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BARDONECCHIA, Italy (VN) — Cold might be the most dangerous rival for Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Nibali prefers warmer climates, but the Shark has erased any doubt about who is charge of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
In a weather-shortened stage 14, Nibali had such command of the race he could afford to play kingmaker at the same time as taking small, but important gains on his most direct GC rivals.
“It’s too early to say the race is over. The Giro is long,” Nibali said. “Today was a very hard stage, very cold, but I felt good and I took some time.”
Nibali punched the accelerator with just under 2 kilometers to go in the 7km final climb up the Jafferau summit to drop a grenade in the already highly stressed GC group.
Only the puffy-cheeked Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) could follow. Santambrogio countered with 800m to go to drop Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and his former BMC Racing teammate Cadel Evans to tow Nibali to the line. His payback was his first career grand tour stage victory.
With Evans and podium rival Rigoberto Urán (Sky) struggling in their wake, Nibali was content to let Santambrogio coast across the line unchallenged.
“Santambrogio was strong and helped me make the differences,” Nibali continued. “I don’t like being called the master of this Giro. Anything could happen. I need to take more time before I can breath easy.”
Snowy conditions forced organizers to reroute the stage around the Cat. 2 Sestriere summit, but Nibali only needed 7km of the final climb to Jafferau to turn the screws.
In fact, he only needed 1,800 meters. He jumped, Santambrogio followed, and the pair drove it to the line to help Nibali take a tighter grip on pink.
Despite ceding the stage and the 20-second winner’s bonus to Santambrogio, the damage was done. With the 12-second, second-place finish-line bonus, Nibali tightened his grip on the maglia rosa on a day when he feared the cold.
Evans dropped from 41 seconds to 1:26 back, while Urán also ceded ground to stay third at 2:46 back. Santambrogio bolstered his podium hopes to climb into fourth at 2:47.
Despite his fear of freezing, Nibali is in the hot seat of the Giro. Saturday only reconfirmed that he’s well positioned to win his first pink jersey with still more than a week of racing to go.
A half dozen riders lined up in the rain in Cervere within two minutes of the pink jersey. Nearly five hours later, that rain turned to snow as temperatures plummeted across the Italian Alps.
The GC hopes of two main threats dipped with the temperatures, with 2011 winner Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) and Robert Gesink (Blanco) losing 1:28 and 4:16, respectively, to sink out of contention.
Sky tried to turn the screws to put pressure on Nibali, putting Dario Cataldo at the front to ramp up the speed on the final 7km climb up the Jafferau climb above the ski village at Bardonecchia.
With an average grade of above 9 percent and ramps as steep as 14 percent, the switchbacked climb seemed ideal for Urán, who started the stage third and was ready to take advantage of the full support of Sky the early departure of team leader Bradley Wiggins with a chest cold.
Urán surged clear with about 5km to go, but there was no dropping Nibali, who continues to race with a cool hand throughout the Giro.
“Sky showed their intentions today. They set the tempo of the stage and Urán tried a few times to attack us,” Nibali said. “They will continue to be dangerous. Evans is also dangerous. We haven’t seen the last of him yet.”
Although Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) started as the top favorites for the pink jersey, Nibali has demonstrated he’s a step ahead of the pack with consistent, steady racing throughout the first half of the Giro.
He hasn’t made a mistake yet, and his legs have responded when they needed to.
Nibali said he fears forecasts for continued cold weather almost more than his rivals.
“The cold weather is always a worry. We try to prepare by bringing the proper clothing, but I am still cold after the stage,” he said. “Let’s hope the weather improves in the coming days.”
He might not get his wish. Forecasts are calling for such horrid conditions Sunday that organizers are all but sure to neutralize most of the mountainous stage into the French Alps.
Both the Cat. 1 Mont Cenis and most of the beyond-category Galibier were erased from Sunday’s course as snow was expected to fall overnight.
In March, Nibali pulled out of Milano-San Remo in equally horrendous conditions. Though he admitted he started the stage with trepidation, he ditched his rain jacket late in Saturday’s stage and attacked up the final climb without arm-warmers.
“I preferred to treat the final climb like a climbing time trial,” he said. “I took off my jacket and rode up without arm-warmers. I was fine. The only thing that was cold was my feet.”
Nibali clearly does not have cold feet when it comes to the decisive moments of the race. If he keeps his cool head, the GC hopes of his rivals will continue to melt. The race could be on for the podium.
