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92nd Meisterschaft von Zürich - Championship of Zurich - ProT

Switzerland, October 2, 2005

Commentary by Jeff Jones

Live report

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

15:03 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews (yes, it lives after the World Championships) for our live coverage of the 92nd Züri-Metzgete/Meistershaft von Zürich/Championship of Zurich. We've been led to believe that the Swiss-German "Züri-Metzgete" actually translates as "Butcher of Zurich". Theories welcome on that one - they don't have to be backed up by actual facts, which are only a few clicks of the mouse away.

In any case, it's a very tough race, beginning with one 72.5 km lap starting and finishing in Zurich and travelling along the Zürichsee for a part of it, then four laps of a testing 42.1 km circuit, including the climbs of Forch and Pfannenstiel each lap. The latter is usually where the bunch explodes in the final lap, forming a selection from which the winner will come, but last year this wasn't quite the case, as 30 riders came to the finish together with Juan Antonio Flecha winning the bunch sprint.

What will happen this year? Will Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) get anyone to ride to the finish with him? Will Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) find his best form? Will Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) nail the ProTour jersey once and for all? Or will one of the players in the World's race last Sunday shine today?

Now read on...

15:16 CEST    135km/106km to go
The riders started on wet roads this morning with grey clouds looming. The first serious attack came from Mauricio Ardila Cano (Davitamon Lotto), Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros Würth), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Aurélien Clerc (Phonak), who escaped after 15 km and were not pursued. After 40 km, they had a five minute lead, and stuck together on the first ascent of the Pfannenstiel after 55 km, building their advantage to seven minutes.

By the time the lead group had reached Zurich for the first time after 72 km, the peloton had increased its tempo and pegged them to 6'30, as the rain continued to fall. After the second climb of the Pfannenstiel after some 100 km, a 17 man group escaped in pursuit of the six leaders, including Wauters (Rabobank), Van den Broeck and Ekimov (Discovery), Fothen and Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) and Reynes (Illes Balears). But the counter attacking group was brought back to the peloton at the completion of the first 40 km circuit, with 112 km covered in total.

The attack had the effect of reducing the gap to the leaders, and after 125 km, the early break was caught. Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux) crashed and was taken to hospital in the meantime.

15:17 CEST    136km/105km to go
Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step) is the next rider to attack, and is joined by another nine riders.

15:25 CEST   
Coming back to the meaning of Züri-Metzgete... "Metzger" means "butcher", and a metzgete is basically a massacre. In fact, there's even a splatter movie called "Züri-Metzgete" (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre in Swiss), according to that well-known source of 100 percent reliable info: The Internet.

15:28 CEST    145km/96km to go
The 10 man attacking group contains Verbrugghe and his Quick.Step teammates Patrik Sinkewitz and Cristian Moreni, along with Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), Aurélien Clerc (Phonak - again), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth), Andrea Moletta and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas Bianchi) and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze).

A chasing group has formed behind this lead group, containing 35 riders and including Danilo Di Luca. The main peloton sits at 2'00.

15:36 CEST    151km/90km to go
So far, this has been a more open race than in previous years, when the usual "let the early break get 15-20 minutes then bring them back and let the big boys play in the last 50 km" is the order of play. But the early break didn't even last half the distance, and now we have a peloton that's split into three with around 90 km to go. It's a total metzgete.

Of course, the rain is probably having a big effect, as it's not much fun riding in a peloton in the rain.

15:39 CEST    160km/81km to go
The lead group numbers 11 as Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) bridges up with two laps to go. Behind, the 35 man chase group has been caught by the main peloton, which is 3'00 behind the leaders.

15:51 CEST    165km/76km to go
The lead group continues to maintain its 2 minute plus gap over the watchful peloton, which is now into the second last lap. Quick.Step has the strength up front with three riders, but Gerolsteiner also has two up there.

15:52 CEST    168km/73km to go
The Quick.Step boys are working hard in front, as are the other riders. Danilo Di Luca sits towards the front of the peloton, his white jersey looking very grey. The gap is down to 2'09.

15:54 CEST    169km/72km to go
Aurelien Clerc (Phonak) sits at the back of the lead group, looking a bit knackered. He was also in the early break. He's got a TV camera on the back of his bike too!

15:56 CEST    171km/70km to go
The leaders pass through Forch, with the rain continuing to pour down. There's not much of a view over the Zürichsee, unless you like fog.

The gap is coming down all the time, and it's under two minutes now.

15:59 CEST    173km/68km to go
The bunch is led by Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre), working for his team leader Damiano Cunego. Gorazd Stangelj does a turn next, opening up a bit of a gap. Paolo Bettini is very watchful, sitting towards the front of the peloton.

