Spaniard Mikel Nieve of the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team triumphed on the 15th stage of the Tour of Italy over 229km from Conegliano to Gardeccia on Sunday. Race leader Alberto Contador, the reigning Tour de France champion, finished third to maintain his hold on the pink jersey.
Having never previously won a stage in this race during their 17-year existence, this was Euskaltel's second stage victory in a row following Igor Anton's success up the Zoncolan on Saturday. Italian veteran Stefano Garzelli, a former Tour of Italy winner, finished second on the stage, 1min 41sec back. Contador came in 10sec later having attacked his fellow contenders on the final climb.
Scarponi came in 6sec behind Contador to leapfrog compatriot Vincenzo Nibali, seventh on the stage at 3min 34sec, into second in the overall standings. Nibali is third ahead of Frenchman John Gadret while Anton, who started the day third overall, dropped to fifth after finishing outside the top 10. Nieve's efforts saw him climb to sixth overall. The day began with a 19-man breakaway on the first of five climbs and they soon established a gap of more than 10 minutes over the peloton. There were some important names in the group including former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and former Tour of Italy champion Danilo Di Luca. But it was Garzelli who made the lone break for home on the Passo Giau and he went over the top first to claim the Ciama Coppi prize, for the first person over the highest point on the tour.
Nieve proved the only man able to chase the Italian and after doing so for 50km and reeling in a gap that had stretched out to 1:30, he passed Garzelli on the final climb and there was no looking back. Meanwhile, behind, Nibali had attacked his fellow contenders on the Passo Giau descent but he was caught and left behind on the Fedaia, the penultimate climb. Nibali got back on the descent but he could not hang on when first Scarponi and then Contador dropped the throttle on the Rifugio Gardeccia.
Monday is the final rest day on this year's tour.
Giro d'Italia Stage 15
1. Mikel Nieve (ESP/Euskaltel) 7:27:14
2. Stefano Garzelli (ITA/ASA) @ 1:41
3. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) @ 1:51
4. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) @ 1:57
5. John Gadret (FRA/ALM) @ 2:28
6. Jose Rujano (VEN/AND) @ 2:35
7. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) @ 3:34
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) @ 3:34
9. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) @ 4:01
10. Alexandr Kuschynski (BLR/KAT) @ 4:13
General Classification After Stage 15
1. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 62:14:42
2. Michele Scarponi (ITA/LAM) @ 4:20
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) @ 5:11
4. John Gadret (FRA/ALM) @ 6:08
5. Mikel Nieve (ESP/EUS) @ 7:03
6. Jose Rujano Guillen (VEN/AND) @ 8:39
7. Denis Menchov (RUS/GEO) @ 8:46
8. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) @ 8:58
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) @ 9:20
10. David Arroyo (ESP/MOV) @ 9:30