Hello and welcome to our live coverage of stage three in the 90th Giro
d'Italia. Barumini to Cagliari over 181 easy kilometres, with the line
situated on the seafront of Sardinia's capital city.
It is a true sprinter's stage, where Alessandro Petacchi will be given the
opportunity to take his revenge after taking just third in the final straight
at Bosa yesterday, But it could well be the day when Robbie McEwen might beat
the Italian, and all other fastest wheels in the bunch, again, and make it 13
wins on the Corsa Rosa roads. Unfortunately, neither Andrea Tonti (who
fell on the final straight yesterday and broke his nose) nor the Aussie Adam
Hansen are in the pack any longer, as they did not show up at the start line
1510 CEST We join the stage in progress
with five riders in the lead. Just like yesterday, it took only a few
kilometres for a quintet to make the gap: Alexandre Pichot (Fra -
Bouygues Telecom) and the Russian talent Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff)
started the fireworks. Another Frenchman, MickaŽl Buffaz of Cofidis,
and another Tinkoff rider, the Italian veteran Elio Aggiano, who's
definitely not new to early stage attacks, followed such move. But Quick Step,
the team of Rainbow jersey holder Paolo Bettini, gave a smart response by
getting their talented Sicilian Giovanni Visconti into the front group.
The Fab Five quickly built a significant lead over the bunch, and at the
Ballao time check (km. 60/121k to go) they could boast a seven minute-margin
on the not-so-chasing field.
The situation stayed the same in the next twenty-five km: Pichot, Nibali,
Buffaz, Aggiano and Ignatiev were leading the field by six minutes and 57
seconds as they wound through San Vito town, (km. 85), with the feeding zone
only a dozen kilometres away. The average speed straight after two hours in
the saddle was a good 39.9 km/h.
1518 CEST The peloton, led by Danilo di
Luca's Liquigas, finally started to put in some chase efforts, and the gap
started to come down: it was 06 minutes and 25 seconds at the 100-km-to-go
check, and 06'20" about a dozen kilometres later.
1531 CEST The five escapees are working
well with each other under the Sardinian skies. The Tuscany-based Sicilian
Giovanni Visconti, European Title winner in the U23 class a few years ago, is
currently towing the breakaway. Danilo Di Luca and his Maglia Rosa slipped off
the back of the peloton and began a small chat with someone in the Liquigas
team car. But the overall leader regained the gruppo in the twinkling
of an eye.
1535 CEST Today's finish town Cagliari
is the hometown of 28-year-old Alberto Loddo, the only professional bike racer
from the isle of Sardinian. Unfortunately his eight winning sprints
thus far in the season weren't enough for the Giro organizers to award his
Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia team a wild-card, such that - this year at least -
the fastman couldn't follow in the footsteps of Giovanni Aresi, the first ever
Sardinian to race the Tour of Italy, back in the days of 1914 (but he dropped
out of the race in the second leg ...).
1540 CET Regardless of all efforts from
the field (well, not many indeed ...), the five escapees - Pichot, Nibali,
Buffaz, Aggiano and Ignatiev - are seemingly very, very serious about their
attempt, and managed to turn the gap back into its growing ways: it was 06'50"
at the latest time check, with under 80 kilometres yet to be covered. Lotto
and Milram look still a bit reluctant to take the chase into their hands.
1545 CET Immediate reaction from the
field, back to some more decent chasing work, and capable of bringing the time
gap down to about 06'20" in the last few miles.
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1552 CEST The peloton made some more
gains on the five fugitives (about one minute in the last dozen kms), but the
gap stays a solid 05'40" as they wind through the Sardinian inland.
1556 CEST Attacks from young guns
Ignatiev and Visconti split the breakaway group. Aggiano was the first victim
and got dropped, but Buffaz is struggling big style and fighting to regain the
wheels. Back in the bunch
it's still the lime green army of Liquigas that rides tempo.
1559 CEST - Visconti and Ignatiev also
dropped the two Frenchmen off their wheels. The Russian and the Sicilian are
now leading Buffaz by 25 seconds, with Pichot and Aggiano further down,. In
the meantime some members of the sprinter's teams are moving toward the front
of the field to help the chase.
1602 CEST - At the most recent time
check yellow-clad Mikhail Ignatiev and blue-clad Giovanni Visconti were
holding on to a lead of five minutes and twenty seconds over the (finally)
1612 CEST - While the three other
former escapees are about to be swallowed up by the field, Ignatiev and
Visconti continue their adventure away. They're getting closer to the
mid-stage sprint, the so-called "Traguardo Garibaldi". And Di Luca gets back
to the bottom of the field, and takes some water from his team car.
