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Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 5 Updated
By Fabio
Date: 3/25/2006
Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 5 Updated

A group of 163 riders lined up for the start at Castellarano minutes before 11:30 AM CET (CEST from tomorrow, as Daylight Saving Time will be in force starting from 1AM here in Europe. So, all of you in the Old Continent, don't forget to turn your clocks forward one hour tonight, lol). Straight after the flag was dropped, Elio Aggiano (Team LPR), often referred to as the Italian version of the legendary (more or less) French "serial escapee" Jacky Durand, got back to his breakaway antics, and attacked together with another usually combative athlete, Latvia's Raivis Belohvosciks (Team Universal CaffŔ-C.B. Immobiliare). They didn't gain that much anyway, neither were allowed to go that far, and by km. 15 the group was as compatto as it was at the start line.

A much more serious breakaway attempt came five kilometres later; and with names - and legs - like those of Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), 2005 race winner Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), talented neopro Riccardo Ricc˛ (Saunier Duval), young climber Emanuele Sella (Panaria), and accomplished Rinaldo Nocentini (Acqua & Sapone) such attempt couldn't help but coming to fruition. The all-Italian quintet built a gap of 01'35" by km. 31, and the advantage ballooned to more than four minutes 40 kilometres later, just to go up to a maximum of 04'27" by the km. 85 check, a little more than two hours into the stage.

Then the time gaps kept going the other way around, courtesy of the efforts from the Lampre-led chasing bunch: the margin was down to 4'05" by km. 90, to 03'32" as the five front runners made it to the line at Sassuolo for the first time, with about 68k to go, and to 02'55" a dozen km into the Montegibbio finishing circuit. So was the breakaway doomed? No way! Bettini, Pellizotti, Ricc˛, Sella and Nocentini hit the Montegibbio climb with a lead of 02'20", but managed to increase the margin over the peloton to 02'44" on its slopes, with solo chaser Pasquale Muto (Miche) in between. Muto was brought back before the end of lap one, and in the following loop around Sassuolo town the chasing field's speed shrank the gap to 01'30" by the time they made it to Montegibbio again. But once more the five leaders fared well in the uphill section, so that they could still boast a lead of close to two minutes at the start of the third and last lap.

Early in such final lap, Denmark's Nicki Sorensen (Team CSC) and Italy's Giovanni Visconti (Milram) had a go at attacking the bunch and getting across to the front group. But with under seven km. remaining, the Bettini/Pellizotti/Ricc˛/Sella/Nocentini racing machine maintained an advantage of about a minute over the Scandinavian chaser, with Giovanni Visconti the Sicilian a further twenty seconds back, and the group further, further behind. The breakaway had solid chances to succeed. That got even more solid as they could still keep a good minute over Sorensen at the foot of the last ascent to Montegibbio (the bunch had chased down Visconti in the meantime).

Riccˇ and Bettini broke clear on the Montegibbio.
Photo Courtesy Fotoreporter Sirotti. All Rights Reserved.

The final climb broke the quintet apart: Paolo Bettini and climber Ricc˛ attacked, and only Nocentini remained within striking distance, while Sella and Pellizotti (surprisingly) couldn't follow the move, quickly losing 20". Riccˇ and Bettini came first over the top of the ascent, with Nocentini in third place 20" behind and Pellizotti a further six seconds back, then came Sella, and the main group (with GC leader Damiano Cunego apparently having an easy time controlling chief rival Vincenzo Nibali, who seemingly didn't have the legs to attack today) trailing by 01'15".

So was the stage down to a two-man affair? No way! Pellizotti made contact with Nocentini again, and the pair worked well together, or maybe it was the front duo that didn't. At all events, Riccˇ, Bettini, Pellizotti and Nocentini were together one more time in the last few hundred metres of the stage. But as it's oftem the case in situations like this, the chasing efforts took their toll on the chasers legs, and in the end it was Riccardo Riccˇ who had the freshest legs, and proved quickest in the four-man sprint, scoring his first victory in the professional cycling ranks after he narrowly lost to Olaf Pollack in a Tour of California stage a few weeks ago (Riccˇ also beat some pros at the 2005 Settimana Lombarda open race, when he still was an Under 23 rider). It was a particularly significant success for the 1983-born neo-pro, not just because he opened his account, but also as he did in his home town and in front of his own fans: Riccˇ is a Sassuolo resident.

