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Giro d'Italia; On the scene at Monte Zoncolan for Stage Fifteen

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The climb we'd all been waiting for, Monte Zoncolan, did not disappoint.  Both spectacular and decisive, the Zoncolan stage was everything a grand tour mountain stage should be.  And it made for a great photo op, as well :-)

More photos on the flip...      

On Monte Zoncolan, we were allowed to drive most of the way up the backside of the climb (the road used in the 2003 Giro), and then it was a chairlift ride to the top.  This shot of me shows the view from the top of the chairlift.

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A huge crowd covered the steep slopes near the finish line.  I walked along the top of the ridge until I found a way to drop down to the road. 

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I ended up about 300 meters from the finish, just at the beginning of the barricades.  Below me, members of the military mountain guard alternated with police officers in a continuous line along both sides of the narrow road, holding hands to create an impenetrable barrier to prevent the tifosi from crowding the riders.

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When Basso appeared, the cheers were deafening.

Gone was the Smiling Assassin of 2006.  Basso's grimace showed the strain of his incredible effort.

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It was quite a while before Cadel Evans came by, also sufferning mightily.

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Cunego had a strong ride to finish fourth, followed by Vinokourov.

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Bauke Mollema was second best of the young riders on the day, preceded only by Dan Martin.

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Richie Porte had an impressive ride to hang on to his second place on GC.  He was followed just a few seconds later by Chris Sorensen.

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When Simoni came by, the crowd chanted, "Gi-bo, Gi-bo, Gi-bo."

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Matt Lloyd didn't look too stoked about what he could see around the next hairpin.

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Basso was hugged by a few of the Italian journalists as he came into the press conference, which was basically a love fest.

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Susie Hartigan for Podium Cafe