88th Giro d'Italia - Stage Three
(Diamante to Giffoni Valle Piana - 205 km.)
Click for larger images. Courtesy Gazzetta dello Sport.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Stage 3 of the 88th Giro d'Italia. After yesterday's "hectic" and hard-fought sprint, with Robbie McEwen making the most out of his legs and tactical abilities and taking both the stage - his seventh stage victory on Giro roads - and the Maglia Rosa in a chaotic finish, the race moves out of the southern region of Calabria, that hosted all three opening legs, and steps into Basilicata (or Lucanioa as it's sometimes referred to) for a while, just to finish into Campania, and notably into the town of Giffoni Valle Piana, which makes its appearance in the Corsa Rosa for the second edition running. Wednesday's leg might well be another one for the sprinters, and the Aussie might well maintain the leader's mantle, but with a climb coming late in the stage, dethroned king Paolo Bettini could well have a go at recapturing the Maglia. More details about the stage and its parcours in the following preview, taken from our Giro d'Italia 2005 Route Preview.
Stage 3 (Tuesday - May 10, 2005)
Diamante to Giffoni Valle Piana (205 km)
After three stages of a kind of "Race of the two Seas", with the peloton going from the Ionian to the Thyrrenian coast and vice versa, but all of them running on Calabrian soil only, the Giro finally swings "north of the border", making its way to other two regions, Basilicata (or Lucania, as it’s often referred to as), whose southwestern areas the race briefly winds through, and Campania.
But if it’s Naples and pizza you’re thinking of, well, sorry but you’re wrong: stage three of the “Corsa Rosa” has the finish line firmly located at Giffoni Valle Piana, a small town of the Salerno province. Giffoni is not known for any food delicacies, but because of its Children's Film Festival, which takes place here every summer, and also managed to "cross the pond" and make it to the U.S. (fans wishing to know more please click here) and even Australia.
The route is undulating for most of the stage, and riders have to climb the Scorzo (km 4.5; av. gradient 6.1%) in the town of Sicignano degli
Alburni, and notably crest the Santa Tecla (km 7.3 km.5; average gradient 4.6%) at about ten kilometres from the line, situated at Via Aldo Moro, in front of the so-called "Cittadella del Cinema" (Movie Citadel). On such a course the stage movie may have no happy ending in sight for the sprinters, while any move on the second and last ascent could bear fruit. A stage for Paolo Bettini to celebrate his Giro comeback with a great result? Or for other riders who are no threat to the general classification to go for some glory? Maybe. As for the movie starring all overall contenders, well, we still are in its earliest part, but nonetheless the scenes filmed on the Santa Tecla might help us have a first clue on who’s hot and who’s not. And regardless of all the Bettinis in the bunch, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Damiano Cunego go for some early time bonuses too.
Giffoni and Il Giro. Two things that apparently go well together …
Photo Courtesy Giffoni Valle Piana.
Btw - the Tour of Italy is in town for the second consecutive edition, after Giffoni was start town of stage eight, going southward into Policoro (report and results here), twelve months before. You can find some great photo galleries of the 2004 event, with dozens of pictures available, by clicking here and here.
Live updates from the race
1320 CEST - The stage got underway under the sunny skies of Calabria around noon local time. After the bunch rode together for the eight opening kilometres, we got the first attack, launched by ... yep, here we go again: a(nother) Selle Italia rider! The most combative team (in the early part of each stages at last) thus far in the race had one of their attacking machines, Aussieman Russel Van Hout making the break and quickly opening a gap of half a minute in the space of two-three kilometres. Commentary today by Fabio and Locutus.
The bunch allowed him to go, and Van Hout's lead went up to 02'10" as he rolled out of Scalea (km. 16) and to an impressive - but not that surprising - 06'12" by km. 19. The gap ballooned to 10'35" a dozen kilometres later, as Van Hout wound through the town of Praia a Mare, and 14'05" by the km. 40 check. In spite of such a gap, his average speed after the first hour was well below 40 kph, e.g. 38.200 km/h: a sign that the pack was taking it veeeeeeeeeeery easy; they very too busy contemplating the magnificent landscapes of this part of Southern Italy perhaps ...
1335 CEST - Next update from the km. 47 check: Mr. Russell van Hout can currently enjoy a lead of something like ... 16'53" (!) over the bunch. More than impressive!
