Niamh Lewis brings live updates of a big day at the Giro d'Italia. Following Saturday's time trial it's time for the mountains, and there are four significant climbs on this tricky stage.
Team Deceuninck Portugal's rider Joao Almeida (C), wearing the Pink Jersey, competes during the fiteenth stage of the Giro d'Italia 2020 cycling race, a 185-kilometer route between Base Aerea Rivolto and Piancavallo on October 18, 2020
The top gradient on this climb is 14% and there's some riders with glasses off, jerseys unzipped and sweat dripping off their grimacing faces including race leader Joao Almeida, who is under pressure.
Rohan Dennis has been caught as the Sunweb train stretch the lead up the climb as they push on.
Chase group caught
Rohan Dennis' lead is being eaten away as the peloton absorb the chase group and the gap comes down to 40 seconds.
10km to go.
We are on the final climb of the day, a category one climb with a summit finish to the ski town of Piancavallo. Nicknamed in the Giro as 'Montagna Pantani' (mountain Pantani) because of course the legend himself won here in the Giro d'Italia in 1988.
Mikel Landa has also won here in 2017.
11km to go.
Onto the final climb, then with 14km to go.
Dennis is still leading by 1:01" and this will be detrimental to Deceuninck-Quick-Step as Almeida risks losing his pink jersey he's held so tightly on to.
The route passes through a 4km long tunnel - not something we see every day in bike racing, but there's lots of them up here in this lumpy region. There's also a lot of rivers - and becks as we say in Cumbria - with water so clean it looks turquoise. A lot of bottled water comes from this region - there's a fun fact you didn't need to know.
So, Dennis who is head down-bum up resting on his handlebars in a time trial has 37 seconds on the De Gendt group. Behind is the Navarro group at 1:45", and then follows the peloton.
23km to go.
36km to go
Since Rohan Dennis is the race leader, he collects the King of the Mountain points atop of Forcella di Pala Barzana (9.2km, 5%). But Giovanni Visconti still leads the day with 118 points in total so far.
Meanwhile, Team Ineos Grenadiers say Ecuador's Narvaez has abandoned the race after the earlier crash.
"Sadly that crash has forced Jhonatan Narvaez to abandon this year's Giro. He took a painful hit so he will be taken for checks. We'll have an update on the stage 12 winner in our race report."
Dennis attacks - 44km to go
Fish finger sandwich assembled.
Rohan Dennis has attacked and he's out on his own since he dropped Thomas De Gendt.
A spectator sat in a precarious position on the wall, filming on his phone, next to the racing line looked like he nearly got pounded by the TV camera as it went by.
Just as my fish fingers are probably burning in the oven, Rohan Dennis is pushing the pace on a bit so I can't look away from the pictures.
With 49km to go we are coming up to another intermediate sprint. In this small break a few seconds ahead of the was-leading group along side Dennis, we have Thomas De Gendt, Davide Villella and Giovanni Visconti.
The peloton are 3 minutes 12 seconds behind.
I'd best go and check on my fish fingers.
Crash - 55km to go
Three riders down! A nasty crash there as the route descends a gradual right-hand bend and three riders look to have slipped and skidded into the gutter.
Jefferson Cepada of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec is the last to go down but first to get up and get back on his bike again.
Nicolas Edet of Cofidis and Jhonatan Narvaez are still on the ground being checked over by one of the team.
64km to go
Movistar's Davide Villella has punctured and dropped out of the lead group for a wheel change. He's 35 seconds behind the leaders and the peloton are 3 minutes 52 seconds further back.
Two climbs down, two to go!
Recap of the today's stage...
Giro d'Italia 2020 - Stage 15 Profile
Intermediate points - 76km to go
Giovanni Visconti collects another 18 points at the top of the Forcella di Monte Rest to take his KOM tally to 36 today, so he will collect the Maglia Azzurra (blue climber's jersey).
The lead group's gap has dropped to four minutes and 36 seconds on the peloton. No attacks yet, looks like they're saving their legs for the Piancavallo!
86km to go
The lead group of 11 riders - including Andrea Vendrame, Thomas De Gendt, Mark Padun, Rohan Dennis, Matthew Holmes, and Giovanni Visconti - still have 5 minutes and 55 seconds on the peloton as they begin to ascend the Forcella di Monte Rest (7.4km and 7%).
It's a deceiving name since this is definitely not an opportunity to rest.
