Giro d’Italia stage 15: Richly deserved victory for young Rabottini

Stage 15 – Busto Arsizio to Lecco/Pian dei Resinelli, 169km

24-year old Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) lit up today’s stage in his mud-spattered dayglo kit as he took his maiden Giro win atop Pian dei Resinelli. He’d ridden on his own  – having dropped initial fellow escapee Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R La Mondiale) on the first climb – for most of the cold, wet and foggy stage. To maintain his hard-fought advantage over the chasing group, he’d indulged in some harum-scarum descending on the penultimate climb, slid off on a treacherous curve, remounted and soldiered on. More importantly, he delighted the home crowd and every single television viewer when he dug deep into his surely extinguished reserves to find the grit, determination and strength of mind to beat off Joaquim Rodriguez‘s (Katusha) last-minute challenge in the final few hundred metres to the summit.

This weekend’s racing in the high mountains, ahead of a well-earned rest day on Monday, was intended to shake up the GC contenders. However, with riders and teams keener not to lose time rather than gain it, both stages have been illuminated by the unexpected.

Today’s stage concluded with another summit finish but, unlike yesterday, the riders encountered narrow, well-worn roads spread over a number of shorter, albeit steeper, categorised climbs in the Bergamo Alps.

Starting from Busto Arsizio – near Milan’s Malpensa airport – today’s route headed due east through Lombardy – home to many professional cyclists, including Liquigas’ Ivan Basso – to the Italian Lake District, specifically Lago di Lecco. While the first 70km were flat, the next 100km passed over four classified climbs, as follows:

Summit Climb

Length

Av. Gradient

Max

Cat

85.5km Valico di Valcava

11.6km

8.1 %

17 %

1

124.6km Forcella di Bura

10.9km

4.3 %

12 %

3

143km Culmine di San Pietro

9.8km

5.2 %

12 %

2

170km Pian dei Resinelli

7.8km

7.8 %

12 %

2

Action on three fronts

The stage started with a minute’s respectful silence for those killed overnight in an earthquake in Emilia Romagna. Rabottini went away after 18km in the company of Bonnafond and they quickly built an impressive lead of close to nine minutes. Bonnafond was dropped on the first climb of the day and Rabottini plodded along on his own for the remaining 80km with only the encouragement from his team car for company.

At one point Cunego became virtual race leader (image courtesy of Lampre-ISD)

In Rabottini’s wake, a large chasing group formed which included, among others, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)  – at one point the virtual maglia rosa – along with yesterday’s stage winner Andrey Amador (Movistar), Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF Bardiani), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alberto Losada (Katusha), who were to spear-head the final pursuit of Rabottini. At one time, the group swelled to 11 or so riders but numbers were whittled down on the final treacherous descent off San Pietro where Rabobank’s Pedro Horrillo had a near-fatal fall three years ago.

Back in the peloton with the GC contenders, Liquigas-Cannondale rode once again as if they were leading the race, with Sylvester ‘Metronome’ Szmyd taking enormous turns on the climbs. But with 60km remaining, the team backed off the initial chase to try and force other teams to give them a helping hand. Finally Garmin-Barracuda, the team of maglia rosa Ryder Hesjedal, capitulated, the chase to the foot of the final climb began in earnest and the time gap tumbled. On the run in, Astana led the fray, possibly hoping to shake off some of the contenders but they were all in contention at the foot of the Pian dei Resinelli.

Were we going to get fireworks or would it be another damp squib with all the favourites eyeballing one another while being unwilling to attack for fear of losing time?

Ding-dong battle on the final climb

Rabottini still had two minutes in hand over the chasing quintet as he started the final ascent. Meanwhile Astana’s ripping up the road had reduced the leading bunch to around 30 riders. Initially their efforts had dislodged Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago) but he soon clawed his way back to the reduced peloton.

Pirazzi, who’d sat on the chasing group, soloed off once again, leaving Eurosport’s Sean Kelly to ponder at both his and his team’s tactics. The strategy of attack and counter-attack employed by the chasing group merely played into the hands of Rabottini who was probably in a world of pain as he grimly battled away. Finally, Losada was the only one who was both able and willing to chase, while the efforts of the other four dissipated on the final climb.

