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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 7 - May 15: Frosinone - Montevergine Di Mercogliano, 214 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

14:23 CEST   
We're back! Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia. Today's 214 km jaunt from the the ancient city of Frosinone to the 17 km climb of Montevergine Di Mercogliane is the second uphill finish of this year's Giro. After 175 km of fairly flat riding towards the southern end of Italy, the road starts to climb from just about sea level with 30 km to go, and the stage finishes at 1270 m. The final ascent is split into two parts: the Monteforte Irpino (6.1 km at 3.8%) and Montevergine (17.1 km at 5%, with sections of 10% in places). The stage is long, but as all the climbing comes at the end, it's not as hard as some of the stages to come. Because the climb is a little flatter than stage 3's finish on Corno alla Scale, it will be harder for Gilberto Simoni and his team to create big time gaps today. Maybe it will be Cunego's turn for a win?

Unfortunately, Mario Cipollini couldn't fulfil his promise of a stage win in this Giro as he did not take the start of stage 7. His injuries from his stage 4 crash were giving him too much pain and he decided not to push it any further. This time at least, his fans should be able to see him in action again during the Tour de France.

Cipollini's teammate Andrus Aug also didn't take the start, as he has several broken bones after his post-finish line crash yesterday. Ondrej Sosenka (Acqua & Sapone) was the third non-starter in Frosinone this morning. That leaves 161 riders in the race.

14:42 CEST   
The first attack of the day was made by Saunier Duval teammates Massimo Strazzer and Rubens Bertogliati, who broke with tradition and took off after only 12 km. They were joined by Luca Mazzanti (Ceramiche Panaria-Margres), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi), Daniele Righi (Lampre), Niki Aebersold (Phonak) after another 15 km, and the six covered 44.1 km in the first hour. After two hours of racing, the sextet had 5'25 lead over the peloton.

Luca Mazzanti is the best placed rider in the break, lying in 31st position at 2'34 down, so he is the virtual maglia rosa at the moment.

14:51 CEST    139km/75km to go
The leaders have already covered 139 km of this stage, averaging 42.6 km/h in the first three hours. That's by far the fastest average speed so far in this Giro. Saeco is riding a steady controlling tempo on the front of the peloton, limiting the gap to 5'00. The biggest lead was 5'53 at around the 100 km mark.

14:56 CEST    142km/72km to go
Today's Intergiro sprint is at Maddaloni after 149 km, and the six leaders are about 7 km away from it. Saeco is riding a bit harder now, and the gap has come down to 4'10 with 70 km to go.

15:00 CEST    146km/68km to go
We're now only 3 km from the Intergiro sprint, with the leaders just having passed through Caserta after a short climb. The peloton is hovering at 4'40.

15:11 CEST    152km/62km to go
The weather today is significantly better than yesterday, which finished in a torrential downpour. It's sunny and around 20 degrees at the moment with a moderate wind blowing from the north (behind the riders), which probably explains the fast average speed.

The Intergiro sprint in Maddaloni is won by Massimo Strazzer from Gobbi and Righi. That should be enough to give Strazzer the lead in the competition.

15:16 CEST    155km/59km to go
The peloton is 5'02 behind the six leaders at the Intergiro point. Saeco is leading the chase, but not in their customary red jerseys. Instead, they are wearing black and white striped "legalize my Cannondale" jerseys. Although all the team members (except for Simoni) will be fined 200 Swiss francs, and the team will be fined another 500, the extra publicity that Cannondale will get from this is easily worth it.

15:19 CEST    160km/54km to go
Gianluca Sironi (Vini Caldirola) is helping out with the Saeco chase, which has the peloton 5'00 behind the six leaders.

The names in front: Massimo Strazzer and Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval), Luca Mazzanti (Ceramiche Panaria-Margres), Michele Gobbi (De Nardi), Daniele Righi (Lampre), Niki Aebersold (Phonak). Mazzanti is the best placed rider in the break at 2'34 down on GC.

There is a crash involving Nicolas Fritsch (FDJeux.com), Oliver Zaugg (Saunier Duval) and Gorik Gardeyn (Lotto). Fritsch gets a quick bike change and is on his way, but Zaugg has to wait a bit longer.

