Thanks for joining us and be sure to return tomorrow for the downhill transitional 149km stage 18 to Vedelago.
Falzes - Cortina d'Ampezzo
Giro d'Italia - 23 May 2012
Giro d'Italia – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 17:55 on 23 May 2012. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Rodriguez retains his pink jersey. The Spaniard leads Hesjedal by 30 seconds and Basso by 1:22. The big losers of the day were Astana's Tiralongo and Kreuziger, the latter losing 10 minutes and dropping out of the top ten.
Confirmation of the stage result: 1. Rodriguez, 2. Basso, 3. Hesjedal, 4. Uran, 5. Scarponi, 6. Pozzovivo.
Tiralongo and Henao cross the line in a group of four riders 2:46 down.
The chasers have formed an eight-man group which is coming home now... they cross the line led by Katusha's Moreno, 1:32 down.
Rodriguez takes the win! Basso second and Hesjedal third!
Off the cobbles now... and Scarponi opens the sprint...
Hellish: after all those climbs, they're forced to ride over cobbles. Cat and mouse at the moment, as the pace slows before the sprint...
Hesjedal reacts first and it comes back together. No one wants to lose any seconds - plus there's a stage to win. Onto the cobbles and under the kite...
ATTACK: Basso has a pop from distance.
Chapeau Michele: Scarponi is back on with the leaders.
Now Hesjedal moves to the front - and Scarponi can see the leaders. A ballsy comeback from the Italian.
The big losers today with be Astana's Kreuziger and Tiralongo...
Scarponi's cramp has eased up. He's 13 seconds down now. Basso leads the quintet with Pozzovivo on his wheel.
Scarponi still riding solo, 19 seconds off the back of the leaders. Uran has almost caught the quartet. In fact, he has.
Remember, no time bonuses at the finish, so it will all be down to this big final descent. Rodriguez looking good for a second stage - he has a decent kick.
Scarponi is another 10 seconds back after suffering with cramp, while Gadret and Nieve are riding 1:20 back, ahead of a larger chasing group, that includes Cunego.
The four leaders are back together as the road heads up for a final small climb before the concluding descent. Basso drives the pace, with Hesjedal, Rodriguez and Pozzovivo all on his wheel. Uran is riding back to them.
Hesjedal and Rodriguez are pulling clear of Basso and Pozzovivo, while Scarponi has slowed up. He's 20 seconds back and has allowed Uran to ride on ahead. It looks like the defending champion has cramp.
Hesjedal still setting the pace on this descent, with pink jersey Rodriguez and Basso in pursuit. Pozzovivo is next, with Uran and Scarponi just a bit further back.
Hesjedal leads the descent, with Uran and Scarponi chasing back on. He'll be cursing his countryman Pozzovivo as he weaves down this technical downhill.
This last descent is interrupted by a short climb to Pocol, 8km from the finish. The final descent to Cortina ends just 2km from the finish. The road crosses the Boite river and then turns right and runs along the southern part of the town, with two consecutives corners taking the race into to the centre of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The road climbs gradually at 6%. A right curve leads into the finishing straight.
Pozzovivo leads them over the top of the Passo Giau, with both Uran and Scarponi dropped towards the end.
Now Pozzovivo comes to the front, but with just 500m to go till the top, this seems a bit too little too late. But the result is brutal: Scarponi is dropped while Uran looks to be in some considerable pain.
Scarponi leads Hesjedal, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo, Basso and Uran. Almost at the summit now.
It's total stalemate between the six leaders here, with none of them prepared - or even able - to put in an attack.
Scarponi takes the leaders through the 20km-to-go banner. There's still another 2km of this climb. Nieve passes through 26 seconds down, and Hadret at 49.
Movistar pair Intxausti and Bruseghin are in pursuit of Gadret, who in turn is chasing Nieve, who in turn is 30 seconds behind the six leaders. Behind the Movistar riders is Cunego and Tschopp, so the Italian is not as close as I had thought.
Nieve has faded a little, but will be joined by Gadret and Cunego perhaps. Cunego is an excellent descender so could still figure at the finish.
Nieve is within touching distance of the leaders as they pass through a tunnel. Gadret is also getting close. Scarponi is now on the front, but Basso jumps out of the saddle to return.
Rodriguez has done nothing so far, happy to follow. Once again, Basso takes up the pace, with Hesjedal alongside him. Nieve is riding well behind and may catch the leaders soon.
Now Uran comes to the front. He could be back in the white jersey today. He is the only rider with his shirt fully unzipped. Stephen Roche would not approve.
