The winter weather visiting this year's Giro d'Italia took a powder long enough to allow Stage Fifteen to proceed, with all but four kilometers (2.5mi) of its original 148km (92.5mi) route intact. Those clicks were excised at the top of the Col du Galibier, the fearsome French mountain where the stage finished. Fittingly, the shortened finish came alongside the memorial for Marco Pantani, the Italian Giro-Tour double champion, the last man to win both in a single year. Pantani rode into yellow on a cold wet day in the Alps.
For Cannondale Pro Cycling, any success in the stage would come at the end. Damiano Caruso's strong showing yesterday meant he could have the legs to win atop the Galibier.
The race crossed into France, in a tribute to the hundredth Tour de France, coming this summer, on the slopes of the Col du Mount Cenis, where the field was still together most of the way up. Summer was far from everyone's minds as the climb was snow-lined all the way to the summit.
Closer to the summit, the climbers looking for King of the Mountain points started attacking. KoM leader Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani led over the top, followed by five riders, including rivals third-placed Robinson Chalapud of Colombia and seventh-placed Giovanni Visconti of Movistar.
The peloton, led by Maglia Rosa Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team, led the peloton, and allowed the gap to creep up to a bit over four minutes with 66km (41.25mi) remaining. Astana then picked up the pace to bring the gap down to a two-minute gap at the foot of the Col du Telegraphe with 30km remaining(19mi). The attacks began as soon as the road started to get steep.
In the breakaway, Visconti was feeling good and dispatched his companions with a seated acceleration. Behind, those seeking to make up time were riding away from the Astana-led peloton. Astana was steady as the attackers would try to get a gap.
Visconti won the Telegraphe climb, descended quickly to Valloire, and started up the 13.9km (8.68mi) ascent to the Pantani memorial.
Behind, there were more testing attacks. As nobody making a move was a threat to Nibali's lead, Astana kept their pace steady. Visconti was losing his advantage with every stroke. It started to rain. And then the rain started turning to snow.
With five kilometers (3.1mi) remaining Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez attacked the Pink Jersey group and Caruso joined him. As neither posed a threat to Nibali, there was no reason for Astana to chase. However, several threats to Nibali, including Lampre's Michele Scarponi started throwing down, which increased the pace and brought both Caruso and Sanchez back.
Into the final kilometer with his lead quickly fading, Visconti kept going. Behind, three riders looking for an edge in the best young rider competition attacked in search of seconds. They didn't catch Visconti, who rolled across the line alone. But they did put sixteen seconds on the Nibali group, which had Caruso tucked in at the back.
Caruso was happy with his result. "Today I found the opportunity and the right conditions to try an attack. The feeling was good and when I saw Sanchez move in front of the peloton I decided to follow his weel. It was good to try, also because I had nothing to lose. It was useful also to test my condition. For this, I'm happy. I have to face the last hard stage of the Giro in several days, and I feel ready. I'll race as I did through today, step by step. I don't want to lose any chances."
Tomorrow is a much-needed rest day. The riders will sleep late, ride easy, and catch up on life and laundry. Racing will return Tuesday with Stage Sixteen. They'll ride out of Valloire, back over the Col du Mount Cenis, back into Italy, en route to Ivrea 238km (149mi) away. It's the kind of finish that could favor Cannondale's Elia Viviani, as there's a short, stiff climb shortly before the flat finale. A win would be great, so, too, would be points in the sprint competition; thanks to the past few days, he has dropped from second to sixth in this race.
Giro d'Italia 2013
Cesana Torinese to Col du Galibier - 144.7km
1. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team in 4:40:48
2. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale 0:00:42
3. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida same time
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff same time
5. Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia 0:00:47
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
12. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:00:58
72. Cameron Wurf (Ita) 0:13:37
79. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 0:16:08
89. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:20:26
93. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) same time
112. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 0:27:54
116. Alan Marangoni (Ita) same time
143. Elia Viviani (Ita) same time
168. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) same time
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 62:02:34
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:26
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:46
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:02:47
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:03:53
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
18. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:09:57
69. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 1:39:34
81. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 1:47:17
84. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 1:49:19
104. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 2:11:24
114. Elia Viviani (Ita) 2:20:11
116. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 2:20:37
122. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 2:28:28
130. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 2:31:05