15:23 CEST    166km/48km to go
The six leaders are now inside 50 km to go, but 25 km of that is uphill. They'll hope to keep most of their five minute lead before they hit the final climb to Montevergine. As mentioned, this climb is not too steep, but it twists and turns many times before the summit, which is marked by the Montevergine Sanctuary, which dates back to 1124 AD.

15:26 CEST   
Earlier this morning, 44 riders from Saunier Duval, Vini Caldirola, FDJeux.com, Saeco and the Domina Vacanze teams were blood tested by the UCI. None of the riders were declared unfit to start.

15:29 CEST    169km/45km to go
The gap between the peloton and the six leaders has grown again to 5'45, which is close to the biggest lead that they have had all day. There are three black and white striped Saeco riders with Fornaciari in front leading the peloton, with Gianluca Sironi (Vini Caldirola) helping out.

Gardeyn has made it back to the peloton after his crash.

The average speed after four hours is 42 km/h.

15:36 CEST    172km/42km to go
Strazzer misses a couple of turns in the break, which is still working pretty well.

Gardeyn is now being looked after by the race doctor for injuries to his left knee and arms. The road is pretty bumpy, so Gardeyn takes the bottle of spray from the doctor and administers it himself, as hanging onto a car is a bit dangerous on these roads.

15:39 CEST    175km/39km to go
40 km to go, and the leaders are starting to tire a little, but they have a lot of work to do if they are to hold off this peloton. The gap is still 5'30, and Saeco is merely controlling rather than chasing at the moment. Simoni is further back in the bunch, accompanied by five of his teammates.

A dog on the side of the road attempts to get involved, but fortunately it realises that 150 riders would not agree with it.

Saeco's Alessandro Spezialetti drops back for a mechanical problem, but it doesn't take long and he's on his way again.

15:42 CEST    177km/37km to go
A monk with an umbrella (for the sun) watches the race go by, keeping his dog in check. Mario Manzoni (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave') has got to the front to help out with the chase. Phonak and Acqua e Sapone are also up there, and Petacchi in his purple jersey is patrolling the front of the bunch.

The gap at the 40 km to go mark is 4'44.

15:45 CEST    179km/35km to go
Strazzer is not contributing any more to the break. He has achieved his goal and taken the Intergiro jersey today by getting in the right escape.

Another Formaggi rider has joined Manzoni on the front of the peloton - Corrado Serina.

15:49 CEST    181km/33km to go
The riders are climbing now, with the Monteforte Irpino (km 6.1 at 3.8%) starting soon. The gap is down to 4'00 now with the peloton passing under the 35 km to go mark.

Andrea Ferrigato (Acqua e Sapone) is taking his turn on the front of the bunch.

15:52 CEST    183km/31km to go
The six leaders are now on Monteforte Irpino, trying to keep as much of their advantage over the peloton as possible. It looks like Tenax has three riders on the front of the bunch, and they've brought the gap down to 3'40. Ruber Marin (Colombia-Selle Italia) is also up there. The pace has definitely lifted.

15:53 CEST    184km/30km to go
There is a minor crash involving for a couple of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago riders: Bileka and Duma. Duma has to wait for his team car to get a wheel change, and loses a good 30 seconds.

15:56 CEST    186km/28km to go
Gobbi is driving the breakaway now with Righi, Mazzanti, Aebersold, Bertogliati and the non-contributing Strazzer in tow. They're suffering more now, although Mazzanti can still smile.

Bileka is getting attention from the race doctor after his crash. He's on the back of the peloton now.

The peloton is under the 30 km mark now, 3'00 behind the six leaders.

15:58 CEST    187km/27km to go
Three Panaria riders get to the front of the peloton to try and disrupt the chase a bit, but it's taken over by Saeco's Spezialetti and Vini Caldirola's Zampieri. But Perez Cuapio (Panaria) is at least in the right half of the peloton if he is to ride a good stage today.

The leaders are 4 km from the top of Monteforte Irpino.

15:59 CEST   
Ivan Quaranta is being dropped. It's that time of day again.

16:01 CEST   
Strazzer, Bertogliati and Gobbi have been dropped from the break, leaving Mazzanti, Aebersold and Righi. The peloton is at 2'46.

And then there were two...Aebersold accelerates and takes Mazzanti with him. Righi is dropped.

16:04 CEST    188km/26km to go
Marin punctures and stops in the middle of the peloton, but fortunately no-one runs into him. Looks like his front wheel.

