Hi everyone, and welcome to our live coverage of the second stage of the 89th Giro d'Italia, from Mons to Charleroi/Marcinelle over 197 km. After yesterday's one-man show by Paolo Savoldelli, who simply demolished all kind
of opposition and stormed to an impressive opening victory over ITT Prologue specialist Brad McGee (that at his turn had an excellent performance anyway, and so did others) and the rest of the field, the Corsa Rosa crew got back in the saddle in the same Walloon area of Belgium, in what is meant to be a tribute to both the European Coal and Steel Community (founded in the early 1950s and later evolved into the European Economic Community, and later on into the current European Union) and the Italian migration to Belgium (some 200,000 people of Italian heritage currently dwell in French-speaking Wallonia). A migration that - just like in several other similar circumstances - was much of help to the host country's economic growth. But was also marred by a tragic event such as the Marcinelle mine disaster, an explosion that claimed more than 260 victims - most of whom were Italian workers - back in the days of August 1956. And the 50th anniversary of such event is definitely not stranger to the decision to place the finishing line of today's stage (kicking off at Mons) at the same town of Marcinelle, a suburb of Charleroi. Looking at the stage altimetry below, you can see how today's leg, the first "road stage" of the 2006 Corsa Rosa, is really one for the sprinters, with no true difficulties on the menu.
Stage Two Live Coverage
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1330 CEST - The action got underway about half an our past midday local time. The group stayed together for the first tweny kilometres or so, but around the km. 23 point came the first move of the day - and of the 2006 edition -, courtesy of a quartet consisting of France's Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom) and Mikael Delage (FDJ) plus the Mexican Moises Adalpe Chávez (Panaria-Navigare) and Italy's own Raffaele Illiano (Selle Italia, of course. How could a member of Gianni Savio's attacking machine miss the first breakaway attempt of the event?). The leading quartet was soon down to an all-French duo though, as both Illiano and Adalpe Chávez unfortunately (for them) hit the tarmac.
1400 CEST - But the Selle Italia fighters didn't give up, and Gabriele Missaglia tried to ride away from the field, along with Euskaltel's Benat Albizuri; this pair started their own chase of the leading duo. A successful chase, as even if, one hour into the ride, Labbe and Delage maintained a lead of 44 second anyway, the Italian and the Basque quickly joined them to set up a four-strong group that increased their advantage over the main peloton to a good three minutes at the km. 44 check.
1430 CEST - The gap ballooned to 05 minutes and 38 seconds by km. 55, when Gabriele Missaglia made the headlines as winner of the first Traguardo Volante (Hot Spot Sprint) at Rebecq-Puhain, and to a good 06'18" about 10 km. later, on the way to Braine-Le-Chateau. Soon later the pack finally put in some kind of reaction, and the advantage finally kept coming down: 05'52" at the km. 72 check (e.g. with 125 km. remaining).
1445 CEST - Two hours into the stage, the average speed went up to 39.100 km/h, while some half a dozen kms later, Benat Albizuri the Orange Warrior had his (first) slice of glory as the winner of the Intermediate Sprint on the outskirts of Arquennes town.
1455 CEST - Quite surprisingly (maybe), the gap increased again: Gabriele Missaglia, Arnaud Labbe and his fellow Frenchman Mikael Delage as well as Benat the Basque (Albizuri) lead the peloton by no less than seven minutes at km. 86. But there's still a looooooong way to go: more than 110k to the line. A few more kilometres into the stage, around its halfway point, FDJ's Delage "stamped his authority" on the race by winning the "110 Gazzetta" Prize Sprint from Albizuri and Missaglia. The bunch was driven to the (sprint) line by Team Milram's Alessandro Vanotti, arguably a sign that Petacchi's chasing machine is ready to start its job soon.
1520 CEST - The sprinter's team, and Savoldelli's Discovery boys, started their chasing job .A good job, if you look at how the gap went down to 04'35" with 88k to go, regardless of how Missaglia, Albizuri, Labbe and Delage (the youngest rider in the Giro pack, as he's just 20) are working well together under the grey skies of Belgium.
