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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

Map    Stages    Stage profile    Start List    Results

Stage 3 - May 11: Pontremoli - Corno Alle Scale, 191 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

14:28 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the third stage of the 87th Giro d'Italia. Today's stage is another one for the climbers - even more so than yesterday's in fact. The riders have to complete 191 km from Pontremoli to Corno alle Scale, finishing on a 12.8 km/5.2% climb. There are also the Foce Carpinelli (km 53.2) and Passo di Oppio (km 136) climbs to be tackled before the last ascent, and this should be a tough day of racing.

It was a nice day at the start in Pontremoli: sunny with some mixed clouds and temperatures around 18 degrees celsius. There is a strong southeast wind blowing which should be against the riders for much of the day, before they turn inland to the Corno alla Scale.

The man in pink today is Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com), who recaptured the jersey yesterday after finishing second in the front group. He'll have a tough time of it today, but he showed in the Tour de Romandie that he can climb. But with Saeco's treno rosso likely to want a stage win close to their sponsor's HQ in Gaggio Montano, McGee will have to work hard.

Yesterday's winner Damiano Cunego is a big favourite to take out today's stage, as is Gilberto Simoni, who told RAI TV this morning that, "We'll see who has what cards to play right away today. Cunego is in great shape, and for us this is a really important stage. We have a lot of responsibility today because we are on home ground. We hope all the poeple in the area are on our side today."

Cunego said, "We had a nice party last night. We celebrated together. It was a really nice time. We'll be there today for sure to support Simoni."

14:46 CEST    75km/116km to go
A recap of the stage so far:

The stage started in Pontremoli with all 167 riders present. After the first hour was covered at a little over 30 km/h, there was an attack by Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax) at km 38. He was not pursued and is now 12'50 ahead of the peloton after 75 km. He was of course first to the top of the Cat. 2 Foce Carpinelli, followed by Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alexandre Moos (Phonak), the top two riders in the mountains classification.

Mazzoleni started the day just over 4 minutes down on GC, and thus can enjoy being the virtual maglia rosa for a while. He is, by the way, the younger brother of the more accomplished Eddy Mazzoleni (Saeco), who will probably have the responsibility of chasing him down in the second half of the stage.

14:57 CEST    85km/106km to go
Mazzoleni has 105 km to go now, and has an enormous lead of 16'00. That's going to take some catching, although the terrain isn't exactly favourable to him in the last half of the stage.

15:05 CEST    90km/101km to go
Today's an important day for all the GC riders, particularly Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), who missed a valuable chance yesterday to take some time back from Simoni.

"Today's a very, very important stage," Garzelli told RAI TV before the start. "I think that the two Saeco riders Simoni and Cunego are really strong together, but I'm ready for the battle with them today."

After two hours of racing, the average speed is reported as 30.8 km/h. We are now almost at the end of the third hour of racing, and Mazzoleni presumably has lifted that average somewhat. He is now passing the Intergiro point at Fornaci di Barga, and will pick up a couple of time bonuses: one for the Intergiro competition and one for the GC. The peloton will probably pick up speed at the Intergiro and start the chase.

15:15 CEST    103km/88km to go
World Champion Igor Astarloa (Lampre) seems to be finding his form as the Giro goes on. After a relatively slow start (he finished 75th in the prologue), he was able to make the front group in yesterday's stage and finish fourth in the sprint. Today might be a little too tough for him, and thus he will probably play a different role.

"It's going to be a lot of big battle between people who are looking to do well on the GC," said Astarloa. "My job today is to help Juan Manuel Garate, who's our GC rider for this race."

Garate is lying 14th on GC, 53 seconds down on McGee.

15:22 CEST    107km/84km to go
As predicted, the chase has started at around the Intergiro point, with Saeco and Gerolsteiner taking up the responsibility to reel in Renzo Mazzoleni, who has been out in front since km 38 and now has a lead of 15'10.

Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin is a man to watch today, as he is an excellent uphill finisher. "My plan was hopefully to get stage wins here and maybe to even take the maglia rosa if I can. It's a very selective climb today but it's not that long, so I don't think there'll be such big gaps, but for sure we'll see who are the best riders. Today's a decisive day to see if I can execute my plan."

15:31 CEST   
There is plenty of interest in the Italian media about the relative talents of Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni, especially after the former's impressive winning streak of the last three weeks. Simoni hasn't won a race this year (but he could today), while Cunego already has six. And while Cunego has said he'll happily work for Simoni at the Giro, we're reminded of the 1965 Tour de France, where Vittorio Adorni took along 22 year old neo-pro Felice Gimondi to help him in the first week. Gimondi was too good, however, and ended up winning the Tour!

