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89th Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 5/25/2006
89th Giro d'Italia - Stage 18 Live Coverage

Hi everyone, welcome to the live coverage of the Giro d'Italia 2006 Stage 18, a journey of 210 km from the Austrian city of Sillian back into Italy with the finish line at Gemona del Friuli, in the north-eastern corner of the nation. It's a long middle-mountain stage, with three climbs: the Monte Croce Carnico Pass at the border between Austria and Italy (at 1360m asl), the First Category Giro newcomer Cuel di Forchia (over a distance of 8.5, with 8.2% as average gradient but reaching 18% as maximum gradient) and the Sammardenchia, whose summit comes with 24 km to go.

And it's a tough stage where the main overall contenders are expacted to take it easy after the recent mountain challenges, and to save their legs for more mountain monsters to come (Saturday in particular). We suspect a break of strongmen with decent climbing legs could make it to the line today, maybe containing Paolo Bettini, hungry to recapture the Ciclamino jersey Ivan Basso took off his shoulders at the Furcia Pass yesterday.

NOTE: Course Graphics (stage map, altimetry, climb details) available here.

Stage 18 (Sillian to Gemona del Friuli, 210 km.): Live Coverage
Please use the F5 key to refresh the page and get the latest updates from today's stage.

1430 CEST - The stage kicked off at 1130 AM local time, with 161 riders at the start line. Sven Krauss staged the first attack of the day after ten kms on an undulated piece on the way to Lienz, but was reeled in as many kilometres later, after putting no more than 15 secs into the bunch. The "110 Gazzetta" Trophy sprint came early into the stage today, and saw Bettini making the headlines for the first time, as the man from La California (in Tuscany) pipped Delage, Calcagni, Illiano, Engels and Petrov at the line. The group, led by T-Mobile, stayed together until a man in Magenta, Germany's Kessler, made the next move at the km. 50. His move was chased down quickly, but Lampre's Marzio Brusgehin counter-attacked.

A world-class pair consisting of Paolo Bettini and Jan Ullrich rolled out of the field and tried to close down the gap on him, but didn't succeed. A Teutonic Cavalier going under the name of Stefan Schumacher as well as two Spaniards (Ivan Gutiérrez Palacios of Illes Balears and David López Garcia of Euskaltel) managed to get across to the leaders instead. And so did Mr. Charles Wegelius of Liquigas. Nine men, and amongst them a certain Tour de France 1997 winner racing with the T-Mobile outfit, attacked the field and put in their own chase of the breakaway quintet, but were pulled back into the peloton on the Monte Croce Carnico slopes.

Bruseghin managed to stay clear and be the first rider across the top of this Cat.2 climb instead, with Ivan Gutiérrez and "Schumi" in the other top three spots. The peloton came in at 42".

Tadej Valjavec, Patxi Vila, Juanma Garate and Johan Tschopp also attacked the field in the Croce Carnico descent. At the km. 82 check, they were trailing the four escapees by 43 seconds, with the bunch a further 30" back. Some bad news came a few kms later, as unfortunately France's John Gadret, one of the stars of the past mountain legs, and Giro 2006 race reveltaion, fell and was forced to pull out of the race. Too bad for him. Gadret's wasn't the only recent addition to the the list of the DNFers, which had "gained" also the Polish-Canadian Piotr Mazur of Sunier Duval about 10 kms earlier.

Lampre's Valjavec and Patxi Vila, Quick Step's Garate as well as Tschopp the Phonak Swiss were reeled in by km. 100, while the only rider from Genoa in the Tour of Italy peloton, Marco Fertonani (Illes Balears) was turning into the third DNFer of the stage. The advantage of the Fab Five on the front kept growing and growing though: Charlie Wegelius, Iván Gutiérrez Palacios, Marzio Bruseghin, David López Garcia and former Maglia Rosa holder Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner were leading the pack, driven by Liquigas and Tean CSC, by four minutes at Tolmezzo (km. 113) and 05'10" at the feed zone time check a few mins later.

