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88th Giro d'Italia - Stage 1 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/8/2005
88th Giro d'Italia - Stage 1 Live Coverage

88th Giro d'Italia - Stage One
(Reggio Calabria to Tropea - 208 km.)

Click for larger images. Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport.

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Stage 1 of the 88th Giro d'Italia. Sunday's first road stage, coming after yesterday night's unusual and picturesque Prologue ITT on the Reggio Calabria seafront, covers 208 km. between the same Reggio Calabria and Tropea, in the Calabria region of south-western Italy.

And gets underway with Australian Brett Lancaster of Ceramiche Panaria-Navigare as proud and deserved holder of the first Maglia Rosa. The Melbournian proved the fastest in the "1,140 m sprint" as he covered the parcours in a time of 01'20", beating the Fassa Bortolo duo Matteo Tosatto and Alessandro Petacchi. Thus giving his orange team their 17th win of the season; a sensational tally, especially for a squad that - believe it or not - is NOT part of the UCI ProTour circuit. You can find our Panaria's Giro d'Italia team preview here.

The first updates from the road are now online. But you can also have a look at the stage one preview from our Giro d'Italia 2005 Route Preview.

Note: The preview mentioned also a certain Mario Cipollini, but only as it was posted a few days after the Giro Route presentation in late January, when noboy could know of the man's future retirement announcement (which was made less than two weeks ago, and took many a good ones by surprise ...). Needless to say, the Lion King - who staged his last "parade" on Giro roads last night - as he "raced" the 1,140m prologue, wearing an all-Rosa outfit, after the last rider, Damiano Cunego, took the start in the "real" prologue - obviously wouldn't be a factor in today's sprint finish, in case we actually had one.

Stage 1 (Sunday - May 08, 2005)

Reggio Calabria to Tropea (208 km)

Just a few hours after their night show on "Italy’s nicest kilometre", riders get back in the saddle for the first road stage and, after a few dozen kilometres in the very southernmost part of the Italian boot, start their journey northward, in the 208-km. ride from Reggio - playing host to a Giro stage start for the sixth time - to the Tyrrhenian seaside resort of Tropea, which is new to stage finishes instead. The leg kicks off with some flat riding along the coastline, then moves inland to hit the first small hills of the Calabrian Appennine (with the 3-km. Mileto ascent -365m ASL- averaging a 8.8% gradient), and eventually gets to the finish town.

Many said that after yesterday’s "1150m sprint" this stage could provide fastmen with the first chance to contest a real, "average" sprint. And notably provide Alessandro Petacchi, in his bid to equal or even improve his 2004 record of nine Giro stage wins, with the first opportunity to raise his arms in triumph. But Fassa Bortolo’s winning machine should be very careful. And not just due to the stiff opposition he’s supposed to meet from the other fast wheels in the bunch (McEwen should be there, and perhaps Erik Zabel too, and then there’s still a certain Mario Cipollini, and a new generation of sprinters that might give the fastest rider on the planet a run for his money ...), but also because of the course itself. As the same Gazzetta dello Sport pointed out, the last km. might turn out to be tricky, with the route going uphill, and the gradient up to 12%, in the first 400 metres, then there’s a bend, and then the route gets back to its flat status with some 500m to the line, where we wouldn’t be surprised to find a stretched peloton. So our money is on a mass sprint, but maybe not an "average" one.

There’s one thing we can be (almost) sure of anyway: with Saturday’s prologue being too short to open up serious gaps, and many bonus seconds up for grabs at Tropea, today’s winner is going to wear the Maglia Rosa at the startline tomorrow.

The beaches of Capo Vaticano, just a few km. south of Tropea.
No time for riders to take a bath tough, eh! Pic Courtesy Tropea Online.

Live updates from the race

Stage One of 88th Tour of Italy is underway. All 197 rider who started - and finished - yesterday's short and "unique" prologue took the start at Reggio Calabria five minutes after midday local time (CEST). Your commentators today are Fabio and podofdonny.