The two leaders are now 1 km from the top of Monteforte Irpino.

16:06 CEST    189km/25km to go
The road gets a bit steeper towards the top of this climb - it's not leg snapping, but after 180 km in the lead it's hard work.

Zampieri is working on the front of the peloton with Vini Caldirola now. Perez Cuapio is still right up there.

There's a counter attack from the peloton: Oscar Pozzi (Tenax).

16:10 CEST    191km/23km to go
Aebersold takes the points on the Monteforte Irpino climb ahead of Mazzanti. It looks like Righi gets third over the top at 40 seconds. Then Bertogliati, Strazzer and Gobbi at nearly 2'00, then Pozzi and the peloton right on his heels.

16:12 CEST    192km/22km to go
Vini Caldirola assumes the position on the front of the peloton, now chasing just three riders: Aebersold and Mazzanti, who are together, and Righi, who is solo. The two leaders are 2'00 in front of the bunch.

There is a short descent before the final climb of Montevergine begins.

16:13 CEST    195km/19km to go
Vini Caldirola is obviously interested in the stage win for Garzelli, who was third when the Giro was last here three years ago.

Righi is almost caught by the bunch, which is motoring now.

16:15 CEST    197km/17km to go
The peloton passes under the 20 km to go banner at 1'35 behind Mazzanti and Aebersold, who have been in front since kilometre 12. It's really going to hurt when they hit this final climb.

16:17 CEST    197km/17km to go
Righi is swallowed by the yellow and black train of Vini Caldirola, just as Aebersold and MAzzanti start the final 17 km climb to Montevergine. Radoslav Rogina (Tenax) punctures at the foot of the climb.

16:18 CEST    198km/16km to go
The climb is lined with people right from the bottom. Vini Caldirola winds it up 1'15 behind the leaders.

16:20 CEST    198km/16km to go
Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax) has attacked the bunch in pursuit of the two leaders. Or perhaps to try and rack up a few more Trofeo Fuga Piaggio points: the rider who spends the most kilometres in breakaways wins a scooter. But he doesn't even last 1 km.

16 km left for the two leaders. Fassa Bortolo is now on the front of the bunch, working for Cioni today instead of Petacchi. It's not so steep at the bottom.

16:21 CEST    199km/15km to go
Righi is assigned with taking all of the Lampre team's helmets back to the car. He has about five!

Illiano is the next rider to attack the peloton.

16:22 CEST   
Illiano gets a nice gap as he goes under the 15 km to go mark. Mazzanti and Aebersold are now about 40 seconds in front. They hand their helmets to their soigneurs on the side of the road.

16:24 CEST    200km/14km to go
Illiano is riding well, and should catch Mazzanti and Aebersold soon.

Simoni moves to the front of the peloton.

16:26 CEST   
Mazzanti and Aebersold are still working well together, as Illiano is joined by Muraglia from behind. But the Saeco train suddenly clicks into gear and the peloton has caught them.

16:27 CEST    201km/13km to go
Plenty of riders are being dropped now as Saeco winds it up. Aebersold has dropped Mazzanti, but will himself be caught soon.

16:29 CEST   
Aebersold waves goodbye as the Saceo train comes up, led by Spezialetti and Mazzoleni. Zampieri is third in line, while Simoni, Cunego and Garzelli are a little further back.

16:30 CEST   
Astarloa has been dropped - not a big surprise, as he's a rider more for the one day races. There are four Saeco riders in the top 6. Simoni is in 8th wheel.

16:31 CEST    204km/10km to go
It's very nervous near the front of the peloton as the hard tempo set by Saeco continues. Still Spezialetti on the front, thinning down the peloton. The climb starts to get steeper. 10 km to go.

16:33 CEST    205km/9km to go
Saeco is driving harder now - still Spezialetti, still in the big chainring. Zampieri is in fourth wheel, followed by one of his teammates. They're flying!

16:35 CEST    206km/8km to go
Trampusch punctures, and gets a wheel change from his teammate Bo Hamburger. That's a bad time for the 5th placed rider on GC. He's going to have a hard time catching the bunch. Still 50-60 men left.

16:36 CEST    207km/7km to go
Simoni gets onto the front, and Garzelli is right there with him. Pugaci
(De Nardi) counters, along with Emanuele Sella (Panaria). But the peloton is right there behind them.

