British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme athlete Mark Cavendish survived another arduous mountain stage today, finishing 27 minutes down on the winner on a blizzard-wracked Col du Galibier to keep his points classification challenge alive, on a day which saw an epic solo win for Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti and status quo in the maglia rosa battle.
As on the previous stage, British interests lay in whether red jersey holder Mark Cavendish would continue his assault on the points competition as the race plied the high mountain roads for a second successive day. Cavendish finished stage 14 in a gruppetto over 22 minutes back on stage winner Mauro Santambrogio, his points tally at 109, 26 points ahead of Cadel Evans, who appeared to be eyeing a points and general classification double.
The 149km fifteenth stage of the 2013 Giro was to include a mountain top finish on the legendary summit of the Col du Galibier but adverse weather conditions and concerns for the safety of riders and the caravan forced organisers to shorten the final climb – finishing 4.25km short of the summit at Les Granges du Galibier, at the memorial to troubled Italian cycling legend Marco Pantani. The previous day, there were concerns that the stage would be cancelled completely, or else both the climb of the Col du Mont Cenis and the Galibier (and the Col du Telegraphe en route) would be axed. Thankfully, conditions dictated that a compromise could be made, and the famous French col remained, albeit in truncated form.
The opening 60km of the race, including the freezing, snow clad ascent of the 1st category Mont Cenis, was conducted at an enforced slow pace, playing into the hands of Cavendish and other sprinters who had to work hard to finish within the time limit on the previous stage. Racing proper began at the summit with mountains jersey holder Stefano Pirazzi leaping out of the bunch to add to his tally.
Pirazzi continued his escape and along with Francesco Bongiorno (both Bardiani Valvole), Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli), opened up a gap of over five minutes on the Astana led peloton on the descent toward the first sprint point at Aussois.
Onto the Col du Telegraphe and a flurry of attacks came from the peloton as the breakaway group disintegrated. Visconti pulled ahead, with Weening, Pirazzi and Rabottini chasing. Behind another group containing Team Sky’s Sergio Henoa gave chase.
The race was quickly onto the Col du Galibier and the stage finale and with weather conditions worsening with every metre, Visconti battled on alone with Rabottini chasing alone. In the end, Visconti took a richly deserved victory, with poor Rabotini swept up in the final kilometre by the chasing group.
Despite a few digs and pokes by both parties, it was status quo between Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans, the general classification rivals marking each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke for the entire stage.
The clock ticked down with groups coming in through the snow to complete the stage and it was 27 minutes and 54 seconds before Mark Cavendish stopped the clock, arriving in group of around 80 riders. Cavendish had endured the Galibier and put one more mountain test behind him.
Following a much needed rest day on Monday, the race continues on Tuesday with stage 16, a 237km medium mountain stage from Valloire to Ivrea.
1 VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team 04:40:48
2 BETANCUR GOMEZ Carlos Alberto AG2R La Mondiale 00:42
3 NIEMIEC Przemyslaw Lampre - Merida ,,
4 MAJKA Rafal Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,
5 DUARTE AREVALO Fabio Andres Team Colombia 00:47
6 SCARPONI Michele Lampre - Merida 00:54
7 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team ,,
8 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team ,,
9 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini ,,
10 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling ,,
130 BLYTHE Adam BMC Racing Team 27:54:00
135 DOWSETT Alex Movistar Team ,,
148 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step ,,
163 CUMMINGS Stephen BMC Racing Team ,,
General points classification (Maglia rosso passion) after stage 15
1 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 109
2 EVANS Cadel BMC Racing Team 91
3 SANTAMBROGIO Mauro Vini Fantini 84
4 BETANCUR GOMEZ Carlos Alberto AG2R La Mondiale 79
5 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 74
6 VIVIANI Elia Cannondale Pro Cycling Team 72
7 URAN Rigoberto Sky Procycling 71
8 NIZZOLO Giacomo RadioShack - Leopard 61
9 BELKOV Maxim Katusha Team 55
10 VISCONTI Giovanni Movistar Team 53