Just to remind you, the top 20 places after the prologue were as follows ...

1. LANCASTER Brett - AUS - PAN - 01'20"
2. TOSATTO Matteo - ITA - FAS - 01'21"
3. PETACCHI Alessandro - ITA - FAS - 01'21"
4. SAVOLDELLI Paolo - ITA - DSC - 01'21"
5. POLLACK Olaf - GER - TMO - 01'22"
6. O'GRADY Stuart - AUS - COF - 01'22"
7. KIRSIPUU Jaan - EST - C.A - 01'22"
8. RENSHAW Mark - AUS - FDJ - 01'22"
9. ESCOBAR ROURE Sergio - ESP - IBA - 01'22"
10. KRAUSS Sven - GER - GST - 01'22"
11. WIGGINS Bradley - GBR - C.A - 01'22"
12. BERTAGNOLLI Leonardo - ITA - COF - 01'23"
13. BETTINI Paolo - ITA - QST - 01'23"
14. MARTIAS Rony - FRA - BTL - 01'23"
15. BARRY Michael - CAN - DSC - 01'23"
16. ZIEGLER Thomas - GER - GST - 01'24"
17. MCEWEN Robbie - AUS - DVL - 01'24"
18. HESJEDAL Ryder - CAN - DSC - 01'24"
19. ONGARATO Alberto - ITA - FAS - 01'24"

As you can see, the only real possible GC contender in the top places were Paolo Savoldelli. Similarly to the Tour de Romandie, where he took second in the prologue a dozen days ago, the Discovery Channel Bergamasco got off to an excellent start. Results from the other presumed top overall contenders were:

22. CUNEGO Damiano - ITA - LAM - 01'24"
37. SCARPONI Michele - ITA - LST - 01'25"
41. BELOKI DORRONSORO Joseba - ESP - LST - 01'25" (assuming he's a real GC threat)
51. GARZELLI Stefano - ITA - LIQ - 01'26"
53. BASSO Ivan - ITA - CSC - 01'26"
68. CIONI Dario David - ITA - LIQ - 01'26"
97. SIMONI Gilberto - ITA - LAM - 01'28"
99. HONCHAR Serhiy - UKR - DOM - 01'28"

And as you can see, the gaps were extremely slender, so slender a winning sprint in one of today's time bonus-awarding traguardi intermedi might be enough for them to be nullfied. But, still, a good result in the prologue can be a sign of a good condition, and especially provide riders with a huge moral boost for the rest of the race.

1300 CEST - The first real attack in the 2005 Tour of Italy was launched after a dozen kilometres by Italian Leonardo Scarselli of the Selle Italia-Colombia team, the other non-Pro Tour licensed squad that can race the Giro courtesy of the wild-card they were awarded by the organizers. The man quickly built a gap of 02'24" over the bunch.

1330 CEST - We have the first unpleasant news since the Giro kick-off: French rider Didier Rous (Bouygues Telecom) became the first athlete to drop out of the race. He stepped off his bike about 20 km. into the stage.

1345 CEST - More updates from the early kilometres of this stage: three riders attacked the field and launched their own chase of the leader at km. 21: Italian Stefano Zanini (Quick Step-Innergetic), Holland's Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank) and Germany's Sven Krauss of Gerolsteiner cut the gap down to 01'10" by km. 24, with the bunch close to a further two minutes behind, and caught him later.

By km. 38 their lead over the peloton had ballooned to 06'40". And it went up to 10'53" by km. 53, after the frontrunners averaged a speed of 41.2 kph in the first sixty minutes of pedalling on the streets of Calabria.

1410 CEST - New update from the race: the group finally started to put in some chasing efforts and bring the gap down, though just slightly. After 72 km. of racing Stefano Zanini, Thorwald Veneberg, Leonardo Scarselli and Sven Krauss can still enjoy an advantage of 09'40".

