making a deposit in the karma bank.

With 2 kilometers to go to the summit of the Monte Trebbio, Diluca jumped hard out of the main field. Menchov easily came across to the flying Diluca. Then Sastre also joined Diluca and Menchov. The three went over the summit of the climb together, 1:08 behind Basso and Garzelli. Up ahead, only two riders remained of the early breakaway, Pauwels and Bertagnolli, and they held more than 2:00 over Basso and Garzelli. Indeed, Pauwels and Bertagnolli increased their advantage on the Monte Trebbio.

Still three groups on the road, then, as the descent off the Monte Trebbio began. There remained only 20 kilometers to ride: the descent and a flat run-in to the finish. Bertagnolli and Pauwels rode at the front, Garzelli and Basso followed 2 minutes behind, while the gruppo maglia rosa continued to chase.

On the descent, the Cervélo TestTeam sports director called Serge Pauwels back from the break. He seems to have worried that the Menchov group would not make it back across to Basso and Garzelli. Pauwels did not want to give up his chance at the stage win, and after briefly sitting up went back across to Bertagnolli. With the team car along side him, Pauwels and his team management held a noticeably heated discussion. The result? Pauwels dropped off the break, leaving the way clear for Bertagnolli to celebrate a solo victory in Faenza. The Diquigiovanni-Androni rider is a local in the area and no doubt enjoyed the chance to win in front of his friends and family.

As it turned out, the sacrifice of Pauwels proved unnecessary as the gap between the Menchov group and Basso steadily shrank in the flats following the descent. Again Seeldrayers of Quick Step worked hard on the front. Pablo Lastras of Caisse d'Épargne also contributed to the chase effort, perhaps to help protect his team-mate David Arroyo's tenth place in the general classification from Valjavec who was still up the road. Lastras was also team-mates with Menchov at the Banesto team in Spain.

Just outside 10 kilometers to go, Basso's big adventure was over. There would be no change among the top riders in the general classification after all. Up the road, Bertagnolli still held more than two minutes over the favorites group. In between, a chase of group, which included Pauwels, Bak, Pinotti, and Marzano, sat 30 seconds behind Bertagnolli. They had little hope of catching. Another group of four trailed behind the Menchov group. Jaroslav Popovych chased with Lance Armstrong on his wheel. Damiano Cunego also sat on the back of this group.

At the line, Leonardo Bertagnolli had plenty of time to celebrate. Serge Pauwels of Cervélo TestTeam won the sprint for second, followed by Lars Bak of Saxo Bank. Out of the main field, Andriy Grivko made a late attack for some television time, and finished sixth. ISD-Neri has spent many, many kilometers off the front of this Giro. The general classification riders declined to sprint and crossed the line together.

After the stage, Franco Pellizotti was philosophical about the failure of Basso's attack. "We tried today, it was good terrain for us," he explained. "Tomorrow is another day," Pellizotti promised. Basso slipped away from the press, avoiding the post-race interviews.

For his part Serge Pauwels was frustrated by the call from this team car to drop off the break. "I was almost sure of winning," he said afterwards. "I am disappointed, but I had to do what the team asked," he explained. Had Pauwels won the stage, it would have made two straight for Cervélo TestTeam after the success of Simon Gerrans yesterday at San Luca.

Team captain Carlos Sastre did not have anything to say about the tactical decisions today. But he did comment on the speed of the race today, saying "again the stage was very fast." The Spanish climber complimented Liquigas-Doimo on their race today: "Liquigas rode a very good race today, though in the end it changed little." Sastre reported that he is hitting good form "exactly at the right moment." "Tomorrow will be a decisive day for the story of this Giro," he predicted.

Here is the current general classification:

Denis Menchov
Danilo Diluca :34
Levi Leipheimer 0:43
Franco Pellizotti 2:00
Carlos Sastre 2:52
Ivan Basso 3:03
Michael Rogers 3:05
Marzio Bruseghin 5:26
David Arroyo 6:01
Thomas Lövkvist 6:26

Tadej Valjavec of AG2R-La Mondiale moved up to 11th today, and sits 13 seconds behind Lövkvist. Gilberto Simoni dropped out of the general classification race. Lance Armstrong currently sits 13th at 8:28. Italian Damiano Cunego moved up today, and is currently 15th at 9:43. Nothing to write home about there, but a small improvement anyway.

Abandons. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream and Eros Capecchi of ISD-Neri did not start today. Iban Mayoz-Echeverria, David Millar, and Ricardo Serrano abandoned on the road.

Looking Ahead.

As Carlos Sastre said, tomorrow should indeed be a decisive day for the general classification battle. This stage is the hardest of the Giro, with four categorized climbs and a mountain-top finish. Today's stage was not especially hard on paper, but the riders make the race. Today, they made it fast. Between the speed and the hot weather, many riders will have difficulty recovering before tomorrow's big day.

Menchov looked lonely on the final climb today with no real team support. Certainly, he has shown excellent form in this Giro. But can he defend the pink jersey alone? Vediamo. We can be sure that Liquigas will go on the attack again and Sastre, who has quietly defended his position in the general classification, will find the terrain to his liking tomorrow. Expect the Cervélo TestTeam rider to attack tomorrow. The Monte Petrano offers one of his best chances to win the Giro Centenario.

