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87th Giro d'Italia - Grand Tour

Italy, May 8-30, 2004

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Stage 9 - May 17: Policoro - Carovigno, 142 km

Commentary by Chris Henry

Complete live report

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

14:30 CEST   
Welcome back once again to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro d'Italia. It's a short, flat, fast stage today in southern Italy, most likely another day for the sprinters. Alessandro Petacchi shows no sign of slowing down this year after taking his fourth stage win yesterday with a blistering finish ahead of Robbie McEwen. Petacchi won here last year and took the maglia rosa in the process.

McEwen, Olaf Pollack, and Ivan Quaranta are possible favourites today too, but it's been Petacchi vs. the rest so far this year. Quaranta may do better in a shorter stage, and says his form is getting better by the day. McEwen may enjoy the fact that the parcours finishes with three laps of a short circuit.

This is the final stage before the Giro's first rest day, and a 350 kilometre transfer north on Tuesday.

14:39 CEST    43km/99km to go
Well, it may be a short stage, but the start has been anything but fast... It's been piano all the way for the first hour and a half of riding (not racing). The peloton has averaged just 28 km/h thus far and the group is all together.

14:48 CEST   
Race leader Damiano Cunego (Saeco), who took the jersey from his leader Gilberto Simoni on stage 7, is clearly happy to be in pink. Cunego hopes to keep the jersey for another week.

"I slept with the maglia rosa next to my bed," he said after Stage 8. "I hope to continue my dream in pink until the time trial. Someone told me that Gilberto Simoni was nervous this morning. But I don't think he was upset with me. The last week is for him."

14:59 CEST   
After just about 50 kilometres the peloton is still together, cruising along. After a tough first week and the last two long, fast days (including Saturday's mountain finish), there may be quite a few riders eager to take advantage of the first rest day.

15:14 CEST   
(Taps microphone) Is this thing on? The peloton is still one big, slow-moving piece for the moment.

Mario Cipollini's exit from the Giro d'Italia before the start of Stage 7 following his crash in Stage 4 has left the former world champion a bit cranky. Disappointed that he wasn't able to better his 42 stage win record, Cipollini has once more hinted at retirement. "Maybe I won't race again," he said.

Scheduled to ride the Tour de France this year, Cipollini said that he would need time to sort himself out. "I can't think of the Tour yet. Give me a week's grace."

Cipollini also crticised Domina Vacanze management about his team's crash and burn performance thus far in the Giro. "They selected the wrong teammates, I wanted to come here with other riders," he said.

15:24 CEST    62km/80km to go
Race leader Damiano Cunego has had a rear wheel puncture, but with a peloton averaging under 30 km/h for the first two hours, he should be able to rejoin the field just fine...

15:33 CEST    68km/74km to go
At last, an attack! Raffaele Illiano (Colombia-Selle Italia) has decided the time has come to start racing and he's attacked alone.

15:35 CEST   
Several riders are trying to build on Illiano's move, including Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave'), Alessandro Vanotti (De Nardi), and Gabriele Bosisio (Tenax).

15:40 CEST   
The result of the Intergiro sprint, which preceded the day's first escape, is as follows: Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner), Crescenzo D'Amore (Acqua & Sapone), and Massimo Strazzer (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

The four man break has established itself and built a gap of about 35".

15:46 CEST   
The lead is expanding for the four escapees. Fassa Bortolo is riding at the head of the peloton but not chasing. The pace is still quite modest for the main field.

In the first week of this year's Giro, no breakaway has managed to survive until the finish. Clearly Fassa Bortolo is not too worried about this group either.

15:50 CEST   
A clarification on the situation up front: Giuseppe Muraglia (Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave') and Gabriele Bosisio (Tenax), who figured among the initial counter attack behind Illiano, never quite made it into the break. Illiano and Vanotti are working together ahead of the main field and it appears Bisisio and Muraglia are back in the fold.

15:52 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo's Dario Cioni has had a mechanical and is working his way back to the field with the help of three teammates. Needless to say, Petacchi is safely in the main bunch and his team is not concerned yet with the big wind-up for the final sprint.

15:55 CEST   
The race has faced a headwind for the first half of the stage, but that's obviously not the only explanation for the slow speed. Today's short stage did not automatically produce a nervous stage as some might have expected.

Illiano and Vanotti are trading pulls nicely in the break, trying to build a maximum advantage now before the peloton starts to get serious.

16:00 CEST   
Robbie McEwen will be looking for a bit of redemption today after having been relegated to last place (in the lead group) on the stage yesterday. The Australian finished second on the line behind Petacchi but the judges didn't like his madison-style slingshot off the jersey of a Lotto-Domo teammate before the final turn. McEwen was poorly placed heading into the sprint and used his teammate (who didn't seem to see the move coming) to propel himself forward just before the corner.

