What a difference one day makes! Hello everyone, and welcome to our live
coverage of stage 18 in the 90th
Giro d'Italia. After having their legs tortured
on Europe's toughest ascent, the awful Zoncolan, yesterday - the banners put by
some unknown fans at the start of the climb and welcoming the race to the
Porta dell'Inferno (Hell's Gate) or bearing other equally "Dantesque"
inscriptions said it all …
The race moves to the other extreme, to a very
pancake flat leg of 203 kilometres from Udine to Riese Pio X town, in the
northern part of the Veneto plains, with the feeding zone at Godega San Urbano
(km. 107), the "Traguardo Garibaldi" sprint at Conegliano Veneto (km. 117 and
home to Zalf Desirée Fior, arguably the nation's top "young gun" team, also
known as the squad the likes of Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso and champions of the
past like Maurizio Fondriest used to race for when they were U23s), and a final
circuit of 16.5 kilometres to be covered twice.
Riese Pio X was the hometown of Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto, better known to
mankind as Pope Pious X. He was appointed in the year 1903, and his pontificate
lasted eleven years. He died on 20 August 1914 and was beatified on May 29,
1954; his own name (as a Pope of course) was subsequently added to the name of
Needless to say, all eyes are on Alessandro Petacchi today: the Sprinter
Gentleman is the only top fastman left. He even showed some impressively good
legs as he put forth a gutsy performance to finish 63rd - 11'07" behind Simoni
and Piepoli - yesterday, leaving dozens and dozens of riders behind him, and
proving capable to stay with the best ones until the start of the final ascent
to the line. But do not take AleJet 23rd victory on Giro roads for granted: the
efforts he sustained yesterday could take some toll on his legs or - more likely
- a breakaway attempt would succeed. Today's stage finishes on the home roads of
Matteo Tosatto, and the Quick Step "rouleur" might want to aim for some glory
and go on the attack, as much as other riders are not unlikely to share his
If you missed a stage or would like to find some information, regarding this
years Giro d'Italia all of it is available on one page with all the links to our
coverage on our
d'Italia Race Program & Index.
1320 CEST The action got started a few minutes past noon Central
European Summer Time (CEST) with all of yesterday's 142 finishers in attendance.
The big news (so to speak) at the start line was about the UCI vampires making a
surprise comeback to the Giro early this morning, and carrying out their tests
on several riders, Danilo Di Luca, Gilberto Simoni and Riccardo Riccó included.
But everything went fine in this sense, and all the guys undergoing such tests
were allowed to start.
Giro d'Italia Store
1325 CEST Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) initiated attacks after 3 km.
but the Dane was quickly chased down. It didn't take long for the Tinkoff
breakaway machines to keep their legs moving, through their "veteran escapee"
Elio Aggiano. Neither the Italian nor Spain's Josep Jufre Pou (Lotto) were
allowed to go clear anyway. The next move, featuring Leonardo Scarselli (Quick
Step), fellow Italian Marco Marzano (Lampre) as well as Koos Moerenhout (Holland -
Rabobank) and Ricardo Serrano for Tinkoff didn't come to fruition either.
Giuseppe Palumbo (Italy - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and Nicolas Crosbie (France -
Bouygues Telecom) were next into the list of unsuccessful early attackers.
1335 CEST But when Addy Engels (Holland - Quick Step-Innergetic), Maxim
Gourov (an ethnic Russian with Kazakh passport, racing with the Astana outfit),
Patxi Vila (Spain - Lampre-Fondital), Franck Renier (France - Bouygues Telecom), Eric
Berthou (France - Caisse d'Epargne), Pedro Horrillo (Spain - Rabobank) and the
Russian sensation Mikhail Ignatiev for Tinkoff made their move at km. 36, the
gap was made. The seven fugitives rapidly built a 45-second advantage over the
field, extending their margin to 01 minute 45 seconds by the km. 47 check at
1350 CEST The seven-man breakaway group extended their advantage to
about two and a half minutes as they pass through San Vito al Tagliamento town
sixty-five kilometres into the stage. Petacchi's Milram look after keeping them
within striking distance, while Di Luca's Liquigas lost one of their top
domestiques as Charles Wegelius pulled out of the race after some 58 km. today.
