Welcome to the Giro d'Italia's Centenary Celebrations. It was a mid-spring
day, it was Thursday, May 13th 1909. It was the day (better, the night, for it
happened at 0253 AM, local time) Mr. Carlo Cavaneghi, the president of the
Unione velocipedistica italiana
, dropped the flag, and a bike extravaganza
spanning over one hundred years got kick started, with 123 Italians and four
Frenchmen in attendance.
That was quite of a stage, a journey of 397 kilometres from Milan to
Bolonia, with a certain Dario Beni and his Bianchi team making histry by
claiming the first ever stage triumph on Giro roads. Such contest ran over
eight stages, and triple stage victor Luigi Ganna became eventual winner of
the point-based event (had it been a time-based race like today's, the winner
would have been Giovanni Rossignoli, with Ganna in third at 50") in Milan 17
days later, curiously with Mr. Beni taking line honours also in the final leg.
Ah, welcome to the fifth stage of the 2009 edition of Italy's Grand Tour
too, by the way. Yes, it's not all about what happened a hundred years ago.
It's also about what's going to take place in a day that could tell us a lot
about who's going to wear that coveted jersey on the Rome podium late this
month. Unlike many previous years, we won't have to wait for the final week to
see who's got great climbing legs. We started to have a clue about it
yesterday, when Danilo Di Luca sprinted at 60 kph to claim stage victory from
Stefano Garzelli and Franco Pellizotti, with Levi Leipheimer hanging on and
Lance Armstrong losing a little time to the other main GC contenders. We'll
get to know more at the end of today's short (just 125 kilometres) but though
journey from San Martino di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi.
Stage 5 © 2009 Gazzetta dello Sport
That would be the second mountain top finish in a row, but definitely more
challenging than yesterday's, as it wraps up a 24-kilometre ascent, with the
going getting steeper in the last nine thousand metres, and gradients going up
to 11 percent. It ain't the only difficulty of the day of course, as the road
will start tilting upwards right after the gun, courtesy of the Passo Rolle
slopes, "crime scene" of legendary bike fights throughout a century of rides,
but maybe coming a little early to make the difference among the top overall
contenders today. Still, a good launch pad for wannabe early attackers, a
solid breakaway group is likely to come into being there.
Stage 5 © 2009 Gazzetta dello Sport
A long descent into Predazzo and some more uphill racing (but no KOM Sprint
there, sorry) until Caldaro town follow, then comes the Hot Spot Sprint in
bilingual (Italian and German) city Bolzano/Bozen. A few more miles of flat
riding, a string of half a dozen tunnels ... and let the final battle of
climbing giants break out!!
Stage 5 © 2009 Gazzetta dello Sport
1340 CEST The stage got under way under
cloudy skies at 0135 PM local time. The peloton is climbing the Rolle pass,
with cyclamen-jersey holder AleJet Petacchi in the driver's seat, and GC
leader Thomas Lovkvist besides him. No signs of attacks thus far.
1350 CEST Eros Capecchi, a very young
Tuscan with the Fuji-Servetto outfit, started the fireworks. Barloworld's
Francesco Bellotti, on the move, he was also in the first miles of yesterday's
leg, and three more guys (Diquigiovanni's José Serpa, LPR's Daniele
Pietropolli and Lampre's Francesco Gavazzi) followed his opening move. Di
Luca, Simoni, Cunego didn't wait long to get one of their respective
domestiques into the day's first breakaway group.
The group changed a little as Serpa's Venezuelan team mate Carlos Ochoa
plus France's "Titi" Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom joined the frontrunners near
the top of the ascent, and Bellotti was dropped. Ochoa out sprinted Voeckler
and Capecchi at the summit, taking the most KOM points. They are on the
Again, the escapees are: José Serpa, Carlos Ochoa, Thomas Voeckler, Eros
Capecchi, Daniele Pietropolli and Francesco Gavazzi, with the peloton half a
1405 CEST The fugitives got a new
companion: ISD'S Giovanni Visconti attacked in the downhill section and got
across to the leaders. The seven-strong breakaway slightly extended their
advantage to 40 seconds.
1410 CEST The pace set by Lovkivst's Team
Columbia helpers, with Liquigas-Doimo sitting on their wheels, is not too
high, and the gap is marching towards the minute.
1415 CEST Pavel Brutt (Team Katusha),
stage winner at Contursi Terme last year, sped off on his own and is currently
trying hard to close down on the seven wonders up front. The Russian's time
distance is no more than 40 seconds while the main bunch, perhaps too busy
contemplating those weapons of mass distraction that are the magnificent
landscapes of Trentino, have to make up for a two-minute gap already.
1420 CEST Brutt can't make it on his own,
sorry. The Russian's losing his battle against the seven wonders, his gap
moving up to the minute at the most recent check. Team Columbia and their
wheel-followers sit 02'15" behind, "perfectly in control of the situation"
according to Italian TV co-co-commentator Silvio Martinello (he said the same
things about LPR yesterday, and facts eventually proved him right).
