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Giovanni Visconti wins stage 15 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia; Vincenzo Nibali holds lead

Visconti solos to victory in the snow, Nibali tests his legs in the finale, and Betancur takes over the white jersey

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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) rode through the snow to victory on Sunday in stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia.

Visconti moved ahead on the Col du Télégraphe in the 149km leg from Cesana Torinese to the Col du Galibier. And while Matteo Rabottini (Vini Fantini) launched a solo chase on the Galibier, he couldn’t quite seal the deal.

With 2km to go the Vini Fantini man was more than a minute down as he chased Visconti through a light snow.

Behind, race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) tested his rivals in the dwindling favorites group, just in case anyone was thinking about testing him. The surge brought back the flagging Rabottini.

But not Visconti — he hit the red kite alone, facing a maximum slog of 11 percent en route to the finish.

It was a near thing, but an exhausted Visconti just made it, taking the victory and saluting the crowd. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished second with Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre) third.

“I’ve waited a long time for this, one and a half years. I’ve really suffered. It wasn’t easy,” said Visconti.

“Today I gave everything. I got into the right move and worked well up the Télégraphe. I was thinking about my family, my baby. This is [Marco] Pantani’s climb. We share the same birthday [January 13]. It was a day for me.”

Betancur was hoping it might be a day for him — and it was, in that he took over the white jersey of best young rider from Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff). But he wanted the stage victory, too.

“It’s a shame to miss the win again,” he said. “The cold made it difficult to attack. We left it a bit too late. I’ve come close to winning, I hope to have another chance in this Giro.

“It’s nice to have the white jersey. It’s one of my goals coming into this Giro. Majka is a very strong rider, so it won’t be easy.”

On the overall, Nibali remains firmly in charge going into the final rest day of the 2013 Giro, 1:26 ahead of Evans in second. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Sky) sits third at 2:46.

Piano, piano

The bunch rode as one up the Col du Mont Cenis before a break finally coalesced.

Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole) got things going. He was joined first by Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), and then by Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge); Rabottini, Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani Valvole), Visconti and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli).

Weening left the others behind, but not for long — as the escapees went over the top and down the other side a rebuilt seven-man group went on to build a six-minute lead over a disinterested peloton, led by Astana on behalf of race leader Nibali.

As the gap dwindled to less than two minutes, Pirazzi attacked the break, trying to reach the summit of the Col du Télégraphe alone. Weening followed, making it a two-man go.

Behind, Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked out of the bunch, led by Astana.

Sergio Luis Henao (Sky) had a dig next with 26km to race. Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack) followed, and a general peppering of attacks followed as the bunch cut itself to ribbons on the climb.

At the front of the race Rabottini and Visconti rejoined Pirazzi and Weening. Behind, Henao and Kiserlovski caught Gesink and Martinez.

Visconti goes it alone

Then Visconti moved ahead alone, leading over the Télégraphe and charging toward the Col du Galibier.

Behind, the chase was down to Pirazzi, Rabottini and Weening. Rabottini had a dig on the lower slopes of the Galibier, but Weening brought him back.

Rabottini attacked again, and this time Weening did not chase. That left Visconti out front with Rabottini in pursuit.

With 8km to go Visconti led Rabottini by just under 40 seconds. The remnants of the maglia rosa group swept up the Gesink group, and first Juan Manual Garate and then Wilco Kelderman tried their luck.

Rabottini could make no headway on the final grind as behind, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked the bunch, trailed by Damiano Caruso (Cannondale). Astana paid no mind, as they were no threat to Nibali.

When Nibali took a hand himself, it was clear that pretty much nobody was a threat — he finished seventh on the day, safely among his rivals for the maglia rosa, just behind Michele Scarponi (Lampre) and just ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), with Rigoberto Uran Uran (Sky) rounding out the top 10.

“I tried on the Galibier to make a selection, but it was too cold. There was no going anywhere in these conditions,” Nibali said. “It would have been nice to have come away something from this stage, but we are content. We have the jersey going into the rest day. The Giro is still long.”