1530 CEST - The four frontrunners (Labbe, Missagalia, Albizuri and Delage) made it to the feeding zone at Merbes-le-Chateau, with 88km left to go.
1539 CEST - Less than 75k to go, the four leaders a winding through a forest near the French border, they can still boast an advantage of four and half minutes over the not-chasing hard peloton.
1546 CEST - Nothing new on the gap side of the matter: the advantage is still around 04'45" with about 65k left. The sprinters' teams look like they have the situation under control. AleJet Petacchi stays in the first 20-25 places of the pack, with more than one teammate of his around. Lotto, Discovery and Team Milram are sharing the job at the front of the pack. Savoldelli's, Petacchi's, and McEwen's teammates have two or three guys each setting the pace.
1557 CEST - Sixty km. to go, and the four leaders are getting closer to the first (and only) KOM Prime (so to speak) of the day
1600 CEST - Labbe, Missaglia, Albizuri and Delage are giving up, as their advantage over the stretched out bunch came down to less than three minutes, while they're on the way to the "Silenrieux" climb.
The rain keeps pouring down and all the Italian riders are thinking "Oh great idea to start in Belgium this year..." Bettini is hanging at the back of the peloton, hard to tell if he's feeling bad or just keeping cool.
1608 CEST - While Lotto, Milram and ... guess who, Discovery are still having 2-3 guys each riding tempo, but still not pushing THAT hard. Rosa-man Savoldelli is also seen in the top 15-20 spots of course. While the peloton's current speed is waaaaaaaay under 50 kph. And Di Luca had all the time to drop back to the bottom of the bunch and had a five-minute chat with his team manager in the car without losing any time and/or metres to the pack. It'll be interesting to see who will mingle in the sprint with the shortage of pure sprinters here....
One of the leaders, the Frenchman Labbe, is only in his second professional season. He's also a cyclocross rider, even won the bronze medal in the French championships last year.
1615 CEST - Arnaud Labbe "attacked" on the Slienrieux slopes and put a few metres into his fellow escapees, resulting in the Frenchman coming first atop the "climb", and earning a spot on today's podium, with the green jersey on his shoulders.
1618 CEST - the peloton is 02'42" back right now. Serge Baguet having problems in the peloton it seems...he's the 6th oldest rider to ever make his debut in the Giro.
1619 CEST - Labbe's fellow countryman Delage and Benat The Basque (Albizu) picked the remaining points (2 and 1 respectively) at the KOM prime.
Meanwhile Roberto Laiseka made an ABSOLUTELY USELESS effort to attack the bunch and take 5th place. Too bad that no points were at stake for the 5th place finisher there.
It's Maglia Rosa Paolo Savoldelli's birthday today, congrats Paolo!! His wife got him a GPS system for his birthday apparently. Indeed the Falcon was born on May, 7, 1973, in the town of Clusone, deep into the Bergamo area valleys of Lombardy.
1624 CEST - GAP UPDATED: The Fab Four are leading the pack by a mere 02'10" right now. No way for them to make it to the line. Even though the bunch is not looking too eager to chase them down (too soon). Guys from Gerolsteiner and Saunier Duval are now seen at the front along with the usual 2-3 boys of Milram. Lotto etc. The waterboys should have Forster (and NOT Schumacher) as their appointed sprinter today.
1627 CEST - Cunego's Slovenian teammate Gorazd Stangelj had a flat, but was immediately back in the saddle and into the pack (not that it's big news, but in moments like this, with nothing worthy of mention happening, it might even BE).
1630 CEST - Four hours into the stage, the gap is down to a little more than two minutes; Discovery had most of their "chasing job" done. Now it's all up to Lotto, Milram and possibly the other sprinter's teams.
Let's make a list about sprinters here...we got Petacchi, McEwen, Brown, Forster, Pollack, Korff and then uhm... some secondary guys like McGee and Bettini, but that's really everything.… Yep, Bettini said he will a have a go in the sprint today.