1350 CEST - The peloton finally reacted, or stopped losing time to the Aussie at least, so that the gap was 16'24" at km. 51. In the meantime we had another athlete from a French team dropping out of the race: after Didier Rous on Sunday, it was the turn of Belgium's Christophe Detilloux (Francaise des Jeux)to retire from the Giro, 48 km. into today's stage.
Russell Van Hout is the fourth Selle Italia-Colombia rider on a breakaway in the space of just three days. After Raffaele Illiano Sunday, it was Switzerland's Philippe Schnyder and Italian Moreno Di Biase who played their part in spicing up things a bit early in yesterday's leg. As their team manager Gianni "The Prince" Savio explained two days ago, that's just Selle Italia's "mission" in this race. He said he keeps telling it to his riders all the time, and it looks like they have learned the lesson well.
That's also the way chosen by the Colombian team to prove they are worthy of the wild-card they were awarded. But Selle Italia could well prove their worthness also when the road tilts upwards, courtesy of their mountain goats, especially "star rider" José Rujano. After dominating the two latest editions of the Vuelta al Táchira, the first "big" race of the season, and getting close to the GC win at the more prestigious Tour de Langkawi, the Venezuelan has the chance to make his name known to a broader audience in bigger European races. He's currently saving his legs, and we are not likely to see him in the early breakaways of these early stages, but many are looking forward to seeing what the young (aged 23) talent from Santa Cruz de Mora will be able to do in the toughest legs of this tough Giro.
1415 CEST - Van Hout's lead is still hovering around sixteen minutes after 64 km. Okay, the Aussie has few or no chances to make it to the line, and we are sure that if the peloton should start being serious about the chase, his gap would come down exponentially. But, still, a Selle Italia rider once more found the way to make his mar k on the race. And what a way!
1420 CEST - The average speed after two hours has not increased. Quite the opposite I would say, as it actually dropped to 35.100 kph. But the real big news is another one: we had one more rider pulling out of the race, and it's another Belgian. And it's a big name too: Tom Steels! The Davitamon-Lotto sprinter was said to be in poor form yesterday, and things apparently didn't get any better, so that the man retired from the Giro at the km. 65 point.
1430 CEST - Australian - better, Aussie/Dutch - Russell Van Hout is a talented TTist whose best result so far in the current season is a podium finish at the Australian National Time Trial Championships, won by Nathan O'Neill this past January. A talented specialist of races against the clock who could still enjoy a lead of 15'35" over the bunch as he hit the town of Casalbuono in the Salerno province of Campania 80km. into the race (and with 125k to go).
1440 CEST - Some more news on today's (first) protagonist Russell Bjorn van Hout, coming all the way from the man's own website, which actually needs some update though: Russell Van Hout began his cycling career at the ripe age of eighteen. At the age of twenty Russell stopped riding his bike to concentrate on securing his certificate in plumbing. Once he had his trade certificate under his arm he turned back to the bike after a two-year break. From the age of twenty Russell’s riding became more serious each year.
In 2000 Russell joined division two team Selle-Italia. He rode for Selle-Italia for three years consecutively. Russell rode his finale ride with the team in The Tour De Langkawi with the team winning the teams competition in January of 2003. Russell then headed for Europe to spend an entire season racing up against the world’s best. He landed a professional contract with division three Team Axa where already he has imprinted his name with two wins under his belt. As we follow Russell on his developing cycling career dream, we will continue to update (hmmmm ...)you with inside information on the life of Russell Bjorn Van Hout. Russell going back to Australia end of the season of 2003. There are races the Herald Sun, Tour of Qeensland, and more. In November 2003 Russell did sign for a new contract by Colombia Selle-Italia. After the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Maylasia up to Italia.
1455 CEST - Russell Van Hout is about to make it to the feeding zone, situated at Polla (km. 118.6/86.4k to go). His lead is still consistent, but the average speed is still quite low, at least for a man having such an enormous advantage over the peloton: 36.900 km/h.
1500 CEST - Selle Italia serial escapee Van Hout reached the feeding zone at Polla. The man also won the Intergiro Pime at Sala Consilina, while back in the bunch some big names - but not McEwen - battled it out for second place (and the related time bonuses), which was taken by Bettini ahead of Petacchi.
1525 CEST - 80k to go and even if the gap is coming down as expected Russell Van Hout is still holding onto a lead of more than ten minutes.
At the front of the pack is a Davitamon man working with some Quick Step men... indeed, it does seem that the Quick Step men like Bettini's chances today.
