Riccardo Ricco gave the Saunier Duval team another stage win the Giro on Sunday after being part of the decisive break through the Dolomite mountains and up to the spectacular finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
The 23 year-old Italian climber won just ahead of team mate Leonardo Piepoli after the two dropped Colombia?s Ivan Parra (Cofidis) in the final metres of the steep climb. Parra finished ten seconds behind, with Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Panaria) fourth at 32 seconds.
Ricco is only in his second year as a professional but has already won seven races. He had problems with a high haematocrit before turning professional but was given a special ?natural high? licence by the UCI and joined Saunier Duval in 2006. He is considered a future overall winner of the Giro d?Italia and openly admits he will be riding to win the Giro in 2008.
?This is the first win at the Giro d?Italia and it?s the best win of my career. Winning the most important stage of the Giro is every rider?s dream,? Ricco said.
?On the first climb of the stage Simoni told me and Piepoli to attack to try and win the stage. We worked hard to open a good gap. Parra and Perez Cuapio hardly did any work and then when Parra attacked with 800 metres to go I know how hard the climb is to the finish and so waited until the final 300 metres before sprinting. Me and Piepoli were side by side in the final metres but we had already decided that I?d win because he won a stage a few days ago.?
Ricco is now sixth overall, 3:39 behind Di Luca but admitted he has no chance of overall victory.
?If Di Luca rides like he?s doing at the moment there?s nothing we can do to beat him. I was allowed to go clear today because I?m not a threat overall. Gilberto Simoni is our team leader and we?re riding for him. I hope to go for overall victory next year.?
DI LUCA MAKES LATE CHARGE
Di Luca made a late attack on the steepest part of the climb to the finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo and gained time on most of his rivals for overall victory. Only Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana) managed to slip his grasp by making a lone attack 20km from the finish. He finished fifth, 1:29 behind Ricco but gained 1:24 on Di Luca. He is now second overall at 1:51.
?Mazzoleni is my big rival now,? Di Luca admitted.
?He?s very strong in time trials and will be a threat in the final time trial to Verona, so I can?t let him gain more time. I want to win the Giro, so I?ve got to attack on the climb to the finish at Monte Zoncolan on Wednesday.?
?Today I judged my effort carefully and attacked and fought back in the last four kilometres. I was happy with my strong finale.?
After two weeks of hard racing, the riders enjoy the second rest day of the Giro on Monday. The racing recommences on Tuesday with the 189km 16th stage from Agordo to Lienz in Austria.
GIRO D’ITALIA: STAGE 15 RESULTS
1 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval – Prodir 184km in 5.47.22
2 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval – Prodir
3 Ivan Ramiro Parra Pinto (Col) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone 0.10
4 Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Mex) Ceramica Panaria – Navigare 0.32
5 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana 1.29
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 2.53
7 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval – Prodir 3.30
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – Fondital 3.36
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 3.52
10 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria – Navigare 6.03
64 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas at 29.47
108 Steve Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channnel at 37.23
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 15
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas 68.00.55
2 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Astana 1.51
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 2.56
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval – Prodir 3.19
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – Fondital 3.23
6 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval – Prodir 3.39
7 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 6.05
8 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria – Navigare 7.02
9 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff Credit System 7.29
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre – Fondital 9.29
36 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas at 53.02
110 Steve Cummings (GBr) Discovery Channnel at 2.12.50