Stangelj gets a Domina Vacanze rider, then Lastras (Illes Balears) for company.

16:01 CEST    175km/66km to go
The peloton regroups on the descent after the Forch climb, with Lampre keeping control. Stangelj keeps going through a bit too hard, and his teammates have to keep him in check. The peloton is quite small - 40 riders maximum. Di Luca and Bettini are here, as is Cunego.

In front, the group is: Rik Verbrugghe, Patrik Sinkewitz and Cristian Moreni (Quick.Step), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), Aurélien Clerc (Phonak), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth), Andrea Moletta and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas Bianchi) and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze).

16:04 CEST   
In the front group, Clerc is continuing his role as neutral Phonak observer, sitting right at the back and following Carlos Barredo's wheelspray. The break is working pretty hard as it approaches the Pfannenstiel again. It's holding 1'38 over the chasing group, which is actually only between 25-30 riders strong.

16:08 CEST    179km/62km to go
Stangelj continues to drive the bunch behind as the leaders hit the tougher part of the Pfannenstiel. Cunego and Bettini are well placed in second and third wheel in the chasing bunch. Ivan Basso is also up there, it looks like. And Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis). Di Luca is further back. No sign of Rebellin.

The bulk of the peloton is at 7'20. They're definitely out of it.

16:09 CEST    180km/61km to go
The leaders have lost another half a minute of their once three minute advantage, and it's now 1'05 as they hit the next part of the Pfannenstiel.

16:11 CEST    181km/60km to go
Stangelj is enjoying his work as Cunego chats to him. The chasing bunch starts to splinter on the second bit of the Pfannenstiel, and the gap comes down to 56 seconds.

16:14 CEST    181.5km/59.5km to go
Di Luca looks pretty comfy in the chasing bunch, where Stangelj pushes the pace even more and strings everyone out. It's 43 seconds to the leaders. Now Stangelj pulls off and Cunego and Bettini take over. It's thinning down on the second bit of the climb. 29 seconds - it's plummeting!

16:15 CEST   
The lead group isn't exactly messing about, but the pace is really high behind and it looks like the various teams are waiting for their team leaders. Moletta tries to keep the tempo up.

16:18 CEST   
Bernucci takes over in front with Devolder on his wheel, as they get to the top of the Pfannenstiel climb for the second last time. Clerc is dropped from the group, but should be able to rejoin.

16:19 CEST    183km/58km to go
Bettini sits up in the chasing group and has something to eat. The gap goes up to 59 seconds again! 20-25 riders left in front.

16:21 CEST    186km/55km to go
The tempo slowing allows Stangelj to get back on, and the Slovenian immediately gets to the front of the chase group and starts driving. 56 seconds as the leaders hit the descent.

16:23 CEST   
Clerc has made it back to the lead group, but is still not contributing of course. There are still 11 riders in front.

In the chase group, Bettini yells at and gesticulates to the TV moto to ride a bit further ahead, which it does.

16:24 CEST    188km/53km to go
Stangelj takes another slippery right hander at the appropriately named Wetzwil, and the road goes up again. He pulls off and tells Cunego to do a bit of work, which he does. The group breaks up a bit on this short climb, but the two Quick.Steps get to the front and slow it down a bit. 49 seconds.

16:25 CEST   
Di Luca now chats with Bettini. Quick.Step is in the perfect position here, as it has three riders in front and two behind. Bettini looks very, very strong.

16:27 CEST    190km/51km to go
Cunego leads the chasing group on the descent, with Bettini following. The other Quick.Step rider looks to be Luca Paolini, who is up there with Cunego and Bettini. Then Di Luca and five others join on, with another 10 chasing.

16:30 CEST   
Reader Philip Sinclair was in Zurich this morning to ride the cyclosportif event, and reported, "This morning I did the cyclosportifs (volksmetzgete) in the torrential rain, and only 10 degrees. I couldn't see a damn thing! The road is one of the best, and most pleasant I have seen this year. I wouldn't say that for the L'Étape du Tour (nor many others). Even though it was very wet, it was really not that slippery. The bends are mostly safe. There were a few annoying traffic calming devices, and especially near Wetzwil.

"As I sprinted down the final straight, dead flat and dead straight - absolutely perfect, then three times in short succession in the last 300 metres, I had a curious sensation that maybe I had punctured. No, in the centre is a whole line of slippery manhole covers. If it is still wet, and there is a bunch sprint, I suspect that could slow a few."

16:31 CEST    193km/48km to go
Bettini and Paolini(?) have attacked the chase group!! They're riding away in pursuit of the leaders. Not even Cunego can go with them.

