Stage 15 of the 2013 Giro d’Itlia was as tough a stage as the race had offered, both because of the weather and the terrain.
After snow forced alterations to the route of Stage 14 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, it was feared that Stage 15 would also have to be changed, and that the finish on the famous Col du Galibier would be cancelled.
Luckily, all three climbs, the Cat One Col du Mont Cenis and the Cat Two Col du Télégraphe, which immediately preceded Galibier, were left in the stage, despite deep snow at the top of Mont Cenis. The final 4.25 kilometers of the Galibier climb were omitted; otherwise the route was as scheduled. The stage ended at the monument to
It was Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti who won the stage after attacking a breakaway on the slopes of Col du Télégraphe, 24 km from the finish line. The 30-year-old Italian managed to outrun the rest of the peloton up the grueling Galibier climb, crossing the finish line 42 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
Visconti had to pedal uphill through falling snow to claim his victory, his first in a Grand Tour.
“I can’t still believe I won in such a mythical climb like this. It’s been a really hard year for me and I took everything out of my heart for this victory,” Visconti said on Movistarteam.com.
“I didn’t have energy left for the finale, but it was my mind which climbed through today.
“This is me, not the one you saw during the last one and a half years. All my team-mates and the staff were so happy for me because they know what I’ve gone through.”
Visconti had to withdraw from the 2012 Giro due to shortness of breath possibly due to a panic attack. The in December of that year, he was banned for three months for associating with Dr. Michele Ferrari, who was banned for life for running a doping ring. Visconti, who claimed he never used performance-enhancing drugs, still lost three months out of his competition career.
Visconti came back from both his health issues and whatever happened in his past; his win in Stage 15 completes his rehabilitation.
The organizers included the climb up Mont Cenis at the beginning of the race despite the snow on the peak; there simply were no alternative routes back through the Alps and into Italy.
There were two major concerns about the climb, or rather the descent from the climb. First was the hazard posed by snow on the road; a rider descending at over fifty miles per hour could hit an icy patch and crash.
The other problem was temperature. While riders could endure the freezing temperatures on the climb, they would be soaked in sweat on the descent where with the wind chill temperatures would be 20 degrees below zero.
Many riders had already been forced to abandon the race due to illness exacerbated by cold, rainy weather; this descent seemed like a real health hazard, one which might affect a rider’s entire season.
The leaders of the peloton talked things over and decided to neutralize the first third of the stage; no one would race until after the descent from Mont Cenis.
The plan didn’t work perfectly. Just before the top of the climb a few riders attacked the slow-pedaling peloton, eager to win King of the Mountain points. Bardiani’s Stefano Pirazzi, eager to protect his lead in the climbing competition, was first over the peak; once he got the points he sat up and let the peloton catch up.
Some riders actually stopped completely at the top of the mountain to put on extra clothing to protect against the cold of the descent. Clearly no one was interested in racing yet—except for Pieter Weening of Orica-GreenEdge who had followed Pirazzi over the crest and had not slowed down.
Four riders set off in pursuit: Pirazzi, Visconti, Robinson Chalapud of Columbia, Matteo Rabottini of Vini Fantini, and Paolo Longo of Cannondale.
Another pair of riders, Bardiani’s Francesco Bongiorno and Androni’s Manuel Rubiano, chased down the breakaway, making it seven riders out ahead.
The gap was still sizeable at 4:45 with 40 km left in the stage, but these would be all uphill, a real test of the breakaway riders.
The Climbing Begins
Everybody’s legs were reasonably fresh as they hadn’t pushed on the day’s first climb, so as the road sloped uphill, the attacks started from the peloton and from the break.
Blanco’s Robert Gesink attacked the break with Euskaltel’s Egoi Martinez and Lotto’s Francis de Greef. Garmin’s Peter Stetina tried to follow, but failed.
Gesink’s attack prompted a counterattack by Sky’s Sergio Henao and RadioShack’s Robert Kiserlovski. Ag2R sent Hubert Dupont up the road to catch these riders, but he couldn’t make the catch. Vini Fantini’s Danilo Di Luca had better luck.
Henao and Kiserlovski caught the Gesink trio 25 km from the finish. Meanwhile, Stefano Pirazzi attacked the peloton, looking for more KOM points atop Col du Télégraphe. Weening went with him; Visconti and Rabottini bridged across.
Once over the crest, Visconti made his move. He had 1500 meters of the Cat Two Télégraphe to climb. The descent from Télégraphe to the start of Galibier was only four kilometers long; at fifty miles per hour it was over in an instant, and the Movistar rider faced a hard 13-kilometer uphill time trial to take the stage win.
Movistar’s José Herrada attacked the peloton next, followed by Ag2R’s Ben Gasteur. As they chased the chase group, Robert Gesink attacked again, dropping all the chasers except Martinez and Kiserlovski. Three riders eventually caught this trio, creating a six-man chase: Gesink, Kiserlovski, Martinez, Henao, Chalapud, and Rubiano.
This group only had a minute on the peloton when Visconti started the climb. That proved not to be enough as they were caught after three kilometers.
Rabottini, Weening, and Pirazzi still pressed on, cutting the gap to the leader to 39 seconds with 8.5 km left in the stage. Rabottini dropped the other two with seven km to go, but they toiled on after him.
Rain started falling as Visconti pushed on up the climb, turning to snow as he got within five km of the finish. This didn’t slow him down, as he stretched his gap over the three chasers to 50 seconds.
Back in the peloton many riders launched unsuccessful attacks. Only Blanco’s Wilco Kelderman made good his escape. Kelderman passed Weening and Pirazzi 2.2 km from the finish and almost caught Pirazzi 1300 meters from the finish, but by then the peloton—much reduce—was on a charge.
Race Leader Vincenzo Nibali attacked with 1.7 km left in the stage, with Michele Scarponi, Cadel Evans, Carlos Betancur, and Mauro Santambrogio on his wheel. This group caught all the chasers except Rabottini before the 1-km banner.
Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka attacked 1100 meters out, looking for points in the Best Young Rider classification. Carlos Betancur covered the move. Columbia’s Fabio Duarte then attacked, and both Majka and Betancur followed.
Lampre’s Przemyslaw Niemiec chased, caught, and passed this group just before the line. Only Betancur could respond, and he snuck past the Lampre rider to take second.
The maglia rosa group, led by Michele Scarponi, finished a few seconds behind Duarte and Majka, so there were no changes in the overall standings.