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99th Giro di Lombardia - ProT

Italy, October 15, 2005

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Live report

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

15:07 CEST   
Welcome one and all to the Cyclingnews observation dirigible for our live coverage of the 99th Giro di Lombardia. It's October, which means it's autumn, which means the leaves are falling, which means that winter is coming. That pithy insight was provided free of charge with no extra padding, also serving to lead into the fact that the Giro di Lombardia is the last classic of the season. For many riders, it will be their last race of 2005, and most will be looking forward to that end of season break.

There are still a few scores to be settled though, even if the ProTour classification was sealed by Danilo Di Luca in Zurich a couple of weeks ago. He would of course like to finish 2005 on a high note, but his form isn't quite what it was in spring. Thus, late season bloomers like Paolo Bettini, Frank Schleck, Gilberto Simoni and others stand quite a good chance of winning today.

The race started in Mendrisio (Swi) and passed through the finish town of Como before making a circuit of Lake Como. The riders are now on their way back there. It's a cool, sunny day, with the temperature at the finish line standing at 18 degrees, with a light south wind blowing. Quite nice, really.

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas Bianchi)
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
Click for larger image

15:10 CEST    180km/68km to go
At the moment, we have a breakaway of 11 riders: Giovanni Visconti (Domina Vacanze), Marcus Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Carlos Barredo and Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros), Devis Miorin (Liquigas-Bianchi), Valerio Agnoli (Naturino), Davide Bramati (Quick.Step), Bram De Groot (Rabobank), Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval), Ivan De Gasperi (LPR). They have a 1'05 lead on the peloton at the moment, and are powering alongside Lake Como.

Sascha Urweider (Phonak) was with them, but has been dropped.

15:16 CEST    185km/63km to go
The race began at 10:25 without Bart Dockx (Davitamon-Lotto). It didn't take long for the attacks to start, and Francesco Bellotti (Credit Agricole), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Juan Mercado (Quick.Step) went clear inside the first 20 km. Di Luca's presence doomed the break, although he did try to get away again in the company of Eric Leblacher (Credit Agricole), Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) and Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) after 35 km.

That break didn't stick, and after 41 km, the 12 riders who are away now (well, 11) escaped and quickly built a three minute lead after 68 km. Christiano Frattini (Tenax) tried but failed to get across. The average speed after two hours was very quick: 46 km/h.

Cut to the chase again: Danilo Di Luca has abandoned in the feed zone after 184 km, as has Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon-Lotto). Well, so much for Di Luca's chances today.

15:17 CEST    186km/62km to go
Lampre and Panaria are leading the chase, having pegged the leaders back to 1'00. It'll probably come together before or on the Madonna del Ghisallo climb.

15:22 CEST    188km/60km to go
Barredo and Davis lead the break as it nears the foot of the Ghisallo climb, still holding 1'10 over the peloton. The pace is still very high, and it's tough going.

Damiano Cunego is towards the front of the peloton, which is now towed by Panaria and FDJ. Philippe Gilbert probably fancies his chances today. Also near the front are Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck.

15:23 CEST    189km/59km to go
Markus Zberg accelerates as the road goes uphill. He gets a gap.

15:28 CEST    191km/57km to go
Zberg's move destroys the break, as Zaballa, Barredo, and Davis go with him.

But behind, in the peloton, Paolo Bettini and Emanuele Sella attack. Gilberto Simoni joins them, as does Cunego, Schleck and a few more. The peloton is shattered.

15:32 CEST    194km/54km to go
Davis is now leading the race on his own, with the rest of the break getting mopped up by the Bettini/Simoni led group.

Bettini accelerates again, and that's the end of Davis. Schleck and Sastre are chasing the Olympic champion, and Simoni, Cunego are close behind. Sastre bridges the gap to Bettini first. Then Simoni, Schleck and Giampaolo Caruso.

15:33 CEST   
Cunego is having problems following Bettini's pace on the Ghisallo climb, and has to let go. Five leaders: Bettini, Simoni, Schleck, Sastre, and Caruso.

Paolo Bettini (Quickstep)
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
Click for larger image

15:35 CEST    196km/52km to go
Cunego is caught by a group containing Mazzanti, Sella, Bertagnolli and Rebellin.

In front, Bettini asks the others to work, but Sastre merely peels off from second wheel and drops back. Now, Simoni and Sastre do a bit of tempo making. Bettini looks very very good again.

15:37 CEST    198km/50km to go
The leaders reach a flatter section of the climb, and Schleck and Bettini turn on the gas. Slowly, the gap is opening up to the chasing five.

Of the front group, Caruso is not working. Bettini wants him to.

15:39 CEST   
Mazzanti and Bertagnolli are now chasing the leaders together, having dropped the others. They are 15 seconds back.

15:43 CEST    203km/45km to go
The five leaders now have 18 seconds on the nearest chasers as they near the top of the Ghisallo climb.

15:44 CEST    204km/44km to go
Bettini powers the group over the summit with Simoni and Sastre on his wheel. Schleck and Caruso bring up the rear.