Craaaash - 91km to go
Oh dear, we have our first crash of the day. NTT's Matteo Sobrero has gone down, and NTT overall had three riders involved.
NTT riders crash into each other in painful Giro accident
Trek-Segafredo's Gianluca Brambilla has also abandoned the race, due to knee pain from a crash last week according to the team.
Joe Dombrowski of UAE-Emirates looks a bit worse for wear with his jersey ripped at the back and his number hanging off.
Sobereo and Dombrowski are both hanging onto the doctor's car on either side to tidy up their various scrapes.
One climb down, three to go - 100km
Italy's Giovanni Visconti has taken the 18 points on offer for the first King of the Mountains classification today, which as it stands would put him in blue right now, but the day is not done yet, and AG2R La Mondiale's Andrea Vendrame has taken the 12 points available for the intermediate sprint, which takes him to the top eight of the Maglia Ciclamino contest.
The race is back neither up nor down roads, before we begin to climb again - I don't believe the Dolomites has ANY flat land.
There's a lot of cycling going on today, and it's all kicking off at the Tour of Flanders in the men's race... race favourite Wout Van Aert has crashed, and the riders are stuck at a level crossing.
You can watch duel-action of both races on the Eurosport app.
And just in case you were starting to bemoan the end of the cycling season (as you would at this time of year usually, and with Paris-Roubaix cancelled), we still have one more grand tour to come - La Vuelta on Tuesday. Fancy that!
What's happened so far?
We are 60km in, still ascending the forest roads up the Sella Chianzutan which is the first categorised climbs of the day. We have a lead group of 11 riders who have 6 minutes 35 seconds on the jerseys and peloton.
João Almeida is still in the Maglia Rosa and Maglia Bianca (race leader and best young rider) 56 seconds ahead,
Arnaud Demare in the Maglia Ciclamino (points jersey) 37 points ahead,
Ruben Guerreiro in the Maglia Azzurra (blue climbers jersey) 11 points ahead.
Base Aerea Rivolto
Today's stage starts at an Italian Air Force base in Udine. And they're in full support of the Giro d'Italia.
Having just come from this region of Italy, I can tell you the weather is still lovely for this time of year. Crisp mountain air, warm in the sun, jumper weather in the shade (if you're sat enjoying a glass of the local Prosecco - if you're on a bike it's still shorts and jersey). There's lots of shade as the roads wind up through the forest.
Welcome to Stage 15
The race has reached the high mountains in the beautiful Dolomites. Today's 185km stage has four climbs, three of them category two, and the final climb up the category one Piancavallo.
Stay tuned for what could shape up to be an exciting day of racing.
What happened in yesterday's stage
Filippo Ganna powered to a brilliant victory in the Stage 14 time trial at the Giro d'Italia. The Ineos Grenadiers TT specialist beat his team-mate Rohan Dennis into second, completing a hat-trick of stage wins at the Italian Grand Tour, and underlining his status as the best time trial cyclist in the world.
The World TT champion rode to his second race-against-the-clock victory at the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, with his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Rohan Dennis the next closest challenger.
The Italian finished the 34.1km ITT course in a time of 42:40, 26 seconds faster than Dennis - the only rider in the field to finish within a minute of Ganna.
'Wine Trial' highlights as Ineos powerhouses dominate
Disaster for Equipe Paule Ka
In one of the biggest stories of the week in cycling, the situation at women's team Equipe Paule Ka came to a final head, with its management making the decision to end the team after being let down by their title sponsors. A 15-year franchise, the loss of such a mainstay of the women's peloton will be sorely felt.
Eurosport's Orla Chennaoui secured an exclusive interview with Lizzy Banks, standout performer for the team this year, who was extremely open about her views on the issue.
Lizzy Banks: 'Paule Ka threw us a lifeline; it’s been ripped away.'
Orla also spoke to team manager Thomas Campana, who revealed the he has been paying the riders' wages out of his own pocket for months.
Equipe Paule Ka coach paid his team’s wages as sponsors failed to deliver
And the team on The Breakaway discussed this on Friday night, with Bradley Wiggins in typically strident mood.
Wiggins on Paule Ka fall-out - 'The UCI need to step in, this should not be allowed to happen'
It's absolutely baffling how a sponsor can agree to a multi-year relationship, only for them to totally abandon the project so soon into the process. It's reasonable to expect sponsors' businesses to be affected by the pandemic, but Paule Ka came in with their offer mid-season, making the almost-immediate reversal all the more puzzling.
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