The Cunego-Henao-Gadret group is 33 seconds back now. Still Basso leads, with Scarponi in his wheel. Pozzovivo drops back to his team car for some water.
ATTACK: Canada's Ryder Hesjedal ups the pace and shakes things up. The others react and Basso moves back to his usual place on the front. Uran looks like he'll be the next to pop - and the Colombian generously gives Pozzovivo a swig from his water bottle.
The likes of Gadret, Cunego and Intxausti have formed a chasing group in pursuit of the leading sextet.
Cunego is fighting to get back with the leaders but he's losing the battle. These six are the Giro's strong men. Still Basso is on the front, no one is prepared to come forward and lend a hand. He could do with Szmyd...
Basso, Scarponi, Hesjedal, Rodriguez, Pozzovivi, Uran are the six leaders as Henao cracks.
Just eight riders in the lead now, with three chasing and then another two just behind.
Gadret and Tiralongo both distanced! Terrible day for Astana. And Capecchi pulls up, so Basso is now on his own...
Thomas De Gendt suffering at the start of this brutal climb - he's not the only one, the leading group is only about 20-strong now.
Szmyd may be gone, but Katusha's Moreno has popped too. Capecchi setting the pace for Basso. Hesjedal, Henao and Pozzovivo are lurking.
Kreuziger is chasing on like crazy - he's about a minute down. And disaster for Liquigas - the pace setter picks up a puncture right at the start of the climb and needs a wheel change!
The boys in green still drive the pace along on this descent, with Lampre tucked in just behind. The relative calm before the storm... Gaps are appearing as they start the climb of the Cat.1 Passo Giau!
Basso really has a strong team - it's now up to the Italian to make sure their team pays off. Four Liquigas men are on the front of the leading group as they approach the climb which their leader described as "a slap in the face" previously.
Up and over the top of the Cat.2 Forcella Staulanza: 1. Failli, 2. Caruso, 3. Capecchi. Time to descent, and then we'll have the final climb of the Passo Giau.
Still Liquigas set the pace through Caruso. Szmyd is yet to be unleashed by Basso. But pink jersey Rodriguez has Moreno and Losado up his Katusha sleeve. Cunego and Scarponi there. Group in full: Rodriguez, Hesjedal, Basso, Tiralongo, Scarponi, Intxausti, Henao, Cataldo, Casar, Uran, De Gendt, Tschopp, Gadret, Moreno, Cunego, Nieve, Szmyd, Dupont, Caruso, Seeldraeyers, Capecchi, Samoilau, Losada, Failli.
Kreuziger is fighting to limit his losses and regain touch with the main group. He's hanging in just 30 metres back, and has a team-mate with him, but he will surely struggle on the next climb of the Passo Giau.
Kreuziger is on the edge: it looks like Tiralongo will soon be Astana's main man. That's it, the Czech rider is off the back and out of the Giro...
Liquigas, Lampre, Garmin, Astana, Katusha and Sky all have their big guns driving the peloton, which is now just a leading group. Seeldraeyers has been caught and the scene is set for the GC battles to commence.
The peloton is just about 40-strong now thanks to the work being done by Liquigas. The break has sat up, with the exception of Seeldraeyers, who has 15 seconds out ahead.
Astana's Seeldraeyers steals away to pick up the points at the intermediate sprint at Zoldo Alto. And he's continued out ahead and has a lead over the others. Nieve appears to be slowing up - he knows the peloton is approaching and that it's futile. Serpa and Samoilau are caught in two worlds, not knowing what they should do.
It's Damiano Caruso setting the pace for Liquigas, and the former white jersey is clearly on the verge of suffering. Lampre are tucked in behind Ivan Basso and his men. This pink jersey group is one minute behind the leading quartet - Seeldraeyers having been caught by the chasing trio.
The Nieve group is closing in on Seeldraeyers - just 15 seconds now. Meanwhile, Liquigas's Valerio Agnoli has called it a day and dropped to the back after his heavy pace-setting up the last climb.
No rest for teh wicked: they're right onto the next climb of the day, the Cat.2 Forcella Staulanza. Seeldraeyers is out in front. He has 36 seconds over a chasing trio of Nieve, Samoilau and Serpa, with blue jersey Rabottini a bit further back. Montaguti has been caught by the peloton, which rides along at 1:30 from the lone leader, Liquigas at the helm.
This is a very technical descent: winding, narrow roads, with loads of hairpins and passing through small hamlets. Seeldraeyers is out in front on his own, with Nieve in pursuit of the three chasers.
Nieve has almost made touch with the leaders. It's still Liquigas on teh front of the bunch, less than one minute back.
