Mikel Nieve made it two wins in the Alps in two days for for Euskaltel-Euskadi in Stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia this afternoon following Igor Anton's victory on the Zoncolan yesterday, with Stefano Garzelli second. Again, however, the day's real winner was third-placed Alberto Contador who once more put those with pretensions to challenge him for the maglia rosa to the sword and streched his lead at the top of the general classification.
The Saxo Bank-SunGard rider, winner of five Grand Tours including the 2008 Giro, has already shown that he is consistently the best climber in the race, but today it was Vincenzo Nibali's turn to show his descending skills, including riding right on the limit to close down a one minute gap that Contador and others in the main contender's group had opened up over him on the day's penultimate climb.
It's to the Liquigas-Cannondale man's detriment that this year's 94th edition of the Giro is heavy with summit finishes but has only two stages, 17 and 18 later this week, where the profile of the closing kilometres is downill.
Indeed, today, following his phenomenally quick descent that appeared to catch Contador and others by surprise when he rejoined them, Nibali had no response on the next and final climb to the summit finish at Gardeccia Val di Fassa as Michele Scarponi attacked.
John Gadret of AG2R and Contador both went with the Lampre-ISD man, before the maglia rosa himself attacked, quickly leaving Gadret and Scarponi behind as he headed on up the road with only two men ahead of him, Nieve and Garzelli.
The latter, winner of the Giro in 2000, had ridden well within himself yesterday, signalling his intention to go on the attack today. He and Nieve were among 18 escapees who had got away during the early stages of the 229km Queen Stage of this year's race.
Garzelli took the prize for being the first man over the Cima Coppi, the highest point in each year's Giro, set this year at 2,236 metres on the Passo Giau, and although he was overhauled by Nieve on the final climb, he just managed to hold on from Contador to seal second place.
Contador now extends his lead at the top of the overall standings to 4 minutes 20 seconds, with Scarponi jumping into second place at the expense of Nibali, who slips to third, 5 minute 11 seconds behind the race leader.
Following tomorrow's rest day, racing resumes on Tuesday with a 12.7km mountain time trial from Belluno to Nevegal. Few would bet against Contador further extending his lead at the top of the GC.
Giro d’Italia Stage 15 result 1 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 7:27:14 2 GARZELLI Stefano Acqua & Sapone at 1:41 3 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 1:51 4 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 1:57 5 GADRET John AG2R 2:28 6 RUJANO Jose Androni Giocattoli 2:35 7 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale 3:34 8 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 3:34 9 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 4:01 10 KRUIJSWIJK Steven Rabobank 4:13 11 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 4:23 12 ARROYO David Movistar 4:30 13 BAKELANDTS Jan Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:54 14 DEIGNAN Philip RadioShack 6:40 15 CATALDO Dario Quickstep 6:45 16 SARMIENTO Cayetano Acqua & Sapone 6:45 17 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Highroad 6:45 18 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi 7:59 19 SELLA Emanuele Androni-Giocattoli 9:01 20 WEENING Pieter Rabobank 9:23 Giro d’Italia Overall Standings after Stage 15 1 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 62:14:42 2 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD at 4:20 3 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Canondale 5:11 4 GADRET John AG2R 6:08 5 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 7:03 6 RUJANO Jose Androni Giocattoli 8:39 7 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 8:46 8 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 8:58 9 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 9:20 10 ARROYO David Movistar 9:30
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.