Heroic victory for Matteo Rabottini on stage 15 (image courtesy of official race website)

Heroic victory for Matteo Rabottini on stage 15 (image courtesy of Giro website)

With 2.1km remaining, Szymd peeled off leaving Ivan Basso to fend for himself. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) attacked 500 metres later. Basso responded along with Rodriguez and Sergio Henao (Sky) – who would end the day taking over the white jersey of best young rider from teammate Rigoberto Uran – and they overtook a weary Cunego, who was pedalling squares at this point. With just over 1km remaining, Rodriguez accelerated and no one followed. He rapidly overhauled Pirazzi and Txurruka, reached and passed teammate Losada and, with just 500m to go, had young Rabottini in his crosshairs.

At this point, every fan on the slope and everyone in front of their television screens was no doubt audibly exhorting Rabottini. Was he to be cruelly denied after his brave endeavours, were his toils to be in vain? Hell no, as our Kitty would say! With 300m to go, as Purito passed him he latched onto his wheel, gritted his teeth, dug deep in the well of courage and took him on the inside to win the stage. Dreams do sometimes come true!

Rodriguez’s consolation for losing out on the stage win was to immediately reclaim the maglia rosa which he had lost yesterday. Ryder Hesjedal defended bravely, but had no response for the Spaniard’s final attack.

Afterwards, the winner declared:

After more than 150km in a break, winning in the sprint was an amazing feeling. Like everyone I had come to the Giro hoping to win a stage… and I’ve done it! This is truly the best day of my life. I had [Farnese DS] Luca Scinto and [Farnese CEO] Valentino Sciotti in the team car cheering me on. When Rodriguez came up to me, I almost lost all hope, but I held firm and it went well. To whom do I dedicate this victory? To the child who is set to make me a father in two weeks and to my girlfriend.

Meanwhile, on regaining the leader’s pink jersey, Rodriguez confirmed:

Yesterday I suffered a lot, but today I had the opportunity to take the pink jersey again. I was scared of the bad weather, but at the end of the stage my feelings were so good when Scarponi attacked. Losada was not able to catch Rabottini, so I attacked beacuse I saw that Hesjedal had fallen back. It is clear that the pink jersey brings additional responsibilities but as we enter the last mountainous week I have to deal with them and hopefully fulfill my dream.

Quote of the day: Eurosport’s David Harmon:

That’s the first time anything named Cipollini has won going uphill.

Odd occurrences: Cold, wet and foggy conditions spared us fans in lurid underpants however both Didi the Devil and a disinterested donkey were on the slopes of the final climb. The former wore a very practical pink rain cape while the donkey had the obligatory pink pullover.

VeloVoices rider of the stage: It just had to be our young hero Matteo Rabottini who now adds a stage win in the Giro d’Italia to his 2010 stage win in the Baby Giro.

Stage 15 result:

1. Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) 5:15:30

2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) same time

3. Alberto Losada (Katusha) +0:23

4. Sergio Henao (Sky) +0:25

5. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) s/t

General classification:

1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) 65:11:07

2. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:30

3. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:22

4. Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) +1:26

5. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +1:27

6. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) +1:36

7. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) +1:42

8. Sergio Henao (Sky) +1:55

9. Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2:12

10. Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) +2:13

Points leader: Mark Cavendish (Sky).

King of the Mountains leader: Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia).

Tomorrow: The second and final rest day. Racing resumes on Tuesday with stage 16 – Limone sul Garda to Falzes/Pfalzen, 173km. The peloton faces the prospect of travelling uphill virtually all day, with a sting in the tail of a 2.3km section at 8.6% inside the final 5km which includes a short section of pavé for good measure. This stage is well suited to a successful breakaway, so expect teams who have nothing to show from the first two weeks to be desperate to launch men into what could be a crowded escape group.

Cycling the Alps‘ interactive videos of the route can be found here.

Link: Official website

2 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia stage 15: Richly deserved victory for young Rabottini

  1. What a ride, what a win! It was really heart-in-mouth stuff at times, but I loved the way his head didn’t drop when Purito came around him in the final few hundred metres and clung on to his wheel before whipping back past him. And you just know J-Rod wanted those extra bonus seconds too – that was no gift. A proper, proper win. 🙂

  2. Sheree says:

    Tim, there were no bonus seconds on offer yesterday, which was possibly fortunate for young Rabottini. Plus, Purito had no desire to earn the emnity of the tifosi – smart move. He just wanted the pink pullover back and to put valuable seconds into the other GC contenders. That said, I don’t think it was a gift, I do think Rabottini won fair and square!

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