- 1. Mauro SANTAMBROGIO, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, in 4:42:55
- 2. Vincenzo NIBALI, Astana, at :00
- 3. Carlos Alberto BETANCUR GOMEZ, Ag2r La Mondiale, at :09
- 4. Samuel SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at :26
- 5. Rigoberto URAN URAN, Sky, at :30
- 6. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at :33
- 7. Domenico POZZOVIVO, Ag2r La Mondiale, at :33
- 8. Robert KISERLOVSKI, RadioShack-Leopard, at :33
- 9. Sonny COLBRELLI, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at :55
- 10. Damiano CARUSO, Cannondale, at :58
- 11. Rafal MAJKA, Saxo-Tinkoff, at :59
- 12. Yury TROFIMOV, Katusha, at :59
- 13. Franco PELLIZOTTI, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 1:04
- 14. Diego ROSA, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 1:08
- 15. Przemyslaw NIEMIEC, Lampre-Merida, at 1:08
- 16. Fabio Andres DUARTE AREVALO, Colombia, at 1:15
- 17. Benat INTXAUSTI ELORRIAGA, Movistar, at 1:24
- 18. Michele SCARPONI, Lampre-Merida, at 1:28
- 19. Luca PAOLINI, Katusha, at 1:41
- 20. Sergio Luis HENAO MONTOYA, Sky, at 1:48
- 21. Tanel KANGERT, Astana, at 2:16
- 22. Thomas DANIELSON, Garmin-Sharp, at 2:32
- 23. Danilo DI LUCA, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 2:40
- 24. Daniele PIETROPOLLI, Lampre-Merida, at 2:53
- 25. Evgeny PETROV, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 3:21
- 26. Darwin ATAPUMA HURTADO, Colombia, at 3:21
- 27. Eros CAPECCHI, Movistar, at 3:21
- 28. Hubert DUPONT, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 3:25
- 29. Fabio FELLINE, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 3:39
- 30. Egoi MARTINEZ DE ESTEBAN, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 4:01
- 31. Jose Rodolfo SERPA PEREZ, Lampre-Merida, at 4:05
- 32. Juan Manuel GARATE, Blanco, at 4:16
- 33. Wilco KELDERMAN, Blanco, at 4:16
- 34. Steven KRUIJSWIJK, Blanco, at 4:16
- 35. Robert GESINK, Blanco, at 4:16
- 36. Francis MOUREY, FDJ, at 4:16
- 37. Peter STETINA, Garmin-Sharp, at 4:16
- 38. Thomas DAMUSEAU, Argos-Shimano, at 4:16
- 39. Tiago MACHADO, RadioShack-Leopard, at 4:16
- 40. José HERRADA LOPEZ, Movistar, at 4:16
- 41. Francis DE GREEF, Lotto-Belisol, at 4:30
- 42. Valerio AGNOLI, Astana, at 4:58
- 43. Fabio ARU, Astana, at 4:58
- 44. Jarlinson PANTANO, Colombia, at 5:18
- 45. Rob RUIJGH, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 5:43
- 46. Rafael VALLS FERRI, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 5:43
- 47. Dario CATALDO, Sky, at 5:50
- 48. Jorge AZANZA SOTO, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 5:50
- 49. Emanuele SELLA, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 6:18
- 50. Ben GASTAUER, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 6:24
- 51. Johan LE BON, FDJ, at 6:24
- 52. Fredrik Carl Wilhelm KESSIAKOFF, Astana, at 6:56
- 53. Matteo RABOTTINI, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 6:56
- 54. Giampaolo CARUSO, Katusha, at 6:56
- 55. Stef CLEMENT, Blanco, at 7:06
- 56. Steve MORABITO, BMC Racing, at 7:06
- 57. Vladimir GUSEV, Katusha, at 7:42
- 58. Kanstantsin SIUTSOU, Sky, at 7:54
- 59. Petr IGNATENKO, Katusha, at 7:54
- 60. Pieter WEENING, Orica-GreenEdge, at 7:57
- 61. Giovanni VISCONTI, Movistar, at 9:11
- 62. Fabio SABATINI, Cannondale, at 10:08
- 63. Dominique ROLLIN, FDJ, at 10:08
- 64. Adam HANSEN, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:08
- 65. Lars Ytting BAK, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:08
- 66. Frederik WILLEMS, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:08
- 67. Kristijan DURASEK, Lampre-Merida, at 10:08
- 68. Dmitry KOZONTCHUK, Katusha, at 10:08
- 69. Stephen CUMMINGS, BMC Racing, at 10:08
- 70. Patrick GRETSCH, Argos-Shimano, at 10:08
- 71. Danilo WYSS, BMC Racing, at 10:08
- 72. Koen DE KORT, Argos-Shimano, at 10:08
- 73. Matteo TRENTIN, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 10:17
- 74. Manuele BOARO, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 11:14
- 75. Christian KNEES, Sky, at 11:23
- 76. Ivan SANTAROMITA, BMC Racing, at 11:27
- 77. Alessandro PRONI, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 12:05
- 78. Francisco José VENTOSO ALBERDI, Movistar, at 12:17
- 79. Hayden ROULSTON, RadioShack-Leopard, at 12:28
- 80. Robert VRECER, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 12:59
- 81. Simone STORTONI, Lampre-Merida, at 13:02
- 82. Jesse SERGENT, RadioShack-Leopard, at 13:31
- 83. Ricardo MESTRE, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 13:31
- 84. Nelson Filipe SANTOS SIMOES OLIVEIRA, RadioShack-Leopard, at 13:31