1634 CEST - Less than 40k to go. Two Lottos driving the chase, as many Milramen on their wheels with Knees doing a helluva job and the whole Discovery team following. The gap is no less, no more than two minutes at the moment. I think there was a hot spot sprint there. That was Delage going for the 40km sign. He sure had a kick.
1638 CEST - Paolo Bettini seem serious while riding in the middle of the pack. The Cricket promised he'll have a go at the sprint today; let's wait and see if he's gonna fulfill his promise. No doubt victory should be a PURE SPRINTER'S thing today anyway. Too bad Grillo is not here.
1641 CEST - Gap update: 34k to go and the Labbe/Delage/Albizuri/Missaglia front group keeps a very slim lead of about a minute.
1642 CEST - Nothing news form the chasing peloton, two Lottos driving, two Milrams following, and then comes the Savoldelli boys with the Maglia Rosa holder comfortably sitting in ninth place.
1644 CEST - Missaglia doesn't give up: the Italian attacks his breakaway companion... Gabriele doesn't stand a chance to make it to the line, but this move would earn him some more TV exposure while the 4 teams cars stopped. The gap is less than a minute now!
1647 CEST - 30k to go for solo leader Missaglia, who doesn't look like believing in his chances at all anyway. Now he's joined by Albizuri. Two men in the lead, but the pack will be "compatto" soon however. Even though the gap "surprisingly" went over the minute again. It must be too early for the peloton to bring them back. The French guys are pulled back by the pack. Labbe's and Delage's adventure is over. Their "adventure" earned one of them a well-deserved spot on the podium and a green jersey anyway.
Neither Albizuri nor Italian veteran Missaglia (six-time winner in his career in the pro ranks) are willing to give up though with 28K left. Missaglia knows the Belgian roads...he used to very active in the spring classics, but when he left Lampre he lost his contact with those races.
1653 CEST - Gap update # 44579979365 (or so): Missaglia and Albizuri are leading the Milram-led strung out peloton by 01'14". While also Discovery AND Team CSC have most of their men in the top spots. Neither Basso nor Il Falco want to run any risk today. It has stopped raining, so it should be a safer finish than feared earlier. But now the rush for a good position during the sprint started...we already see Quick Step reorganizing for Bettini while Milram and Lotto are pulling up the pace in the peloton.
1700 CEST - Four and a half hours into the stage. 20k to go for Missaglia and Albizuri, and the bunch about fifty seconds back.
1704 CEST - The pace is high now: the Milram/Lotto chasing machine is riding at more than 60 kph on a slightly downhill piece. So, the sprinting game starts...let's hope that because of the lack of experienced sprinters we won't get some opportunists causing a crash.
1706 CEST - Monsieur Carl Naibo (Fra - AG2R) is taking it easy off the back of the pack instead. 15K left. We get a beautiful shot of a couple of adorable lady's feet with pink heels on them. A lot of teams moving to the front with Lotto, Milram and then Disco and Lampre trying to secure their leaders.
10k to go. Is it me or is Milram really burning up their guys? I mean, it looks like they just keep riding at the front and let Lotto rest.
Hmmm ... well, I see only one Milraman at the front now, with two Lottos on his heels.
1712 CEST - With the group now well together, we've got two Quickstep guys driving the pack, while the Milram leadoutmen are getting ready for their final effort(s). The peloton very nervous, and we all know the first sprint finish is often a boneyard. Wielinga leading the peloton, Bettini definitely is going to match his words with a nice placing, going to try, anyway. The cricket is riding in 4th-5th place, he's very motivated. Or so it seems. I take back what I said about Milram looking burned up, they're coming to the front with their train now.
7 km to go. AleJet Petacchi already caught McEwen's wheels, but things could well turn the other way around in the last thousand metres. Two Discovery riders at the front with Savoldelli in their wheel, and a crash! A Rabo rider, looks like Kolobnev
Yep, it's Kolobnev! But the Russian got immediately back in the saddle. He doesn't look too bad so let's hope no fractures or anything.
