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88th Giro d'Italia: Stage 7 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/14/2005
88th Giro d'Italia: Stage 7 Live Coverage

Welcome to live coverage of Stage 7 of the 88th Giro d'Italia! Today's stage is 211 kilometers from Grosseto to Pistoia. Commentary today by Bart Hazen of and Andy McDobbin.

Stage 7 (Saturday - May 14, 2005)

Grosseto to Pistoia (211 km)

For the first time in the most recent editons, the opening week comes to end without any mountain top finishes under the belt. Indeed also Saturday’s all-Tuscan stage, linking two of the region’s biggest cities, ends on flat note. But the stage itself cannot be considered a easy one, as riders have to tackle two challenging ascents: San Baronto (short but steep, according to Gazzette dello Sport: 3.7 km. at an average gradient of 8.1%, peaking at 348m ASL) first, and the strangely-named Sammommè (5.0 km. at an average gradient of 6.5%, 553m ASL), that peaks at just 30k from the line, later. It can be a first significant climbing test for the riders amd their legs, just one day away from the Florence ITT, and while the week with the first, real mountains is getting closer and closer. Click on the following link for the San Baronto climb profile. See the climb profiles below.

Discovery Channel's new star rider Yaroslav Popovych
in his Landbouwkrediet-Colnago days.
Will he be racing this stage on Tuscan "home roads"?
Photo by Fabio. © All Rights Reserved.

A winning breakaway through the olive groves is not unlikely today, as much as it’s not unlikely to find the top overall contenders in the top places of the stage classification. And assuming he's racing the Giro, one of those top contenders might be Yaroslav Popovych, as the stage ends up on the "home roads" of the Pistoia province, whose town of Quarrata hosts the HQs of the Discovery Channel Ukrainian. If Quarrata is to Popovych what the Catalan city of Girona is to Armstrong, "Fast Freddy" and other Americans, another hamlet of this area, Vinci, is the real hometown … of the great Leonardo, of course. But also … the great Roberto Gaggioli, Italy’s best-known "cycling immigrant" to the United States. Unfortunately for the Tuscan, while there’s still some chances (at least while this story is being written) to see "Popo" at the Giro, Gaggioli’s only way to attend the event is as an average spectator.

Race Coverage

As we join the race in progress, we have 21 leaders with around 9.00 on the bunch: Marichal, Brandt, Parra, Halgand, Petrov, Lefevre, Barry, Celestino, Fertonani, Casar, Strauss, Carrasco, Baranowski, Koldo Gil, Wegelius, Zampieri, Moreni, Eltink, Gomez, J.Rodriguez and Kessler.

There are apparently problems due to bad weather in Pistoia...

Of the escapees, Celestino is the best ranked rider at 9th, 49 seconds behind Bettini. The maximum lead this group had was about 13 minutes; now the lead is around nine minutes, with CSC and Lampre-Caffita leading back in the bunch.

Today if the 21 are reeled in, we can expect Saunier Duval rider Manuele Mori. Mori is very motivated because he is riding home. He is from Pistoia.

As mentioned above, today the riders face 2 climbs. The one with 40 km to go is San Baronto and the last one with about 20 km to go at Sammomme. Both climbs are very heavy. They are talking always about the Sammome, but the climb to San Baronto is not that easy either. It's a climb of 4/5 km with steep parts in it. (See the climb profiles above.)

San Baronto is the place where Giovanni Visconti (Domina Vacanze) and Vincenzo Nibali (Fassa Bortolo) are living. Both riders are not in the Giro but will start on Monday in Catalunya.

Ivan Quaranta has left the race. The Domina Vacanze rider apparently couldn't handle the climbs anymore. Wonder if maybe he should try the track.

1524 CEST - Current situation: the peloton is now 9 minutes behind the 21 leaders. The 21 riders are working well together.

Here's a brief look at who's in the break: Thierry Marichal (Cofidis)is a helper of Cofidis. Will show himself in this Grand Tour. Christophe Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto) is a GC rider for Davitamon-Lotto. He can do a good business if they are not reeled in. He is a good climber.

Ivan Parra (Col. Selle Italia) is a climber but isn’t in that good shape. Had to drop a bit too early 2 days ago on the cat 1 climb.

Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole) is a good rider of Credit Agricole. Can climb well too. Evgeni Petrov (Lampre-Caffita) is Cunego's helper. Is controlling the break and can climb and is good riding against the clock. Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) can do well in the hills but is mostly a gregario. But without any leaders in this Giro he can go his own chance.

Michael Barry of Discovery Channel is normally a helper of Lance Armstrong. He can climb and rides well against the clock. Let’s see what he can do in this stage. Mirko Celestino (Domina Vacanze) is the best ranked rider of the 21 leaders. Has won several classics and among them the Giro di Lombardia. The race of today is more or less equal. So he can handle that.

Marco Fertonani of Domina Vacanze was good in the Tour of Romandie. Finished in the top 10. Is a stage which suits him well. Sandy Casar (La Francaise des Jeux) - Last year he rode a good TDF. Was 2nd once in the Criterium International. This stage is what is perfect for him normally. But after the stage of 2 days ago which Di Luca won, I’m not sure if he is in good shape yet.

Marcel Strauss of Gerolsteiner is an Austrian rider of Gerolsteiner. Can climb as well. He finished every year in the top 10 of an Italian Semi-Classic - last year in Emilia and the year before in the Coppa Agostoni. José Luis Carrasco (Illes Balears) is a neo pro of Illes Balears. Won the mountains competition in the Tirreno.

Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty Seguros) = perfect helper for the team and normally for Heras. Can do a great job in all parts of a race.

Koldo Gil (Liberty Seguros) - Won already the Tour of Murcia this year. Is a perfect climber and is hunting for the Maglia Verde. Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) is a helper for Liquigas. I’ll guess he has the same role as Petrov in this breakaway. Controlling, not doing much work, etc., etc. All in favour for Garzelli, Cioni and even Di Luca.

Steve Zampieri (Phonak) = climber of Phonak. In the Tour of Romandie he did a good job for Pereiro and Botero. So he can ride in front for a long time as well. Cristian Moreni (Q-Step): the Italian Champion. Is 15th in the GC and 2nd best of the breakway. Only 9 sec. behind Celestino. If the breakaway succeeds he can go for the Maglia Rosa.

1543 CEST - The riders are now starting at the San Baronto climb. Gap is coming down fast.

Theo Eltink (Rabobank) is a neo-pro. Is riding his first GC and is riding a good Giro - we've seen him quite a bit so far. He can climb well. Angel Gomez Gomez (Saunier Duval) = good helper for SDV. He will help Rodriguez in the breakaway I guess. Rodriguez is also hunting for the Maglia Verde.

Joaquim Rodriguez of Saunier Duval is a good rider. Won already a stage in the Vuelta, won the Catalan week. Is a good climber and hunting for the mountains jersey. Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) - Classic rider of T-Mobile, especially for the Amstel, Fleche and LBL. Today's stage is more or less equal. Kessler can win the stage if the breakaway will not reeled in. Kessler is fast.

1547 CEST - 1 km to the top of the climb - Angel Gomez is leading the pace of the 21. Koldo Gil takes the max points on the top ahead of Zampieri and Parra. The peloton is also on the climb - CSC leading the effort. However, the back door is open at the back of the bunch...a lot of riders can't handle the tempo anymore.

It has rained - the descent is very dangerous because of the wet roads. It could certainly put a damper on the action.

By the by, Rabobank directeur Frans Maassen said yesterday that he thought Eltink could win today, as he's riding so well. Here he is at the front of the race as the heavens open...

A group of 30 has lost contact and in that group some Fassas...I'll guess Alejet is in there. I reckon they'll be a little more prudent on the corners today, especially in the wet. The circuit yesterday where the Fassa train crashed was very dangerous, but they had ridden through it 2 times already, so they should have known.

1555 CEST - 40 km to go.

1559 CEST - The gap is still around five minutes. The general consensus is that this group is too beefy to make it to the finish, but they will surely shed some riders if they get to the bottom of the final climb with a solid lead.

In 8 km's they will pass the finish for the 1st time. The 2nd time there is the real finish - there is a loop through Pistoia to the Sammommè and then back to Pistoia. 35 km to go.

