Sella Takes Stage 15 of Giro; Contador Takes Maglia Rosa
Emanuele Sella (CSF) has won his second consecutive stage of the Giro d'Italia. The CSF man surged away from four breakaway companions in the last 12 km to win Stage 15, the queen stage of this year's Giro, in 4:53:24. Domenico Pozzovivo, Sella's teammate, finished second at 2:05, and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) took third at 2:11. At the end of the mountainous, 154-km ride from Arabba to Passo Fedaia/Marmolada, Alberto Contador (Astana) donned the maglia rosa.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. In the first five km, a group of 13 riders detached themselves from the peloton. A group of nine riders broke off from the baker's dozen. They were Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld), Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff), Sella and Fortunato Baliani (both from CSF), Vladimir Karpets and Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), and Jens Voigt (CSC). At 49 km, the break led the LPR-based bunch by 2:00.
On the Passo Giau, maglia rosa Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) was dropped. Liquigas sent Charles Wegelius to the front to do pacemaking. Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloeden (both from Astana) fell off of the pace. Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) dropped back to help Bosisio. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) attacked, and Pozzovivo countered. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) attacked. Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), and Ricco joined the defending champion, but Contador struggled and looked around for a teammate. At the summit of the Passo Giau, Sella, Baliani, and Rodriguez led 13 chasers (including all of the heads of state) by 1:56 and Bosisio by more than four minutes.
With 40 km left, Julio Perez (CSF) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) attacked the Di Luca-Contador-Menchov group on the Category 2 Passo Falzorego. Nibali bridged up to the leaders with 21 km left, and Perez did so shortly before the break reached the base of the Passo Fedaia.
Perez arrived in time to see Sella off. The Italian climber attacked on the lower slopes of the Marmolada and was not seen again. Behind, Alessandro Spezialetti (LPR Brakes) set the pace for Di Luca, with Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre) being present for Marzio Bruseghin and Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) doing so for Contador.
With three km left, Ricco attacked. Contador, Pozzovivo, Menchov, and Pellizotti followed. Baliani dropped back to help Pozzovivo. Ricco attacked again. With two km left, Contador set out after the Italian. The Spaniard dropped Di Luca, Menchov, and Simoni, but Di Luca and Simoni rallied and overtook Contador in the final km.
In the overall, Contador leads Ricco by 0:33 and Di Luca by 0:55. Stage 15, a 12.85-km individual time trial from San Virgilio de Marebbe to Plan de Corones, will give the mountaineers another opportunity to take time out of each other. Which one will prevail? Contador? Menchov? Simoni? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!