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90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 3 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/14/2007
90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 3 Live Coverage

90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 3 Live
From Barumini town to "big city" Cagliari, an average sprinter's stage over 181 kilometres. The good one for Petacchi? Just another one for Robbie? The first one for anyone else?

Stage 3. Barumini - Cagliari, 181 km

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 earlier today.

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) hard-riding pack.

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 banner.

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.

That would 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 outcome.

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.

With 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.



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 possible.

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 victory.

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 territory.

Stage 3 Provisional Results:
1. Alessandro Petacchi
2. Robert Foerster
3. Maximiliano Richeze
4. Robbie McEwen
5. Napolitano

6 Usov
7 Mondory
8 Gasparotto
9 Rojas
10 Bileka

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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