15:34 CEST    114km/77km to go
The average speed after 3 hours of racing is 33.45 km/h, and at the Intergiro (km 95.6) it was 34.02 km/h. Massimo Strazzer (Saunier Duval) took second in the sprint there, followed by Jan Svorada (Lampre).

But it's still Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax) out in front, with 13'20 lead on the Saeco/Gerolsteiner led peloton.

15:37 CEST    116km/75km to go
Some news about Jurgen van de Walle (Chocolade Jacques), who finished 167th yesterday and lost 24'26. The Chocolade Jacques webmistress Isabelle Beel told us that he has a painful left knee, and wasn't able to ride hard yesterday. Hopefully he's feeling a bit better today, otherwise he is going to have a very hard time.

15:40 CEST    118km/73km to go
Mazzoleni is looking relaxed as he rides 13'00 in front of the peloton. He's certainly not riding in the red zone yet, as there's plenty of climbing to come.

Two FDJeux.com riders are at the front of the peloton to protect McGee's pink jersey, together with two Saeco and two Gerolsteiner riders.

Crescenzo d'Amore (Acqua e Sapone) finished fourth in the Intergiro sprint, meaning that he should take the blue jersey at the end of today's stage.

15:50 CEST    124km/67km to go
Mazzoleni and the peloton are climbing up to the Passo di Oppio now. It's not such a steep climb, but it goes on and on. The summit is at km 136, then there's one more descent before the final climb to Corno alle Salle begins.

The last time check between Mazzoleni and the peloton was 12'40.

Gianni Faresin (Gerolsteiner) drops back to the team car to collect a feed bag. Jurgen van de Walle is in last wheel, next to teammate John Gadret, but he looks to be having a better time of it today than yesterday.

McGee stops for a nature break, but will only lose 30 seconds or so and will have his teammates pace him back to the bunch.

15:57 CEST    125km/66km to go
Mazzoleni is still around 12'40 in front of the peloton with 66 km to go. That's a handy lead, although he could lose 10 minutes on the final climb.

McGee is back in the peloton now, so the tempo will pick up again. Cunego and Simoni are nicely tucked in the centre of the bunch, waiting for their moment at the end of the stage.

15:59 CEST   
Renzo Mazzoleni, who has led since km 38, is a relatively undecorated rider. His only victory as a pro was in the Schynberg-Rundfahrt in Switzerland last year, when he rode for Team Macandina. In 2001 and 2002 he rode for Team Colpack, his first two years as a pro.

16:05 CEST    130km/61km to go
The peloton is still being led by Saeco, Gerolsteiner and FDJeux.com on the Passo di Oppia, with Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax) still 12'00 in front. The tall red-clad figure of Paolo Fornaciari is setting a good tempo on this long climb.

Mazzoleni looks good at the moment. He has only lost 4 minutes of his maximum lead of 16'05. Saeco will of course want to bring him back.

16:09 CEST    132km/59km to go
Mazzoleni pulls the pink stage profile map out of his back pocket, checking where this climb ends. He's still got 5 km of uphill to go, although he has had a little respite in the last few kilometres.

Paolo Fornaciari (Saeco) is still on the front of the peloton, working pretty hard.

16:13 CEST    134km/57km to go
Mazzoleni is suffering a bit on the Passo di Oppio, which is a bit steeper in the last few kilometres. Fornaciari is still leading the peloton.

16:17 CEST    136km/55km to go
Renzo Mazzoleni has reached the top of the Passo di Oppio, and will take the points for the Cat. 3 climb. There are some big crowds on top here. The peloton is 11 minutes behind him.

They've been on the road for four hours now, and the average speed is 33.65 km/h.

16:23 CEST    140km/51km to go
Mazzoleni is now enjoying the descent of the Passo di Oppio, which is not particularly steep. Saeco and Gerolsteiner are leading the peloton in pursuit of the Tenax rider. Race leader Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) is well placed in about 6th wheel. The peloton is now starting to lose riders, with Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo) one of the first to go out the back door.

Mazzoleni is now 10'45 in front of the bunch.

16:27 CEST    144km/47km to go
A Gerolsteiner rider accelerates from the peloton, taking Wegmann and Marzoli with him. Moos isn't there, preferring to sit in the peloton. Wegmann takes the points for second, followed by Marzoli. The gap at the top to Mazzoleni is around 9'20.

16:34 CEST    149km/42km to go
Saeco have nearly all their riders on the front of the peloton now, leading the pursuit of Renzo Mazzoleni, who will stay away for a while yet. Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner) is also on the front.

It looks like Ivan Quaranta has rejoined the peloton.

Mario Cipollini, wearing a white windjacket, has dropped to the back and is chatting to the Tenax car, as well as taking a few water bottles up for his Domina Vacanze teammates.