Riccardo Riccˇ wins the sprint on home roads.
Photo Courtesy Fotoreporter Sirotti. All Rights Reserved.

The stage victor wasn't the only one with something to celebrate, because in a further display of good form Damiano Cunego brilliantly led home the bunch and was crowned overall champion of the 6th Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale di Coppi & Bartali. A very bad sign for his Giro opponents with the Tour of Italy "just" six weeks away. Or is it a good sign for them, as someone could think the guy might be in top form a bit too early? Time - and the road - will tell.

Stage 5 (Castellarano to Sassuolo, 163.6 km.): Top 10 Places
1. Riccardo Ricc˛ (Ita - Saunier Duval-Prodir)
2. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Innergetic) - s.t.
3. Franco Pellizotti (Ita - Liquigas)
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita - Acqua & Sapone)
5. Emanuele Sella (Ita - Cer. Panaria-Navigare)
6. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre-Fondital)
7. Josep Jufre Pou (Spa - Davitamon-Lotto)
8. Christian Gasperoni (Ita - Naturino-Sapore di Mare)
9. Raffaele Illiano (Ita - Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni)
10. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Acqua & Sapone)

Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Final GC: Top 10 Places
1. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre-Fondital)
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Liquigas) - at 02"
3. Mario Aerts (Bel - Davitamon-Lotto) - at 11"
4. Sergio Ghisalberti (Ita - Team Milram) - at 14"
5. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Ceramica Panaria - Navigare) - at 17"
6. Andrea Tonti (Ita - Acqua & Sapone) - at 33"
7. Cristian Gasperoni (Ita - Naturino - Sapore di Mare) - at 36"
8. Raffaele Illiano (Ita - Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni) - at 44"
9. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol - Lampre - Fondital) - at 52"
10. Cadel Evans (Aus - Davitamon - Lotto) - at 53"

Damiano Cunego the Winner!
Photo Courtesy Fotoreporter Sirotti. All Rights Reserved.

Points - Final GC: Top 3 Places
1. Riccardo Ricc˛ (Ita - Saunier Duval-Prodir) - 16 p.
2. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Innergetic) - 14 p.
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre-Fondital) - 13 p.

Mountains - Final GC: Top 3 Places
1. Aliaksandar Kuchynski (Blr - Ceramica Flaminia) - 10 p.
2. Riccardo Ricc˛ (Ita - Saunier Duval-Prodir) - 10 p.
3. Raffaele Illiano (Ita - Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni) - 6 p.

Young Riders - Final GC: Top 3 Places
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Liquigas) - 20h45'53"
2. Matthias Russ (Ger - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'47"
3. Cristiano Salerno (Ita - Team Tenax-Salmilano) - at 11'50"

Teams - Final GC
1. DAVITAMON-LOTTO - 62h19'40 "
2. NATURINO - SAPORE DI MARE - at 01'46"
4. LIQUIGAS - at 03'23"
6. LAMPRE - FONDITAL - at 09'43"
7. T-MOBILE TEAM - at 11'34"
8. ACQUA & SAPONE - at 17'22"
9. AMORE & VITA - MCDONALD'S - at 20'09"
10. GEROLSTEINER - at 21'06"
11. TEAM TENAX-SALMILANO - at 21'57"
12. TEAM MILRAM - at 24'00"
13. SAUNIER DUVAL - PRODIR - at 25'31"
14. BARLOWORLD - at 32'12"
15. TEAM CSC - at 33'01"
16. TEAM L.P.R. - at 33'02"
18. QUICK STEP - INNERGETIC - at 36'24"
20. MICHE - at 39'30"
21. AG2R PREVOYANCE - at 43'53"
22. CERAMICA FLAMINIA - at 50'08"
25. OTC DOORS-LAURETANA - at 01h16'40"

Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 1A
Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 1B
Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 2
Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 3
Settimana Coppi & Bartali - Stage 4

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