1604 CEST - Liberty Seguros will be pleased to see their mountain men Koldo Gil and Dariusz Baranowski up there - again, having been in the main break two days ago. Nine riders of the break 2 days ago are in the break again today - Parra, Petrov, Casar, Baranowksi, Gil, Wegelius, Gomez, Rodriguez and Eltink. They are now crossing the finish line for the first time - 32 km to go.

While some riders have been on the attack more than once this Giro, Sven Krauss has surely been the most aggressive, always battling to get a gap to consolidate his lead in the Intergiro competition. Krauss is sixteen seconds ahead of second-placed Bettini, though he's extended it after second place in the Intergiro this afternoon.

Gil was first over the top of the climb, in front of Zampieri, by the way.

Furthermore, while young Gerolsteiner man Krauss is third in the most combative classification, he leads the Trofeo Fuga Piaggio one with 212 points - if my memory serves me correctly, the winner in Milan receives a Vespa motorcycle. Yes indeed, the winner receives a Vespa. A bit more horsepower in their ride...

1614 CEST - a second peloton is riding 40 seconds behind the peloton with the favourites. The first peloton is about 80 riders strong. Zampieri attacks.

Gil has caught Zampieri, Gomez is there too, so three leaders.

Gomez is not the Gomez who was 6th last year in the Vuelta. Within Saunier Duval we have 2 riders with the name Gomez. We have Gomez Marchante, the 6th place last year in the Vuelta, and Gomez Gomez who is now in front of the race. An other name for Gomez Gomez is "Litu". The peloton is now within 3' 12" of the 3 leaders.

The other Gomez, José Angel Gomez Marchante, will be the lead man of Saunier in the Volta a Catalunya. Gomez Marchante is in good condition - he was 2nd behind Tonkov (at 3 sec) in the Classica Alcobendas. 25 km to go.

Looking in the annals of this great race, the most recent Trofeo Fuga Piaggio (the "Vespa competition") winners aren't exactly household names: 2002 Mariano Piccoli, 2003 Constantino Zaballa, 2004 Daniele Righi.

1621 CEST - Flat tire Caucchioli, and also Hruska had to change a wheel. The peloton at 2.30 now, the gap is melting away. We can expect a great finale, I think.

Yes, considering the difficulty of the last climb and its proximity to the finish, coupled with the treacherous conditions.

I think the leaders are on the last climb now, Kessler on the contra-attack.

Zampieri attacks again, Koldo comes back.

The last climb is the Sammommè, 6km long but with an average gradient of 8%. With the middle section averaging 11% and maxing out at 14%, there could be fireworks from the favourites. The peloton is on the Sammommé too.

1626 CEST - Schleck, Luttenberger, Vandborg and a Liquigas rider in the front of the peloton. Ivan Basso looks comfortably nestled near the front of the pack. Meanwhile, the two leaders have 14 seconds on Gomez Gomez, 56 seconds on Kessler, more than 1' 00" on the others and 2'00" or less on the bunch.

Gil in the lead - Zampieri dropped. 4 km to the top of the climb. Now the 27 year old from Pamplona is hitting the steepest part of the ascent, and gritting his teeth as the road ramps up.

Tom Danielson in front of the bunch behind CSC and the Liquigas man. Strauss reeled in by the bunch. I reckon there's a seat reserved for him in the autobus.

1631 CEST - The peloton is breaking up - the door again open in the back of the bunch. The CSC workers, Bettini, Bertagnolli and someone from Selle Italia dropped - the Maglia Rosa in problems...this should produce another shakeup for the general classification. Rujano is leading the peloton.

Di Luca and Basso are increasing the tempo. Simoni attacks. Simoni gets the company of Rujano, the others not far behind.

About Rujano - were he not a cyclist, he might be a sideshow attraction as one of the smallest men in the world. Some photos of him are quite mind-boggling - a friend of mine commented "He's shrinking!" upon seeing a photo of the diminutive Venezuelan alongside the not-exactly-giant Paolo Bettini, who nonetheless towered over him.

Gil leads Zampieri by just over thirty seconds now, and an unconfirmed report is that Honchar is in difficulty. About 25 in the wheel of Gibo, I think, can't see who is in trouble. Cunego attacks, but everyone is in his wheel. Rujano to the lead again, Moreni and Gomez reeled in. He's really staking his claim to the maglia verde of mountains leader.