16:37 CEST   
Trampusch is now passing Backstedt, but he's got a bit of work to do to catch the peloton.

Figueras attacks - these hairpins are hard to take at climbing speed.

16:38 CEST   
Figueras is caught and Simoni goes hard again on the front. Garzelli is right on his wheel. Sella accelerates yet again. Cunego follows. This is really stretching the peloton.

Wegmann is dropped.

16:39 CEST   
It's Sella, leading Mazzoleni before Figueras attacks again. Cunego takes his wheel. Saeco versus Panaria!

Figueras and Cunego get a little gap, leaning hard into the hairpins.

16:41 CEST    209km/5km to go
Figueras hammers, but Cunego doesn't want to come through. Zampieri closes the gap and Simoni and Garzelli are right there. Peloton maybe 20 riders strong.

Philippe Gilbert is dropped. Rebellin is also hanging onto the back of the reduced peloton.

16:42 CEST   
Rebellin is now being dropped as the group thins out under the work of Zampieri. Less than 5 km to go.

16:43 CEST    210km/4km to go
The road starts to get steeper now. Simoni is still looking in control, in second wheel. Tonkov, Figueras, Garzelli, Noe, Cunego, Popovych are all there. Tonkov takes over in front.

16:44 CEST   
Tonkov and Zampieri are driving the peloton, but not at full speed yet. Simoni and Cunego are in third and fourth, then Garzelli. About 20 riders left.

Tonkov accelerates and Zampieri drops off. Simoni, Cunego, Garzelli, Mazzoleni and Popovych still there.

16:45 CEST   
The tempo is very high now as Tonkov opens the throttle. Still 15-20 men in the front group. Tonkov yells at the TV moto to get out of the way.

16:46 CEST    211km/3km to go
It looks like Brad McGee is still there in about 10th wheel.

Figueras attacks with Cunego with 3 km to go. But it doesn't work and Tonkov takes over.

16:47 CEST    212km/2km to go
Tonkov wants to keep the tempo high to prevent any attacks, so Garzelli has a chance in the sprint. Less than 3 km to go.

Tonkov is sporting a ponytail as well.

Sella attacks again and that's the end of Tonkov. Cunego, Simoni are on his wheel.

16:48 CEST    212km/2km to go
Sella hammers and reduces the group to 15 or so. Simoni and Cunego in second and third wheel, then Garzelli and Figueras. Mazzoleni, Belli, Cioni... Also Christophe Brandt is there.

Sella keeps driving hard with 2 km to go.

16:49 CEST   
15 riders left in the gruppo maglia rosa with less than 2 km to go. Garzelli is suffering, but if he can get to the end...

Simoni attacks, and Garzelli closes the gap. That will hurt. Cunego and the rest are there.

16:50 CEST    213km/1km to go
Coming up to 1 km to go and Simoni takes over in front. Mazzoleni accelerates, lifting the tempo. 1 km to go.

16:51 CEST   
Mazzoleni leads Simoni and Cunego with 1 km to go. Sella, Gontchar and Garzelli are right behind them.

16:51 CEST   
Mazzoleni keeps driving, and starts to run out of gas as the road gets steeper. Garzelli is right up there in third wheel.

16:52 CEST   
Simoni attacks with 500m to go, but can't drop them. Cunego is right on his wheel...

16:53 CEST    214km/0km to go
Figueras leads out the sprint, and Cunego comes round him and wins the stage!! McGee comes from nowhere and takes second ahead of Pellizotti, Figueras, Garzelli and Simoni. Cunego takes the maglia rosa, couresy of the time bonus. What a finish.

McGee has collapsed after the finish line. He went deep today - let's hope he's ok.

Not only has Cunego taken the maglia rosa, he also has the mountains jersey back again.


1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                      5.26.25
2 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                
4 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres    
5 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie
6 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                        0.03
7 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi                  
8 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi           
9 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre      
10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago         

General classification after stage 7

1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco                                     
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                                        0.10
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                            0.28
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                    0.31
5 Giuliano Figueras (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria-Margres                  0.52
6 Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) De Nardi                                    1.08
7 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                              1.10
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie          1.15
9 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                                  1.17
10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco                                        1.29

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