1420 CEST - Some news from elsewhere in the world of cycling. And BIG news too! Euskaltel-Euskadi finally got a win, courtesy of David Herrero, the quickest rider in the sprint in Sunday morning's stage two of the Clásica Internacional de Alcobendas, held over 79 kilmetres and both starting and finishing at Collado Villalba, a town on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. Saturday's opener winner Pavel Tonkov (Rus - Team LPR) held onto the overall lead in an event which is set to finish this afternoon with a 14.2-km. ITT around the city of Alcobendas. More details can be found here.

1430 CEST - The average speed, two hours into the stage. was quite high: 43.350 Kph.

1440 CEST - The legs of German waterboy Sven Krauss, that turned 22 this past January, must be good in this period: after making it to the top 10 places in yesterday's prologue, the man won the first Intergiro Prime of the race at Locri (km. 92), and will be wearing the first Sky Blue jersey in the race. Stefano Zanini took second and Rabo-boy Thorwald Veneberg third. The leading quartet, containing also Selle Italia's Leonardo Scarselli, the rider who launched the first attack, had their advantage over the bunch further cut down, but sill consistent: it was a good 08'01" with about 105k to go.

Sven Krauss. Photo Courtesy capture-the-peloton

1455 CEST - The gap kept shrinking in the following kilometres: Scarselli, Krauss, Zanini and Weneberg's advantage went down to seven and half minutes as the race hit the halfway point, and 06'53" about five minutes later.

1505 CEST - More gap-shrinking on the roads of Calabria: after building a maximum advantage of a little more than eleven minutes, the four escapees had their advantage over the Fassa-led (is it news?) peloton down to 06'15" by km 114.

1515 CEST - The gap is "just" 07'05" at the km. 117 point. The average speed after three hours of racing was a bit down too: 38.950 kph. And in the meantime, we got to know the reason of Didier Rous's retirement from the race: Gastroenteritis!

1519 CEST - The four escapees struggled on the ascent leading up to the tunnel, located at an elevation of 610m asl. They were pushing a 39x21, and riding at no more than 10 km/h. But the ascent is over now. And they are riding on a downhill section, working well together. But arguably knowing that their breakaway is doomed (their current lead is 06'40", by the way) and sooner or later they will be reeled in.

As expected today, Colombia Selle Italia, one of the two non-ProTours in the race, are in the thick of the action with Leonardo Scarselli - whose best result in his career is probably 2nd spot in the Giro Friuli - however he did win the Tour du Senegal in 2002.

1528 CEST - Latest "gap update" from the roads of Calabria: Veneberg, Krauss. Scarselli and Stefano "Maciste" Zanini are leading the always Fassa-led bunch by 05'05".

Zanini is probably the best known rider of this fab four - he was brought into the Quickstep squad with the aim of helping Boonen in the sprints and teaching the youngster some road skills - seems to have worked out very well. Both he and Boonen gave British fans a display in the Tour of Britain: Zanini taking stage one and Boonen winning in Nottingham.

Of course the Tour of Britain was won by the Colombian Ardila - who is racing this Giro for Lotto and seems in good climbing form at the moment.

1535 CEST - Scarselli's Team Manager Gianni Savio just commented from the Selle Italia team car: "A fighting attitude is a feature of our team. When we meet before the stages, me and (the other DS) Marco Bellini always tell the riders to go, to attack. And Scarselli his currently putting our plans into practice. Kudos to him. The breakaway is working well together, and struggling. They still have a good lead of more than five minutes. Let's wait and see how things pan out over the next climb".

Another rider in the break, Thorwald Veneberg, is having a good 2005 season: he won the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen this year, but his best performance in the Giro was 65th in 2002.

1543 CEST - Gap update: the advantage is down to a mere 4 minutes, after the peloton entered the recently established province of Vibo Valentia. A town whose foundations date back to the 7th century though.

Beautiful sight as the peloton speeds over a bridge, with a mixed bunch of riders now leading the chase... The peloton reorganising itself after the feed site. Charlie Wegelius looking comfortable in the peloton, riding for Garzelli and Cioni for Liquigas.

