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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 6 - May 14: Spoleto - Valmontone (Polo Turistico), 164 km

Commentary by Chris Henry

Complete live report

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

14:25 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia. The race has just about hit the one week mark since the prologue time trial last Saturday in Genova. With a time trial, some climbing, and several sprint finishes already covered, the maglia rosa has changed hands several times before landing on the shoulders of defending champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco).

Today's stage should provide another opportunity for a bunch sprint, and for double stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) to get back on track after being shut out of the action in the finale of yesterday's stage. Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) took his first stage win of the Giro yesterday, profiting from Petacchi's poor position in the sprint and also his own preference for tricky finishing circuits.

The climb of the Valico della Somma near the beginning of today's stage may break things up a bit, but the sprinters teams should pull things together before the wide-open finish about 45km south of Rome.

14:43 CEST    50km/114km to go
The race has crossed the Cat. 2 climb at Forca dell'Arrone, with Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) taking the points ahead of Alexandre Moos (Phonak) and Fredy Gonzalez (Selle Italia).

In the opening kilometres of the race, none other than Mario Cipollini was on the attack, briefly getting into a break with Swiss champion Daniel Schider and Alessandro Bertolini. Cipo was most likely looking to get ahead of the field before the climb, but it didn't work out as he and Bertolini were caught, while Schnider pressed on alone for a little bit. It was all back together for the climb.

After the climb, new attacks have started to go clear.

14:46 CEST   
After a brief escape of some 20 riders, the peloton is back together once more as Saeco works to keep the situation under control.

14:57 CEST    70km/94km to go
Cipollini, on the attack early on, now finds himself slightly off the pace in a group of 40 riders around 15" behind the main peloton. The profile of the race flattens out as the day goes on, so Cipo shouldn't have too much trouble arriving at the finish unless the pain from his crash two days ago becomes an issue.

At the day's InterGiro sprint in Rieti, Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) won the sprint ahead of Aart Vierhouten (Lotto-Domo) and Angelo Furlan (Alessio-Bianchi).

15:01 CEST   
Sure enough, Cipollini's group has rejoined the main field. Just in time for a new round of attacks up front. This time it's Ellis Rastelli (Alessio-Bianchi), Emanuele Sella (Ceramiche Panaria), Raffaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia), and Radoslav Rogina (Tenax) going clear.

15:17 CEST    78km/86km to go
Mario Cipollini continues to yo-yo off the back of the main field, losing contact then rejoining. The four man break was pulled back but the attacks continue as riders try to get a gap that will stick.

Ceramiche Panaria's Fortunato Baliani attacked and got some distance on his own while Phonak's Marco Fertonani has begun to bridge the gap.

15:25 CEST   
Baliani has held Fertonani at bay, and at the same time has begun to build a substantial lead over the main field. He now was nearly two and a half minutes over the field while Fertonani is stuck in pursuit in no-man's land.

15:35 CEST   
Mario Cipollini has been making waves off the bike in this year's Giro as well, apparently the subject of a certain amount of criticism in the Italian press concerning his luxurious tastes throughout the race. Cipo, not happy about being singled out in the papers, reportedly invited journalists in the team camping car to have some words, tossing in a threat or two in the process.

15:40 CEST    97km/67km to go
Baliani continues his solo effort out ahead of Fertonani and the main field. The weather today is dry but not ideal, with a constant threat of rain. No matter, the tifosi are out in force along the roadside.

The peloton has decided for the moment to let Baliani do his thing, and as a result the gap has jumped to over four minutes.

Though the likelihood of a bunch finish is high today, the parcours isn't exactly easy. Though the only categorized climb has passed, constantly rolling terrin provides a different sort of difficulty.

15:50 CEST    105km/59km to go
Baliani continues to pick up time on both the main field and the man chasing him, Fertonani. Climbing another small rise in the town of Moricone, Baliani looks strong and should stay away for a bit longer. Once the sprinters' teams begin the big chase, however, his chances will begin to fade. The gap now is five minutes.

15:51 CEST   
In the main field, two Fassa Bortolo men are minding the pace for their sprinter Petacchi, followed closely by the red jerseys of Saeco and of course the race leader himself, Gilberto Simoni.

Cipollini is off the back once more, surrounded by almost his entire team trying to coax him back into contact with the bunch.

16:00 CEST    112km/52km to go
Now it's three in front for Fassa Bortolo as the pace begins to pick up in the main field, which is not quite single file but very much stretched out on a steady rise.

Meanwhile Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team has returned its leader to the fold though chances are the pattern will repeat itself at least once more in this stage. The finish today features a long finishing straight, Cipollini's preferred terrain, but it would be a bit of a surprise to see him contesting the final sprint today.

16:04 CEST   
Baliani is starting to grimmace now as his effort begins to catch up with him. As does the peloton... He's lost about 30 seconds of his advantage.

16:08 CEST   
Phonak's Fertonani is still hanging on between Baliani and the peloton. He's getting a bit of TV time, if nothing else, but he missed his chance to catch Baliani a long time ago. Conversely, despite what appeared to be some suggestions to that effect from his team car, Baliani made the decision not to wait for Fertonani and to press on by himself.

Fertonani now sits up and looks behind him. His team car comes alongside for a quick chat.

16:11 CEST    124km/40km to go
Baliani's team car now comes alongside the leader for some encouragement. It's crunch time now as the peloton is beginning to chip away steadily at his lead, which is down below the four minute mark.

Lotto-Domo has sent one man to the front to help Fassa Bortolo with the chase.

16:19 CEST   
Baliani has been forced to stop for a front wheel change. Recent showers have left the road quite wet and he punctured rather quickly once he hit the wet roads. The finish is looking rather wet now too.

Marzio Bruzeghin is leading the Fassa Bortolo charge in the main field, which almost certainly now will catch Baliani before the finish. The gap is 2'38.

16:21 CEST    130km/34km to go
Baliani's first chaser, Fertonani, has disappeared and is most likely back in the peloton now. The gap to Baliani is falling quickly now and he's lost another 15 seconds.

Stefano Garzelli's Vini Caldirola team has started to move its leader up to the front, as the GC contenders will all be wary of crashes now in a fast, wet finish.

16:24 CEST    135km/29km to go
Baliani takes on some final energy bars from his team car as he tries to hold off the main field. Lotto-Domo and Fassa Bortolo are assembling en masse at the front of the field, while race leader Simoni's Saeco team has drifted back for the moment to let the sprinters do their thing.

The rain is starting to come down a bit harder now.

16:30 CEST   
With the rain coming down harder, Baliani's lead is down to 1'40. The chase is steady but not frantic at this point, as the combined forces of Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo seem pretty confident that they will catch the leader at the right moment. To catch him too early is actually a disadvantage as that increases the likelihood of a counter attack.

16:36 CEST    142km/22km to go
Three and a half hours of racing now and the stage is winding toward its conclusion. The rain continues to soak everyone and everything, and Baliani has barely a minute in hand over the chasing peloton. A long steady climb around 20km to go could unravel Cipollini, but more than likely Petacchi and McEwen and the other sprinters will be able to handle it just fine.

16:41 CEST    145km/19km to go
The other sprinters' teams (Gerolsteiner, Lampre, etc.) are starting to move forward to begin the jockeying for position in the final 10-20 kilometres. Fassa Bortolo is still at the helm, but the pace is such that the peloton is taking up the whole road. The group has hit the foot of the final climb, which has no mountains points on offer but will hurt the legs of some.

Baliani's time alone is coming to a close.

16:44 CEST   
Baliani is caught and immediately there is a two-man counter attack. Nicola Loda and Raffaela Illiano have jumped clear on the long steady climb.

Cipollini is off the back, surrounding by teammates in the rain.

Leonardo Giordani has joined the two leaders to make three away.

16:46 CEST    149km/15km to go
Ivan Quaranta has been dropped on the climb and several teammates have dropped back to try to get their sprinter back in the main field.

The lead trio has 8 seconds on the field.

16:49 CEST   
Loda can't keep pace as Illiani attacks once more and Giordani follows. With 15km to go they have a very slender lead on the field.

Fassa Bortolo continues to set the pace.

16:50 CEST    151km/13km to go
Illiani and Giordani are caught, and Giordani's De Nardi teammate Gasparre tries a quick counter but it doesn't go far.

16:54 CEST    153km/11km to go
FDJeux.com's Philippe Gilbert has just launched an attack in the final metres of the climb. The young Belgian has a small advantage but the peloton is not willing to just let him go.

He's over the summit and begins the wet descent, which is not steep.

16:56 CEST   
Gilbert is caught as the riders plow through a considerable amount of rain on the roads. It's still Fassa Bortolo in charge at the front, trying to keep the group together for Petacchi.

16:57 CEST    156km/8km to go
Maglia rosa Gilberto Simoni is also moving up again, hoping to stay out of trouble and avoid risks. A number of riders have been spit out the back of the field at the top of the climb.

17:01 CEST    159km/5km to go
The rain is pouring down now as the field takes care around the turns on the descent. A quick rise breaks the rhythm a bit as Fassa Bortolo keeps the pressure on.

A new attack goes clear now: Mario Manzoni (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave') jumps on another short rise and gets an advantage over the field. A Fassa Bortolo rider almost missed a turn on the slick roads which briefly disrupted the train.

17:04 CEST    161km/3km to go
Manzoni is quickly back in the fold as Petacchi's teammates drive on. Bruzeghin continues to set the pace, his face a picture of discomfort thanks to the heavy rain and fast pace.

Enter Vini Caldirola now as several yellow jerseys mix it up with Fassa Bortolo.

17:05 CEST    162km/2km to go
Two kilometres to go and the field is facing several tricky corners before the finish. Petacchi is in 5th position.

Attack from Igor Astarloa! The world champion has jumped clear to try to foil the sprinters.

17:06 CEST    163km/1km to go
Astarloa tried a similar move on the hillier finishing circuit yesterday and today he's going for the stage win once again. He has about 100 metres with 1km to go.

17:07 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo is scarmbling to pull back the rainbow jersey. Astarloa is looking good but he's run out of time.

The catch is made and the leadout for Petacchi begins. Pollack is there and Petacchi begins the sprint.

Pollack tries to come around but Petacchi gets his third stage of the Giro.

17:09 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo is scarmbling to pull back the rainbow jersey. Astarloa is looking good but he's run out of time.

The catch is made and the leadout for Petacchi begins. Pollack is there and Petacchi begins the sprint.

Pollack tries to come around but Petacchi gets his third stage of the Giro.

17:10 CEST   
Andrus Aug has crashed heavily in the finale, this time much more seriously than the crash involving Cipollini days ago. The ambulance has arrived to take him away as he was unable to get up on his own. He appeared to hit the left side barrier just as Petacchi was giving his victory salute.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                         4.00.55
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) Gerolsteiner 
3 Alejandro Albert Borrajo (Arg) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres 
4 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco   
5 Andris Nauduzs (Lat) Domina Vacanze                          
6 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo            
7 Andrus Aug (Est) Domina Vacanze                                
8 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak Hearing Systems                  
9 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo       
10 Michael Albasini (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems   
11 Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita) Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave'
12 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com                     
13 Mauricio Al Ardila Cano (Col) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf  
14 Crescenzo d'Amore (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo           
15 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago   
General classification after stage 6
1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                    27.35.30
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                         0.13
3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                    0.21
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                            0.29
5 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut) Acqua & Sapone-Caffe Mokambo               0.41
6 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres                  0.45
7 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              0.52
8 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi                                    0.58
9 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie          1.05
10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco                                        1.06

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