- 85. Robinson Eduardo CHALAPUD GOMEZ, Colombia, at 13:35
- 86. Daniel OSS, BMC Racing, at 14:22
- 87. Manuel BELLETTI, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 14:22
- 88. Tiziano DALL’ANTONIA, Cannondale, at 14:22
- 89. Salvatore PUCCIO, Sky, at 14:22
- 90. Danny PATE, Sky, at 14:22
- 91. Alan MARANGONI, Cannondale, at 14:28
- 92. Maxim BELKOV, Katusha, at 14:50
- 93. Dmitriy GRUZDEV, Astana, at 14:53
- 94. Jackson RODRIGUEZ, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 15:00
- 95. Cayetano José SARMIENTO TUNARROSA, Cannondale, at 15:03
- 96. Christian VANDEVELDE, Garmin-Sharp, at 15:09
- 97. Oscar GATTO, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 16:05
- 98. Rory SUTHERLAND, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 16:57
- 99. Bruno PIRES, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 16:57
- 100. Cristiano SALERNO, Cannondale, at 17:48
- 101. Marco MARCATO, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 18:17
- 102. Laurent PICHON, FDJ, at 20:32
- 103. Maarten TJALLINGII, Blanco, at 20:32
- 104. Filippo POZZATO, Lampre-Merida, at 20:32
- 105. Elia VIVIANI, Cannondale, at 20:32
- 106. Gert DOCKX, Lotto-Belisol, at 20:32
- 107. Thomas DEKKER, Garmin-Sharp, at 20:32
- 108. Jens KEUKELEIRE, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 109. Vicente REYNES MIMO, Lotto-Belisol, at 20:32
- 110. Juan Jose COBO ACEBO, Movistar, at 20:32
- 111. Robert HUNTER, Garmin-Sharp, at 20:32
- 112. Paul MARTENS, Blanco, at 20:32
- 113. Grega BOLE, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 20:32
- 114. Martijn KEIZER, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 20:32
- 115. Pablo LASTRAS GARCIA, Movistar, at 20:32
- 116. Gorka VERDUGO MARCOTEGUI, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 20:32
- 117. Albert TIMMER, Argos-Shimano, at 20:32
- 118. Brett LANCASTER, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 119. Guillaume BONNAFOND, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 20:32
- 120. Dirk BELLEMAKERS, Lotto-Belisol, at 20:32
- 121. Christian MEIER, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 122. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 123. Mads CHRISTENSEN, Saxo-Tinkoff, at 20:32
- 124. Luke DURBRIDGE, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 125. Svein TUFT, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 126. Tobias LUDVIGSSON, Argos-Shimano, at 20:32
- 127. Xabier ZANDIO ECHAIDE, Sky, at 20:32
- 128. Alex DOWSETT, Movistar, at 20:32
- 129. Maarten WYNANTS, Blanco, at 20:32
- 130. Vladimir KARPETS, Movistar, at 20:32
- 131. Miguel Angel RUBIANO CHAVEZ, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 20:32
- 132. Pavel BRUTT, Katusha, at 20:32
- 133. Brian BULGAC, Lotto-Belisol, at 20:32
- 134. Miguel MINGUEZ AYALA, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 20:32
- 135. Cameron WURF, Cannondale, at 20:32
- 136. Frederik VEUCHELEN, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 20:32
- 137. Ioannis TAMOURIDIS, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 20:32
- 138. Giacomo NIZZOLO, RadioShack-Leopard, at 20:32
- 139. Taylor PHINNEY, BMC Racing, at 20:32
- 140. Paolo LONGO BORGHINI, Cannondale, at 20:32
- 141. Stefano GARZELLI, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 20:32
- 142. Rafael ANDRIATO, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, at 20:32
- 143. Stefano LOCATELLI, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 20:32
- 144. Leonardo Fabio DUQUE, Colombia, at 20:32
- 145. Danilo HONDO, RadioShack-Leopard, at 20:32
- 146. Luka MEZGEC, Argos-Shimano, at 20:32
- 147. Bert DE BACKER, Argos-Shimano, at 20:32
- 148. Willem WAUTERS, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 20:32
- 149. George BENNETT, RadioShack-Leopard, at 20:32
- 150. Anthony ROUX, FDJ, at 20:32
- 151. Jens MOURIS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 20:32
- 152. Murilo Antonio FISCHER, FDJ, at 20:32
- 153. Francesco Manuel BONGIORNO, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 21:18
- 154. Sacha MODOLO, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 21:28
- 155. Stefano PIRAZZI, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 21:31
- 156. Edoardo ZARDINI, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 21:33
- 157. Kenny DE HAES, Lotto-Belisol, at 21:35
- 158. Paolo TIRALONGO, Astana, at 22:26
- 159. Serge PAUWELS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:26
- 160. Adam BLYTHE, BMC Racing, at 22:26