The sprint puts Bettini and Petacchi closer to the pink. Interesting that Bettini snaked 2nd in that sprint ahead of Petacchi. Yep, Bettini's on a mission today.
Zabel just punctured, by the way. And Korff and Schmitz drove Zabel back into the bunch in the meantime.
Some other men who could factor in today's finish: Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) who is being paced back to the pack just now. He can climb better than most sprinters, and if he makes it over the top with the men like Bettini and Di Luca, he could cause a surprise. He's capable of it.
1534 CEST - The gap is currently down to 09'12.
1540 CEST - Bettini, sitting behind the Quick Step train, has a quick chat with Zabel about the chase. McEwen, meanwhile is sitting comfortably in the pack. He'll just try to survive that last climb. Interesting that Cunego is riding right next to McEwen.
Bramati sets the pace for Quick Step at the front of the bunch.
Another dark horse I like for today's stage is Savoldelli (Discovery Channel). He's not as explosive as men like Bettini, Cunego, and Di Luca, but with a descent thrown in after a climb near the end, well, he's won stages of the Giro like that before.
1549 CEST - The gap is now down to 7' 10" under the pressure from Quick Step. Bettini is riding third wheel, with Mads Christensen setting the pace. Van Hout looks like he's frying off the front.
Van Hout is absolutely laboring up an incline right now. His upper body is all over the place. Not good. The gap is now announced to be only 6' 13".
Accused by Petacchi of "unfair behaviour" - and of siding with Robbie McEwen - in yesterday's post-sprint comments, Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu gave his own version of things as he was interviewed by RAI TV before the stage start:
"I launched my sprint too early. I had a great teammate in Julian Dean who did a great job, but it came too early for both himself and me. I had a go at taking Ongarato's wheel but he was too far away from me, and I didn't succeed, so I started the sprint..."
Kirsipuu strongly ruled out any possibility of forging an anti-Petacchi alliance with McEwen anyway: "The point is that McEwen is a rider who knows well his stuff when it comes to sprinting. That's why he often wins, that's why he won yesterday".
1558 CEST - The peloton now slogs uphill on that incline that was hurting Van Hout just a bit ago. The Aussies sure have the ants in their pants this race. And Brad McGee, last year's prologue winner and GC protagonist, isn't even here.
1603 CEST - The gap has slipped further to just over 5'. Once again, with Quick Step and Davitamon so prominent in the pack, it looks more like a northern classic than the Giro. I guess that will all change in the mountains.
Van Hout must be thankful for this descent he's on right now. Pretty countryside, but he probably doesn't like the looks of those hills in the distance...
1605 CEST - Liquigas is now moving up on the outside, taking up position behind the Quick Step boys. They are looking after the Pro Tour Jersey-wearing Di Luca. Another rider just having a flat is Petacchi's leadout man Alberto Ongarato. He'll be back into the bunch, and at work for his leader, quite soon however.
1609 CEST - Van Hout hits Serre, which puts him a little over 50 km away from the finish.
The gap is down to 3' 40" now. The riders have to cross the valley and then hit that last climb of the day. Van Hout is on another blissfully relaxing downhill section. This part of the course is much more up and down than the race profile makes it look.
On the other side of the post-sprint polemics, Fassa boss Giancarlo Ferretti said that "Everyone who watched yesterday's sprint could see how it wasn't a fair one. Well, especially to us, as we were the losers there, but it's also true that we could have lost in a different way, you know..."
Asked about Petacchi's post-stage accusations, "Ferro" replied, "Well, had he been interviewed 10 minutes later, he might have not told certain truths. But, the only thing I can say now is that I simply wasn't satisified with the way things turned out".
1617 CEST - Van Hout gets a drink from his team car and chats with his DS. Strange how much this part of Italy looks like Southern California. It looks like the area near Solvang, where Discovery has their camp... all the vineyards and orchards, and the rolling hills.
1621 CEST - Jose Garrido drives the Quick Step train, which is now in full force at the front of the peloton. They are closing in all the time on Van Hout, who is suffering up another incline.
Oh great. Some jackass just walked through the peloton... he was in the road, wading through the riders, trying to get in their way. Sorry, make that two jackasses. They were trying to impede the riders. I'm not a fan of police brutality, but in this case...thankfully the two idiots didn't do any damage.
They stood in the middle of the road. One of the Quick Step men took a swat at one of them as they went by. No riders seemed to have gone down as a result of those knuckle-dragging dolts.