But not before doing a great job for the current overall leader all through the
Giro. Kudos to the Brit!
1400 CEST The bunch looks to have the
situation under control. The seven "wonders" in the breakaway stopped gaining
time in the last few miles. Addy Engels, Maxim Gourov, Patxi Vila, Franck
Renier, Eric Berthou, Pedro Horrillo and Mikhail Ignatiev were
leading the field by just 02'12" at Azzano Decimo (km. 74).
1410 CEST Things didn't change much in
the next few miles, with the gap coming down slowly: it was 02 minutes 05
seconds at km. 78 and fell under the two-minute mark at Tiezzo (km. 82/121k to
go), just to go further down to 01'50" at km. 84 check.
1425 CEST Engels, Gourov, Vila, Renier,
Berthou, Horrillo, Ignatiev stay clear but their margin over the gruppo stays
small. About 94 kilometres were covered in the first two hours, resulting in
47.050 km/h as average speed. The race is about to make it to Enrico
Gasparotto's hometown Sacile. Which was also to hometown of Dennis Zanette, and
they are going to pay tribute to his memory with a mid-stage sprint named after
the Italian rider.
1520 CEST There was not much to write
about in the last few minutes. The advantage kept hovering around two minutes,
going from about 01'45" to 02'20" or so, over the following 35-40 kilometres.
France's Renier was first at the "Zanette Sprint" at Sacile, while Ignatiev won
the Traguardo Garibaldi from Gourov and Renier at Conegliano Veneto.
1525 CEST The last update from the Veneto
region saw Addy Engels, Maxim Gourov, Patxi Vila, Franck Renier, Eric Berthou,
Pedro Horrillo, Mikhail Ignatiev cooperate well and lead the bunch by 01'48"
with slightly under 80 kilometres to go. And to two minutes at the km. 138
check. The pace is very high, well above 42 km/h, as the Girini wind through the
area that will be hosting the next Cyclocross World Champs in the days of
1530 CEST 140 kilometres gone/63k to go.
The "seven wonders" up front hold on to a margin of 01'44" over the
by ... Euskaltel-Euskadi!
1540 CEST Fifty kilometres to go. And
just 17 km. to the first passage over the line at Riese. The situation "on the
road" stays the same, with the seven frontrunners being away over the last 110
km. but never able to open a solid gap on the field. The same field that
contains other good sprinters than Petacchi. Like Angelo Furlan who, with Thor
Hushovd no longer putting his hammer down at the Giro, will be giving it a go in
case of a massive sprint today. As we wrote earlier, Matteo Tosatto is Quick
Step's leader today, and also a world champion like Paolo Bettini will be
putting himself at Tosatto's disposal.
1545 CEST The gap fell to about 01'15" at
the most recent check. A few moments ago it looked like Vila and another rider
were going to sit up and wait for the peloton to catch them, but it didn't go
like this: both guys are back into the breakaway group.
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1550 CEST Speaking of Angelo Furlan, the
guy from Veneto (in fact one of the countless professional riders from the
region) punctured a few minutes ago, but once having his front wheel problem
fixed he quickly made his way back into the field. Whose gap to the breakaway
went up to 01'35". They're going to let them stay clear a little longer, but
sooner or later Addy Engels (Holland - Quick Step-Innergetic), Maxim Gourov (Kaz
- Astana), Patxi Vila (Spain - Lampre-Fondital), Franck Renier (France -
Bouygues Telecom), Eric Berthou (France - Caisse d'Epargne), Pedro Horrillo
(Spain - Rabobank) Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia - Tinkoff) will be brought back.
1557 CEST The gap keeps yo-yoing at the
moment. The Seven Wonders (one of them, Eric Berthou, "saved" his legs yesterday
as he finished last in the stage. And Mikhail Ignatiev came in just two places
ahead of him) got back to their time-gaining ways. It's back over two minutes.
Stefano Garzelli and Paolo Bettini are taking it easy, chatting at the bottom of
the pack. Cyclamen Jersey holder Petacchi keeps himself busy eating something.
