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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Prologue - May 8: Genova ITT, 6.9 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Start time: 16:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 18:42 CEST

16:19 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's coverage of the 87th Giro d'Italia, the first three week tour of the season. The Giro kicks off with a 6.9 kilometre prologue time trial in the heart of Genova, in the north west corner of Italy, right on the Mediterranean Sea. It's a technical stage with more than a dozen corners, but we can still expect some fast times.

The week's bad weather has cleared out and it's a sunny afternoon here in Genova. There's a fairly stiff breeze from the southwest which will will make the outbound leg wind assisted, with a potential headwind on way back. But since the parcours is mostly in the urban part of Genova, the wind will not play much of a role.

The race starts right under Arco della Vittoria and the Piazza della Vittoria is filled with all the team cars, buses, and thousands of spectators watching the riders filter in to start their warm ups.

It looks like a perfect day for Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), who will go off at 18:19 as one of the last riders. There are plenty of other folks in with a chance such as Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Vaitkus (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo), Serguei Gontchar (De Nardi) and Juan Carlos Dominguez (Saunier Duval).

The first rider off was Mario Scirea (Domina Vacanze), who departed at 15:42 CEST. Scirea is also the oldest rider in the race, turning 40 in August this year. He will be expected to help out Mario Cipollini in the sprinter's stages next week.

16:29 CEST   
Just over 40 of the 169 riders have set off for their ride against the clock in downtown Genova. Not surprisingly, Australian Brett Lancaster (Panaria) has set the fastest time so far at 9'10. Lancaster was part of the world record breaking Australian 4km pursuit team, so he is good over short distances.

But his time hasn't stood for too long, as Estonian Andrus Aug (Domina Vacanze) has come in 1 second quicker to set the new best time. Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) is in third with 9'11.

16:33 CEST   
David Dario Cioni (Fassa Bortolo), who rode so well in the Tour de Romandie, has just come home in 9'03, slashing 7 seconds off Aug's time. He's the new man in the hot seat.

Thomas Vaitkus (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) is now on the parcours.

16:44 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to Brett Lancester after his ride today, "Well I felt alright out there," he said. "I didn't go as fast on the cobbled section as I could have. It was pretty hard. You have to go really hard in the first half because it's very technical and very tough. I almost stuffed it in the last corner but it worked out ok."

After the Giro, Lancaster will be going to Germany to start training for the Olympics. His teammate Brown is unfortunately back in Australia having achilles tendon problems.

16:45 CEST   
Damiano Cunego is now out on the course, motoring along in the late afternoon sunshine through the streets of Genova. Cunego is one of the revelations of the last few weeks, and a lot of people will be watching him in this Giro.

16:47 CEST   
Cunego finishes in a time of 9'15, which is not good enough to put him at the top of the leader board. Meanwhile, Thomas Vaitkus has come home in 9'10, which will put him in second place behind Cioni on 9'03.

17:01 CEST   
Robbie McEwen has just set off for his ride, and the Lotto-Domo captian is straight into his rhythm.

Marzio Bruseghin (Fassa Bortolo) has beaten his teammate Cioni's time and now has the new best mark with 9'00. Cioni is second in 9'03, followed by Vaitkus on 9'10.

17:11 CEST   
Our reporter Tim Maloney rode in the Panaria car behind Lancaster earlier today, and provided us with a more detailed description of the parcours.

The parcours starts in Piazza della Vittoria and then has three quick turns before heading up on a long uphill drag for the first kilometre on Via XX Settembre. Then at the top there's a right hand bend that dives down into the city of Genova, past one of the large fountains that decorates this port city. Then, after a left hand bend there's a long stretch on pavé - not Belgian style - but large, irregular pavé in a chevron shape. It's quite bumpy and requires a lot of power.

After a pavé section the left bend dives down and takes the riders along the sea front into a stiff headwind. This part is along the Via della Mercanzia, wehre the famous trading houses of Genova are still located.

After going along the sea front for 800m there's a sharp left bend back up into the town, followed by an uphill on Via San Lorenzo. Some more pavé, then a sharp right up the long, hard drag up Via Fieschi (8 percent for 700m). That's the hardest part of the course because you've just battled the wind along the sea front and you have to hit this climb. It's lined 10 deep with people.

At the top, at the 4.5 km mark, the course reaches Piazza Carignano. That's the highest point and there's a left bend which takes you back down into the city centre, completely enclosed. The next part loops back through the town, completey protected from the wind until the last 1300m. Then it's back onto the the Via XX Settembre, slightly downhill to the finish. It's a classic prologue course and very technical.

17:13 CEST   
Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) is now out on the course, motoring along at a good rate of knots. Or mph or kmh if you are not nautically minded.

17:18 CEST   
Pollack is looking smooth as he tackles the toughest part of the course up Via Fieschi, and is now on his way back down through the town to the finish.

It's still Bruseghin (9'00), Cioni (9'03) and Vaitkus (9'10) with the top three times.

17:20 CEST   
Pollack has absolutely smashed Bruseghin's time, and come home in 8'40! A fantastic ride by the German, who is a specialist at this sort of discipline.

17:27 CEST   
Graziano Gasparre (De Nardi) and Aart Vierhouten (Lotto-Domo) are both out on the parcours now, and there are 66 riders still to start. We spotted Alessandro Petacchi warming up, and the Fassa Bortolo sprinter looks focused. He is aiming to do a fast time today so as to be close to the maglia rosa.

His main rival Mario Cipollini - ever the showman - will be dressed head to toe in a gothic themed skinsuit. This (apparently) is to commemorate the Giro's launch in Genova.

17:31 CEST   
Massimo Codol passes Gasparre in the final 300m, taking a minute out of the De Nardi rider. Codol's finishing time is 9'05, which will put him into the top 10 on the provisional standings, which are still led by Olaf Pollack (8'40).

