The Giro d'Italia is now in its third and final week, with the finish coming Sunday in Trieste, in eastern Italy on the Adriatic coast. Cyclingnews is covering every minute of the race, so check out their Giro d'Italia section for complete results, live reports as the stages are happening, photo galleries and more.
Stage 14: Agliè - Oropa 164km
Enrico Battaglin gave Bardiani-CSF the team's third stage of the race when he clinched the Giro d'Italia's 14th stage in dramatic fashion on the first-category summit finish at Oropa. Having caught leaders Dario Cataldo (Sky) and Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) within the final kilometre, Battaglin appeared to have paid for that effort when these two riders distanced him on the final cobbled ramps. But he surged again in the final 50 metres to grind his way a bike length clear of Cataldo at the line, with Pantano ultimately well beaten in third.
“Until the final kilometre I didn’t believe it could happen, because I had already given a lot as I’d been in the break all day, which had taken a great deal out of me. Then I saw that they were just ahead of me and I only thought about giving all I had left,” said Battaglin.
Behind the battle for stage honours, there was an equally gripping contest between the big names battling for the pink jersey. Race leader Rigoberto Urán and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team looked relatively comfortable until Ag2r’s Domenico Pozzovivo skipped away from the maglia rosa group 4km from the line. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana immediately accelerated up to join the Italian.
The Ag2r rider leader set the pace ahead of his Movistar rival most of the way to the line, as Quintana’s Colombian compatriot Urán focused on limiting his losses, with significant help from team-mate Wout Poels.
Having swept past Pozzovivo on the final corner, Quintana nibbled 29 seconds out of his deficit on Urán, while Pozzovivo gained 25 seconds.
In the final 200 metres, Urán also lost ground on Fabio Aru (Astana), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
Although his losses were minimal, they do not bode well for the race leader’s prospects on Sunday’s much more testing mountain stage to Plan di Montecampione.
Stage 15: Valdengo - Montecampione 225km
Thanks to a sensational solo victory at Plan de Montecampione, Astana's Fabio Aru pitched himself right into the battle for the Giro d'Italia crown. The young Sardinian waited until the final three kilometres of the iconic climb before making his move, attacking from the maglia rosa group and taking race leader Rigoberto Urán. The pair quickly got across to the two leaders on the road, Fabio Duarte and Pierre Rolland, with 2.3km remaining. Aru hardly paused before accelerating once again, and this time no one went with him.
Although Nairo Quintana came up to the group behind Aru and produced a couple of brief digs in the final kilometre, the Astana rider kept increasing his advantage all the way to the line, where he finished 21 seconds ahead of Duarte. His victory pushed him up to fourth place overall, 2.24 behind maglia rosa Urán, who fell back from Quintana, Rolland and Duarte in the final kilometre, but still managed to push his lead over second-placed Cadel Evans to just over a minute.
Fabio Aru could hardly have picked a better moment to clinch the first victory of his professional career. The 23-year-old Astana rider gave a majestic performance on the iconic climb up to Plan de Montecampione, producing a series of accelerations that left him 21 seconds clear of Fabio Duarte (Team Colombia) at the line. The Colombian led in Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), with race leader Rigoberto Urán another 21 seconds back in fifth place.
Aru had already made one thwarted effort to escape from the maglia rosa group when, with 3km remaining, he pressed hard once again. Urán managed to get on his wheel, but second-placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) failed to bridge the gap. Urán was happy to let Aru set the pace as they closed in on Rolland, Duarte and Sky’s Philip Deignan at the head of the race.
As Deignan fell back after making a great effort to thwart the GC contenders, the two chasers made it across to Rolland and Duarte with 2.2km to the line. Rather than hesitating, Aru accelerated hard again, and this time no one went with him.
Although Quintana came up to the group behind Aru and produced a couple of brief digs in the final kilometre, the Astana rider kept increasing his advantage all the way to the line. His victory pushed him up to fourth place overall, 2-24 behind maglia rosa Urán, who could not stay with Quintana, Rolland and Duarte in the final kilometre, but still managed to push his lead over second-placed Evans to a minute and three seconds, with Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka now 1-50 down in third place.
Aru’s victory pitched him right into the battle for the overall title. “I am very happy and can hardly believe it yet,” said the tearful Sardinian at the finish. “I must say thanks to the team, who stayed close to me all day. My team-mates were really exceptional. I’m really happy, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’ve still got a lot to learn, and from tomorrow everything will be just as it was before.”
Stage 16: Ponte di Legno - Val Martello/Martelltal 139km
The Colombian soloed to victory after he dropped Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) in the final kilometre. Hesjedal held on for second place to move into the top 10, with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) finishing over a minute down to take third on the stage.