Next over are Mazzanti and Bertagnolli, then Sella, Cunego, Rebellin and Gutierrez.

15:46 CEST    207km/41km to go
The leaders cooperate on the descent, with Simoni signaling for his team car.

15:49 CEST    211km/37km to go
At the moment, Bettini is looking like the favourite today, as he is strong on the climbs but can also sprint. Simoni looks good too, but he's going to have to attack on the steep San Fermo di Battaglia climb to get rid of the others.

Sella still hasn't caught Mazzanti and Bertagnolli, who are about half a minute behind the leaders.

15:50 CEST   
After five hours the average speed is still 41 km/h, which is brisk for this course.

15:51 CEST    212km/36km to go
Simoni powers along on the front of the break, showing that he has deserved the team leader's status today. Cunego isn't doing too badly, but he's not at top condition.

15:54 CEST    214km/34km to go
Sella, Mazzanti and Bertagnolli get together, but are caught by Cunego, Rebellin and Ivan Gutierrez.

15:56 CEST    217km/31km to go
An overview at the foot of the descent of the Ghisallo. We have five leaders: Bettini (Quick.Step), Simoni (Lampre), Schleck, Sastre (CSC), and Caruso (Liberty). At 40 seconds there are another six chasers: Sella, Mazzanti (Panaria), Bertagnolli (Cofidis), Cunego (Lampre), Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), and Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears). The peloton is at 1'05.

The next climb is that of Civiglio.

Gilberto Simoni (Lampre Caffita)
Photo ©: Davide Tricarico
Click for larger image

15:57 CEST    218km/30km to go
Cunego isn't working with the chasers, of course. That's the advantage of having his teammate Simoni in front.

16:01 CEST    221km/27km to go
The chasers have pulled back another six seconds, and now sit 34 seconds behind the lead break, which should still stay away until the finish. Frank Schleck is looking good for another podium finish today.

16:02 CEST    222km/26km to go
Bettini gets out of the saddle and does a hard turn, and only Sastre can hold his wheel. He eventually sits up and Simoni takes the other two up to him. Bettini is super strong.

16:05 CEST    224km/24km to go
Simoni leads, pedaling a big gear, then Bettini comes through for another turn. The chasers are also cooperating well, although they don't quite have the firepower of the front group. They're falling further behind.

16:06 CEST    225km/23km to go
Through Albavilla now, and it's a minute to the nearest chasers. The peloton is at 1'30, and not making much of an impression.

16:08 CEST    226km/22km to go
In the chase group, the pain is evident on Bertagnolli's face. It's tough chasing riders like Bettini and Simoni.

16:10 CEST    227km/21km to go
Frank Schleck sucks down an energy drink and hopes it will be enough to match the fireworks coming up. The winner will definitely come from this front group of five. CSC has the numbers, but as we saw last year with T-Mobile (4th and 5th in a five man break), that doesn't always help.

16:12 CEST    229km/19km to go
The chase group with Cunego, Rebellin and co. is caught by the peloton, which is 1'19 behind the leaders. Immediately there are counter attacks as Lastras, Rubiera and a few others have a go.

The leaders are on the steepest part of the Civiglio.

16:13 CEST   
Gianluca Tonetti (Tenax) and Pieter Weening (Rabobank) are the next to attack the bunch, without a lot of success.

16:15 CEST    230km/18km to go
Weening goes again and gets a Naturino rider for company. They are still 1'15 behind the five leaders.

In front, Bettini powers the break, setting a hard but not attacking tempo on the Civiglio climb. He is looking back a lot.

16:16 CEST    231km/17km to go
Schleck comes through for a turn and Bettini waits about 5 seconds and attacks. But Schleck chases him down with the others on his wheel. Sastre is dropped.

Simoni counters - nice move.

16:17 CEST   
Bettini matches Simoni's acceleration and now there are two. Schleck and Caruso have to regroup.

16:18 CEST    232km/16km to go
Simoni and Bettini lead the Giro di Lombardia, and look to be the two strongest men in the race. Bettini attacks again, but Simoni reacts. Schleck and Caruso are only 5 seconds behind. Sastre is about 20 seconds back.

Stijn Devolder leads the bunch with Rebellin on his wheel.

Schleck is chasing alone now.

16:20 CEST    233km/15km to go
The attacks continue in the peloton as Lastras has another try. Celestino chases him.

The leading pair reach the narrow section of the Civiglio climb, where there's barely enough room for a motorbike. You don't get a team car through here.

16:21 CEST   
The lead pair are on the descent and Schleck is coming back to them! The CSC rider is there now. Caruso can't be too far away either. This is an incredibly technical descent.

The bunch is at 1'48, not coming back.

16:22 CEST    233km/15km to go
Bettini looks back and sees Simoni and Schleck on his wheel as he takes another hairpin. Caruso is also not too far behind. Schleck's jacket is flapping, but he doesn't have a chance to zip it up.