1445 CEST - The next gap update sees the five escapees make further gains on the Phonak-led field (CSC has no intention to waste too many energies to bring'em back), and bring the gap to over six minutes at Bordano (km. 126/84k to go). The average speed after three hours of racing was 40.600 kph btw. Liquigas' real GC contender Franco Pellizotti had a mechanical, but was quickly towed back into the bunch by some teammates of his.

1455 CEST - The race hit the first category Cuel di Forchia; it looks the second difficulty on today's menu is starting to have an impact on the five fugitives and their legs: the advantage of "Schumi", Wegelius, Gutiérrez Palacios, López García the orange Warrior and Lampre's hardman Bruseghin dropped to 05'40" on the first slopes of such challenging mountain (at km. 128), also due to the pace set by Saunier Duval, that took over the chase at the front of the peloton. Ivan Basso sits in the top places of the bunch.

1515 CEST - The breakaway quintet is hanging tough on the steepy Cuel di Forchia; they even succeeded in extending their lead out to 06'55"at km. 137 as they get close to the summit of this tough ascent.

1518 CEST - Lopez García and Schumacher drive to breakaway to the summit of the climb (the German took first), while the peloton, currently taking in the steepest part of the ascent, is far from putting in serious chasing effort, riders from Saunier Duval, Team CSC and Lampre mix on the front, and nobody dares (or has legs good anough) to attack.

1522 CEST - The escapees are taking in the dangerous (mainly because of the poor quality of the deck there) descent. Schumacher is having some probs to his bike, but he keeps riding. The gap went up to seven minutes at the most recent check. In the meantime, Danilo Di Luca is struggling off the back of the field as the gradient goes up to 16-18%. He's not the only one having a hard time there anyway.

1525 CEST - The pack reachad the top of the climb too, but their gap to the front runners has gone further up: it's 07 minutes and 17 seconds with a little more than 60 kms to go.

1531 CEST - Elmiger of Phonak sets the pace up this climb, with some Lampre and Saunier Duval men in tow. The peloton is starting to pick up steam. It looks like the chase is beginning in earnest.

 Now the peloton crests the Cuel de Forchia and starts the big descent. It is quite a twisty one, this descent. In the break, the five leaders are having to pick their way carefully around the switchbacks. This is a really narrow country road, with some fences and occasional rock retaining walls. Very picturesque.

Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) leads the break down, with Schumacher second wheel. Wegelius and Lopez are struggling to keep up

1539 CEST - Bruseghin, Gutierrez, and Schumacher have now dropped Wegelius and Lopez on the descent. The break is now on the 15km flattish section before the next climb. Knowing the Giro, there will be some "phantom" climbs in here that don't show up on the profile. Schumacher gives Gutierrez a water bottle to help him out. Where are the team cars or neutral support?

The gaps: 25" to Wegelius and Lopez; 7' 28" to Basso and the peloton. A FDJeux rider has a flat on the descent and is running along looking for a team car. Bummer. So the leading trio was really able to pick up some time on the peloton on that descent, so I guess the peloton isn't chasing

1548 CEST - Wegelius and Parra (not Lopez) are back up to the leaders now. So it is five men over 7' off the front.  The gap is down to 7' 05" to the peloton. Phonak still sets the pace in the peloton. Also Yakovlev and Fabrizio Guidi dropped out of the race today.

While the bad news about John Gadret, his pulling out of the Giro aside, is that the man might have broken his collarbone.

The peloton winds through a bridge over one of Italy's main rivers, the Tagliamento, at 60 kph. Phonak keeps riding hard on the front, thier goal being to save their position atop the team standings from Liquigas, that got one man in the breakaway group.