- 161. Jérôme PINEAU, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 162. Julien VERMOTE, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 163. Mark CAVENDISH, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 164. Gianluca BRAMBILLA, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 165. Michal GOLAS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 166. Iljo KEISSE, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 22:31
- 167. Roberto FERRARI, Lampre-Merida, at 22:31
- 168. Davide APPOLLONIO, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 22:36
- 169. Yaroslav POPOVYCH, RadioShack-Leopard, at 22:58
- 170. Nicola BOEM, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 23:32
- 171. Ramunas NAVARDAUSKAS, Garmin-Sharp, at 23:45
- 172. Giairo ERMETI, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 24:13
- 173. Edwin Alcibiades AVILA VANEGAS, Colombia, at 24:45
- 174. Wilson Alexander MARENTES TORRES, Colombia, at 24:45
- 175. Marco CANOLA, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, at 24:45
- 176. Andrey ZEITS, Astana, at 25:03
- 177. Pim LIGTHART, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 25:05
- 178. Maurits LAMMERTINK, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 25:05
- 179. Mattia GAVAZZI, Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, at 25:17
- 180. Nathan HAAS, Garmin-Sharp, at 25:24
- DNF David MILLAR, Garmin-Sharp
- DNF Alessandro VANOTTI, Astana
- DNF Enrico BATTAGLIN, Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
- DNS Jack BOBRIDGE, Blanco
- DNS Gert STEEGMANS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
- DNS Daniele BENNATI, Saxo-Tinkoff
- DNS Karsten KROON, Saxo-Tinkoff
Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) won stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday.
Santambrogio attacked the peloton with race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the slopes of the final climb of Jafferau, and the pair rode together to the finish. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was third.
An early four-man break developed 14 kilometers into the 168km stage, and the riders stayed together until the final climb of Jafferau. The group began to fracture, with Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) initially dropping back. Eventually, Santambrogio and Nibali dropped the other three riders.
Nibali extended his GC lead over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to 1:26, while Rigoberto Uran (Sky) is now 2:46 behind in third.
Santambrogio is now fourth in the GC, 2:47 behind Nibali.
“I still haven’t realized what this means for me. It was a hard day, cold and rain. Then with the snow in the end,” Santambrogio said. “Nibali attacked with about 3km [left]. I felt good and followed him. We worked together to catch the breakaway. They stayed with us a bit, but we dropped them. It’s good for him, too, with a 12-second bonus.”
Nibali appeared to soft pedal close to the finish line, allowing his fellow Italian to earn the victory.
“It was a long, hard day. Very cold, especially at the end in the snow,” Nibali said. “This is a long Giro, not over yet. It was a good test at the end. [Santambrogio] won, but I was able to make a good gap on my rivals.”
Weather alters course
Earlier Saturday, race organizers announced the climb of Sestriere was removed from the stage 14 course because of bad weather that featured snow at the summit. The concern was not the ascent but rather the descent, which would have required the peloton to carefully navigate the fast and technical snowy roads.
The decision was also made to change the route for Sunday’s stage 15. Gone is the climb of Mont Centis early in the stage, and the finish on the summit of the famed Col du Galibier was moved 4.2km below the top. The original re-routing plan was to have the stage finish 15km before the summit.
The weather also forced the grounding of helicopters and airplanes above Saturday’s course, so there were no live television images of the race until the finish.
The weekend of climbing was expected to sort out the GC picture, but the altered route changed that. The race for the pink will be now be sorted out in the final week of racing, which ends with next Sunday’s 197km stage 21 from Riese Pio X to Brescia.
Four riders did not start Saturday’s stage: Jack Bobridge (Blanco), Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma), Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff), and Karsten Kroon (Saxo). Three others abandoned during the stage: David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox).