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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) rode through the snow to victory on Sunday in stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia.
Visconti moved ahead on the Col du Telegraphe in the 149km leg from Cesana Torinese to the Col du Galibier. And while Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini) launched a solo chase on the Galibier, he couldn’t quite seal the deal.
With 2km to go the Vini Fantini man was more than a minute down as he chased Visconti through a light snow.
Behind, race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) tested his rivals in the dwindling favorites group, just in case anyone was thinking about testing him. The surge brought back the flagging Rabottini.
But not Visconti — he hit the red kite alone, facing a maximum slog of 11 percent en route to the finish.
It was a near thing, but an exhausted Visconti just made it, taking the victory and saluting the crowd. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished second with Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre) third.
On the overall, Nibali remains firmly in charge going into the final rest day of the 2013 Giro, 1:26 ahead of Evans in second. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Sky) sits third at 2:46.
The bunch rode as one up the Col du Mont Cenis before a break finally coalesced.
Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole) got things going. He was joined first by Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), and then by Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge); Rabottini, Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani Valvole), Visconti and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli).
Weening left the others behind, but not for long — as the escapees went over the top and down the other side a rebuilt seven-man group went on to build a six-minute lead over a disinterested peloton, led by Astana on behalf of race leader Nibali.
As the gap dwindled to less than two minutes, Pirazzi attacked the break, trying to reach the summit of the Col du Telegraphe alone. Weening followed, making it a two-man go.
Behind, Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked out of the bunch, led by Astana.
Sergio Luis Henao (Sky) had a dig next with 26km to race. Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack) followed, and a general peppering of attacks followed as the bunch cut itself to ribbons on the climb.
At the front of the race Rabottini and Visconti rejoined Pirazzi and Weening. Behind, Henao and Kiserlovski caught Gesink and Martinez.
Then Visconti moved ahead alone, leading over the Telegraphe and charging toward the Col du Galibier.
Behind, the chase was down to Pirazzi, Rabottini and Weening. Rabottini had a dig on the lower slopes of the Galibier, but Weening brought him back.
Rabottini attacked again, and this time Weening did not chase. That left Visconti out front with Rabottini in pursuit.
With 8km to go Visconti led Rabottini by just under 40 seconds. The remnants of the maglia rosa group swept up the Gesink group, and first Juan Manual Garate and then Wilco Kelderman tried their luck.
Rabottini could make no headway on the final grind as behind, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked the bunch, trailed by Damiano Caruso (Cannondale). Astana paid no mind, as they were no threat to Nibali.
When Nibali took a hand himself, it was clear that pretty much nobody was a threat — he finished seventh on the day, safely among his rivals for the maglia rosa, just behind Michele Scarponi (Lampre) and just ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), with Rigoberto Uran Uran (Sky) rounding out the top 10.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Italy.
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MOUNT DIABLO, Calif. (VN) — While BMC Racing ground the rapidly tearing peloton to dust high on Mount Diablo, Tejay van Garderen could have sailed away and tried for a stage win, an exclamation point on his Californian coronation as the United States’ premier stage racer.
He did not.
He stayed put, stayed close enough to the threats without a moment of panic. In short, he showed restraint and balance where, in the past, he may have tried to do too much. He was metronomic.
“There was really no reason to panic. I knew I had an incredibly strong team, and I knew I had a solid buffer of time. All we had to do was just ride smart. I think that’s come with a bit of maturity. To learn to just relax a little bit,” said a happy van Garderen atop Mount Diablo. “There was no reason to try to attack the race, or blow everyone’s heads off. I just gotta keep cool and do my thing.”
His “thing,” in California at least, is winning. Van Garderen smashed Friday’s individual time trial, taking the stage and icing his nearest rival, Aussie Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff). After gaining a bit more time on the above-category Diablo, van Garderen now sits 1:47 ahead of Rogers, and 3:26 up on climbing ace Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman).
Barring absolute disaster on Sunday in a stage from San Francisco to Santa Rosa that touts no major obstacles, van Garderen, 24, has earned his first major stage race win as a professional, though his talent has long been known, evidenced by his fifth-place finish at last year’s Tour de France.
“I knew I was going to have to rely really heavily on my team, and luckily we brought a strong one here. I saw them just take control from kilometer zero to 200ks … all I had to do was follow,” he said. “It was stress free — really easy. I’m really proud of my guys. Even if we were getting some GC guys moving, I just knew that I could stay relaxed, because I had strong climbers pulling me all the way to the finish line. It was just an incredible day.”
He appears a slightly different rider this year — he says perhaps becoming a dad has changed his makeup a bit — and his confidence is only growing now, heading into the final Tour de France tuneups. He’s also keeping the pressure on his team at a minimum by seizing control of the race whenever he can, be that a climb, or in the crosswinds.
“He’s still young, but he has a good team. … He proved in the past he’s a typical stage racer. In one-week stage races, he’s complete. Good in the mountains, good in the time trial. Good in the echelons. And he’s perfect for going in those races. I think he has a big future,” BMC sport director John Lelangue said. “He has already proven he’s there… each race that he’s doing, he’s always regular, making a top five, a top 10.”
As a captain, team managers say he’s growing as well. Van Garderen was tough in the heat to Palm Springs, only losing a handful of seconds to Acevedo, and gaining time on other GC men. He was dominant in the time trial, and crafty in the crosswinds toward the coast, which saw the stealing of the yellow jersey from Acevedo.
“The goal, obviously, wasn’t to win the stage, it was to protect the GC. And follow the race. Lead at our speed, you know, without putting any stress on Tejay,” said BMC president Jim Ochowicz. Van Garderen, he said, wasn’t told to not chase certain moves but was trusted to ride his own race.
Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) said the win here in California must be comforting to a rider on the cusp.
“I suppose it’s pretty comforting,” he said. “It’s not that far to go to the Tour. Having an overall win in the pocket with some tough circuits. Winning the TT in a convincing manner. Being strong and solid today. I guess he’s ready mentally and physically. It’s an important step for him on his way to a potential Tour de France podium this year.”
The Tour is a discussion for another day, with both van Garderen and Cadel Evans poised for sterling spring results. For now, van Garderen is happy in this moment. After all, it’s been years and near misses (Colorado last year, most recently) in the making.
“It’s incredible. I mean, barring any incident tomorrow, I think we’ve made it through all the obstacles, and we’re cruising into BMC’s hometown of Santa Rosa. It’s where the team got started, and I’m glad I can do the team proud with the jersey in their home state race,” he said. “There’s a big difference between being up there, and really winning. I think I finally showed that I have the full package.”
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