Ivan Basso Conquers Monte Zoncolan, Wins Stage 15 of 2010 Giro d'Italia
Arroyo keeps overall lead ahead of Richie Porte, with Basso 03:33 back in third.
Team Liquigas' Ivan Basso strained every last sinew to win the 15th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday after an epic late battle with world champion Cadel Evans on one of the steepest climbs imaginable.
Spain's David Arroyo retained the race lead ahead of Richie Porte but Basso has shot up to third in the overall standings, just three minutes 33 seconds behind the pink jersey wearer, and now looks like a favorite heading into the final week.
Italian Basso, the 2006 Giro winner, pulled away with gritted teeth from exhausted and stubborn World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) with four kilometers to go on the punishing climb up the Monte Zoncolan peak in north eastern Italy.
Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the tight lane up the famous mountain with one spectator unveiling a banner reading "Welcome to the Gates of Hell" as temperatures also soared.
Basso, banned for two years for attempted doping in 2007, was put in a good position by strong work from his Liquigas team as other riders struggled to even turn the pedals given the gradient.
Manuel Belletti, who won the 13th stage, pulled out of the race alongside a number of sprinters with three tough climbs as well as the Zoncolan just proving too much on the 222 km route from near Venice.
Twice Giro winner Gilberto Simoni, who retires after the race, was in the leading pack but fell away on the Zoncolan despite winning stages on the mountain in 2003 and 2007. The mountain fought back today.
This year's Giro is missing top names like Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador as they prepare for July's 2010 Tour de France.
Overall favorite Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) finished 6th today and is now 4th overall.
"Today once again we saw a very strong Liquigas. Yesterday it was Nibali winning, today it was Basso. They're the strongest right now in the race and will be a big rival. The rest day tomorrow couldn't come at a better moment. The first 15 days of this Giro have been crazy, with surprises every day. Anything can happen in the final week. This Giro isn't over yet," Sastre told Roadcycling.com.
Sastre's teammate Marcel Wyss had the following comments after today's stage.
"I had such small gears, so I went easy on the Monte Zoncolan, because my work was done early. I think the climbs next week - the Gavia, Mortirolo - they're much harder than today. I will help Carlos in the final week. I didn't go really deep today. I am a climber, I am light, so it was not so bad for me. The spectators really gave us motivation to push hard today. It was so exciting riding through those crowds. This is the Giro - it's beautiful. Tondo had a bad day, it was too bad for him, but it's the third week. And Carlos was good. He has always said from the first day, this Giro is not decided until the final stage. Everyone knows that Carlos will be good in the last