17:41 CEST   
Brett Lancaster's Panaria teammate Scott Davis has set off, followed at one minute by Ief Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo), whose brother Rik set the fastest ever time for a grand tour prologue in Pescara in 2001. Rik's average speed that year was 58.874 km/h for the 7.6 km race. No chance of anyone beating that today: Pollack's average speed is 47.8 km/h.

17:50 CEST   
Austrian rider Gerhard Trampusch (Acqua e Sapone) is the second rider to go under nine minutes, clocking 8'54 for the 6.9 km to put him into second place in the classification behind Pollack, who has the impressive time of 8'40. That means that Fassa Bortolo's Marzio Bruseghin and Dario Cioni have been bumped down to third and fourth, while Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Acqua & Sapone) has the fifth best time with 9'05.

17:55 CEST   
Pavel Tonkov (Vini Caldirola) is now on the course, having completed half of his ride. The Russian is a past winner of the Giro but will probably play a role as Stefano Garzelli's main helper in this race.

17:58 CEST   
Magnus Backstedt (Alessio-Bianchi) has cracked the top five with a time of 9'02, but it's well off the pace of Pollack.

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) finished in a time of 9'12, which will put him in with a shout of the pink jersey.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) finishes in a time of 9'16.

18:01 CEST   
Tonkov is home in around 9'11, which will put him in the top 20 for now, but it's not a brilliant time.

Andrea Noe (Alessio-Bianchi) is just about to go. He's not a great rider against the clock, but he can climb well and is a good GC rider.

18:04 CEST   
Gabriele Colombo (Domina Vacanze) crosses the line and checks his time. It's not great - 9'28 - but it will do. Still Olaf Pollack holds the best time with 8'40. Gerhard Trampusch (Acqua e Sapone) is in second place on 8'54, followed by Marzio Bruseghin (Fassa Bortolo) on 9'00.

We're down to the last 25 riders now.

18:06 CEST   
Mexican climber Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Panaria) crosses the line in 9'45, which puts him in 114th. Riding against the watch is not his specialty, unless it's up a mountainside.

Noe is now on the pave section.

18:10 CEST   
Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo) is now under way, pedalling a big gear in the early part of his ride.

Meanwhile, Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJeux.com) has finished in 9'05 - not a bad time at all.

18:11 CEST   
Andrea Noe' finishes in 9'18, which puts him 38 seconds behind Pollack.

18:13 CEST   
Here comes Cipo, in his rather...interestingly...themed skinsuit. He's off, and straight away winds it up.

18:17 CEST   
Cipo doesn't look as though he's going that hard, but he is certainly travelling quickly. His skinsuit has a lion motif in a baroque style.

His main rival Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) is just about to set off.

18:20 CEST   
And here goes Brad McGee, the big favourite for this stage. The FDJeux.com rider takes the first three corners well, and is really flying.

18:22 CEST   
Giuliano Figueras (Panaria) has just summited the tough Via Fieschi climb, and is on his way down back to the finish.

Cipo is finishing his ride and it's not bad. He stops the clock at 9'05, just 25 seconds slower than Pollack.

18:27 CEST   
McGee is motoring along, and has navigated the first half of the course now.

Meanwhile, Figueras finishes his ride in a time of 9'14, followed by Petacchi in 9'08. Nice time!

18:28 CEST   
Here comes McGee, in the final sraight - he's smashed Pollack's time by 10 seconds!! 8'30 for the Australian and the new best time. That's going to be tough to beat.

18:31 CEST   
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Igor Astarloa (Lampre, not in a world champion's skinsuit of course) and Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) are all on the parcours now, trying to beat McGee's time of 8'30.

Finally, Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) sets off, wearing a pink top and red knicks. He flies around the first few corners.

18:31 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) has done the first half of his ride now, and is looking quick.

18:33 CEST   
The last five riders, Rebellin, Astarloa, Popovych, Garzelli and Simoni are all on the course now. Simoni is on the long pave section, while Garzelli is just before the sea front.

18:35 CEST   
Garzelli hits the Via Fieschi climb, punching through the crowds as Popovych finishes in 8'50 - nice ride! That puts him into third overall. "Yes it went pretty good," Popovych told Cyclingnews after crossing the line. "I'm kind of surprised actually. Everything was fine except that last corner, but I'm quite satisfied with my results. We'll see how the others finish."

18:37 CEST   
Astarloa is now inside the final kilometre... He stops the clock in 9'21.

After his incredible ride, it was clear that McGee gave it his all. He had to be picked up and supported and he could hardly talk. But he was clearly pleased with his effort.

18:38 CEST   
Here comes Garzelli, who won't go under the 9 minute mark. His finishing time is 9'16, which is 26 seconds slower than Popovych (in relation to the GC riders) and 46 seconds slower than McGee.

18:42 CEST   
Simoni is home in a time of 9'05, which will put him just in the top 10 (or just out of it). He is 15 seconds slower than Popovych and 35 seconds slower than McGee, who has won the prologue of the Giro d'Italia!

McGee is presented on stage and has his daughter Tahlia with him, who incidentally is wearing a pink jumper. McGee looks very happy with his maglia rosa!

18:48 CEST   
Simoni did a 9'05, but it must have been a "slow" 9'05, as his finishing position is 15th. So it looks like Popovych (3rd at 8'50) won the battle of the GC riders in the prologue.


1 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com                          8.30
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) Gerolsteiner                         0.10
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago         0.20
4 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo    0.24
5 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                    0.30
6 Marco Velo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          0.32
7 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi                      
8 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                   0.33
9 Juan Carlos Dominguez (Spa) Saunier Duval               0.34
10 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Domina Vacanze                   0.35

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