1430 CEST Again and again, the seven
José Serpa (Col - Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli);
Carlos Ochoa (Ven - Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli);
Thomas Voeckler (Fra - Bbox-Bouygues Telecom);
Eros Capecchi (Ita - Fuji-Servetto);
Daniele Pietropolli (Ita - LPR Brakes-Farnese);
Francesco Gavazzi (Ita - Lampre-NGC);
Giovanni Visconti (Ita - ISD)
Their advantage on the Columbia-led group is a little bigger (02'36") with
Pavel Brutt (Rus - Team Katusha) still in between but with basically zero
chances to succeed in his chasing bid.
1440 CEST Nothing more than a little gap
update: the aforementioned attackers are 01'20" clear of Pavel Brutt, with the
bunch falling further back to 03'30" at Cavalese, 42 kilometres into the stage
and 83 kilometres from the finish line. The main GC contenders have all the
time to make up for their current time deficit in the two-thirds of the stage
yet to be covered.
1445 CEST José Serpa, Carlos Ochoa, Thomas
Voeckler, Eros Capecchi, Daniele Pietropolli, Francesco Gavazzi and Giovanni
Visconti covered 42.6 kilometres in the first hour of racing. They're still
working well with each other, and such cooperation was no stranger to the fact
their advantage reached new heights, getting dangerously close to four
1450 CEST Now it's 04 minutes and 14
seconds as the race steps into the Bolzano province (aka South Tyrol) with 75k
to go. Such more solid gaps took the "virtual Maglia Rosa" all the way onto
Giovanni Visconti's shoulders. The Sicilian was 02'49" behind Lovkvist in the
overall standing at the start line today.
Tall and strong Thomas Lövkvist is the third ever Swede to wear the overall
leader's jersey at the Tour of Italy. The first was Gosta Petterson, who also
happened to be race winner back in the days of 1971, whilst Tommy Prim (Lövkvist's
team manager a few years ago) enjoyed a brief spell atop the leaderboard in
the 1983 edition. Thomas Lövkvist is also the leader in the best young rider's
classification, albeit the white jersey sits on the shoulders of South
Africa's John-Lee Augustyn (Barloworld) today.
1500 CEST Seventy kilometres to go. Mark
Cavendish is caught driving the peloton charge, but their time distance
remains a good 04'32". Pavel Brutt persists in his pointless solo ride: the
Russian's gap ballooned to 02 minutes and 38 seconds, and he ain't even
getting any decent TV exposure, so why does the boy keep wasting energies like
Eros Capecchi, born in 1986, and was both stage an overall winner in last
year's Euskal Bizikleta, is the youngest member of the front group. And
possibly also the bravest: the guy was unfit and had to pull out of the Tour
of the Basque Country some 40 ago, then stayed out of the saddle for a couple
weeks, but this didn't stop him from giving it everything today.
1510 CEST Pavel Brutt's gap to the seven
wonders is getting bigger. Did the Russian finally realize the pointlessness
of staying all alone in between the leaders and the pack ?
1515 CEST Barloworld have moved en
masse towards the front of the pack over the last miles. Is Soler, who's
NOT an immediate GC threat, vying for glory today? That wouldn't be much of a
surprise. A couple lieutenants of the Colombian's "Red Army" have joined Team
Columbia to help to chase.
Pavel Brutt reportedly sat up and waited for the peloton to catch him. The
boy made the right decision at last
1520 CEST Columbia and Barloworld are not
being very effective in their attempt to bring the gap down. But at least they
keep it around 04'30" - 04'40".
1525 CEST Just interviewed "on the road"
by the RAI journalists, Barloworld's team manager Alberto Volpi confessed that
yesterday was a good test for Soler's climbing legs after the Colombian's
previous misfortunes almost persuaded the guy to drop out of the race. But the
"test" gave a positive response, and yes, now the Colombian is still in the
pack and could well give it a go today. He's not in a hurry to win however,
the parcours will provide him - and the other mountain goats - with plenty of
opportunities this year. Provided the South American polka-dot jersey winner
learns to stay in the saddle a little more ...
1535 CEST The chase is bringing fruit at
last, the peloton gained about half a minute on the seven wonders up front
over the last few miles. Visconti and his companions, still perfectly
cooperating, just reached the 35-to-go point as they wind through the
Bolzano-Bozen area. The start of the final climb is only a dozen kilometres
away; Lance Armstrong asks for the Astana team car to reach him. Why? He
knows, we don't ...
Lance had to fix something in his handlebar.
1539 CEST Titi Voeckler the Alsatian
beat Pietropolli and Serpa to claim victory at the Bozen traguardo volante.
The bunch came in 04'11" behind. The average speed after two hours of racing
is a good 45.7 kph.
One more time, the seven front runners (with 30 kilometres to go now, and a
wild bunch of tunnels coming prior to the start of Alpe di Siusi) are:
- José Serpa Perez (Col - Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli);
- Carlos Ochoa (Ven - Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli);
- Thomas "Titi" Voeckler (Fra - Bbox-Bouygues Telecom);
- Eros Capecchi (Ita - Fuji-Servetto);
- Daniele Pietropolli (Ita - LPR Brakes-Farnese);
- Francesco Gavazzi (Ita - Lampre-NGC);
- Giovanni Visconti (Ita - ISD)
coverage of stage 5 continues in part 2.
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