Tonkov Wins Stage 17 of Giro
Pavel Tonkov (Vini Caldirola) has won Stage 17 of the Giro. The 1996 Giro champion soloed away from Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio) to win the rolling, 153-km run from Brunico to Fondo Sarnonico in 3:40:05. Bertolini finished second at 2:15, and Brad McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com) took third at 2:49. Damiano Cunego (Saeco) remains the maglia rosa despite needing two bike changes during the stage.
The stage's first 80 km were downhill. As a result, attacks abounded, and the pace was fast. At 66 km, Bertolini and Oscar Pozzi (Tenax) escaped. When the pair reached the Passo della Mendola, they led 11 chasers by 2:30 and the peloton by 3:00.
Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) bridged up to the chasers. De Nardi led the pursuit that reeled in the chase group halfway up the climb. Tonkov then counterattacked. The Russian caught the escapees and breasted the Mendola in the lead.
On the descent, Bertolini caught Tonkov. With 35 km left, the pair led eight chasers by 2:38 and the maglia rosa group by 4:00. Saeco and De Nardi led the latter group.
With 18 km remaining, Tonkov attacked. Bertolini fought his way back to the Russian's wheel, but three km later, Tonkov dropped the Italian for good. Bertolini hung on for second, while McGee won the bunch sprint for third.
In the overall, Cunego leads Sergei Gontchar (De Nardi) by 1:14 and Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet) by 2:22. Stage 18 will be short but very hard. It will be the final test for those who aspire to win the 2004 Giro. The 118-km ride from Cles to Bormio will feature the Gavia, La Motta, and the climb to the finish. Will Cunego hold on to win the Giro? Will his uneasy partnership with Gilberto Simoni flare into open warfare? Will either Gontchar or Popovych have a day good enough to catapult him into the race lead? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out?
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