1617 CEST - Mikhail Ignatiev and
Giovanni Visconti made it to the Traguardo Garibaldi at Villasimius (km.
131.4). Both guys, and the (future) third place getter there have also won a
free holiday in town, offered by the local town council! The leading duo can
still boast a solid gap of five minutes and thirty seconds with 45k to go. And
with a more difficult portion of the stage coming, as the road will be going
up and down over the next 20 kilometres. Back at the pack, Milram's German
domestique Martin Muller now drives the peloton charge.
1622 CEST - The pack came to (Villasimius)
town. The gap was 05'18" as they were going under the Traguardo Garibaldi
1626 CEST - The man from the town of
Monreale near Palermo in Italy (Giovanni Visconti) and the man from Saint
Petersburg in Russia (the talented Mikhail Ignatiev) went under the 40k to go
banner. Their advantage over the field is dropping steadily but still quite
slowly; it was five minutes at the most recent check.
1632 CEST - If it wasn't Ignatiev and
Visconti, we'd say the breakaway has no chances at all to succeed, and the
Peloton would easily make those six-second-a-minute gains needed to bring them
back. But with the "grinta" and great legs they've shown this season (and not
only this season), we think there's some (small) chances that Visconti and
Ignatiev may do it!
1638 CEST - 34k to go for the two brave
youngsters on the front. Ignatiev and Visconti keep a four and half minute a
margin on the field. The "division of labor" in the leading duo is clear
enough: Ignatiev drives when the road keeps tilting upward, and Visconti tows
the breakaway when the going gets downhill.
The Russian took a turn very badly a few minutes ago, but thankfully
managed to stay in the saddle, and Visconti immediately waited for him. The
two guys are still together, trying to make the most out of the tailwind that
is playing into their hands.
Should Visconti and Ignatiev maintain a solid advantage when they get to
the Torre delle Selle, at the end of the undulating portion, their chances to
make it to the line would rise enough. Their current margin (slightly under
300 seconds with 30 kilometres to go) is quite good, after all. And Quick
Step's manager (and former pro rider) Davide Bramati, interviewed "on the
road" a couple minutes ago, is still harboring hopes in this sense ...
1647 CEST - Joint efforts from Mikhail and
Giovanni helped them limit their losses for some time, but now the chase
machines back in the field are starting to win the battle; the gap fell to
03'39" as both the leading pair and the gruppo are going up and† down
along the Sardinian coastline. The next 10 kilometres will prove decisive.
1650 CEST - Visconti, Ignatiev are under
the 25k to go banner. No way they're going to give up the fight.† But the
combination of efforts from Lotto and Milram, driving the peloton charge
together, is badly affecting their winning hopes.
1653 CEST - The next gap update, coming at the end of the
undulating section, says the peloton cut the gap down to three minutes and
eight seconds. The next kilometres are flat or slightly downhill.
1656 CEST - Twenty to go for Visconti
and Ignatiev. And some bad news for them: Euskaltel, working for their
appointed sprinter Koldo Fernandez, just joined the chasing crew on the front
of the peloton.
New gap update: 02'44" with 20 to go.
That means the peloton gained only 24 seconds on them over the last five
thousand metres. Should the pace stay the same, Ignatiev and Visconti would
lose only 01'36" in the last 20 kms., retaining some 45 seconds.
be enough for stage victory to stay a matter of two, but not enough for
Ignatiev to capture the Maglia Rosa. The Russian was 01'04" down on Di Luca at
the stage start, but brought his gap down to 58 seconds as he won the
Traguardo Garibaldi. The Tinkoff rider is still virtual race leader on the
road ... but for how long?
1703 CEST - 15k to go
for the two leaders, but their gap is dropping more rapidly now:
two minutes at the latest check. At this point, we think that the wind blowing
on the Cagliari seafront will likely play a key role in determining the stage
1706 CEST - The peloton is now
flying; Ignatiev and Visconti's chances are getting slimmer and slimmer. The
gap was just a mere 01'44" as the pack reached the
15k to go banner. Jerseys from several different teams are mixing
up on the front, and the joint efforts are bearing fruit at last.
