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Giro d'Italia

The final push: A look ahead to the closing days of the Giro d’Italia

Thus far in the Giro d’Italia, the key mountain stages have all featured a singleclimb at the end of an otherwise flat of rolling course. It has been apattern that’s proved perfect for race leader Ivan Basso. Every time —on the Passo di Larciano of stage 8, the Colle San Carlo on stage 13 andMonte Bondone on stage 16 — the CSC team leader has ridden away from allof his chief opponents. Indeed, Wednesday's Stage 17 would have featured a huge climb in the middle, but weather forced the eliminationof the Passo del Erbe from what was to have been the "Queen stage" of theGiro.Perhaps it will

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By John Wilcockson

Thus far in the Giro d’Italia, the key mountain stages have all featured a singleclimb at the end of an otherwise flat of rolling course. It has been apattern that’s proved perfect for race leader Ivan Basso. Every time —on the Passo di Larciano of stage 8, the Colle San Carlo on stage 13 andMonte Bondone on stage 16 — the CSC team leader has ridden away from allof his chief opponents. Indeed, Wednesday’s Stage 17 would have featured a huge climb in the middle, but weather forced the eliminationof the Passo del Erbe from what was to have been the “Queen stage” of theGiro.Perhaps it will be different on the upcoming stages 19 and 20, bothof which contains multiple climbs, making it much harder for CSC to controlthe attacks and breakaways. Perhaps this will open the way for GilbertoSimoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) or Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital), whohave so far been stifled in their naturally attacking styles. It’s highlyunlikely, of course, that anyone will be able to displace Basso from firstplace, but the respectively second and third GC places of José Gutierrez(Phonak) and Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) look to be accessible.Here’s a close look at the 2006 Giro’s final four  stages:
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Stage 18: Starting in Austria, this 210km stage has “breakaway”written all over it. It has enough climbs (three categorized and threeunrated) to rule out the sprinters, although points leader Paolo Bettini(Quick Step) is quite capable of going with a breakaway and using the short,steep hills near the end for a possible stage win. Otherwise, this couldbe a good day for AG2R’s French climbing revelation John Gadret or evenCunego.Stage 19: This marathon 224km stage features the most amountof climbing in a single day at this year’s Giro, with four major climbsproviding a total of 16,394 feet of elevation gain. The opening 12.4kmForella Staulanza averages 6.8 percent; the 13.3km Passo di Fedáia(aka the Marmolada) has pitches as steep as 18 percent; the 11.8km PassoPordoi averages 6.6 percent; and the 18.5km climb to the finish on thePasso San Pellegrino has some 15-percent pitches. Any of the leaders whofalters on this stage could lose a lot of time.Stage 20: As in 2005, the Giro organizers hope for a dramaticpenultimate day. Last year, Savoldelli almost conceded the pink jerseyto an attack by Simoni, Danilo Di Luca and José Rujano over theColle di Finestre to Sestriere. This year, besides the Giro’s highest mountainpass, the 8589-foot Gavia, halfway through the 211km stage, the survivorsof this rugged final week face the infamous Mortirolo 30km from the uphillfinish at Aprica. Averaging 10.2 percent for 12.8km, the very narrow Mortirolohas an 18-percent pitch in its midsection. The steep switchback is justwhere a new memorial remembers the late Marco Pantani — the last riderto perform the Giro-Tour de France double currently being attempted byBasso.Stage 21: The final stage starts outside the new cycling museumnext to the Madonna des Ghisallo chapel where former Giro champions areremembered with their bikes, leader jerseys and other memorabilia. Bassois the favorite to join them. As for this mostly downhill 140km stage,which ends with 1l laps of a completely flat circuit finishing on the CorsoVenezia in downtown Milan, it could provide Bettini with another stagewin and the cyclamen-colored points jersey.SUMMARY OF 89TH GIRO D’ITALIA
May 6 Stage 1 Seraing (B) TT  6.2km
Winner: Savoldelli; GC: Savoldelli
May 7 Stage 2 Mons (B)—Charleroi-Marcinelle (B) 197km
Winner: McEwen; GC: Savoldelli
May 8  Stage 3 Perwez (B)—Namur (B)  202km
Winner: Schumacher; GC: Schumacher
May 9  Stage 4 Wanze (B)—Hotton (B)   193km
Winner: McEwen; GC: SchumacherMay 10  Transfer and rest dayMay 11  Stage 5 Piacenza—Cremona TTT  38km
Winner: Team CSC; GC: Gontchar
May 12  Stage 6 Busseto—Forli  227km
Winner: McEwen; GC: Pollack
May 13 Stage 7 May 13 Cesena—Saltara 236km
Winner: Verbrugghe; GC: Gontchar
May 14  Stage 8 Civitanova Marche—Maielletta (Passo Lanciano)171km
Winner: Basso; GC: Basso
May 15  Stage 9 Francavilla al Mare—Termoli  127km
Winner: Vaitkus; GC: Basso
May 16  Stage 10 Termoli—Peschici  187km
Winner: Pellizotti; GC: BassoMay 17 Transfer and rest dayMay 18  Stage 11 Pontedera—Pontedera TT 50km
Winner: Ullrich; GC: Basso
May 19  Stage 12 Livorno—Sestri Levante 171km
Winner: Horrillo; GC: Basso
May 20  Stage 13 Alessandria—La Thuile 218km
Winner: Piepoli; GC: Basso
May 21  Stage 14 Aosta—Domodossola 223km
Winner: Laverde; GC: Basso
May 22  Stage 15 Mergozzo—Brescia 189km
Winner: Bettini; GC: Basso
May 23  Stage 16 Rovato—Trento (Monte Bondone) 173km
Winner: Basso; GC: BassoMay 24  Stage 17 Termeno—Plan de Corones 133km
May 25  Stage 18 Sillian (A)—Gemona del Friuli 210km
May 26  Stage 19 Pordenone—Passo di San Pellegrino 224km
May 27  Stage 20 Trento—Aprica 211km
May 28  Stage 21 Ghisallo—Milan 140kmTOTAL DISTANCE: 3526.2km