16:38 CEST    155km/36km to go
Andrus Aug has a bike problem, but gets a quick change and is chasing back on through the caravan. He didn't lose too much time.

Saeco has seven men on the front, along with Marcel Strauss (Gerolsteiner). They want to make sure that Renzo Mazzoleni comes back to the bunch. He is now 8'48 in front. Saeco's HQ is at Gaggio Montano (km 170), so they will certainly want to be on the front there.

16:45 CEST    160km/31km to go
Saeco's nine riders (not in black) are hunting down Renzo Mazzoleni, who has been out in front, on his own since kilometre 38. Gerolsteiner's Marcel Strauss is also there, the only blue rider in a sea of red.

Renzo is suffering from cramps now, and he hasn't reached the final climb yet. He's getting plenty of encouragement from his Tenax team car.

16:50 CEST    161km/30km to go
Mazzoleni is now in Porretta Terme with 31 km up uphill to go. His time gap is 7'18, which on a flat stage would be enough to see him home. But probably not on this stage. He has ridden well though to keep his advantage for so long.

Saeco is in full flight now, although Strauss is still lending a hand.

16:54 CEST    162km/29km to go
Fornaciari is back on the front of the main bunch, which contains the majority of the riders in the race. The latest time check to Renzo Mazzoleni is 7'00, but Renzo is having a lot of problems on the bike and is stretching a lot. He is almost exactly 5 km in front of the bunch.

16:56 CEST    164km/27km to go
Jurgen van de Walle (Chocolade Jacques) has abandoned. His left knee obviously hasn't recovered from yesterday. He's the third rider to abandon the race.

The time gap to Mazzoleni is now 6'30.

17:02 CEST    166km/25km to go
As the peloton pass the 30 km to go mark, Mazzoleni's lead has dropped to 6'00. He's not going to survive very long on this climb, which starts for real at km 179, but starts to go up at km 169.

All the time, it's Saeco leading the bunch and they're riding a bit harder now.

17:06 CEST    166km/25km to go
Mazzoleni passes the 25 km to go mark, trying to find a gear that doesn't hurt so much. Behind him, Stangelj is driving the peloton at high speed, less than 5 minutes behind the Tenax rider. Mazzoleni's director Mario Chiesa comes up beside him to give him some encouragement.

Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi Pinzolo) is dropped again, in the company of a few teammates. This time for good. But he should survive to fight another day.

17:08 CEST    168km/23km to go
Cipollini is dropped too, as the tempo increases. Saeco's nine are now scattered through the peloton, as the Vini Caldirola riders also come to the front to help chase.

Mazzoleni has 3'38 lead with 23 km to go. He is riding on his small chainring, while Stangelj is leading the bunch in the big ring.

17:10 CEST    170km/21km to go
Mazzoleni makes it to Gaggio Montano, about 3'00 in front of the gradually thinning peloton.

17:12 CEST    171km/20km to go
Magnus Backstedt (Alessio) is being dropped now. Climbs like this aren't really his thing. Petacchi is also dropped. No surprises there.

Three Saeco riders lead the bunch through Gaggio Montano, with most of the Vini Caldirola team behind him. The gap is down to 2'30.

17:17 CEST    171km/20km to go
Renzo Mazzoleni has been in front for 133 km now as he passes under the 20 km to go banner. He's still pedalling smoothly, but is clearly suffering from his long effort. The juggernaut of the peloton is eating up his lead - it's now just 1'22. He won't survive until the foot of the last climb.

17:20 CEST    172km/19km to go
Mazzoleni's once great lead of 16'05 is now less than a minute as he rides in front of the peloton with less than 20 km to go. He makes a throat cutting sign to indicate that he's at the end of his tether.

There are still 150 riders in the bunch. It's been a fairly controlled stage today.

17:23 CEST    173km/18km to go
It's all over for Mazzoleni with 18 km to go, as five Saeco men, including his brother Eddy, ride past him. Garzelli's men are also there. Brad McGee is in about 20th position.

There is a counter attack. Leonardo Giordani (De Nardi) goes, and takes a Tenax rider with him. The Saeco team doesn't react at all.

17:24 CEST    174km/17km to go
Nicola Loda (Tenax) and Giordani (De Nardi) are in front of the peloton, taking advantage of a slight downhill before the final climb.

17:25 CEST    176km/15km to go
Giordani and Loda pass under the 15 km to go banner with a 7 second lead over the peloton. The final climb begins in a couple of km, so they're not going to get much of a head start.

17:27 CEST    178km/13km to go
McGee is in about 10th position now, protected by a teammate and tucked in behind the Saeco/Vini Caldirola train.

The two leaders, Loda and Giordani, have 15 seconds.