Still Discovery leading with Bettini and the Milram train behind them. McGee is far behind, he probably won't be sprinting. Rasmussen had a flat at the wrong time. It will be hard for the Dane to regain the bunch, now flying at more than 60 km/h.
5 km left. And there's the Milram train. 6 Milram riders, including Petacchi while Bettini is still attentively up front. Ivan Basso is riding in the middle of the bunch, but with no teammates around.
4k to go, and the pace is getting higher and higher. McEwen has Petacchi's wheel...but still 5 riders for Petacchi. We see Gilbert there, Guidi, Bettini and Korff and Pollack … almost crash there! in a turn, but they're still on their bikes. Thankfully (and unbelievably) none hit the tarmac! is fighting with a Euskaltel man for McEwen's wheel.
Still the Milram train leading majestically with McEwen and all the others duking it out behind them , 1.5 km. while Rasmussen is about to regain the bunch. he's doing Herculean efforts though. 4 men left for Petacchi, Bettini lost a few places it seems.
The battle over Petacchi's wheels continues, Brown, McEwen, Pollack and Korff behind Petacchi.
LAST KM!! Bettini is a little further behind, 2 guys left for Petacchi!! And here comes the sprint: McEwen still in Ale-jet's wheel, 700 m or so, 500m to go now.
Ongarata launching Petacchi now… Here goes Petacchi, Pollack is coming over, McEwen, Bettini, McEwen WINS!!!.
ROOOBIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE MC EWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN
Bettini second, Pollack 3rd?!! Pettachi was BLOWN away and the Aussie is the winner! The preparation was great but Ale-jet just couldn't do it...
Ongarato didn't give AleJet a good leadouit this time, and Petacchi didn't launch his sprint at the right time. McEwen jumped on Pollack's wheel and rode a perfect sprint
TOP 7 PLACES: 1. MC EWEN 2. POLLACK 3. BETTINI 4. PETACCHI 5. DUQUE 6. VAITKUS 7. LODDO
Well well… what a nice surprise to start this Giro!! McEwen won majestically, not just by a hair. But I think we'll have to resort to the photofinish to decide about the 2nd place finisher. Not so nice on this side of the Alps, but still a deserved win by the Aussie.
Petacchi before the race said that he's only really afraid of one man in the peloton, and that's Robbie...not even Boonen. Robbie McEwen will please his sponsor with this win in Belgium. McEwen's 152th win of his career...only Erik Zabel does better of the active riders.
Lotto's Roesems is saying how the team tactic is just to get Robbie behind the Milram train and that they know they have a great shot at winning if they do that.
Savoldelli still in the lead, McEwen moves up to 2nd place on GC.
1731 CEST - Milram (quite) a good job, which Petacchi failed to finish off. And not just because he lost to one of the smartest sprinters around, like Robbie McEwen, but also he finished behind Bettini and Pollack.
1734 CEST - Robbie is removing the cork from the champagne bottle on the podium with his little Ewan beside him. Don't let the kid drink that Robbie. Oh, wait, they're in Belgium. Never mind…
It's the Falcon on da podium now, wearing his (and everyone's) favourite jersey (the Rosa one).
Stage top ten
- Robbie McEwen, Davitamon-Lotto 4h 51' 40"
- Olaf Pollack, T-Mobile @ ST
- Paolo Bettini, Quick Step @ ST
- Alessandro Petacchi, Milram @ ST
- Leonardo Duque, Cofidis @ ST
- Tomas Vaitkus, AG2r @ ST
- Alberto Loddo, Columbia-Selle Italia @ ST
- Koldo Fernandez, Euskaltel-Euskadi @ ST
- Axel Richeze, Panaria @ ST
- Graeme Brown, Rabobank @ ST
Check back to the Daily Peloton soon for an article on the full results.