Giro d'Italia: Giovanni Visconti wins epic 15th stage as Vincenzo Nibali retains overall lead
By Matt Westby. Last Updated: 20/05/13 10:20am
Giovanni Visconti: Rode to a memorable victory
Italy's Giovanni Visconti produced a magnificent solo ride to win an epic 15th stage of the Giro d'Italia as compatriot Vincenzo Nibali consolidated his overall lead.
Movistar rider Visconti had been part of the day's breakaway and later pushed on alone through heavy snow on the upper slopes of the Col du Galibier to a memorable victory.
Colombia's Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked late on the climb to take his third second place of the race, 42 seconds down, and was closely followed by Poland's Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) in third.
Nibali (Astana) crossed the line another 12 seconds further back in a group also containing Cadel Evans (BMC) and Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky), second and third on the general classification, and consequently retains his 1min 26sec overall lead.
Visconti said: "I can't still believe I won in such a mythical climb like this. I didn't have energy left for the finale, but it was my mind that climbed through today. It is a honour for me to win in front of the Pantani monument."
First climb neutralised
The memorable stage had to be shortened by 4.25km due to avalanche risk at the summit of the Galibier and the riders also decided to neutralise the day's other category-one climb, the Col du Mont Cenis.
They negotiated the first 60km of the 145km route without racing, instead making the long ascent of the Mont Cenis all together at a gentle pace, but the day kicked into life just short of the summit.
Six riders, including Visconti, went ahead in a bid to pick up points at the top for the mountains classification and rather than wait for the crawling peloton to catch back up, they continued to push on down the subsequent descent.
A seventh man joined the group and they built up a lead of over six minutes, but the reawakened main bunch began chasing hard and cut the advantage to under two minutes ahead of the climb of the Col du Telegraphe, 31km out.
Sensing the danger, Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox) attacked out of the breakaway on the lower slopes and although Visconti, Robinson Chalapud (Colombia) and Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini) followed, the other three escapees couldn't match his pace and dropped off.
Visconti still had more to give, though, and went clear on his own midway up the Telegraphe, 23.5km from the finish, swiftly opening up a gap of almost a minute.
After a short descent into Valloire, Rabottini tried to give chase at the foot of the Galibier and cut the deficit to 40 seconds, but later ran out of legs and fell away.
It was then left up to the peloton to chase, yet despite a flurry of attacks from, among others, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), they were unable to make significant inroads into the lead.
By now Visconti also had the deteriorating weather to also worry about, with the clear conditions low down turning into wet snow higher up, but dug in superbly to secure the biggest win of his career.
With Evans and Uran unable to launch attacks, Nibali enjoyed a trouble-free final few kilometres. Only Betancur pushed on ahead and, in doing so, now moves into the best young rider's white jersey.
Stage 15 result
1 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar, 4:40:48
2 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +42
3 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, same time
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff, st
5 Fabio Duarte (Col) Colombia, +47
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +54
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, st
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, st
9 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini, st
10 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, st
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 62:02:34
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +1:26
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, +2:46
4 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini, +2:47
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, +3:53
6 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida, 4:35
7 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +5:15
8 Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff, +5:20
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +5:57
10 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar, +6:21
Red (points classification) - Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
Blue (mountains classification) - Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox)
White (best young rider) - Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale)