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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 4 - May 12: Porretta Terme - Civitella In Val Di Chiana (Stab. Del Tongo), 184 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

14:32 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Stage 4 of the Giro d'Italia, 184 km between Porretta Terme and Civitella in Val Di Chiana. After yesterday's first mountain top finish, we're back on the flats today, even though there are a couple of Cat. 3 climbs to cross: Passo della Collina (km 16.6) and Poggio di Sugame (km 113). There is also a small uncategorised climb with 20 km to go. The stage finishes with an 11.4 km circuit around Civitella.

On paper, it looks like one for the sprinters, who have only really had one stage in their favour so far, and will relish the opportunity for another one. The sprinters' teams should be relatively fresh, despite yesterday's tough stage, and will be keen to keep it together for a bunch finish. Another one for Petacchi? Or will Cipollini/McEwen/Svorada/? get up?

The general classification started to take shape yesterday, and with an impressive climb to Corno Alle Scale, Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) is now in the Maglia Rosa of race leader, with lieutenant Damiani Cunego occupying second position on GC at 13 seconds, ahead of Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago) at 21 seconds. Despite Saeco's impressive display in the mountains, the race is by no means over and Saeco will have to work very hard over the next two and a half weeks to defend Simoni's lead.

14:44 CEST    73km/111km to go
An update on the race so far. 166 riders (all who finished yesterday) started stage 4 at 12:31pm in Porretta Terme. The first climb of the Passo della Collina
saw Fabian Wegmann claim the three points in front of Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax) and Alexandre Moos (Phonak). That will put Wegmann in third place in the mountains competition, with Simoni leading on 16 points ahead of Cunego (13) and Wegmann now on 11.

The temperature at the start was 16 degrees, but it's expected to get a little warmer as the day goes on and the sun comes out in full force.

After two hours of racing, 65.8 km have been covered (32.9 km/h) in the typical Italian style. In fact, today has seen a number of riders go ahead of the peloton to greet their friends and family: Leonardo Giordani (De Nardi), Brett Lancaster (Panaria), Paolo Fornaciari (Saeco), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago) have all been allowed some freedom to do this.

15:05 CEST    86km/98km to go
The peloton isn't in a great hurry today, and is still together after 83 km of riding. As mentioned before, this is how the Italians race in the Giro. It's very different to the Tour or the Vuelta, when the attacks start from the gun and don't stop until at least one rider "breaks the elastic" and the peloton stops chasing for a while. In the Giro, the speed tends to increase as the stage goes on, and the overall average speed is generally lower than the other two Grand Tours.

Although the racing can be slow at times, this style should put less stress on the riders, and that should be seen as a positive thing, pardon the pun.

15:20 CEST    93km/91km to go
The peloton is now through the feed zone at Le Bolle, just before the second climb of the day, Poggio di Sugame. One rider pulled out at the feed, Frenchman John Gadret, who rides for the Chocolade Jacques team. He spent a lot of time at the back of the bunch yesterday with Jurgen van de Walle, who abandoned with a sore knee in stage 3.

15:33 CEST    100km/84km to go
After refuelling en route, the peloton is now tackling the climb of Poggio di Sugame, a Cat. 3 climb that probably won't break things up a great deal. The mountains leader is Gilberto Simoni, who took 16 points in the stage yesterday and can't be overtaken today. But riders like Wegmann, Moos and R. Mazzoleni will try to chip away at his lead, because they know that Simoni doesn't have the mountains jersey as a major goal.

Saeco is leading the bunch at the moment, and are dressed in rain jackets. The weather has taken a turn for the worse, and it's raining at the moment. That has dampened the riders' spirits even more than the control by Saeco, and no-one has attacked yet.

The average speed after three hours is 33.7 km/h

15:38 CEST   
This morning, the UCI carried out blood tests on 34 riders from four different teams: Lotto-Domo, Chocolade Jacques, Colombia-Selle Italia and Panaria. No-one was declared unfit to start.

Plenty of riders are using the slow pace as an opportunity to commune with nature. It's always that way when it's wet.

15:42 CEST    106km/78km to go
The riders are passing through Greve in Chianti, rolling along at a moderate pace, led by the Saeco team. Mario Cipollini is enjoying being in his home territory of Tuscany. There are plenty of people lining the roads, despite the bad weather, cheering on the bedraggled riders.

15:47 CEST    108km/76km to go
Finally, the first attack comes from Rafael Illiano (Colombia Selle Italia) with his teammate Alejandro Borrajo following. A small group of riders is behind them, but the peloton is right on their heels. A Phonak rider - Niki Aebersold - attacks next in pursuit of the two Colombia-Selle Italia riders.

The summit of the Poggio di Sugame is still 5 km away.

15:49 CEST    109km/75km to go
Aebersold and Illiano are now together.

Petacchi is in trouble on this side of the road. He looks as though he's just collapsed after a crash. He gets help from Ferretti, and is back on his bike. Marco Velo is helping him back to the peloton. Another Fassa rider drops back to help them.

15:51 CEST    110km/74km to go
Alessandro Vanotti (De Nardi) counters out of the peloton in pursuit of Aebersold and Illiano, who are three km from the top of the Poggio di Sugame.

Ivan Quaranta (Formaggi) has been dropped.

Petacchi is chasing back on with two teammates, but is not feeling too good.

15:53 CEST    111km/73km to go
Quaranta is with four teammates, a little way in front of Petacchi's group which is growing now with the addition of most of the Fassa Bortolo team.

Vanotti is now alone in front of the race. Illiano and Aebersold appear to have been caught.

15:57 CEST    113km/71km to go
Alexandre Moos accelerates from the peloton to catch and pass Vanotti just before the top of the climb. He takes three points, Vanotti two and then Wegmann gets one point.

Bertogliati, Renzo Mazzoleni, Julio Perez Cuapio and Gianni Faresin follow the front three. Then the peloton in various pieces, then Petacchi and his seven Fassa Bortolo teammates.

Moos leads on the descent.

16:01 CEST    120km/64km to go
Moos, Vanotti and Perez Cuapio are now together, being chased by Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval), Gorazd Stangelj (Saeco) and a couple of others.

Petacchi's group is making it back to the rear of the peloton now, riding a solid team time trial.

16:05 CEST    126km/58km to go
The leaders have come together, and we now have a group with Alexandre Moos (Phonak), Alessandro Vanotti (De Nardi), Julio Perez Cuapio (Panaria), Renzo Mazzoleni and Nicola Loda (Tenax), Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Rubens Bertogliati and Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval), Gorazd Stangelj (Saeco) in front of the race.

At the bottom of the descent, Loda, Murgalia and Vanotti have a small gap to the rest.

The peloton is following at approximately 30 seconds, and Petacchi's group is still chasing to get back on.

16:09 CEST   
Petacchi and his teammates (all eight of them actually, as Cioni was also called in) have recaptured the bunch now.

We still have three riders in front: Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi), Alessandro Vanotti (De Nardi) and Nicola Loda (Tenax).

16:13 CEST    130km/54km to go
Vanotti, Muraglia and Loda have been caught by four riders: Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria), Andoni Aranaga (Chocolade Jacques), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolstener) and Mariano Piccoli (Lampre). The peloton is at 55 seconds.

It's stopped raining now, and the riders are taking their jackets off.

Ivan Quaranta has recaught the peloton too.

16:16 CEST   
Saeco and Fassa bortolo are leading the peloton now in pursuit of this break of seven riders. There seems to be a little more control, although it's tough on these twisting, narrow roads.

16:19 CEST    137km/47km to go
The seven leaders have become six, with Wegmann returning back to the gruppo maglia rosa. They now have sunshine and dry roads.

16:22 CEST   
The leaders sprint for the Intergiro in San Giovanni Valdarno, and it's Mariano Piccoli who takes it from Vanotti. The peloton, at full flight, follows at 32 seconds.

The six leaders again: Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi), Alessandro Vanotti (De Nardi), Nicola Loda (Tenax), Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria), Andoni Aranaga (Chocolade Jacques), Mariano Piccoli (Lampre).

16:27 CEST   
Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria) is the best placed rider in the break, sitting 34th on GC at 3'14. But the chase behind is too strong at the moment, as three Fassa Bortolo men close the gap to 10 seconds.

The break sits up, although Vanotti and Loda continue for a little longer in front.

16:29 CEST    139km/45km to go
Aranaga joins Loda and Vanotti in front, despite the fact that the peloton is breathing down their necks. They might survive a little longer.

16:34 CEST    143km/41km to go
Some more results from the Intergiro sprint: Piccoli, Vanotti, Lanfranchi, Loda, Muraglia, Aranaga, Bruseghin and Gustov.

The three leaders (Vanotti, Aranaga and Loda) are still 10 seconds in front of the Fassa Bortolo (with four riders) led peloton. In the second rank is Saeco, with Simoni tucked in nicely. Cipollini looks comfy near the front too.

16:39 CEST    146km/38km to go
Muraglia, Loda and Vanotti have realised (or perhaps not) that resistance is futile, and have been caught by the peloton. Four Fassa riders, with Gustov doing quite a lot of work, are leading the peloton with less than 40 km to go.

16:43 CEST    149km/35km to go
35 kilometres to go, and the peloton is together. Massimo Codol (Fassa Bortolo) is doing his turn on the front now. Will anyone try to attack now? It's difficult when the bunch is moving at a good clip like this.

Fornaciari from Saeco has a word to his former teammate Fabio Sacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Saeco will be happy that Fassa is doing the work now.

16:49 CEST    154km/30km to go
Petacchi's men look set to keep control in the final 30 km of this stage, which is a good sign for Petacchi, who crashed on the Poggio di Sugame earlier. Petacchi got up immediately, but then semi-collapsed on the road. He wasn't down for too long and was helped back on his bike fairly quickly. But that might hurt his chances in today's (probable) sprint. In the past, he has won stages after crashing, so we certainly won't count him out today. McEwen and Cipollini might have a better chance though.

There are no rain jackets to be seen any more, except in the pockets of riders' jerseys. Some still have arm warmers on, as it's not particularly warm today. The roads are quite dry now.

16:56 CEST    159km/25km to go
Simoni has a strip of pink tape on his knee - not sure what it's for, but he could be having a few aches and pains in that area.

Race situation is unchanged, except that the peloton now has 25 km to go instead of 30. Four Fassas, followed by the Saeco squadra with Simoni tucked in. The road goes uphill now for 5 km, and this will be an important phase of the race for Petacchi and the other sprinters. Gustov, Sacchi and Codol are still on the front.

16:59 CEST    162km/22km to go
Stefano Garzelli's Vini Caldirola men have moved up beside Simoni and Saeco, protecting Garzelli from any mishaps. In front, there is a fifth Fassa Bortolo rider joining the train.

22 km left, and the peloton is climbing now.

17:04 CEST    165km/19km to go
The peloton has reached the top of the climb at Civitella in Val di Chiana, almost entirely intact. 20 km left, and it's still Fassa Bortolo with five in front.

17:11 CEST    171km/13km to go
Ondrej Sosenka (Acqua e Sapone) is chasing back onto the peloton after a puncture, getting a push from his team director as he passes the team car.

As the rain starts again there's a crash and Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet) rides off the side of the road. Franco Vila Errandonea (Lampre) and Jan van Velzen (Jacques) are also down, as are Righi and Garate (Lampre), Vogondy and Wilson (FDJeux.com), Schnider (Phonak) and Tonkov (Vini Caldirola). They are all chasing back on now.

17:15 CEST    173km/11km to go
Two bunches are chasing back onto the main peloton, and should get back on just before the first passage of the finish line. It's uphill with about 500m to go, then levels out for the finish straight.

