Nieve storms to Giro stage
Contador lands hammer blow in Dolomites
Last Updated: May 22, 2011 5:10pm
Nieve: Fought bravely in the mountains to take the biggest win of his career
Mikel Nieve rode to an impressive solo victory on a mountainous stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia.
The Euskaltel rider attacked an 18-man breakaway group and reeled in fellow escapee Stefano Garzelli (Aqua & Sapone) on the final climb up to Gardeccia before easing away to take the biggest win of his career and the second successive stage for the Basque squad.
The Italian clung on to finish second with Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) rounding out the podium after delivering another hammer blow on a stunning day in the Dolomites.
The race-leader attacked on the wet roads leading up to the finish and broke clear of rivals Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
Contador now carries a lead of four minutes and 20 seconds into the second rest day after weathering a number of attacks throughout the race’s queen stage.
Nibali took the fight to his rival on the day’s descents but did not have the legs in the climbs after an epic seven and a half hours in the saddle.
Cat and mouse
The day began with 18 men breaking clear in a group that included Nieve and Garzelli, forcing the gap out to 10 minutes over the first of the stage’s five climbs.
With 71 kilometres remaining Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) attacked bravely out of the group, with Garzelli and Nieve following suit 10km later, only for Garzelli to disappear into the distance and overhaul the brave Dutchman.
The attack saw the Italian take the Cima Coppi prize for the first man over the highest point of the race, the 2236m Passo Giau.
Lower down the climb Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) attacked for the second time in as many days, taking David Arroyo (Movistar) with him up the Giau.
The Spaniards were kept on a tight leash and drew a reaction from Contador and Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) on the climb as a depleted peloton crested the mountain.
The long descent was the cue for Nibali to attack his great rival, putting his descending prowess to good use to string out the bunch and put Contador under pressure.
The Liquigas rider was eventually hauled back in on the run up to the penultimate climb which was the cue for Arroyo to chance his arm again with Contador exposed without team-mates.
Contador attacked on the lower slopes of the Passo di Fedaia, again dragging Rujano with him along with Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) in a move that saw Nibali put into difficulties.
Nibali bravely bridged back across after a second stunning descent in as many climbs and promptly attempted to attack the Maglia Rosa but to no avail.
Nieve caught Garzelli with 6km to go and rode straight past the Italian on the final climb after both men had ridden bravely alone in the Dolomites.
It was Scarponi’s turn to come to the fore on the steep ramps of the final climb but Contador proved to strong and rode clear, almost catching an exhausted Garzelli in sight of the finish.