17:29 CEST    179km/12km to go
The peloton is splitting now as it hits the last climb to Corno alle Scale. Giordani drops Loda, and is now leading alone.

McEwen and Brard are dropped, and it looks like Perez Cuapio is in trouble at the back too.

17:31 CEST    180km/11km to go
Giordani is caught as Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi) counter attacks. There are seven Saecos on the front of the bunch, with McGee in tow.

11 km to go.

17:33 CEST    181km/10km to go
Saeco is riding a hard tempo, but it's not flat out yet. Muraglia gets 8 seconds lead.

Igor Astarloa (Lampre) is dropped, together with Denis Kostyuk (Chocolade Jacques). Perez Cuapio is also with them.

17:34 CEST    181km/10km to go
The peloton is suddenly down to 30-40 riders, as it passes the 10 km to go banner. Still Giusseppe Muraglia leads by 10 seconds.

17:36 CEST    182km/9km to go
Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi) is fighting a losing battle against six Saeco riders on the front of the bunch. He has 9 km of climbing to go, but it's not too steep yet. McGee and Gilbert (FDJeux.com) are right behind the Saeco train.

17:38 CEST    183km/8km to go
Muraglia has 8 km to go, as the Saeco riders continue their relentless tempo making behind him. He is caught.

17:39 CEST    184km/7km to go
Rebellin, Garzelli and Popovych are right up the front near McGee and the Saeco train, which is now being led by Andrea Tonti. Cunego, Mazzoleni and Simoni all look very comfy, if that's at all possible.

7 km of uphill to go.

17:41 CEST    185km/6km to go
The Saeco train continues to ride hard as the road goes downhill for a short time. There are still some 40 riders left in the peloton, but that will change once the final pinch starts with about 5 km to go.

17:43 CEST    186km/5km to go
Sven Montgomery (Gerolsteiner) moves towards the front, on Garzelli and Simoni's wheel. Gontchar is there too. 5 km to go. Now it gets hard. It's still Saeco's Andrea Tonti driving the tempo.

17:45 CEST    187km/4km to go
Tonti leads Mazzoleni with 4 km to go - still 35 men left in front. But McGee is in trouble at the back. This will be the end of his Maglia Rosa. He's gone.

17:47 CEST    188km/3km to go
Figueras and Tonkov move to the front, alongside Cunego, Simoni and Garzelli. Gontchar, Noe, Pellizotti and Garate are all there.

There's an attack - Marco Fertonati (Phonak) breaks the tension with less than 4 km to go.

17:48 CEST    188km/3km to go
Mazzoleni leads the Saeco train up to Fertonani. Cunego is there too. There's a little gap, but Cunego doesn't attack. Here comes the really hard bit.

17:49 CEST    188km/3km to go
Cunego attacks with 3 km to go! Popovych has to react, and is at the head of the peloton.

17:50 CEST    189km/2km to go
Simoni has caught Cunego, and is now leading the stage. The rest of the peloton is in fragments, led by Popovych. Cunego can't hold Simoni's wheel.

Simoni is now alone in front, followed by Cunego, then Popovych, Garzelli, Pellizotti and Garate.

17:52 CEST    189km/2km to go
Simoni is opening up a 10 second lead on the next group, which now has Cunego, Popovych, Figueras, Pellizotti, Noe and Mazzoleni. Garzelli is further back with Cioni.

Simoni could be on his way to the maglia rosa.

17:53 CEST    190km/1km to go
Garzelli and Cioni are trying to catch the Popovych group, which has Figueras, Noe, Pellizotti and Cunego in it.

Gibo has 1 km to go, and has 24 seconds lead.

17:55 CEST    190km/1km to go
It's really steep now, and Simoni is in his element. Gontchar and Rebellin are trying to come back to the first chase group, which numbers four: Cunego, Popovych, Pellizotti and Popovych.

Now Popovych is being dropped. Three chasers at 25 seconds.

17:55 CEST   
Simoni sits on the tops, on his way to the stage win.

Popovych is catching his group again, and now there are four.

17:57 CEST    191km/0km to go
Simoni sprints up the final pinch to the finish, through the snow covered slopes. He has done it, and wins the first mountain stage!

17:59 CEST   
Cunego wins the sprint for second, giving Saeco the 1-2 punch today. Then Pellizotti, Figueras and Popovch at 15 seconds, then Mazzoleni, Garzelli, Cioni, Noe and Gontchar.

Simoni takes the Maglia Rosa too! No doubt, he's the man to beat in this Giro. A perfect day for Saeco.


1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                     5.46.09
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                         0.16
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi  
4 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres
5 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago   
6 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco                                         0.31
7 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut) Acqua e Sapone
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 
9 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo         
10 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi     

General classification after stage 3

1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                      
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                       
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago  

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