Garzelli Wins Stage 19 of Giro
Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) has won Stage 19 of the Giro. The 2000 Giro winner took a two-up sprint from defending champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) to win the mountainous, 122-km ride from Bormio to Presolana in 3:52:16. Simoni finished at 0:02, and Tadej Valjavec (Phonak) took third at 0:23. Damiano Cunego, Simoni's teammate, remains in the maglia rosa, and is poised to be the overall winner, when the Giro ends tomorrow in Milan.
The racing began early. At 20 km, 10 riders--Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio), Oscar Mason (Vini Caldirola), Ruggero Marzoli (Acqua e Sapone), Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet), Raffaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia), Igor Pugaci (De Nardi), Francisco Vila (Lampre), Oscar Pozzi (Tenax), and Andris Nauduzs (Domina Vacanze)--attacked. Illiano led the group up the Mortirolo, with his erstwhile companions at 1:00 and the maglia rosa group at 2:30.
Halfway up the Mortirolo, Garzelli attacked, and Simoni, Juan Manuel Garate (Lampre), and Tadej Valjavec (Phonak) joined him. In the maglia rosa group, Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco) rode tempo for Cunego. Attrition took its toll in the break and in the counterattack, with the break down to six men by the summit and Garate being dropped from the counter.
With 55 km left, a regroupment had taken place in the maglia rosa group, members of the early break had joined Simoni and Garzelli, and Bertolini had joined Illiano in the lead. The pair led the Simoni-Garzelli group by 1:13 and the maglia rosa group by 2:11.
On the Vivione, Garzelli and Simoni pressed the pace, and only Valjavec and Illiano remained with them. Illiano was dropped, and the leaders had 1:31 on the maglia rosa group. With 35 km remaining, the escapees led the maglia rosa group by 1:45. Cunego's overall lead was in danger.
Gontchar began to chase, and the maglia rosa followed him. At the top of the Vivione, Garzelli and Simoni led Valjavec, who had been dropped, by 0:20, Emanuele Sella (Colombia-Selle Italia) by 1:20, and the maglia rosa group by 1:50. On the descent, Valjavec rejoined the leaders, while Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet) led the maglia rosa group with such a fast tempo that only Cunego and Mazzoleni could stay with him. With 20 km left, the maglia rosa was 1:05 behind the fugitives, with a chase group containing Gontchar, Pavel Tonkov (Vini Caldirola), and Garate at 1:25.
The maglia rosa group and the second chase group merged, but the pursuit became disorganized. The escapees' lead grew to 1:25 with 15 km left.
On the Passo Presolana, Garzelli and Simoni dropped Valjavec for good. The pair led Cunego and Dario Cioni (Fassa Bortolo) by 1:00. Garzelli attempted to dropped Simoni, but the defending champion hung on. The pair breasted the Presolana with 0:20 on Valjavec, 0:52 on Cunego and Cioni, and 1:28 on Gontchar, Mazzoleni, and Tonkov.
Garzelli and Simoni plunged down the descent and fought out the finish. Simoni led out the sprint, but with 250 m left, Garzelli jumped him for the win. Valjavec hung on for third.
In the overall, Cunego leads Gontchar by 2:02 and Simoni by 2:05. Cunego will be Giro champion after Stage 20. The short, downhill, 144-km run from Ciusone to Milan is tailor-made for a sprint finish. Will anyone stop Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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