1 lap of 11.4 km to go. The roads are a little wet, which will make life tough. Most of the Lampre team is helping Vila Errandonea and Garate get back on.

The entire Fassa Bortolo team is on the front now, with Petacchi in ninth wheel. The pace is picking up again.

17:16 CEST    174km/10km to go
10 km to go, and the peloton is navigating a twisty finishing circuit around Civitella In Val Di Chiana. But the riders are now on a long straight section and that should make it easier to control. Cipollini is moving up. The pace is quite high now.

17:18 CEST    176km/8km to go
We have two dueling trains on the superstrada now, with Lotto-Domo and Fassa Bortolo competing for the front position. Lotto takes over, with McEwen in fourth wheel. Alessio-Bianchi riders are also there. But Fassa Bortolo won't give up the pole position easily.

8 km to go.

17:20 CEST    177km/7km to go
Cipollini's Domina men are now at the front, trying to keep their sprinter out of trouble. Quaranta is moving up, as are Furlan and D'Amore. But Petacchi is never far from the front. It's a real fight for position.

A Saunier Duval rider accelerates, but can't get a gap.

17:20 CEST    178km/6km to go
6 km to go and Domina Vacanze and Fassa Bortolo have three men up in front, but it's very difficult to stay there on this wide, straight road.

17:21 CEST    179km/5km to go
Saeco is looking after Simoni on the right hand side of the road. He's in about 15th position at the moment.

An arrowhead starts to form, led by an Alessio man followed by Domina and Fassa Bortolo. 5 km...

17:22 CEST    180km/4km to go
Petacchi is in fifth wheel as they reach the end of this long superstrada. Cipollini is now far behind him.

17:23 CEST    181km/3km to go
Andrea Ferrigato (Acqua e Sapone) tries to attack, but is swamped by five Fassa Bortolos, with Petacchi in sixth wheel. Pollack is also up there, on Petacchi's wheel. Good choice.

17:24 CEST   
Pagliarini is fighting for Pollack's wheel with 3 km to go. One of the Fassas pulls off, as Sacchi takes over. Colombo, Naudusz and Lombardi are helping Cipo and we've got two competing trains. There's a lot of shoulder action

17:25 CEST    182km/2km to go
Cipo has found Petacchi's wheel with 2 km to go. Usov is next to them. The trains are going flat out.

17:25 CEST    183km/1km to go
Backstedt has made it to the front too, next to Cipo and Petacchi. 1 km to go.... It's very fast. McEwen is led up by Vierhouten.

17:27 CEST    184km/0km to go
The road goes up now and Lombardi is in front. Aug is right behind him, and goes very early. Pollack next to him but Petacchi is on his wheel...

Cipo crashes...

Petacchi wins!! McEwen is second and Cadamuro (De Nardi) comes in third.

17:28 CEST   
Cipollini has a bleeding left knee, and Naudusz goes back for him. Andrea Tonti (Saeco) also crashed. Cipo is riding slowly across the line. That hurt at 65 km/h. It was his teammate (possibly Aug) who caused it by looking around while Cipo was on his wheel - with the inevitable result that he moved to the left and Cipo had nowhere to go except over the top. That was a really stupid crash and Cipo will not be happy at all about that.

In the GC, Simoni still leads, although the provisional results have Yaroslav Popovych in second place at 13 seconds, on the same time as Cunego, so perhaps Simoni was caught behind a break in the peloton and lost time. We'll know once the official results come out.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo
3 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) De Nardi                         
4 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie  
5 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo    
6 Massimo Strazzer (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir  
7 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi   
8 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak Hearing Systems       
9 Alejandro Albert Borrajo (Arg) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres      
10 Graziano Gasparre (Ita) De Nardi                 

General classification after stage 4

1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                          
2 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                    0.13
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                     
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                            0.29
5 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres                  0.48
6 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              0.51

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