Welcome to Stage 14 of the Giro - we shall be bringing all the news on today's decisive time trial and shall be giving up dates on the Midi Libre - who will win today in Italy - and will Armstrong gain his first major victory of the season?
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If Stage 13 was just "selective," this one could be decisive. A 30-km. Time Trial with an extremely demanding parcours, mostly going up and down the Appennine hills of the Marche region ("motherland" of American Cycling boss Fred Mengoni).
You will hardly find 1000 flat meters in this stage. Roads able to put in evidence for two thirds the ability of gear shifting by climbing uphill and for the rest the capacities on downhill roads ...". I couldn’t agree more, while I could disagree when they add " ... and on flat open country".
Where is the flat part? Not right after the start, where riders immediately find a 700-meter ascent (gradient about 5%) preventing them from an excessively fast start. But the most difficult climbs of the first, mainly going uphill, half of the stage come later, their names being San Germano (Max. gradient about 13%) and Camerano.
Curiously, the route is more or less the same one riders experienced in a similar ITT two years ago, but this time in the opposite direction.
The Camerano climb, at about halfway point of the stage, features the 600 toughest meters (15%); but former World Champion Maurizio Fondriest and Cantina Tollo’s Andrea Tonti, testing the route for RAI TV, said riders should use a big gear in order to leave this half-km behind as soon as possible. Otherwise they could lose some decisive time here. Camerano could make the difference.
The first time trial stage was held in the 1933 Giro over a 62 kilometre course from Bologna to Ferrara. It was won by Alfredo Binda. But leading today so far is a rider well known to us all Andrea Peron (Team CSC Tiscali) 43.02
Francesco Moser holds the Giro record with 12 time trial victories.
Duma - is now on the course - it is overcast and cool today. Of course his team mate "Lucky" Perez thrilled us all yesterday with a truly great ride.
Astarloa -(Saeco) arrives in 17th place so far.
Miguel Indurain won four time trials and Gianni Bugno three. Interestingly enough when those great men won those races - today's race leader Heppner was just starting his career in eastern Germany!
Cioni - sets off - fortunately it is not wet today - the descents are fast, technical and tricky.
Meanwhile in Midi Moncoutié (Cofidis), Atienza (Cofidis) and Jaksche (Once) and Moreau are in a break with around two minutes on the US Postal lead peloton!
Lunghi has been passed by his minute man Doma - while Cioni has just lost some time on a tricky corner which he took poorly.
Ah Kessler - the iron man of the Telekom team has set off
Duma is looking good for the lead 42.55 yes he sets the bench mark for the riders to follow.
Duma, Peron, Streel are now the top three - while former race leader Ivan Gotti - whose Allesio team lead the team competition - sets off.
Nardello - in his national colours is struggling a little on the Camerano.
The Camerano climb, at about halfway point of the stage, features the 600 toughest meters (15%); but former World Champion Maurizio Fondriest and Cantina Tollo’s Andrea Tonti, testing the route for RAI TV, said riders should use a big gear in order to leave this half-km. behind as soon as possible. Otherwise they could lose some decisive time here. Camerano could make the difference.
Cioni - in spite of his near fall, is posting the best intermediate times so far
Postal still leading the peloton in Midi Libre
Meanwhile back in Italy Scarponi in his Zebra outfit - cotton cap on back to front sets off
Honchar - pushing a huge gear as always is hammering along the relatively flat section - meanwhile Tonkov sets off
Cioni - 42.23 takes the lead - the man from Reading has set the new bench mark
Honchar - pushing an enormous gear has put up the fastest time at the inter-giro point
Verbrugghe - surely one of the favorites for today's stage - looking calm and composed sets off - I expect the man from Walloon to be in the top three today.
A nice shiny Specialized bike - with solid disc wheel at the back - wearing no hat, Rik looks like he is out to prove a point today
Hamilton - with helmet has just started
Honchar is now powering up the final straight - he should take the lead 41.52 - he takes the lead from Cioni
MIDI NEWS! 30 km's to go the four escapees have just one minute on the peloton still led by the US Postal team!
Verbrugghe crosses the kom point in fourth spot
Midi escapees: Christophe Moreau (CA), Moncoutié (Cofidis), Atienza (Cofidis) and Jaksche (Once).
Perez Cuapio, yesterday's winner has just finished with the same time as Pantani - a long way from the front.
So just to recap: HONCHAR leads the race so far with a time of 41'52"
Frigo has just started - he finished third yesterday and is looking very determined today - but HAMILTON is fastest so far at the KOM point! A massive 13 seconds faster than Honchar at that point!
Gotti - twice winner of the race, finishes in 6th place - a good ride by the veteran.
Casagrande is about to set off - with terrible memories of when he lost the Giro to Garzelli...
Pereiro finishes in third spot - while Heppner gets ready to set off. The 39 year old in pink receives a huge cheer as he sets off
Honchar? Hamilton, Frigo, Verbrugghe? - who will win -the excitement is almost tangible!
Frigo comes over the KOM point in third spot behind Hamilton and Honchar. That means that Hamilton put in nearly half a minute on Frigo in just 9 kilometres.
MIDI! The four escapees are caught with 22 kms to go - three riders Atierzan, Beselle and Besy have escaped from the peloton with 15 kms to go - but of course they still face the huge finishing climb. They have just 25 seconds on the peloton...
Hamilton is storming round this time trial course - while Casagrande is 49 seconds down on Hamilton on the KOM point.
Hamilton is taking all sorts of risks on the corners - he is fast but scary!
Verbrugghe comes in 22 seconds behind Honchar who still leads the race. Hamilton passes the km 21.2 at 29'55", which is 16" better than Honchar.
Popovych, the great hope for the future, finishes in 20th place at 44'07"
Tour of Belgium! Jan Svorada won the sprint in Belgium before Vainsteins. Still a question about the leader - Dierckxens or Voskamp. Voskamp did a wrong maneuver so that will have to be decided by the jury later on.
Tyler HAMILTON at 41'31" leads the race - a tremendous performance! So Hamilton looks very good to win this race.
Casagrande has arrived - one minute down on Hamilton.
Frigo has pulled some time back - he will not bother Hamilton but gets 5th place.
Evans is now coming in - he takes third place ahead of Verbrugghe - great performance.
Hamilton, Honchar, Evans, Verbrugghe - is how it stands. So Evans and Hamilton will definitely be moving up the General Classification.
Heppner has recovered from a slow start - and is now powering along - it is amazing what wearing the leader's jersey of a race can do...
Escartin is now coming in - he arrives in 15th place - so will fall in the GC.
Midi News 7h12: Laurent Paumier carries the last stage at the top of Espérou (Gard). Second is Christophe Moreau, Lance Amstrong is third and wins the Overall.
Heppner comes in and has done enough to hold onto the pink - Evans is second, Hamilton third, Casagrande fourth on General Classification.
An amazing day for American cycling! Armstrong wins the GP Midi Libre - Hamilton wins the Time trial - unbelievable!
So Heppner still in pink, Evans in second place and Hamilton in third. Casagrande fourth, Frigo fifth.
Thanks for tuning in, and check back for reports and interviews of all today's great races on the Daily Peloton!