1555 CEST - Savoldelli's manager Sean Yates just commented from the team car on Il Falco's prologue and overall hopes: "Paolo was very motivated for this Giro, and we hope that after two seasons of bad luck with Telekom he may find his 2002 winning form at Discovery. He had a very good start, but we should wait until the mountains. I know there's difficult stages ahead, the last week will be very difficult - but we have two weeks (at our disposal), and will wait and see what the Lampres, Basso and Garzelli can do over there. I think we have some good chances anyway".

1557 CEST - And in the meantime the four leaders had their gap reduced to a mere three minutes or even less.

Massimo Codol (Fassa - who else) now leads the peloton as Lopez (Euskaltel) punctures in the bunch but gets back on. And we see Joseba Beloki (Liberty) at the back of the peloton, checking the route with his little map.

Also in the camera view is Discovery rider, er, Ryder Hesjedal; he stretches at the back while at the front Charlie Wegelius and Nick Gates of Lotto lead the peloton.

1607 CEST - Thorwald Veneberg attacks the other escapees on the ascent leading up to Mileto. It's a big effort by the Rabobank rider; he looks very determined to make his mark on this race. Veneberg is currently leading Scarselli by a dozen seconds, while Zanini and Krauss are 50 secs behind, and the bunch trailing by two minutes.

Wegelius for Liquigas again leading the peloton up the first (categorised) climb of the Giro - a sight we will get used to over the next three weeks.

Serhyi Honchar's Domina Vacanze manager Gianluigi Stanga, interviewed "on the road", said that "I think Honchar's condition is fine. He prepared well for this race, which is one of our team's main goals of the season. We have to wait and see how things pan out in the very next stages anyway, then we could have a better clue of Serhyi's form. I think this Giro is more uncertain than the previous ones, though in the end it should be a matter of the usual suspects. I hope we can find the right tactics. Honchar will be assisted by a veteran like Wladimir Belli and a in-form rider such as Marco Fertonani. And perhaps also Quaranta can do something good".

But Domina Vacanze might have a go at winning today's stage, courtesy of Mirko Celestino, as the last km. suit the skills of this strongman. Right, Mr. Stanga?

"Well, the last km. is quite demanding, and selective, and I think riders like Di Luca will make a move there. Should Celestino have the legs, he'd certainly try and follow their move."

Veneberg will take the third Cat climb - he has just 500 metres to go.

1620 CEST - words from the Quick Step team car now: "Had Zanini and his breakaway mates proved able to stay away, it would have been fine with us. But as they are going to get caught soon, I think we may have a shot at winning the stage with Paolo Bettini".

Veneberg takes the only categorised climb of the day, and the peloton is about 2'30'' behind him. Scarselli and Krauss were 2nd and third on the climb. All riders are now on the descent.

1624 CEST - Zanini and Krauss have been swallowed by the bunch, while solo leader Veneberg and Scarselli are still away. Veneberg's win at the just past KOM Prime earned him the lead in the Mountains classification. He'll be the first Green Jersey wearer in the 88th Giro d'Italia. 35 km to go - Veneberg powers on.

Veneberg won the GP Scheldeprijs in a two man break with Vaitkus - but can he hold off the peloton for 35 km in the Giro? The Dutchman is leading Scarselli by 01'27" now: the peloton is on the heels of the Selle Italia rider, who's gonna be reeled in soon.

1630 CEST - 33k to go. Scarselli back into the bunch, while solo leader Veneberg winded through the city of Vibo Valentia, and is currently tackling a descent of about 5-6 km, on the way to Vibo Valentia's seaside part, Vibo Marina.

The peloton is also tackling the first switchbacks of this difficult descent, they'd better be very careful there! Twisting, with many switchbacks, the first test of nerves on the descent - Wegelius and Gates lead the peloton down. Now up at the front, Celestino for Domina Vacanze.

1639 - Some Francaise des Jeux guys are now moving to the front to help the chase too. 1'55'' is Veneberg's advantage, while Jason McCartney is struggling off the back of the field. Both the leader and the chasing bunch have now made it to Vibo Marina.

