Giro d’Italia: Heroic Matteo Rabottini wins on the Pian dei Resinelli after day-long attack
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giro d’Italia: Heroic Matteo Rabottini wins on the Pian dei Resinelli after day-long attack

by Ben Atkins at 12:15 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
 
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia caught in final metres by Joaquim Rodríguez but wins sprint ahead of new Maglia Rosa

matteo rabottiniMatteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) won a heroic victory at the top of the Pian dei Resinelli at the end of stage 15, after a long solo attack over the mountains of Lombardy. The 24-year-old attacked just 18km into the 169km stage, in the company of Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R La Mondiale), and - having dropped the Frenchman on the first of the day’s four climbs - managed to stay away to the finish.

As the overall contenders in the peloton began to attack one another, in the final kilometres of the final climb, stage 10 winner Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) managed to bridge across to Rabottini in the final 300 metres. The Italian refused to be beaten however, and clung to the Catalan’s wheel, then outsprinted him at the end; with no time bonuses on the line, Rodríguez did not put up a very big fight, safe in the knowledge that he’d retaken the Maglia Rosa from Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).

“I didn’t really think I’d win when I went on the attack but on days like this it’s important not to crack mentally,” said Rabottini afterwards. “When Rodríguez passed me I thought I’d lost but then in the last 50 metres, when I managed to pass him, I could hardly believe it.

“On the last climb I used a low gear because I couldn’t go any harder,” he explained. “I knew that it was the only way of having a chance of making it to the finish. I only changed gear when Rodriguez caught me.”

Right up until the final kilometres - when his pursuers were within a minute - Rabottini had his team car, piloted by Farnese Vini-Selle Italia manager Luca Scinto, who offered advice and encouragement for the whole stage.

“I have a great relationship with Luca Scinto my team manager,” Rabottini explained. “We’ve focused on the Giro d’Italia since last winter. He told me: ‘Ride the Giro and win a stage.’ I just laughed at the idea but then started to believe him and worked really hard.

“It has paid off now.”

Rabottini was pursued by a strong chasing group - which included Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF Inox) - but managed to keep them at bay. As they split up in their race for the line, Rodríguez passed them one by one and - getting a brief bit of help from Losada - raced up to Rabottini. Losada hung on to take third place, 23 seconds back, just two seconds clear of Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale).

Hesjedal finished in 12th place, 39 seconds behind Rabottini and Rodríguez, and dropped to second overall, 30 seconds down.

A second, even tougher day in the mountains

The Giro d’Italia was to spend its second straight day in the mountains, between Busto Arsizio, in the shadow of Milano Malpenza airport, and the Pian dei Resinelli, above the city of Lecco. While the climbs would not be as long and high as those tackled the day before, they would be steeper and more numerous, with the 1st category Valico di Valcava after 85.3km, the 3rd category Forcella di Bura after 124.4km, the 2nd category Culmine di San Pietro with just 25km to go, and the 2nd category climb to the finish.

Just like the day before, there was a long flat run to the base of the first climb but, unlike the day before, with the stage starting in heavy rain, there was no great competition to form the break of the day. Rabottini and Bonnafond escaped after just 18km, and the peloton watched them go.

By the 55km point, the two riders had a lead of 8’02”. As Bonnafond led over the Traguardo Volante, in Lecco after 62km, this had come down a little as Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) was launched over the line behind them to strengthen his hold on the red points jersey. As the two leaders hit the long climb to the Valico di Valcava, it was down to 7’50”.

As soon as the peloton hit the climb behind them, Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) attacked with Txurruka, Marco Pinotti (BMC Racing), Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar), Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Losada and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky).

Midway through the climb Rabottini left Bonnafond behind, and 5km from the top he was 5’10” ahead of the chasing group, and 6’36” ahead of the peloton, which was led by Garmin-Barracuda.

Flecha was dropped from the chasing group as more joined from behind as it arrived at the steepest part of the climb, with ramps of 17%. Diego Ulissi and Adriano Malori (both Lampre-ISD), Pirazzi, Evgeni Petrov (Astana) and Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil-DCM) all bridged across.

Liquigas-Cannondale took over the front of the peloton, but the gap to the leader was still not noticeably coming down. Rabottini took the summit alone, while Pinotti led the chase group over - which had dropped Golas and Flecha - 4’48” minutes behind him. Bonnafond was still in between, while the peloton was now just 28 seconds behind the chasers.

Stage 14 winner Andrey Amador (Movistar) Gustav Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Cunego attacked the peloton as the descent began. Pinotti crashed on the wet descent, but was soon back up and chasing the group; it had split on the descent but reformed through the feedzone in Sant'Omobono Terme, with 69km to go, as the unclassified climb to Berbenno began.

