Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) delivered the most courageous victory of this year’s Giro d’Italia to record a solo victory on a mountainous and snow-blown day in the Alps.
Organisers had considered cancelling today’s stage to the Col du Galibier as the Giro crossed the French border, but instead compromised by terminating the route 4km short of the Galibier’s summit, at the memorial to Marco Pantani.
Visconti was involved in the first attack of the day, after the riders imposed their own neutralised start to the stage over the summit of the Col du Mont Cenis, and led for the entirety of the closing climbs of the Col du Telegraphe and Galibier.
Another member of the early breakaway, Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini), saw his prolonged solo pursuit of Visconti brought to nought within the closing kilometre as the stage caught light with the finish in sight.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained his grip on the maglia rosa with another supremely confident ride, and second-placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), revisiting the terrain on which he laid the bedrock of his 2011 Tour de France triumph, shored up his place on GC by keeping the Italian in sight throughout the stage.
Blanco Pro Cycling team leader, Robert Gesink, one of the fancied contenders before the race, but who lost buckets of time yesterday, today produced a determined ride in pursuit of Visconti and Rabottini, but was hauled back, despite the aid of Team Sky’s Sergio Henao.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), the 2008 Olympic road race champion, launched an assault of his own in the closing kilometres, but was passed before the finish.
The sight of the flamme rouge sparked a number of attacks, with Columbian sensation, Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), surging clear of the maglia rosa group, and pulling Przemyslaw Niemic (Lampre-Merida) and Rafal Majaka (Saxo-Tinkoff) with him.
Nibali and his fellow contenders seemed unconcerned, however, and finished together, led home by Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), just 12 seconds after second-placed Betancur.
Tomorrow’s rest day will seem long overdue for those battered today by the gradients and weather, but the organisers must take credit for a compromise that delivered much of the drama promised by the original route.
Giro d’Italia 2013 – 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 – ST
4) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff
5) Fabio Duarte (COL) – Team Columbia -47″
6) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida -54″
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana -ST
8) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing
9) Mauro Santambrogio (ITA) – Vini Fantini
10) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Team Sky
1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 2.34
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +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 +4.3
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 (ESP) – Movistar +6.21