Also many Lampre guys are moving to the top places of the bunch. And we can see Simoni and Garzelli neck-to-neck now. Gates, Codol, Celestino, Milesi at the front of the peloton.

"Only" 21 kilometres to go, but that must be too far for Thorwald Veneberg to hold onto his lead - against a hard-chasing bunch. The gap down to 01'45" now.

Cunego and Simoni making sure they are near the front of the pack - as do Bettini and Garzelli - they will be afraid of early nerves - which lead to crashes. And so does Ivan Basso, with a couple Team CSC teammates around.

1647 CEST - 20 km. to go for the bunch, which has cut the gap to Veneberg down to a mere 35". The wind is not helping the young and brave Rabo-boy, who's going to get swallowed soon.

As the Fassa boys start to mass near the front, the end is in sight for Veneberg. The peloton is right on his wheels indeed. And it's just a matter of seconds before the Rabobank rider gets reeled in. The Dutchman sits up, takes a drink and the peloton speeds by him. But he deserves just praises for his attacking attitude.

1652 CEST - Gruppo compatto again! We're gonna see the Dutch boy at the end of today's leg anyway. On the podium, being awarded his well-earned Green Jersey. Ooh la la! T-Mobile at the font - the Giro turns to Magenta...Very Magenta indeed. Close to all the T-Mobile guys are now setting the pace.

Are they working for Erik Zabel - as we suppose - or will Olaf Pollack put in a surprise performance in the last, difficult km?

1655 CEST - Burt ... er... Brett Lancaster rides comfortably inside the bunch, his Maglia Rosa on. But he's likely to surrender it to someone else in half an hour or so. Just one thing though, folks. Don't call him Burt!!

Now the lime green and celeste move up on the right, but the speed has dropped slightly as the teams start to play poker with each other.

While Gerolsteiner's sprinter Robert Forster just had a flat, with about 10k to go. Now the Silver train army of Fassa move up...

1659 CEST - An attack from Bouygues Telecom's Frenchman Walter Beneteau. The bunch allowed him to gain a few seconds. Meanwhile, Forster is struggling, in between one team car and another, to get back into the bunch.

He succeeded. But the point is: How much are such efforts going to take their toll in his legs in the last kilometres? Beneteau is pulled back in - as CSC come to the front.

Quickstep also at the front in numbers. But also guys from Fassa and Lotto can be seen in the top places, with 7 km. to go.

Many, many teams, working for many, many riders that could well aim for the glory today.

1705 CEST - 6 km. to go. And things stay the same at the front of the regrouped peloton.

5k to go. A Quick Step rider setting the pace. The teams are massing - Fassa, T-Mobile, Liquigas, Domina, all at the front. And we can see Dario David Cioni working as an average domestique for Danilo Di Luca.

Fassa finally take control, and McEwen moves up with them. The peloton is veeeeeery strung out; the gap between the first and the last rider of the bunch should be 40 secs or so. While poor Sandy Casar of FDJ had a flat at the veeery wrong time. 5 Fassa men at the front along the Tropea seafront.

Fassa's very high pace partially split the peloton. But Bettini, Zabel, Cooke and other top guys are still up front. 1K TO GO! Fassa still up front - four of them.

And here comes the uphill section of about 400m. Bettini attacks on the steepest section. Petacchi tries to counter. Di Luca and Cooke follow him. Bettini unstoppable - he gained about 5 seconds. Bettini solo in the lead. 400m to go. BETTINI WINS!!

McEwen take second a few seconds behind, Petacchi takes third. It is a masterful victory! He tore the peloton apart in the last 700 metres - Bettini back to his best on a thrilling finish!

And at the same time took his first ever win at the Giro. And grabbed his first ever Maglia Rosa. "I had some problems, I knew what I went through, but one has to react. And I did" were Bettini's first post-win words.

"I want to dedicate this victory to all those who ALWAYS stood beside me" was his other (a bit polemic???) remark.