1604 CEST The breakaway group -
containing wannabe "Fuga Gilera" classification winner Ignatiev but neither of
his closest rivals Aggiano and Buffaz - take on a small cobbled sections as they
wind though "downtown" Castelfranco Veneto. The same place that hosted a
"Baby Giro" stage in 1998. That Giro was won by ... a certain Danilo Di Luca!
Tinkoff's manager Maini, just interviewed "on the road", sounded
unsurprisingly skeptical about the chances of the "Ignatiev group" (aka the
current breakaway) to make it to the finish. But he also thinks the Russian
might try something later in the stage.
1612 CEST The advantage fell to the
minute while more and more banners paying hommage to local favorite Matteo
Tosatto are being shown along the road as they are about to enter Riese Pio X
1615 CEST The cooperation inside the
front group is over as Maxim Gourov attacks the breakaway and Eric Berthou,
Franck Renier, Addy Engels try and follow his move. The peloton is on their
heels though, under a minute down on them as both escapees and chasers have made
it to the line at Riese for the first time.
Two laps of 16.5 kilometres each to go, with four men currently in the lead,
the bunch not far from them anyway, and the Ignatiev, Vila, Horrillo trio in
1620 CEST Addy Engels (Holland - Quick
Step-Innergetic), Maxim Gourov (Kaz - Astana), Franck Renier (France - Bouygues
Telecom) and Eric Berthou (France - Caisse d'Epargne) are still clear, but just
50 seconds ahead of the field, while covering the first (and penultimate) lap of
the final circuit. Their former fellow escapees Ignatiev, Vila and Horrillo were
just hauled back into the field.
1625 CEST Another rider from the Veneto
area is the neo-pro Oscar Gatto of Gerolsteiner. He's the "Maglia Nera" (Italian
version of the "Lanterne Rouge") as he's last in the GC, but is a fast rider
too, so he might well contest the sprint today. Maximilian Richeze will be
giving it a go for Panaria also. Cooperation is back amongst the fugitives (now
down to four only), and the gap is back over the minutes. It just keeps going up
and down all the time, but slowly and slightly.
1636 CEST More pro-Tosatto banners, also
in the local dialect, made their appearance along the road as the peloton went
over the line for second and penultimate time. The Fab Four in the breakaway
made it 35 seconds earlier. One group of the fans holds a sign up: "Tosatto Taka
el Turbo!!" That means "Tosatto, put the Turbo in your engine" in the
Venetian dialect! Renier, Gourov, Berthou and Engels are going to get caught
soon in this final lap.
15k to go. Liquigas are rushing to the
front. Not in order to help the chase, but just to help Danilo Di Luca stay far
from any kind of problems. One Tinkoff rider sits at the bottom of the field
1640 CEST - It's official now: Paolo
Bettini gave up his hopes to win the Cyclamen Jersey this year, and will just be
helping his roommate Matteo Tosatto in the last kilometres of the stage. The gap
further dropped to a mere 20 seconds.
The last turn in comes with 400m to the finish today. You'd better be in the
top five places there, or you're going to have a very hard time coming first
across the line. Who's gonna be Credit Agricole's pick for the sprint today? We
mentioned Angelo Furlan earlier, but they have got a certain Julian Dean too.
And it looks like the guys haven't made their decision yet.
1644 CEST - The peloton HAVE made their
decision: they're going to swallow up the four escapees in the twinkling of an
eye. It's a just a matter of very few minutes. The gap fell down again, and it's
currently about a dozen seconds. Credit Agricole and Milram at the front of the
chase. The "red army" of Acqua & Sapone are moving towards the front of the
field too. Gabriele Balducci is not in the race any longer, but Giuseppe Palumbo
is, and he's their appointed sprinter today.
1648 CEST - Seven km to go. It's going to
take some more time for Berthou, Renier, Gourov, Engels to be reeled in. They
hold on to a 100-metre advantage. Even after staying away for 161 kilometres,
the quartet give no sign of stopping.