CRASH: A Vacansoleil rider goes down on a tight bend and leaves marks on the road from his elbows and knees before hitting the barrier. Nasty. But he's back on his bike and on his way again.
Rabottin takes the points over the summit ahead of Seeldraeyers and Serpa. That's two from two for the Italian, who consolidated his lead in the blue jersey KOM standings. Nieve crosses 30 seconds down and will bid to join the four leaders on the descent. The peloton passes at 1:19.
The Spaniard may catch the leaders before the summit. He's 30 seconds down now, with the peloton riding at 1:10. Montaguti has been dropped from the leading group.
Nieve is within a minute of the leaders now, with the peloton 40 seconds back. The roads are very narrow here and the team cars seem to have parked on the side of the road to let the peloton through.
Spain's Nieve is only 4:20 down in the GC so this is an interesting move from the Euskaltel rider. He is now 1:17 back on the five leaders. Liquigas continue the pace setting through Agnoli. Off the back, John Gadret is taking a pair of scissors to his jersey, for some inexplicable reason. He's also riding this climb with no hands at the moment.
Txurruka drops back - he was clearly acting as a foil and launchpad for his team leader. Nieve now continues on his way in pursuit of the leading five riders.
DOUBLE ATTACK: Euskaltel pair Mikel Nieve and Amets Txurruka blast off the front of the pack.
The gap is not coming down any more now they're onto this Cat.2 climb. Seeldraeyers is setting the pace, with Rabottini in his wheel. Both have shoulders swaying like metronomes.
Jose Rujano (Androni) is losing touch with the peloton. Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is already off the back, while Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) needed a wheel change after a puncture. The whole of the pack is strung out thanks to the pace set by Liquigas. Szmyd sprays a fan who is running alongside with water - that'll teach him.
Now Liquigas come to the front to take the baton from Euskaltel. Ivan Basso looks pertty relaxed. He even has a bit of a grin. The Lampre team of Cunego and Scarponi are there too. The gap is down to 1:50.
Reminder of the leading five riders out ahead: Branislau Samoilau (Movistar), Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana), Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
Big pat on the back for Euskaltel: they have reduced the gap to 2:40 now. At one point, this break way six minutes clear.
Rabottini has cracked! The Italian blue jersey has already been dropped by the other four escapees at the start of the Cat.1 Passo Duran. Hang on - false alarm... he's just dropping back to speak to his DS and for a bike change.
The work by Euskaltel sees the lead drop to 3:40. The leaders are powering along this small flat segment ahead of the Cat.1 Passo Duran.
Red jersey Cavendish, impressively, is back in the pink jersey group after a superb descent.
Seven Euskaltel riders are pulling the peloton along at the moment. They trail the leaders by 4:50. After yesterday's win for Jon Izagirre, the Basque boys clearly want more. They didn't make the break, but there's a long way to go, and this shows they mean business.
Lunch time for the peloton and it's Euskatel who set the pace: this could be carnage.
Another withdrawal: Thomas Vaitkus of Orica GreenEdge.
The leaders pass through the feeding zone. They have 3:50 over Carrara and Marzio Bruseghin, who are riding just a little ahead of the peloton. Mark Cavendish is riding in a group three minutes behing the pack.
It's back together in the bunch, with Euskaltel resuming their pacing duties on the front.
This is an incredibly fast and seemingly interminable descent. Rabottini is taking a back seat. He and Samoilau are the only riders with short sleeves in the leading group.
Vacansoleil-DCM's Matteo Carrara has pulled off the front of the pack with a Movistar rider on this descent.
It's a long, fast and sweeping descent here, with frequent hairy hairpins. Luckily, the weather is dry and sunny today. Aerial pictures are pretty special, with the peloton strung completely out.
The bunch goes over the top 4:17 in arrears, so they have managed to reduce the gap on the steep section of that climb.
No one apart from Rabottini seems too concerned about the points here: the other four riders are more concerned with putting on some long-sleeves ahead of this fast, long descent. Rabottini takes the points, uncontested, to consolidate his lead in the KOM standings.
The leaders are nearing the top of this long climb. They are above the tree- and grass-line: they're flanked either side by rock, the odd bush and small piles of snow.
Back on the front of the peloton it's Liquigas and Euskaltel setting the tempo. Already the pack has splintered into multiple groups.
Samoilau leads the quintet up the climb. They're passing open lush meadows that would usually be ski runs in the winter. There are quite a lot of ski lifts and chalets dotted around, and the pine trees are rather pretty. In short, specatcular views - especially of the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. Seeldraeyers takes up the pace before passing over to Montaguti.