1558 CEST - The front group, back to five a few mins ago, keeps working well together (as they've done all thru the "fuga") chasing efforts from Phonak bore only minor fruits, the gap still hovering around 07'15". Phonak lead Liquigas by some nine minutes in the Team Standings, so they're still atop that competition at the moment. Discovery was about 40 secs clear of Liquigas at the stage start, but they're gonna slip to third place if todays breakaway succeeds.

1603 CEST - Some updates from other races: after finishing second yesterday, Tom Boonen took his revenge and won today's Tour of Belgium stage. Gerard Trampusch stamped his authority on this afternoon's Tour of Bavaria journey in his homeland Germany. And last (and maybe also least) Team Barloworld scored in Portugal, courtesy of their Italian Sprinter Enrico Degano. The race goes under the name of Volta ao Alentejo.

1606 CEST - Back to the Giro and their updates, with the chase finally looking effective somehow; Phonak and the rest of the peloton cut the gap down by a minute over the latest kms. The advantage of the five escapees is still consistent in any case.

1609 CEST - The back of the peloton has a predominantly orange flavour, courtesy of the Euskaltel and Rabobank riders having a easy ride there. The men in orange from the Basque Country are certainly having a better time than their Liberty Seguros colleagues, deeply affected by the Manolo Saiz affair. And by the sponsor's intention to pull the pug on cycling and immediately srop their sponorship, according to rumours. Their DS Marino Lejarreta confirmed the team is gonna make it to Milan anyway. But, amongst other things, guys like Vinokourov would have a rough time finding a place in the Tour de France peloton at this point.

29 km left for the leaders.  They've got about 6km, then a very sharp little climb, and then a bumpy ride until the finish. Will anything happen in the peloton on the final climb? We'll see.

So the leaders are on the Sammardenchia, a short beastie with 18% slopes

1623 CEST - Wow, this is a nasty climb. The five leaders are going about 10kph right now, really grinding. Bruseghin is the lead grinder, but all five are still there. Lopez (who the graphics still call Parra for some reason) is looking strong. The peloton just might explode when they get to this little climb. Now Wegelius comes to the front and sets the pace. The leaders are over the worst of it. Now the peloton hits the climb, and Basso and Simoni are right near the front keeping an eye on Gutierrez of Phonak.

Spanish Champ Garate is now on front of the peloton. The five leaders hit another hard section of the climb. Wow, the peloton is really strung out, and lots of guys are getting dropped. There is a knot of about 50 men doing well, the rest are in trouble.

1627 CEST - Schumacher, Wegelius, Lopez, Bruseghin, and Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) are now on the descent. 25 km left.  We'll get a time check soon to see what kind of damage the Phonak chase has done to the leaders. The peloton is blowing to bits. But the gap is only 03'04" for the five leaders now.  Geez, another narrow, twisty descent. These are some sketchy roads. The peloton is now on the descent.

Wegelius is looking tentative again on this descent. He's in fifth position in the break. Lampre has now come to the front of the peloton. Interesting... their man Bruseghin is up the road, so this is a false tempo they are setting right now. Has the peloton given up the chase? Maybe...

1634 CEST - 20 km left. Phonak had their loss-limiting job done and slipped to the middle of the bunch, who slowed the pace in the last minutes, allowing some dropped riders to regain the peloton and allowing the escapees to hold onto their lead. The race is closer to the last uphill section, where we're meant to see some attacks, either in the breakaway or the field, or maybe both of them.

Ivan Gutierrez Palacios and Marzio Bruseghin know each other very well as they used to race in the same team (that was no else than the current Illes Balears) until a few years ago. The gap is now 03'16", so it has increased just a bit.

1636 CEST - An attack in the bunch. It's Benoit Joachim! Is he trying to set up something for Savoldelli, who is in a tight race with Simoni for 3rd on GC? Perhaps. The Discovery Channel veteran from Luxembourg took a few metres out of the peloton on a slightly downhill section.