1712 CEST - We see some red (Lotto),
orange (Panaria), blue (Milram) and magenta (T-Mobile) colors in the top spots
of the field. And we see that efforts are taking their toll of Visconti's
legs, blatantly not as good as they used to be until a few minutes ago. Both
the escapees and the pack went under the banner signaling the last ten
kilometres, The gap now hovers around a minute. Visconti and Ignatiev might be
chased down even earlier than we expected. Yes, it's going to be a bunch
sprint again ...7k to go.
And only 53
seconds left as margin ... Ignatiev is still riding like a motorbike, but
Visconti is not. And even if he's a hell of rouleur, the Russian cannot do it
all by himself. Well, Visconti is still giving everything he can to help the
breakaway. But no matter how courageous he may be. "Grinta" is not enough when
you just don't have the legs to keep a wild bunch of flying chasers at bay.
And the gap keeps coming down exponentially ... only 34 seconds now.
five kilometers† left. Just too much of a distance... Now it's not
"matter of "if" but of "when " the two guys will be caught. But you can be
sure that we're going to hear their names again. And much nor than once.†
Visconti waves to the television camera wistfully - it's gruppo compatto.
1709 CEST - Viscionti and Mikhail
Ignatiev have been chased down! Now Matteo Tosatto gives it some gas, but he's
quickly swept up
1710 CEST - 3 km to go, So get ready
for the bunch sprint ... 2.5 kilometres remaining.† Van Heeswijk and
Rojas are near the front, as is Ongarato with Petacchi...The last 450 metres
are on a cobbled section, by the way. And this could make things easier for
anyone starting the sprint first.
1712 CEST -
LAST KILOMETRE! 2 Milram men on the front, it's not very strung out
though. A Credit Agricole rider drives the field. It's Nicolas Roche.†
He's caught with 500m to go. Another pile-up - 4-5 riders involved.
†HERE COMES THE SPRINT - AND THE WINNER IS ... PETACCHI!
The Italian got it at last! Petacchi's celebrating
They rode it from right to the very left of the road, forcing riders behind
either into the barriers or to ease off for the last 100metres. Thor Hushovd
was one of the riders that fell instead.† That's sprinting, folks... Good
attack from Nicolas Roche though.
OOPS, ALSO DAMIANO CUNEGO AND GILBERTO
SIMONI FELL IN THE LAST KILOMETRE! They'll be credited with the same time as
Petacchi, stage runner-up Foerster and all other top finishers, but the point
is .. did they suffer any consequences ? We'll tell you more as soon as
Forster made it through a tiny gap in the barriers into
Petacchi's wheel for second; a Panaria (Richeze or Grillo) was third, might
have been McEwen fourth...† Petacchi is sobbing with the emotion of his
Damiano Cunego is okay, no consequences for him. It was Richeze
in third, Napolitano was fifth.
Thanks to today's stage result ...
Enrico Gasparotto regained the Maglia Rosa!
The "ping-pong" between Gasparotto and Danilo Di Luca continues. One day the
jersey is mine, one day it's yours ...But it never steps out of lime green
Stage 3 Provisional Results:
1. Alessandro Petacchi
2. Robert Foerster
3. Maximiliano Richeze
4. Robbie McEwen
Gasparotto made his way back to the podium, wearing the
jersey again. Di Luca slipped back into second, with38-year-old Andrea Noť
enjoying an outstanding and praiseworthy third place on GC.
As we said
before, both Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni fell in the last kilometres.
The former didn't suffer any consequences at all. We don't know much about
Gibo, but tend to think that he came out equally unhurt.
1740 CEST - First after-race words from
AleJet, who apparently had enough of
critics (especially in the Italian press) casting doubts over his abilities to
find back his ancient form, and silenced them all with his performance on the
Cagliari seafront today:
"Before the Giro I said that a stage victory in the race would have been like
my first ever victory. After last year's injury I had to start from zero
again. And I worked a lot. Today I sprinted for 350 metres on cobbled roads; I
think I found again much of my "explosiveness", didn't I? I want to dedicate
this victory to all those who stood beside me in this difficult period".
Danilo Di Luca didn't sound upset at
all about Gasparotto contesting the sprint and stealing the jersey from his
shoulders (somehow stealing it ... again): "Gasparotto
gave it a go at the sprint, but that was part of the team's plans for the
stage. He's a fast rider, and doing the sprints is what he's at the Giro for,
after all ..."
Giovanni Visconti had his hopes of
victory shattered with just few kilometres left, but promised that he'll give
it a go again in this Giro "I've got the grinta. And
I've got a strong team besides. So why not trying again?".
Thanks for joining us for the Stage 3 live report.
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