1629 CEST - Zabel and Bramati have a chat in the peloton, wondering about the sobriety of those idiots perhaps. The pack has just passed the 40 k to go banner.
Paolo Bettini was another rider talking to RAI tv microphones before the stage kick-off. And he might well be one of the main suspects to win the stage, as well as re-taking the Maglia Rosa: "I think stages like the one finishing at L'Aquila are more appropriate for that, but I can sure have a shot in a hectic stage like this.
"So yes, I think I'll try and do something on the late climb today; then, if sprinters like McEwen and Petacchi can hold on, good for them, they'll go for the win, and deservedly so. And if they can't, I'll try and give them a run for their money".
Well, strap it on, 'cause it sounds like this race is going to get wild at the end. 35 km left.
1640 CEST - Another rider just punctured: Stefano Zanini. He's currently being paced into the bunch. The peloton spreads across the road as they push onward. Van Hout goes under the 30 km left banner. He has been off the front for about 170 km today, and the gap at the 30km sign is down to a mere 1' 00". Make that 1' 06". Helluva ride.
Van Hout won't get the victory today, but he certainly has put in a great ride. Another banner day for the Aussies.
A couple of Discovery riders start to show themselves near the front. Interesting.
1645 CEST - Van Hout hits the town of Bellizi, and looks over his shoulder to see how close the pack is now. Fans line the roads and cheer him on.
1647 CEST - Van Hout now passes the famed Esso station in Bellizi, and that is where his break comes to an end. The peloton has swept him up.
25km left. Now a Liberty Seguros train takes shape near the front, trying to rival the Quick Step train.
Also briefly talking to RAI's Alessandra de Stefano before the start today was "Il Falco", Discovery's well-known Paolo Savoldelli: "I got off to a good start to the Giro, in my opinion. Some riders said we're taking too many risks these days. They make a point, but you simply can't avoid this in early stages, you know.
"Everyone wants to stay up front, the sprinters going for victory, their leadout men, as well as the GC contenders that don't want to lose time".
Asked about his bid for the overall, the Falcon said that "my first goal is to try and limit my time losses in the first part of the race, then I'll wait and see how my legs are as we hit the mountains in the final week".
And as to today's stage, Savoldelli didn't promise that he'll have a go at winning, but just said that the most difficult moment for himself - and the bunch in general - will be at the foot of the late climb, as everyone will be fighting to get into a good position before the ascent starts.
1652 CEST - The Liquigas boys are mixing in a leadout at the front of the pack now. The pace is very high as the peloton races for the foot of the final climb. There are two trains, on the right is a Liquigas train, on the left another mixed train. Now they combine. Lots of fighting for position amongst the GC men right now.
The Liquigas boys have managed to hold the front with their leadout. 20km left. Things are blistering now, as the race is definitely on.
Michael Barry (Discovery) is right near the Liquigas train, the powerful Canadian giving Savoldelli a leadout. With him is Joachim as well, the Tour veteran who has helped protect the Yellow Jersey so many times.
1656 CEST - T-Mobile now moves up on the left of the road... oh, a tricky split on a right hander caught a rider out. I think Illiano was the rider who missed that right hander. Quick Step and Liquigas are still driving the front of the peloton for Di Luca and Bettini.
The rider at the right hander was Ivan Parra - of the same team as Illiano. Here starts the fireworks... The peloton hits the climb.
1700 CEST - Now an attack! Di Luca marks Bettini, and they slow their pace a bit. Bettini drives it under the 15km banner with Di Luca on his shoulder.
The peloton is under pressure, gaps are opening up. Bettini is out to put McEwen under pressure. Tiralongo goes on the attack for Panaria. He has about 50 meters.
The road is starting to kick up a bit more. Tiralongo is out of the saddle driving up the hill. A crash behind. It looks like a Quick Step and a Discovery rider are having problems - the riders who fell are Lampre's Szmyd and Bouygues's Renier.
Di Luca is now driving the chase of Tiralongo, with Bettini on his wheel. He is leading a small group of only about seven riders.
1704 CEST - Igor Hernandez is now attacking up the road from the Di Luca group. Behind, McEwen has been soundly dropped by the Di Luca and Bettini group. Now Hernandez gets swept up by Koldo Gil of Liberty Seguros.
So now it is Koldo Gil who is alone off the front. The peloton has started to reform a bit behind. Liberty's Gil recently won the Tour of Murcia, as he beat no less than Damiano Cunego, who ended up third.