For a detailed preview of tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 15: Forlì – Faenza
Date: Sunday, 24 May
Distance: 161 km.
Terrain:Bumpy, middle mountains. Descending false flat to the finish.
GC Importance: This stage, while difficult, is unlikely to change the overall classification. A good day for a breakaway to try their luck.

Passo dell’Eremo 10.7km, 428m, avg. 4.0%, max. 10%
Colle Carnevale 6.0km, 373m, avg. 6.2%, max. 10%
Monte Casale 8.7km, 406m, avg. 4.7%, max. 12%
Monte Trebbio 6.0km, 400m, avg. 6.7%, max. 16%

Update: The last of half this stage (Monte Casale, Monte Trebbio and the finish in Faenza) is the same as this year's stage 2 of Settimana Coppi e Bartali won by Damiano Cunego:
Stage 2 Results and Photos from Coppi e

Stage 15 starts southeast of Bologna in Forlì. The race spends the day in the northern foothills of the Appenino, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Gazzetta compares today’s profile to a “cardiogram,” and rightly so, as it’s up and down from start to finish. None of these climbs alone are especially difficult, but taken together, they add up to a hard day of racing. The general classification rides will want to save their legs as much as possible, as stage 16 is truly mountainous.

The stage departs from the Piazza Safi di Forlì, before heading into the hills. Tullo Morgagni, one of the organizers with Armando Cougnet and Eugenio Costamagna of the first Giro d’Italia, was a native of Forlì, and the stage start celebrates his contribution to the race’s history. Arnaldo Pambianco di Bertinoro, the winner of the 1961 Giro, which commemorated the centenary of Italian unification, also came from the city.

Faenza has hosted two recent stage finishes. In 1970, Michele Cancelli won here, and in 2003, Kurt Asle Arvesen celebrated a stage victory in the city. The finish is at the Piazza del Popolo, which dates from the middle ages. Faenza is known for its annual medieaval games, the Palio del Niballo, a jousting tournament held every July. Faenza fun fact! Evangelista Torricelli, the inventor of the barometer, comes from Faenza.

Profile Details. The stage follows a U-shaped course, beginning in Forlì, heading into Appenino, and finishing in Faenza, not far from the start. The climbing begins immediately with 44 kilometers of gradual uphill riding to the base of the Passo dell’Eremo. At 10.7 kilometers, the Passo dell’Eremo is the longest of climb of the day . It gains 428 meters in elevation and has a average gradient of 4.0%. The maximum gradient comes just before the summit and hits 10%. From the top of the Passo dell’Eremo, there remains 106 kilometers to race.

After 12 kilometers of descending, the road tilts up again. The Colle Carnevale is short, just 6 kilometers of climbing. Though the climb is brief, the gradients are not kind, averaging 6.2%. The climb pitches up to a maximum of 10%. Eighty-nine kilometers remain from the summit to the stage finish.

After the Colle Carnevale comes a brief respite. The course descends for the next 24 kilometers. Outside Casola Vasenio, a pair of short climbs appear in rapid succession. The Colla Albana climbs 222 meters in 6 kilometers, the Valico la Valletta climbs 250 in 3 kilometers. An 8 kilometer stretch of gradual descending follows the “gemelli,” the twins. This is one of the few flat spots on the course.

At kilometer 115, just outside Briseghella, it’s back to the climbing. The Monte Casale climbs 406 meters in 8.7 kilometers. Look at the average gradient, 4.7%, and you might be fooled into thinking the Monte Casale is easy. The maximum gradient comes near the summit and hits 12%. Not so easy, then. From the top of the Monte Casale, the finish line lies 36 kilometers in the distance.

After a steep descent, just over 300 meters in 4 kilometers, the course climbs again immediately. The Monte Trebbio is the final climb of the day and the summit comes with 26 kilometers to go. The Monte Trebbio climbs 400 meters and lasts 6 kilometers. The maximum gradient of 16% will certainly leave a mark, though the average is a manageable 6.7%. The climb comes inside the last 30 kilometers, which puts the finish line within reach for a determined escapist.

The final 26 kilometers of the stage are almost entirely descending, though, and there is plenty of road for a regrouping before the finish. After the descent off the Monte Trebbio, the course flattens out. The road continues to descend gradually in the final 15 kilometers to the finish in Faena. The final kilometers to finish at the Piazza del Popolo are flat.

Tactics Talk. By this point in the Giro, a hierarchy among the general classification riders will likely have emerged. Also, by now, a number of riders will have fallen several time zones out of contention for the maglia rosa and will be looking for a stage win before the Giro finishes in Roma. This stage is made for the stage-chasers, and the race leader’s team should have little difficulty allowing a safe break up the road.

Still, the riders chasing the pink shirt will have to remain vigilant. The race organizers have created numerous stages designed to tempt the attackers, and an opportunist could try to steal some time here on the road to Faenza. More likely, though, an early break will survive to contest the finish, while the riders for the general conserve their energies for the fast-approaching mountain-top finishes on the Monte Petrano, Blockhaus, and Vesuvio.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)

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