The pack is driven by a Lampre rider, with Basso steadily in the top places, always surrounded by his Royal Guard, Giovanni Lombardi in particular. Lombardi, a veteran of the peloton, is a kind of "Direttore Sportivo on the road" for Team CSC. His other teammate Julich who leads Basso near the front of the peloton, doesn't seem to care about the Joachim attack. The five leaders hit a final little climb.

1642 CEST - 15kms to go: And as the last hill starts, the Basques get going...David Garcia Lopez attacked the break!  It has been an active Giro for Euskaltel, but they have nothing to show for it, yet. Lopez wants to change that. Schumacher is trying to lead the other men in the break back up to the lone Basque.

1645 CEST - Lopez made the gap. The Eusakaltel rider fought off attempts from Schumi to chase him down. Now there's a trio trying to bring him back. And close a gap of some fifteen seconds. The peloton is 02'40" back. The four chasers of Lopez Garcia are back together, but their gap at the top of the climb is over 15". With 10k to go.

The pack is on the uphill section still. Two CSCs are pacing Basso up there. The Maglia Rosa holder looks comfortable in the saddle anyway.

1649 CEST - Lopez Garcia comes down fast now. But he's no Savoldelli when it comes to downhill skills. So the four chasers might well close the gap on him. Charles Wegelius has a rough time staying with the three other first chasers though. Cunego and Danielson (!) are right behind Basso in the front of the peloton. Joachim looks to have been brought back. Rabobank's Kolobnev had a go at attacking the field in the ascent, but his move was immediately nullified.

1650 CEST - The descent is over for Lopez Garcia, that holds onto a margin of 100-150 metres, and is benefiting from the lack of cooperation among his closest pursuers. The riders head through a tunnel that looks like it might have been built by the Romans.

1652 CEST - Seven to go for Lopez Garcia, whose advantage is very slim at the moment: just eight seconds. Lopez gets caught by Schumacher! The fugitives hit the very last uphill section in the stage. Schumi and Lopez keep a lead of some 20 metres on the others. But Bruseghin attacks, drops Gutierrez for a while and tries to close down on the leaders. That held them at bay though. The Lampreman is doing the whole chasing job, but his task is not easy.

Now Wegelius starts helping him at last. And the two keep cutting down such small gap. Gutierrez counter-attacks and closes down on the leaders.  Bruseghin follows his move. Wegelius is dropped. And so is Lopez Garcia. There's three men in the lead now.

5 km left.  It's Bruseghin, Gutierrez and Schumi. This is another little uphill grind. But the last uphill thing in the stage is about to be over at last, and the front bunch to be back to five! More attacks, and counterattacks in the break to come; in the peloton, Saunier Duval and CSC are stretching things out now. The battle of the five leaders broke out in the last (small) climb, and is set to go on until the line. Lopez is on the front, or rather off the front by just a hair.

1658 CEST - Three to go, more attempts to ride away from the other escapees Ullrich tried (again) to attack the break in the meantime. The guy is finding back his best legs! 2.5 km left. On the front Gutierrez Palacios attacked again, but Schumi followed his move.
WEGELIUS counter-attacks with 1.5 to go!  The British gained some 20 metres

1700 CEST - But Wegelius was caught too. Bruseghin was the next on the move with 900m left. There is no cooperation in the chase of course. It is every man for himself.

We're marchin' towards a five-man sprint
 300m to go.
 Here comes the sprint - Bruseghin launches
 Schumacher counters - comes around him ... and wins!


That's his 2nd stage in this Giro! Very very impressive. The German was the fastest guy in the break, and he didn't disappoint. Ullrich is chased down by the Saunier Duval-led bunch in the meantime. Baliani of Panaria riders a little further ahead of them all.
But he too gets swallowed by the pack, led by ... Milram!
Yeah, once more the guys in light blue are doing a perfect leadout job, but for themselves only? Paolo Bettini will be looking to take back that Ciclamino Jersey with a high placing. And Bettini makes the most out of the Milram job by pipping Ongarato to the line. The Cricket took sixth in the stage, a result putting him back into the Ciclamino Jersey. Basso won't care, he has enough to do on the podium already.