"This gives me confidence and confirms that I can achieve great things in the present and in the future," Quintana said. "I dedicate it to my team. I owe them all this victory."
Quintana made it away on the descent of the Passo dello Stelvio, amid confusion as to whether it had been neutralised. The 24-year-old said he and teammate Gorka Izagirre simply followed Rolland and Hesjedal over the top of the Stelvio and didn't understand all the consternation over the supposed neutralisation.
"At no time was there an attack on the descent, and we heard nothing of neutralisation, neither from the race organisation nor from the team car," Quintana said in a statement. "I don't understand why there is controversy. Besides, we entered the split, but the biggest gap was actually made into the final climb towards Val Martello."
Quintana took a handful of riders with him as he dropped the maglia rosa Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
After catching Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) on the final climb to Val Martello, Quintana launched his attack. Only Hesjedal could stick with him, but he too was dropped in the final kilometre. The Colombian crossed the line 4:10 ahead of Urán, who is now in second place overall.
The battle for the final podium spot got ever closer, with four riders within 13 seconds of each other. The big loser of the day was Cadel Evans (BMC), who was dropped on the final climb. He is now a tiny five seconds ahead of Rolland, who jumped from eighth to fourth after making it into the attack with Quintana. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabio Aru (Astana) loom close to that place on the rostrum.
"In the final, I started cramping," Evans said. "I was limping on one leg all the way home. It is a pity. Normally I am reasonably good in these extreme conditions. But when I can't see the road, I can't descend down it. When I have to pedal with one leg, I can't go uphill. So it was really a day of conservation and survival."
Stage 17: Sarnonico - Vittorio Veneto 208km
The ever attacking Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF) finally secured the win his aggressive style had promised, emerging victorious from the breakaway on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia. The Italian attacked from the remnants of a huge group that went clear earlier in the stage and hung on to finish ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) and Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo) to secure Bardiani’s third stage win of the race so far.
"I knew that between the first five it would be difficult to arrive together and I knew that I had no chance against them," Pirazzi said.
His attack in the final kilometer went unanswered, as Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Thomas De Gendt and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale) put in some effort to chase to no avail. Pirazzi was well clear of the tight sprint between Wellens and McCarthy, with the larger remnants of the breakaway 28 seconds further behind.
On a day when the Giro d'Italia would have welcomed anything in the way of distraction after yesterday’s chaotic scenes on the Stelvio, Pirazzi delivered, taking centre stage as GC riders and their team managers drew battle lines in the sand over the neutralized debacle that had rumbled on from yesterday.
The success of the Italian team, now with a hat-trick of stage wins, will provide some balm for the controversy-fatigued public.
"Of course we're all young guys at Bardiani and we've done well so far. We're all good riders and I think that we can be proud of ourselves," Pirazzi said.
The debate and friction had boiled over with team managers from Tinkoff, Omega Pharma and Astana pressuring RCS Sport into action. The meetings between the parties in Sarnonico threatened to disrupt the stage start but the show went on, albeit with the peloton riding at a tranquil pace to begin with.
Eventually a break did go, with over 20 riders slipping clear. This, with three stages in the mountains to come and a likely sprint on the final stage, would be a final opportunity for a number of teams to make amends for poor returns in this year’s race. And there were plenty to play their hand with a stage profile that screamed breakaway.
Behind them the rest of the peloton eased up, more concerned with wagging tongues and resting legs than racing, with the break establishing a lead of in excess of 12 minutes.
The time gap eventually peaked with around 60 kilometres to go before Movistar gently increased the pace but a winner was destined to come from the break as the race rolled towards Vittorio Veneto.
Tim Wellens, who has ridden well for Lotto during the race, was particularly frisky, picking up the intermediate sprint points and then going clear to claim available mountains points, too. The Belgian was briefly matched by Malacarne but it was De Gendt who laid down the most significant attack.
The former podium rider in this race has been on domestique duties for most of the race, but he was let off the leash and was clearly enjoying the freedom as Pauwels covered a number of counter attacks from behind.
At the foot of the final fourth category climb of the day De Gendt held a lead over a hesitant and stuttering chase but by the summit Pirazzi had moved to within touching distance.
Wellens, McCarthy and Montaguti soon made contact and the five riders established a lead of around 30 seconds by the time they sped through the final kilometres. Behind them the rest of the break split and reformed but any cohesion was lost, especially with two from the second group crashing on the rain-slick roads.
With just over a kilometre to go Pirazzi struck for home. Like so many times before he dangled off the front of the peloton, a carrot for them to chase but this time, for the first time in his Giro d’Italia, he hung on for the win.
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