They're edging up the Cat.2 Passo di Valparola and the five leaders have almost six minutes on the bunch. Blue jersey Rabottini will be readying himself for the points to consolidate his lead in the KOM standings.
The five leaders now have 4:20 over the bunch.
Of course, it's not just about the climbs today - the descents may be crucial too, in particular the long run to the finish. The first descent from the Passo Valparola to Agordo is very fast, while the others are more technical and complex. The last descent is interrupted by a short climb to Pocol, 8km from the finish. Riders like Damiano Cunego and Roman Kreuziger could take time from a more timid downhiller such as Ivan Basso.
Matteo Rabottini, the blue jersey, is the only rider in this break to have won a stage on a Grand Tour. The young Italian, of course, won Sunday's stage 15 to Pian dei Resinelli. The lead is creeping up, with the peloton content to sit back and wait for the bigger tests later in the day. It's almost four minutes now.
The gap is up to two minutes now for the leading quintet. Belgian Kevin Seeldraeyers is the best place in the GC, 14:57 down on the pink jersey. It's nice to see Belorusian Branislau Samoilau in the break - the Movistar rider will be trying to take the win for Xavi Tondo today.
A cluster of riders set off in pursuit of the RadioShack pair, prompting their sweeping up. The five leaders now have a decent one minute gap over the bunch so this should stick for a while.
RadioShack-Nissan, who have had a torrid Giro (not to mention season, full stop), are now working to get onto the break. They have two riders - Oliver Zaugg and Thomas Rohregger - riding in pursuit of the leading group.
BREAK: Five riders are now out in front, including the blue jersey... They are: Branislau Samoilau (Movistar), Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini), Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana), Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale). They have 35 seconds on the bunch.
Another withdrawal to report: Belgian Gaetan Bille, one of the quieter Lotto Belisol riders, has called it a day. News of another break coming right up...
20 riders managed to pull ahead of the bunch - including stage 15 winner, Rabottini - but they were reeled in, so we're back to the drawing board.
Still no break so far, but we're onto the nursery slopes of the first climb of the day, the Cat.2 Passo Valparola, so expect some action soon. Who do you think will win today's stage? Who would you like to win? What will happen in the battle for the pink jersey? Joaquim Rodriguez has a history of tailing off in the third week of Grand Tours... will it happen in Italy?
The news filtering in is that Sky's Peter Kennaugh actually withdrew after the start of the stage, as opposed to didn't start the race. We'll keep you updated on that one.
There are four classified climbs today: Passo Valparola: 14.1km, 5.5% average, 13% max - Passo Duran: 12.2km, 8.1% average, 14% max - Forcella Staulanza: 12.3km, 6.9% average, 11% max - Passo Giau: 9.9km, 9.3% average, 14% max. The big one is the Passo Giau, which Ivan Basso once famously likened to "a slap in the face".
In the other jerseys, Italy's Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini) still holds the blue mountains jersey after his exploits in stage 15; Brit Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) proudly wears the red jersey and continues on towards Milan, unlike any of the other sprinters; another Sky rider, Colombian youngster Sergio Henao, is in the white jersey as best young rider.
The peloton still rides as one. They have got over the first unclassified climb of the day. The sun was out at the start in Falzes, with a temperature of 17 degrees centigrade.
One team that will be motivated more than any today is Movistar: today marks the first anniversary since the tragic death of Xavi Tondo, who passed away on 23 May 2011 after a domestic accident at home in Spain. The likes of Benat Intxausti and Andrey Amador will be keen to get in the break today to pay homage to one of cyling's nice guys.
A reminder of the standings in the GC: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) leads Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) by 30 seconds at the top. Ivan Basso (Liquigas) is third at 1:22 ahead of Astana pair Paolo Tiralongo and Roman Kreuziger - at 1:26 and 1:27. Defending champion Michele Scarponi (Lampre) has been quiet but lurks in sixth at 1:36.
Three withdrawals to report: Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge), Theo Bos (Rabobank) and Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) did not take to the start.
They're off! Today's stage is going to be a real ripper - and we'll have a good idea of who could make the podium come Cortina d'Ampezzo...
Yesterday, Spain's Jon Izagirre of Euskaltel won stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia after attacking from a breakaway on a short but sharp climb before the finish in Falzes. It was a first victory in his maiden Grand Tour for the 23-year-old rider, who made his decisive move inside the final four kilometres of the 173km stage from Limone on the banks of Lake Garda.
Welcome to stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia - the day that the fight for the GC should really hot up. The 186km stage from Falzes to Cortina d'Ampezzo features five climbs, including the fearsome Cat.1 Passo Giau, before finishing at the fashionable ski resort after a long, technical downhill.