1638 CEST - Bettini is riding near Danielson - off the back. Rujano is doing a great job - about 8 or 9 riders left. Rujano, Di Luca, Simoni, Cunego, Basso, Savoldelli for sure in front. Meanwhile, Koldo Gil is on top of the climb and takes the max points.

Group Kessler/Eltink reeled in. Celestino on top at 1.00. The others with Rujano at 1.14, and now going into the descent. Celestino reeled in too, I think.

After this (punishment?), Gil now has just over fifteen kilometres, most of it downhill, to Pistoia. Time for his legs to switch off and brain to switch on, as he tucks into a low position and concentrates on maintaining as much speed as possible. With 1'14", he will really have to ensure no errors are made.

1643 CEST - Koldo Gil in front and then at about 1.10 a group of 20, with the former riders of the break and Basso, Rujano, Simoni, Cunego, Savoldelli, and Di Luca of course. Fertonani is not reeled in and is riding at 57 sec. Maybe there are some other riders who are not reeled in but that isn't clear yet.

Lest we forget, Di Luca can also perform ably in the high mountains. So much for his "my Giro is finished" speech two days ago...

A group with Bettini at 2.30. Honchar, who was struggling off the back, may be a bit annoyed that one of his key domestiques is actually in front of the main inseguitori. Now there are more riders who are trying to come back. Scarponi, Ardila, Garzelli, Cioni, some of Panaria.

1645 CEST - Gil has 1.05 on the group Di Luca. Fertonani back in the group Di Luca.

Commentators are mentioning that Basso is riding 40 sec behind the group Di Luca/Cunego - on top of the climb he was still in front near Cunego - I'm wondering if that's true.

While his time-trialing skills are better than Cunego's, the rider he was billed to have a rivalry with in this race, it would be silly to lose any more time. 6 km to the finish. It's in for Koldo; he will win the stage. The man born in Pamplona is still tearing into Pistoia like a pack of bulls are chasing him, and he may receive the mountains jersey as well, I think.

Indeed Basso is in the 2nd group with Garzelli, but they are coming closer.

1652 CEST - 5 km to go. Gil turned professional with iBanesto in 2001, but has been with Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros for the past two years. This would be his first Grand Tour stage victory, if he could pull it off. Petrov, Meanwhile, Cunego and Simoni are leading the group to make the gap to Basso bigger.

Gil has 50 seconds lead left. Basso is 30 seconds behind group Cunego. Petrov has certainly been an unsung hero today, marshalling the breakaway and now helping his teammates. Final Kilometer!

Bettini in a large group 2'25" back...The news is that Serguei Gonchar is in that Bettini group. Crash in the group Basso. Garzelli down. Cioni and a Domina down too.

Gil wins the stage!

Cunego 2nd at 22 seconds. Di Luca 3rd. That was close!!! Liquigas-Bianchi's chances are suddenly looking very slim. Basso loses around 30 seconds. Garzelli seems hurt, this doesn't look good at all.

However, Garzelli is leading Cioni and Noe - he is coming in at 2.27. Sixth overall before the start of the stage, he's certainly going to lose some places. At least he is on his bike.

Provisional Top 10

1. Gil
2. Cunego
3. Di Luca
4. Celestino
5. Halgand
6. Casar
7. Kessler
8. Brandt
10. Eltink

Considering yesterday's event, it is possible that Garzelli and his fellow 'crashees' will be awarded the same time as the group they were in. We believe they were at about 1500 meters to go, just outside that magic one kilometer. So we'll see.

General Classification

1. Di Luca
2. Cunego
3. Celestino
4. Simoni
5. ?
6. ?
7. ?
8. Basso

Simoni didn't seem very happy at the finish line...but speaking of Basso, tomorrow he can make some time good on Cunego. Basso is normally the better rider against the clock. Yes, Cunego has admitted that time-trialing is and always will be his weak point. Basso is now about 1.00 down to Cunego on GC, so we will see what the TT of about 40 km will bring us tomorrow!

As we watch Pretty in Pink Di Luca with his Spumante (which he has trouble opening - maybe one of those podium girls - like the one who grabbed Bettini by the neck a couple of days ago - could help him), we thank you for joining us today. See you tomorrow for the Individual Time Trial in Florence.

Stage 7 results and classifications here.

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