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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 1 - May 9: Genova - Alba, 143 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

14:19 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the first road stage of the Giro d'Italia. It's a fairly short one to kick off with, just 143 kilometres from Genova to Alba, still in the northwestern corner of Italy. The stage is designed for sprinters, despite the fact there is the 10.3 km/4.1% Colle di Cadibona to be climbed when the race leaves the coastline after 39 km. After the summit is reached, there is more climbing until km 69, when it plateaus at around 750m. After 105 km, the riders descend into Alba, where they will complete four 5 km finishing circuits.

The man in pink today is FDJeux.com captain Bradley McGee, who had a stunning ride in the prologue yesterday to win it by 10 seconds. If McGee finishes in the front today, he should be able to keep the jersey, despite the 20/12/8 second time bonuses for the top three stage finishers. The closest of the pure sprinters, Mario Cipollini, would have to win two stages in a row to erase his 35 second deficit to McGee. One rider with a better chance is Olaf Pollack, who is second on GC at 10 seconds behind McGee and a handy sprinter. But McGee himself is no mean sprinter, and will certainly defend the jersey while he has it.

14:33 CEST    32km/111km to go
As there were no overnight withdrawals, 169 riders started today at 13:39 from Genova. As is traditional in the Giro, the peloton has been content to just roll along at a steady speed in the first hour, and it's all together at the moment after 30 km. The Giro is generally a slower race than the Tour de France or the Vuelta, where the racing is on from the gun, and you typically see average speeds close to 50 km/h in the first hour. In Italy, it's more like 30-35 km/h. But by the end of the stage, the pace is very, very high once the sprinters' trains get rolling.

14:52 CEST   
The weather today is quite good for racing again. The temperatures at the start in Genova were 16 degrees C (61 F). There is a steady wind from the southeast blowing at 35 km/h, which will assist the riders for much of the day.

The peloton has now left the coastline, passing through Savona (km 39 as one big bunch. The climb of the Colle di Cadibona starts as soon as the riders exit the town.

After one hour of racing, peloton had covered 33.5 km.

15:08 CEST    47km/96km to go
It looks as though the climb of the Colle di Cadibona hasn't done a lot to split up the peloton. With 3 km from the summit of the 10 km/4.1 percent climb, it was still gruppo compatto. The sprinters should have their day today, although no doubt the attacks will start soon.

15:13 CEST    50km/93km to go
At the top of the climb, Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann sprinted to take the points ahead of Colombian Fredy Gonzalez (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Cristian Moreni (Alessio-Bianchi). Although they're at the top of the climb, there's still some 300m of altitude to be gained in the next 20 km.

15:24 CEST    55km/88km to go
The attacks start once the peloton hits the top of the climb. Alberto Borrajo (Panaria), Ruber Marin (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Daniel Schnider (Phonak) attempted to escape, but were brought back by the peloton.

15:41 CEST    62km/81km to go
We're still a fair way from the next intermediate sprint - the Intergiro at Bossolasco (km 94). The first rider across the line here will receive the blue Intergiro jersey at the end of the day. This classification is scored on time, but it's actually similar to a points classification as the first riders across the line are awarded various bonus seconds - the actual time doesn't matter, even if there is a gap of 10 minutes between first and second. Except in time trials, when the rider's actual time past the Intergiro point is counted. A little weird, but that's how it works, and it's worth a few euros too.

It's still gruppo compatto after 62 km. No-one is in a hurry yet. The average speed after 2 hours is 33.2 km/h.

15:46 CEST    69km/74km to go
The peloton is passing through a long 1.3 km tunnel as it continues to climb at a steady pace. It emerges as one big block, spread 10 across the road.

An attack! Marlon Perez (Colombia-Selle Italia) has a go and immediately gets a gap.

15:52 CEST    71km/72km to go
Perez now has 40 seconds as he passes through Tetti di Montezemolo, which will give him the virtual maglia rosa, as he started the day 39 seconds down on GC. Of course, a virtual maglia rosa is like a verbal contract - not worth the paper it's printed on. But it's better than nothing!

The peloton has picked up a little bit of speed now, but it's still five riders across the road.

15:57 CEST    74km/69km to go
Marlon Perez (Colombia-Selle Italia) has now achieved a 1'40 lead over the peloton, which is starting to get interested. Perez is an excellet rider against the clock, and is a past Colombian TT champion. This year he has already won four races: three stages in the Vuelta a Tachira and one stage in the Tour de Langkawi. He picked a good time to attack and is moving along well now in the bright afternoon sunshine.

16:00 CEST    79km/64km to go
Magnus Backstedt (Alessio-Bianchi) has dropped back behind the peloton and gets the world's slowest wheel change. He's pretty annoyed, it looks like. Backstedt won the Intergiro jersey last year and also finished 8th in the prologue yesterday. And of course he won Paris-Roubaix this year. He's now chasing back through the caravan.