Cunego joins the chasers and slips into virtual pink

The Cunego/Amador group soon caught the main chase group; it was still 5’20” behind Rabottini, but was opening a good lead over the peloton; in Berbenno, they were 4’20” ahead, putting Cunego firmly in the virtual Maglia Rosa.

The group now consisted of: Cunego and Ulissi (both Lampre-ISD), Amador and Bruseghin (both Movistar), Carrara and Larsson (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Sella, Pirazzi, Petrov, Losada and Txurruka.

Pinotti was still chasing, following his crash; he was now more than a minute behind his former companions, but steadily closed them down, and rejoined the group on the early slopes of the Forcella di Bura. Almost as soon as he had chased back on, the former Italian time trial champion suffered a puncture, but he was soon back with the group.

Having left Garmin-Barracuda in control for a while, Liquigas-Cannondale took over the front of the peloton as the race entered the final 50km, but had the best part of five minutes to make up on the Cunego group, and almost ten on the lone Rabottini.

Over the top of the climb the lone Farnese Vini-Selle Italia rider was 4’56” ahead of the Cunego group, with the peloton at 8’04”. Valerio Agnoli was leading for Liquigas-Cannondale, but was in front of two Garmin-Barracuda riders.

Cunego was still virtual Rosa, but only just.

As the chase group hit the climb to Culmine di San Pietro, Pirazzi attacked. Cunego gave chase, and split the group with just Losada, Amador and Txurruka able to follow, and they soon caught up with Pirazzi.

Agnoli dropped off the front of the peloton behind them, handing over the pace to Garmin-Barracuda. The two riders from the American team didn’t last long however, with Liquigas-Cannondale taking over inside the final 30km.

At the top Rabottini still had 2’46” on the Cunego group, 3’55” on the rest of the chasers, and 5’44” on the peloton as Astana moved forward to attack the descent. Cunego too was attacking the descent, and had gapped the other four riders; Astana meanwhile, was putting pressure on Basso’s descending skills, occasionally gapping the two-time winner.

Rabottini crashed on a tight corner, but was quickly up again; Cunego was getting closer though, as his four companions began to rejoin him on one of the flatter parts.

The final climb brings on the attacks but Rabottini is hanging in there

With 15km to go Cunego’s group was just 2’14” behind, while the Astana-led peloton was now at 5’08”. The Maglia Rosa group now numbered less than twenty riders, with all of the big names present, but more riders fought their way back on as the climb approached. With 10km to go the lead had stretched to 2’30” to Cunego, but the peloton had closed to 4’10”.

Rabottini was still looking strong as the climb began, while behind him Pirazzi attacked again.

After an initial acceleration from Astana, Liquigas-Cannondale took over, with Sylwester Szmyd leading Ivan Basso. The front group was shattered once again, on the steep 12% opening section, as all but the top riders were dropped.

Cunego and Txurruka were both working hard, trying to catch Pirazzi and hold off the peloton at the same time, but then Losada attacked with 5km to go and the 2004 race winner couldn’t respond. The Spanish riders soon caught Pirazzi; Rabottini still had 2’05”, but was visibly beginning to struggle.

Pirazzi was not happy with the company and attacked again, but the two Spanish riders were straight on his wheel. The gap was now just 1’30” to the lone leader, with the peloton only another 50 seconds behind the chases.

Losada attacked the other two again and set off alone in pursuit of Rabottini, his lead was little more than a minute as he entered the final two kilometres. Meanwhile, Szmyd had finished his turn, and handed over to Basso, who began to accelerate further; Kreuziger went around Basso to take his turn, but then Scarponi attacked.

The defending champion soon caught and passed teammate Cunego, with just Rodríguez, Basso and Henao for company. Rodríguez then went himself, and nobody could follow at first, but Henao gradually began to close him down. Rodríguez passed Pirazzi and Txurruka under the flamme rouge and soon caught Losada; he was given a brief respite by his teammate and then carried on alone.

Rodríguez had Rabottini in his sights as he entered the finishing straight and caught the Italian with 300 metres to go. The Farnese Vini-Selle Italia rider refused to be dropped though, and stuck to Rodríguez’ wheel until the final fifty metres, then outsprinted him to the line. With no time bonuses available the Catalan didn’t put up much of a fight, in the knowledge that he had safely taken back the Maglia Rosa.

Result stage 15
1. Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Selle Italia-Farnese Vini
2. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
3. Alberto Losada (Spa) Katusha Team @ 23s
4. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky @ 25s
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
6. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
7. Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox @ 29s
8. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana
9. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10. Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

Standings after stage 15
1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Spa) Garmin-Barracuda @ 30s
3. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale @ 1’22”
4. Paolo iralongo (Ita) Team Astana @ 1’26”
5. Roman Kreuiger (Cze) Astana Team @ 1’27”
6. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD @ 1’36”
7. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team @ 1’42”
8. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky @ 1’55”
9. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 2”12”
10. Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-BigMat @ 2’13”

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