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90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/31/2007
90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 Live Coverage

90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 Live Coverage
From one extreme to another. From the leg-torturing Zoncolan to the perfect sprinter's stage on the plains of Northeastern Italy. AleJet is expected to score again, but watch out for the breakaway men.

Courtesy Gazzetta della Sport
Stage 18: Udine - Riese Pio X - 203 km

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 his birthplace.

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 ambitions.

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 2007 Giro 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.

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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 Codroipo.

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 January 2008.

1530 CEST 140 kilometres gone/63k to go. The "seven wonders" up front hold on to a margin of 01'44" over the field driven 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 town.

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 between.

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 instead.

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. the Argentine.

Petacchi vs. Richeze, Petacchi, Petacchi ...


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 90th Giro.

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 this year.

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 spots.

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 104 pts.

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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