Perez now has 2'44 to the peloton.

16:05 CEST    84km/59km to go
There's a reaction in the peloton, and five or six riders set off in pursuit of Marlon Perez. Radoslav Rogina (Tenax) is leading them, with a teammate of Perez with him, Leonardo Scarselli. Luis Filipe Jimenez (Formaggi) is also there.

Brad McGee is now moving up the peloton. It's time to race.

16:07 CEST   
There is a crash in the peloton. FDJeux.com's Freddy Bichot is down, as are Johan Verstrepen (Landbouwkrediet) and Scott Davis (Panaria), who is madly signalling for a spare wheel/bike. He gets one, and is under way after losing about 40 seconds. Bichot has to wait longer.

16:09 CEST   
Perez is oblivious to all the action behind him, and has 3'15 on Rogina, Scarselli and Fortunato Baliani (Panaria).

16:10 CEST   
Rogina's group has been joined by quite a few more men, and we have a bunch of 20 riders pursuing Marlon Perez at 3'15. It looks like Davide Rebellin is in this chase group.

16:14 CEST   
The 20 man group (which doesn't contain Rebellin but does have three Gerolsteiners in it) is about 20 seconds in front of a Fassa Bortolo led peloton. This is an interesting move. They're 2'40 behind the leader, Marlon Perez. Peloton 2 is at 3'00 and there is a third group behind the main bunch at 3'15.

The third group has almost reached the main peloton.

16:16 CEST    93km/50km to go
The chasing group of 20 has been caught by the main bunch, while the group behind is still trying to bridge the gap. There are four Fassa Bortolo jerseys leading the main group.

Perez is almost at the Intergiro point.

16:18 CEST    94km/49km to go
The peloton is now back together again, chasing Perez at 2'30. Fassa Bortolo jerseys are in front (and there were also some chasing back onto the peloton), and Saeco and Vini Caldirola are also highly placed. Brad McGee is about 20 riders back.

16:22 CEST    95km/48km to go
Scott Davis (Panaria) has made it back onto the peloton after a long chase. Fassa has three men in front still, with a couple of Alessio riders - Backstedt one of them? - getting ready for the Intergiro.

But Perez will take the first Intergiro bonus seconds of the Giro at Bossolasca. He'll also get a few (6) bonus seconds for the GC.

16:26 CEST    96km/47km to go
Alessio prepares the sprint for Moreni, but it looks as though Crescenzo d'Amore (Acqua e Sapone) got the second place ahead of Fred Rodriguez (Acqua e Sapone). Moreni was fourth. The gap at the Intergiro was 2'02 to Marlon Perez, our gallant solo leader of the day.

16:31 CEST    100km/43km to go
Perez's lead has sunk to 1'35 now, as four Fassa Bortolo riders lead the peloton at a decent clip. Lampre is in the second rank with four riders.

Freddy Bichot is on the back of the bunch, looking rather unhappy after his crash.

16:37 CEST    104km/39km to go
Perez hasn't quite reached the descent to Alba yet, and his lead is still dwindling under the impetus of Fassa Bortolo. The latest time check is 1'25 to the Colombian riding for Colombia-Selle Italia.

16:38 CEST   
Perez passes a banner reading "Grazie, Pirata" in memory of the deceased Marco Pantani, who rode his last Giro d'Italia last year but died of a cocaine overdose early this year.

16:40 CEST    118km/25km to go
The descent has now started, and Perez is crouched low over the handlebars, trying to get the most aerodynamic position when hte road goes downhill. In the peloton, it's still four Fassa Bortolos in front.

16:44 CEST    110km/33km to go
After 3 hours, the average speed has risen to 35.95 km/h. That means 41.5 km have been covered in the third hour.

Freddy Bichot is at the back of the bunch on the descent, having received some treatment for his elbow from the race doctor.

Dario Cioni has a close encounter with a barrier on the side of the road, but survives. Mario Cipollini is sighted at the front of the peloton too.

16:46 CEST    113km/30km to go
Perez has 30 km to go, including four laps of the 5 km circuit in Alba. He's not riding this descent flat out, and is losing time still. The latest gap is 1'13, and the peloton isn't exactly flying on the descent.

16:49 CEST    116km/27km to go
Both Marlon Perez and the peloton have reached the foot of the descent, and Perez has just a minute of his gap left. It was 3'40 at one stage. He's still the virtual maglia rosa, but probably won't be for long. He has won some real prizemoney today though by crossing the Intergiro line first, and he'll probably get the most combative rider too.

16:53 CEST    118km/25km to go
Lotto-Domo and Vini Caldirola jerseys are massing at the front now with 25 km to go, chasing down Marlon Perez who has been away since km 69. Perez is in the streets of Alba, trying to keep his speed as high as possible for as long as possible.