1650 CEST - Here they are ... despite a
late attempt from Renier, the guys have been reeled in. The peloton got together
again. Here we go folks, four Tinkoff riders on the front driving the peloton,
one peels off... It looks like Angelo Furlan is Credit Agricole's man for the
stage. The guy seems to have won the first battle over Alessandro Petacchi's
wheel. But such battle is far from over and Furlan will have to fight off
challenges from the likes of Paolo Bettini. Lorenzetto and Lancaster will be
leading out AleJet in the final straight.
1654 CEST - Oh, that's just too bad for
Palumbo: he punctured with about 3kk to go. All of his hopes have been dashed.
Vincenzo Nibali tries to ride clear of the fieled, but the pace is just way too
high, he cannot go anywhere.
Oops, Lloyd Mondory and some other riders fell before the penultimate turn.
1656 CEST - But here's come the sprint
... Tosatto trying to anticipate the sprint with 600m to go. But it's
Petacchi that starts the sprint, with Richeze following. It's the Italian vs.
Petacchi vs. Richeze, Petacchi, Petacchi ...
ALESANDROOOOOOOO PETACCHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII wins.
Richeze followed AleJet's wheel as the Italian started his sprint VERY early,
with about 700m to go, Richeze gave it everything but he just couldn't get past
Petacchi. Ale Jet wins by a bike length! His third stage win this edition of the
Matti Breschel (Denmark - Team CSC) took third, Markus Fothen fourth, Oscar Gatto
sprinted to a solid fifth place finish and Nikolai Troussov (Russia - Tinkoff)
filled in the other top sixth spot.
AleJet had to do it everything all by himself today, as the accident in the
last kilometre messed up Milram's leadout plans. But his legs proved to be up to
the challenge and strong enough. And enough to take his Giro d'Italia tally up
to 23 wins, thus equaling Francesco Moser's record. It's AleJet's fourth victory
Anyone thinking Petacchi is NOT going to make new additions before Sunday
night please stand up! We wouldn't though ... AleJet is very likely to make it
24 at least!
No changes to the overall of course. Danilo Di Luca keeps the Maglia firmly
on his shoulders), Schleck and Simoni follow at 02'24" and 02'28" respectively,
then there's Cunego (03'29" down on GC) and Mazzoleni, with Riccó, Arroyo
(exactly ten minutes behind Di Luca) and Petrov filling in the other top eight
Petacchi strengthened his grip on the Cyclamen Jersey too. He's leading the
point classification by 18 pts over Di Luca (140 v 122), and Bettini third with
It was no easy win though, first because the afore mentioned accident took
his last leadoutman Lancaster out of contention, and Petacchi had to look, and
secondly as, while trying to close down on Tosatto, he had some bike problems
that prompted him to slow the pace and re-start his sprint again in the last
500-600 metres. It was a long, long sprint, with Richeze looking like he was
trying to come around AleJet at any time, but the Maglia Ciclamino wearer held
on, and eventually took the win by close to a bike length. Richeze just didn't
have the legs to pass him. Period.
This concludes our live coverage of the stage 18. Official results and links
below. Please join us tomorrow for Stage 19 from Treviso to Comano Terme a 179
kilometre test with a few climbs that will give the last chances before the time
trial for any changes to the General Classification however unlikely that may
be; but it will certainly offer an opportunity for escapes for a stage win.
Stage 19 Profile and detail of the 11 km climb of
Pian della Fugazze averaging with 7% with max gravity tests of 10%.
Stage 18 Results (Official)
Udine - Riese Pio X - 203 km
1 PETACCHI Alessandro ITA MRM 4:32:51 0:00 20"
2 RICHEZE Ariel Maximilian ARG PAN 4:32:51 0:00 12"
3 BRESCHEL Matti DEN CSC 4:32:51 0:00 8"
4 FOTHEN Thomas GER GST 4:32:51 0:00
5 GATTO Oscar ITA GST 4:32:51 0:00
6 TRUSSOV Nikolai RUS TCS 4:32:51 0:00
7 PICHOT Alexandre FRA BTL 4:32:51 0:00
8 ZANINI Stefano ITA PRL 4:32:51 0:00
9 DEAN Julian NZL C.A 4:32:51 0:00
10 DUCLOS-LASSALLE Hervé FRA COF 4:32:51 0:00
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