16:10 CEST    92km/50km to go
The peloton has 50 kilometres left to race. Fassa Bortolo is keeping the break on a very tight leash, maintaining a gap under 2 minutes. The pace is steadily picking up and the field is stretched out more. Saeco and Vini Caldirola have also moved up behind Fassa Bortolo to protect their leaders Cunego and Simoni (Saeco) and Garzelli (Vini Caldirola).

16:17 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo is a well-oiled machine, controlling the field and keeping Petacchi tucked away nicely.

The gap to the breakaway has started to come down after a maximum of 1'50".

16:20 CEST    102km/40km to go
Illiano and Vanotti aren't giving up, but their chances of staying away are not too good. Petacchi's team never let them get very far and now that the chase is truly getting under way, it's all business for Fassa Bortolo. The two leaders are under the 40km to go banner.

16:27 CEST    108km/34km to go
It's a gorgeous day in southern Italy today and the fans are out in number along the roads, cheering on Illiano and Vanotti as they try to hold off the inevitable Fassa Bortolo pursuit from behind. The gap is now 1'20.

16:37 CEST   
There's been a fairly big crash at the back of the field. Several riders have gone off the side of the road and others have had nowhere to go but into the pile. Intergiro leader Massimo Strazzer is looking a bit banged up, as is Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). A Colombia-Selle Italia rider, Fredy Gonzalez, has hit his head and his face is bleeding. He's conscious but it doesn't look good.

Most riders are getting up and moving on but there also seem to be a lot of damaged bikes.

16:38 CEST   
Sprinter Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) was also caught in the crash. He looks ok but he's had to wait a bit for a replacement bike.

Meanwhile, the two leaders are pressing on as the field regroups. Fassa Bortolo is still leading the chase.

16:40 CEST    118km/24km to go
Gonzalez is slowly getting up but it's unlikely he'll carry on in the race. Indeed, he's onto a stretcher and will be taken off in the ambulance.

Several small chase groups are now trying to get back into the main field after being delayed.

16:44 CEST   
Codol and Bruzeghin are doing most of the work for Fassa Bortolo up front. In the break, Vanotti is starting to look a bit tired but he's still sharing the pulls with Illiano. The peloton almost has them in sight.

16:46 CEST   
Pollack has yet to rejoin the main field. He has several teammates to help him and is in a group of about 25 riders, with other groups further back.

16:49 CEST    123km/19km to go
The peloton has the break in sight within 20km of the finish. The pace has slowed just slightly which should help Pollack's group get back in contact.

16:52 CEST   
The break is finished and now it's time for Fassa Bortolo to really put the hammer down to prevent any more attacks in the final 20 kilometres.

16:55 CEST   
Pollack's group is still about 20" behind the main field as the race hits the finishing circuit.

Ivan Quaranta's Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave' team is up front along with Fassa Bortolo, a good sign that Quaranta is getting more serious about contesting the sprints in this year's Giro. There are three laps to go of this final circuit as the peloton passes under the finish line for the first time.

16:59 CEST   
It was a brief run for Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave' at the head of the field as Fassa Bortolo and a few members of the Saeco team have taken over once more.

Word from the Colombia-Selle Italia team of Fredy Gonzalez is that the climber is suffering from cuts and bruises on his face but apparently has sustained no major injuries.

17:01 CEST    133km/9km to go
Quaranta has glued himself to Petacchi's wheel as they pass under the finish line with two more laps of the circuit to go. The Fassa Bortolo train is in full control. More jockeying for position is going on behind.

McEwen's Lotto-Domo team is trying to bring him up on the right side of the road.

17:04 CEST   
Gert Steegmans takes over the first position for Lotto-Domo as McEwen's team mixes it up a bit more with the Fassa Bortolo train. Quaranta still has a few men up front as well.

17:07 CEST   
Massimo Strazzer, Intergiro leader, is straggling behind the field with the help of one teammate. He'll finish but he looks to be suffering. His teammate is giving him a steady push from behind.

Domina Vacanze's Gabriele Colombo is trying to pick up the pace at the head of the field, perhaps setting something up for Andris Nauduzs in the sprint.

One lap of the circuit to go.

17:08 CEST   
McEwen is now on Petacchi's wheel, with Tomas Vaitkus just behind. Jan Svorada is there too.

17:09 CEST    141km/1km to go
McEwen and Vaitkus are battling for Petacchi's wheel with Nauduzs just behind them. Into the final kilometre it's still Fassa Bortolo in charge. Can anybody beat Petacchi? He still has two leadout men left.

17:11 CEST   
It's all out now as Petacchi rounds the final corner with Marco Velo leading him out. McEwen is still on Petacchi's wheel as the sprint begins.

Petacchi is boxed in and it's American Fred Rodriguez who comes from nowhere to plow past the Italian!

17:15 CEST   
A fantastic finish for Fred Rodriguez, who surprised them all with a huge acceleration from behind McEwen. Petacchi rallied for second by half a wheel but it wasn't enough. Rodriguez gets his first ever Giro stage win.

Results

1 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Acquea & Sapone
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
3 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo
5 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre
 
General classification after stage 9
 
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco

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