16:56 CEST    123km/20km to go
Perez is still 1'00 in front of the (again) Fassa Bortolo led peloton as he crosses the finish line in Alba with four 5 km laps to ride. There are plenty of corners per lap, which makes an organised chase harder.

16:58 CEST    124km/19km to go
Perez rides up the long finishing straight, with Fassa Bortolo on the front of the bunch, now just 45 seconds behind the Colombian. Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze men are up the front too.

The sprint looks to be very non-technical - no tricky corners with 300m to go and no rain.

17:00 CEST    127km/16km to go
Gustov and Codol have done the lion's share of the work for the last 70 km, and have brought back a 3 minute plus gap to just 36 seconds with three and a half 5 km laps to go.

There are huge crowds lining the whole course today, enjoying the Sunday afternoon sunshine.

17:04 CEST    128km/15km to go
The Fassa boys, riding like a well oiled machine, have brought back Perez to within 35 seconds with three laps to go. The speed isn't too high yet, with Fassa just riding tempo.

17:05 CEST    130km/13km to go
Assuming it finishes in a bunch sprint today, we can expect Alessandro Petacchi, Mario Cipollini, Robbie McEwen, Ivan Quaranta and Jan Svorada to fight it out for the honours (to pick five riders from 169).

Lotto-Domo and Domina Vacanze are now on the front, helping out the chase.

17:07 CEST    131km/12km to go
A Lampre rider - Daniele Righi - who crashed on the descent into Alba, is now riding across the finish line a few minutes behind the peloton.

Lotto-Domo has taken over the pace making in the bunch now from Fassa, trying to put McEwen in a winning position.

17:09 CEST    133km/10km to go
Perez has certainly lifted his game in these closing laps, and won't give in easy. Nice riding by the Colombian, who has ben away solo for half of the stage.

2 laps to go...

17:10 CEST    134km/9km to go
The gap is down to 16 seconds with less than 10 km to go, and he might just survive this lap.

Fassa Bortolo is on the front again with three men, winding the speed up gradually.

17:11 CEST    136km/7km to go
Perez has 8 km left, but there is now a strung out peloton behind him. Lotto-Domo has two riders in front with the Fassas. McGee, in pink, is about 20th.

17:13 CEST    137km/6km to go
Perez has less than 10 seconds now, and looks behind and sees the bunch coming. He's had a very good ride, but it's over just before the last 5 km lap.

17:14 CEST   
All the time, Freddy Bichot (who crashed earlier) is on the back of the bunch. But he's still there, and that's what matters.

17:15 CEST    138km/5km to go
We have five Fassas on the front and four Domina Vacanze riders, heading up to the one lap to go mark. Gerolsteiner has a few riders there too, getting Pollack and Rebellin in position.

Last lap, ultimo giro.

17:16 CEST   
There's little doubt it's going to be a bunch sprint, so place your bets. I'll pick Petacchi :-)

17:17 CEST    139km/4km to go
A De Nardi rider attempts to attack, but it goes no more than five metres.

Petacchi, McEwen, Nauduzs and Cipollini are all together. So is Astarloa. Cipo moves up, but he's about 15 riders back.

17:18 CEST    140km/3km to go
3 km to go, and Fassa Bortolo has wound it up to a very high tempo. Fabio Sacchi is hammering on the front. Petacchi is in about 5th wheel, with four teammates in front of him.

17:19 CEST    141km/2km to go
Astarloa is moving up well, trying to find Petacchi. But he'll need more. Petacchi has the best position.

Colombo (Domina) tries to take the lead, but fails. 2 km left.

17:19 CEST    142km/1km to go
McEwen looks to be on Petacchi's wheel. Four Fassas on the front with 1 km to go.

17:20 CEST   
Cipollini moves up next to Petacchi. But ends up just behind McEwen...

17:21 CEST    143km/0km to go
Ongarato leads out from a long way, as Cipollini's teammate Aug leads out. McEwen takes the lead, but Petacchi is too strong and wins!! Olaf Pollack is second, and takes the Maglia Rosa from McGee. An excellent sprint by the German. McEwen finishes fourth, behind Crescenzo d'Amore.

17:23 CEST   
Impressive win by Petacchi, and very good sprinting from Pollack to finish second. McEwen went very early so as not to be boxed in (slightly impeding Andrus Aug, but the race jury didn't deem it worthy of a relegation, as Aug wasn't in contention), but faded in the last 100m and was passed by Petacchi, Pollack and D'Amore.

That's all from today folks. Join us for tomorrow's second stage between Novi Ligure and Pontremoli (184 km), containing a couple of long climbs.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo     
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
3 Crescenzo D'amore (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo        
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo  
5 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie     
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com                                  
7 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre                                          
8 Luciano Pagliarini (Bra) Lampre                                   

General classification after stage 1

1 Olaf Pollack (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
2 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com                                 0.02
3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                        0.20
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago             
5 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo           0.22
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                             0.26

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