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Giro d’Italia Stage 15 UPDATES

LIVE UPDATES 1:15 p.m. Good morning to our U.S. readers. Today's stage, Terme Euganee - Conegliano, is a flat 156 appetizer for bigger things to come in the Dolomites Wednesday and Thursday. This is probably Jens Heppner's last chance to extend his hold on the maglia rosa as the big climbs rise up tomorrow and the Giro breaks wide open. Today, we might even see another strong pperformance by ol' Mario himself. Stay tuned. Race time is 1:20.Giro gets downright weird: Casagrande sent packing 1:45 p.m. The race is underway. It is cloudy, and around 70 degrees today. There is little wind

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Stage 15: Euganee – Conegliano — 156km

LIVE UPDATES

1:15 p.m. Good morning to our U.S. readers.

Today’s stage, Terme Euganee – Conegliano, is a flat 156 appetizer for bigger things to come in the Dolomites Wednesday and Thursday.

This is probably Jens Heppner’s last chance to extend his hold on the maglia rosa as the big climbs rise up tomorrow and the Giro breaks wide open.

Today, we might even see another strong pperformance by ol’ Mario himself. Stay tuned. Race time is 1:20.Giro gets downright weird: Casagrande sent packing

1:45 p.m. The race is underway. It is cloudy, and around 70 degrees today. There is little wind and it hasn’t yet begun to rain, though it is threatening. The Giro is now down to 157 participants.

2:08 p.m. The peloton is nearing the top of today’s ranked climb, the Cat. III Castelnuovo. We’ll have the climber’s points results soon.

The UCI conducted pre-start hematocrit tests on all participants today. Everyone was allowed to start. A day at the 2002 Giro without a drug scandal!

2:23 p.m. There has been a crash in the peloton. On the approach tot he top of the climb, John Freddy Garcia (Col) Colombia-Selle Italia, was involved in a mishap and is being transported to the hospital for an examination. We’ll try to update you as to his condition when reports become available.

Garcia’s teammate, Joaquim Castelblanco, took the top spot on the climb. The peloton is still largely intact.

It is raining.

2:33 p.m. After an hour of racing, the peloton has covered 28.1km. It’s a moderate start to the day and we can expect things to pick up as the finish approaches.

2:45 p.m. After a few unsuccessful and short-lived breaks by other riders, Lotto’s Thierry Marichal has slipped off the front and now has a 45-second advantage.

2:53 p.m. Marichal, now at the 50km mark, has a minute on the field.

3:05 p.m. Marichal has extended his lead to 2:14.

3:15 p.m. The last time check at 60km, gives Marichal an advantage of 2:18.

The rain is really picking up.

3:35 p.m. The most recent time check we’ve received gives Marichal a lead of 2:03,

Telkeom is leading the chase in the rain.

3:40 p.m. Marichal’s lead is shrinking. His advantage is now under two minutes.

In non-Giro news, word from Germany today is that 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich has had arthroscopic knee surgery. Early reports is that the surgery went well. Ullrich, of course, has already pulled out of this year’s Tour.

3:47 p.m. With Acqua e Sapone and Telekom at the front of the peloton, Marichal has a lead of 1:50.

3:57 p.m. With a pouring rain, race officials are amending the day’s rules and placing the finishing circuit under special regulations. The riders’ finishing times will be assigned based on the time the riders cross through the start/finish zone for the first time. The stage win, however, will be determined at the end of the three-lap circuit.

In other words, if a rider doesn’t want to fight his way through the finishing circuit on wet and twisting roads, he won’t have to.

Marichal’s advantage is now down 1:30.

4:07 p.m. Marichal’s advantage is down to 1:20.

4:15 p.m. Marichal is getting reeled back in. He has slowed and the pack is just 40 seconds behind him.

4:20 p.m. Marichal’s advantage is back up around 45. No one is really chasing hard and Marichal is taking it easy, snacking and getting ready to be absorbed by the field.

We are coming up on the day’s Intergiro at the 109km mark.

4:23 p.m. Marichal takes the Intergiro and Phonak’s Massimo Strazzer crossed the line 20 seconds later.

There are now 47km remaining in today’s stage.

4:28 p.m. With 43 km remaining in today’s stage Marichal has been brought back into the field.

4:34 p.m. The attacks have started, but Acqua e Sapone and Telekom are keeping an eye on things.

Rabaobank’s Aussie Mathew Hayman is trying his luck off the front and has a 10-second advantage.

4:36 p.m. Hayman is back in the field.

4:44 p.m. We have 30km to go. The entire group is together.

A reminder that the closing 13km — fought out on a 4.3km circuit — will still be included, but riders will have their time applied to GC as they cross the start/finish line for the first time. This way riders who chose to take the cautious approach on these wet roads won’t be penalized.

4:55 p.m. The race is closing in on Conegliano. The peloton is intact and we have 22km remaining.

5:00 p.m. The peloton is in Conegliano. The narrow streets of this old city are wet and quite slippery. The big players are taking it easy, while the sprinters and their teams are moving up. The riders are yet to cross the start/finish line for the first time.

Mercatone Uno’s Fabio Fontinelli is trying his luck off the front.

5:05 p.m. Fontinelli has been caught and the peloton has crossed the start/finish area intact. As a result, there have been no significant changes in the overall standings. Jens Heppner holds on to the maglia rosa for another day. Riders do have to finish these final three laps, but won’t suffer a penalty if they take it easy.

There are 12.5km remaining.

5:08 p.m. With 10km to go, the front of the peloton is all zebra stripes. Mario Cipollini is aiming for another stage win.

5:13 p.m. The Acqua e Sapone team is leading the field as the peloton crosses the finish line for the final 4.3-km lap.

5:15 p.m. There are 2km to go. The Acqua e Sapone team is still up front, though Phonak is really trying to move in on the action.

5:17 p.m. In the final kilometer, it’s all Acqua e Sapone.

Cipollini takes it!