Stage 1 (Reggio C.-Tropea, 208 km.): Top 15 Places
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step) - 05h09'32"
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus - Lotto-Davitamon) - at 03"
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 04"
4. Baden Cooke (Aus - Francaise Des Jeux) - at 04"
5. Manuele Mori (Ita - Saunier-Duval-Prodir) - at 04"
6. Erik Zabel (Ger - T-Mobile Team) - at 04"
7. Danilo Di Luca (Ita - Liquigas-Bianchi) - at 04"
8. Mirko Celestino (Ita - Domina Vacanze) - at 04"
9. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre-Caffita) - at 04"
10. Mauricio Alberto Aridila Cano (Col - Lotto-Davitamon) - at 04"
11. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita - Discovery Channel Pro CT) - at 04"
12. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Lampre-Caffita) - at 04"
13. Filippo Pozzato (Ita - Quick Step) - at 04"
14. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Liquigas-Bianchi) - at 04"
15. Serhyi Honchar (Ukr - Domina Vacanze) - at 04"

88th Giro d'Italia - GC after Stage 1: Top 6 Places
1. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step) - 05h10'35"
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus - Lotto-Davitamon) - at 12"
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 14"
4. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita - Discovery Channel Pro CT) - at 22"
5. Marco Velo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 25"
6. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre-Caffita) - at 25"

Ivan Basso (Team CSC) finished 5 seconds behind the other top contenders.

More words from the winner, and the losers: after chirping over the line at Tropea, "The Cricket" talked of his success in front of the RAI TV cameras, saying that "I actually eyed this stage. As I tested the last part of the route this past Friday, I realized it suited my skills. But to think that you can win a stage in such a parcours is one thing, and to win it for real is another one, of course. I came to Giro well aware that my condition was getting better, but also knew that winning today was no easy task, as this stage was the target of several riders, for different reasons.

"In the end I benefitted from the work done by Fassa Bortolo. I happened to be on their wheels at the foot of the final uphill section, and gave it everything, and I won. I'm delighted at both scoring my first ever win here and taking my first jersey. Things couldn't have gone better, especially as this victory comes after a difficult start to the season. I was unfit and had to stop five times in the first two months; and it's not easy to start back again in such conditions. But after nine seasons as a professional rider I managed to catch the Maglia Rosa, and I'm going to struggle to keep it as much as possible. And I promise that, should I lose it over the next day(s), I'd try and limit my losses and have a shot at re-taking it again".

(Almost) on the other side of the stage leaderboard, Danilo Di Luca couldn't place higher than seventh at Tropea. Interviewed by the RAI journalists after the stage, the Liquigas-Bianchi leader, whom many picked as today's stage winner in pre-stage speculations, said that "what really made the gap today was that Bettini started the ascent at the front, and I didn't. If you wanted to win, you had to be in the top places at the foot of the uphill section, and I wasn't there. He was instead, and he's going very fast in this period, so he got a well-deserved victory. My condition is as good as it was in the Classics of the North anyway, so I'll have another go at winning in the Aquila stage. I'm very motivated, I want to do well there, both because there's an uphill finish that suits my skills, and it's in my home region Abruzzo".

Alessandro Petacchi is used to racking up one victory after another, but collected just two third place finishes in as many days so far in the 2005 Giro: "This stage was particularly appropriate for him (Bettini) and he won. He was given the chance to take both line honors and the Maglia Rosa, and didn't waste it. He had a great ride so kudos to him. I tried to follow his move, but Bettini was going too fast, so I chose to wait for my teammates, as they could be of help to me. But I didn't think Bettini could get to the top of the uphill part with such a consistent advantage. Then I gave up, and was passed by McEwen too". AleJet lost Sunday's battle, but didn't give up his hopes for an early Giro stage victory, a win that might well come tomorrow, at the end of the stage finishing at Santa Maria del Cedro, a stage whose route provides the fastmen with more chances for an "average" sprint finish. Though when it comes to steal the jersey from The Cricket's houlders in the next day or two, Petacchi is much more skeptical.

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