1706 CEST - Gil has about 13" on the peloton. He'll need more than that. McEwen is struggling behind the peloton.
Yep, the peloton is largely back together on this climb, though it is all strung out. Petacchi is off the back chasing with some teammates. He could get back on. Petacchi's just 15-18 secs behind the best ones, and McEwen a few seconds further.
Gil still drives it up the road. Now he pulls over! He's had a mechanical! DiLuca now attacks and breaks up the peloton again! Zabel is climbing better than both Petacchi and McEwen.
1709 CEST - Things are happening so quickly it's hard to keep up. So two Liquigas riders now drive the peloton (what's left of it) with Di Luca third wheel. That's how it goes over the top of the climb, a cat 2.
The peloton is splintered over the top, but the gaps are small... there should be a lot of regrouping. The Liquigas are Garzelli and Cioni. 10 km left.
That's not a bad leadout for a climb, eh? I wouldn't mind have Garzelli and Cioni working for me like that.
1713 CEST - Cioni got the maximum points for the mountain, with Garzelli 2nd. Now a Phonak rider has a go with a Panaria rider on his wheel, but they get brought back quickly. The lead group is down to 29 men. All GC contenders are inside.
Liquigas now has four men (including Di Luca) at the front of this lead pack. They are really trying to drive home their advantage over men like Petacchi and McEwen.
Whoa! some sharp corners heading into town, and everyone is going flat out. Tricky on these one-lane roads... Petacchi is 1' 15" behind this lead pack.
6 km to go. McEwen is in the same group as Petacchi. This descent is a real burner. There is a large group chasing after the lead group.
1717 CEST - Liquigas is still driving the lead group. They've been all over the front of this race for the last 15km. 4 km left. The kilometers keep flying by on this descent into the finish.
That camera motorbike better get out of the way... those Liquigas guys are right up his tailpipe! The bunch with Petacchi and McEwen is trailing the leading group by 50". And Erik Zabel is reportedly in between the lead group and the chasing group.
1720 CEST - 2km left. One of the Liquigas men pulls off, his job done. Still, Di Luca has a good leadout going, as they ride past the barriers draped with Liquigas signs.
Final kilometer. What a sprint! Here it comes... Di Luca is on the front trying to win this sprint. Bettini is on his wheel...
Di Luca looks to have just barely nipped Bettini at the line! It will be close. In any event, Bettini should be back in the Pink Jersey tonight.
The group with McEwen comes in over 1' down on Bettini and stage winner Di Luca. That was pretty impressive... there were some twists and turns through the barriers. Oh it was Cunego! Cunego in second!
1. Danilo Di Luca 5:24:17
2. Damiano Cunego
3. Stefano Garzelli
4. Mirko Celestino
5. Francisco J. Ventoso
6. Paolo Bettini
7. Luca Mazzanti
8. Cristian Moreni (all same time)
Di Luca led that sprint out from a long way, twisting through the barriers. Bettini tried to hold his wheel, but couldn't, fading to 6th. Cunego came up and around Di Luca to give him a serious challenge, but Di Luca won it by a few inches as both lunged at the line.
Paolo Bettini has retaken the Maglia Rosa! Danilo Di Luca is second on GC at 09" behind, and Damiano Cunego follows at 17". Fourth is Garzelli at 23". Savoldelli (26") and Juan Manuel Garate (30") follow in fifth and sixth places respectively.
A great win for Di Luca who continues his blistering season! And another day in pink for the classy Bettini tomorrow. Di Luca actually manages to make that white Pro Tour Leader's Jersey look good. That's not easy.
More on GC: Dario Cioni is seventh (31") and Colombian Mauricio Albero Ardila Cano is eighth on GC (at 32") .
Di Luca knows what to do with that champagne... let's hope that Cunego is taking lessons, because last year he was terrible with getting those bottles open. Di Luca sprays the crowd, gets his flowers and kisses, and looks pretty stoked.
While thanks to time bonuses he was awarded today, Damiano Cunego extended his lead over presumed chief rival Ivan Basso to 19 seconds. Basso is 22nd on GC.
Now Bettini pulls on his Pink Jersey again, and gets some smootches from some amazons who make him look like a lollipop kid. Bettini hands the bottle off the stage to a teammate, who takes a huge swig. A nice reward for his teammate... those Quick Steps were on the front pounding it for their leader all day long!