16:24 CEST   
Schleck lets Bettini and Simoni take the corners in front, hoping to keep Caruso from coming back. The Liberty rider is about 10 seconds behind, although it's hard to tell.

16:25 CEST    235km/13km to go
They reach the bottom of the descent and Schleck keeps himself glued to the wheel, while zipping up his jersey. Bettini looks very nervous, as always. He'd love to win solo, but Simoni is not the easiest guy to drop.

16:27 CEST   
Caruso follows at 15 seconds, but Sastre is at 1'00. The next chase group is at 1'25 containing Cunego, Rebellin, Lastras and a few Acqua e Sapone riders.

16:29 CEST    237km/11km to go
Caruso has rejoined the leaders, and gets an energy gel from Manolo Saiz.

Gutierrez has attacked the chase group, but they're going for 5th at best.

16:31 CEST    238km/10km to go
Gutierrez has a nice gap over the chase group, which only has three riders working: Rebellin, Marzoli and the other A&S guy. Cunego and Lastras are sitting on.

The four leaders hit the San Fermo di Battaglia, the final climb in the Giro di Lombardia. Simoni goes first, then Bettini. The other two try to hold their wheels.

16:31 CEST   
The road steepens and Gibo forces the pace a little. Bettini waits, then comes through. They can't shake the other two yet.

The chase group is caught by the peloton at the bottom of the climb.

16:32 CEST   
Bettini goes hard, and Simoni reacts. Caruso is dropped immediately, but Schleck survives.

16:33 CEST   
Caruso now follows the three at 5 seconds. Bettini leads, looking comfy.

16:34 CEST    239km/9km to go
The peloton is only 1'02 behind the three leaders, but it's not going to be enough.

Schleck attacks! That's fairly optimistic. Bettini reacts, and Simoni has to dig a bit to close the gap. Surely Bettini will counter...

16:35 CEST    241km/7km to go
Now, it's Simoni who counters! Impressive stuff. But the three keep together. Bettini goes again, really hard.

16:36 CEST    242km/6km to go
This looks to be a good move by Bettini, less than a kilometre from the summit of the San Fermo. He powers in and out of the saddle. He'll need a good gap though, as it's not a summit finish. The two chasers are just 5 seconds back. Simoni drops Schleck....

16:37 CEST    243km/5km to go
Bettini and Simoni reach the top together, with Frank Schleck just 3 seconds behind. He'll get them, yes he does. One more descent.

16:38 CEST    244km/4km to go
That was an impressive ride by Schleck, who can now go for the victory in Lombardy. Bettini is still the best sprinter, so he shouldn't be too concerned, but he'll have to pay attention to the CSC rider. Caruso might come back too.

16:38 CEST    245km/3km to go
The three leaders have just four km to go and Caruso is about 10 seconds behind them. The Liberty rider isn't giving up, and can definitely get them. Bettini goes through for another turn, as Schleck takes the last wheel.

16:39 CEST    245.5km/2.5km to go
They near the foot of the descent, take a sharp right and head into Como. Bettini does a turn to keep the speed up.

16:40 CEST    246km/2km to go
Bettini rests his legs, and talks to his director. Simoni takes a turn and Bettini drops back to last wheel.

16:40 CEST    247km/1km to go
Caruso is getting closer all the time as Simoni and Bettini occupy the front two positions again.

16:41 CEST    247km/1km to go
Caruso reaches the team cars and attacks immediately. Bettini takes his wheel, forcing Simoni to chase a bit. Schleck in final position with 1 km to go.

16:42 CEST   
Caruso leads all the way up the straight, obviously riding for fourth place now.

16:43 CEST    248km/0km to go
Bettini is in second, keeping an eye on Gibo and Schleck. He kicks at 300m to go a long way out. But he's too fast for the other two and beats Simoni and Schleck to the line!! Excellent victory - he's never won this race before.

16:45 CEST   
The sprint for fifth place is won by Rebellin before one of his teammates - Fabian Wegmann, which will help his ProTour standings a bit.

No arguing with the winner though - Paolo Bettini was the strongest again. Caruso's move was a little strange, but he was probably happy with fourth place in the Race of the Falling Leaves.

17:01 CEST   
Well, did we pick it or what (refer to second paragraph)? That's got to be worth at least 10 "if only I'd put money on them" euros. Nevertheless, it was a good race and Bettini definitely didn't have it all his own way. But with Zurich and Lombardy on his palmares, he can definitely be satisfied with his end of season.

As expected, Danilo Di Luca wins the inaugural ProTour, with Boonen taking second and Rebellin moving up to third from 10th, courtesy of his fifth place today.

That's all from us here in Como, and that's also it from our live coverage of road racing his season. We may or may not have a few other "live" surprises on Cyclingnews though...

Arrivederci!

Results

Provisional
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre - Caffita
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
4 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
6 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner

Final ProTour standings

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                                229 pts
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step                                          171
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                   151
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                      140
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             139
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                             136
7 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                                   131
8 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quickstep                                        130
9 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                          130
10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            129