Too bad for Bruseghin, who had a shot at taking some personal glory after playing the perfect domestique part so many times in his career, but Schumacher simply had better sprinting legs. Legs that made him cross the line at 68 km/h.

 Stage 18 - Top 7 Places:
1. Stefan Schumacher (Ger - Gerolsteiner)
2. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita - Lampre) - s.t.
3. Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa - Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) - at 02"

4. David Lopez Garcia (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 04"
5. Charles Wegelius (GBR - Liquigas) - at 07
6. Paolo Bettini (Ita - Quick Step-Innergetic) - at 02'34"
7. Alberto Ongarato (Ita - Team Milram) - at 02'34"

No major changes to the overall though, with Basso leading Gutierrez, then Simoni and the others, all of whom having their time gaps intact. Average speed for the stage - Schumacher at the finish was 37.46 km/h.

1707 CEST - Bettini is getting his Ciclamino efforts rewarded. The Maglia for the points leader landed back on his shoulders at last.

Next on the podium is ... Ivan Basso, that shows up again, this time as undisputed leader of the Green Jersey competition.

Savoldelli's time to get the fans applause. He may have a poor Giro on th GC side, but still holds onto his blue jersey of Combinata leader.

Ivan Basso
 "More of the same" from Ivan Basso: "today was a tough day in the saddle. But even harder days are coming. tomorrow and Saturday will be the toughest days in the race, with long stages, and peppered with high mountains, we'll just have to give it everything." So once again the man kept a low profile and refused to say the race is over.

CSC's Directeur Sportif Bjarne Riis
 His Team Boss Bjarne Riis: "All main GC contenders still pose a threat to us. Thankfully five and ten minutes over our closest challengers are very good gaps, but they could well turn out as nothing if something goes wrong in the next two days."

Gilberto Simoni
Gilberto Simoni shortly on today's and tomorrow's challenges: "Today's stage was not that easy. The course would make for an LBL-esque race, and the stage got off to a fast start, so we couldn't recover from our past efforts at all. Our legs are just what they are, and it's going to be tough for all of us tomorrow."

Stefan Schumacher
Talking to RAI journalists minutes past his victory and the award ceremony, Stage winner Stefan Schumacher sounded extremely satisfied. And with two wins and days as Maglia Rosa holder in his bags, who can really blame him? And who can blame the "waterboy" with such a famous last name for calling his Giro d'Italia 2006 campaign "simply unbelievable!" Not Yours Truly, for sure.

He added that taking the win today was no easy task though, first as it took many a good efforts from them in order to make the break, then as the fact the gap hovered around the minute for a long time was not a good sign, and last but not least; the final 35 kilometres (with the advantage dropping a bit too seriously) were also hard ones.

Marzio Bruseghin
The other side of the coin goes under the name of Marzio Bruseghin today. The Lampre-Fondital's "ideal domestique" turned team leader for one day tried, but couldn't, or simply found someone with better legs for that kind of stage finish. The man from the Veneto region of Northern Italy expressed all of his bitterness in after-race  interviews:

"That's just too bad. Until the very last metres I was confident that I could do it. I spent plenty of energies in the attempt to make the breakaway gap, and holding on in all those small climbs, and I had to slow when the sprint started. But Schumacher has got great legs at this Giro, he showed it also the day he snatched his other stage victory. I think I'm having a good race, even if this missed opportunity embitters me. Sometimes you just don't reap what you sow. Maybe Lampre are not living up to expectations in this race, but we'll fight until the end in order to rack up some good results".

This concludes our live coverage, thanks for joining us today.

Join us again tomorrow for the live report.
Discuss the race in progress tomorrow with Tifosi from around the world in the  Daily Peloton Chat Room  and  debate the outcome of tomorrow's stage, race tactics and your favorite riders on the Daily Peloton Forums.
Full official results, more rider interviews and photos to follow.


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