16:32 CEST    195km/46km to go
Bettini and Paolini close the gap quickly, and it's down to 25 seconds. Di Luca and Cunego and co. are another 10-15 seconds behind the Quick.Step chasers.

The three Quick.Steps in the front group look back and see they have support coming. The others are probably not too happy to see them.

16:34 CEST    196km/45km to go
Bettini swigs down a drink as he sits on Paolini's wheel. He's really good today, and would love to win to make up for the World's last week. See his diary for more.

The gap is bridged with 45 km to go, and there are five Quick.Steps in the lead group of 13.

16:37 CEST    198km/43km to go
The lead group again: Paolo Bettini, Luca Paolini, Rik Verbrugghe, Patrik Sinkewitz and Cristian Moreni (Quick.Step), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth), Andrea Moletta and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner) Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas Bianchi) and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze), Aurélien Clerc (Phonak).

Bettini takes his leg warmers off, but his overshoes make it hard. You have to get them below your heel first. Bernucci gives him a push. He's on a different team, but he realises the importance of having Bettini driving the group.

The chasers, about 15 in total, with Di Luca and Cunego, are half a minute behind the lead group.

16:38 CEST    199km/42km to go
Bettini even takes his overshoes off, but doing it from fifth wheel creates a bit of a gap. Now it's a Quick.Step team time trial going full gas. 35 seconds.

16:39 CEST    200km/41km to go
Bettini looks very nervous as he checks on the rest of the group. He's got Moreni, Sinkewitz, Paolini and Verbrugghe riding for him as they reach the end of the third lap. Just one 41 km lap to go.

16:41 CEST    201km/40km to go
The chasing group has grown to 30 or so, led by Garcia Acosta and Valverde (Illes Balears). The gap is 58 seconds at the line. Some names in this group: Valverde, Rebellin, Di Luca, Cunego, Chavanel, Cancellara, Nardello, Garcia Acosta.

16:43 CEST    202km/39km to go
It's over a minute now as the four Quick.Steps of the Apocalypse drive the break through Zurich, protecting Bettini. The others will try to hang on when Bettini makes his inevitable attack. The chase group isn't completely out of it, but a minute will be hard to close.

16:46 CEST    204km/37km to go
The lead bunch motors through Zollikon, led by the blue and white jerseys of Quick.Step, now 1'15 ahead of the chase group with Di Luca, Cunego and Valverde. It's still raining, by the way.

Clerc is finally and definitively dropped, but he's been on the attack for most of the day. A good ride by the Swiss sprinter.

16:48 CEST   
Bettini attacks already! Well he's got nothing to fear from the Di Luca chase group, but 36 km to go is a fair way. It looks like a good move, as Bettini loses his chain and is caught by three chasers. Oops.

16:49 CEST    206km/35km to go
Miholjevic and Bernucci close the gap to Bettini, who attacks again and drops them. Then he sits up a bit. Only Bernucci is there. Bettini keeps hammering, jersey flapping.

Haussler, Devolder, Grivko and one other are dropped, as are most of the Quick.Steps.

16:52 CEST    207km/34km to go
The race now looks like a total metzgete:

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) in front

Then Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas Bianchi), Andrea Moletta (Gerolsteiner) at 25 seconds.

Then Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) and Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner).

Then Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth) and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze).

Then the other three Quick.Steps, who will get caught by the chasing bunch of 30.

16:54 CEST    209km/32km to go
Paolo Bettini is going to win this race by a lot, provided he stays on the bike. The nearest chase group is at 0'34 seconds, while the big bunch is at 1'50.

Bettini's team car comes up and asks him if he needs any help. Parsani gives him some encouragement, not that he really needs it. He's really determined today.

16:56 CEST   
Bernucci, Miholjevic and Moletta try but fail to make any impression on Paolo Bettini. They're 45 seconds.

Di Luca has started a rearguard action with Schleck (CSC), Chavanel, Bertagnolli and a few others. They pick up the Quick.Steps, and are in turn caught by another six or seven riders. But they're 2'00 behind Bettini.

16:58 CEST    211km/30km to go
30 km to go and Bettini already has a minute on his nearest chasers. The Italian is powering along alone, finally ditching his long sleeved jacket. It's only 10 degrees, but he's not feeling that at all.

17:00 CEST    213km/28km to go
The three chasers will try to hold off the rest to fight it out for second. Behind that trio, is Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth), and Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze) at 1'40. Then Di Luca's chase group at 2'21.

17:01 CEST   
Paolo Bettini is now alongside the railway, heading down towards the Pfannenstiel climb. The Forch is behind him. As is the rest of the peloton.

17:03 CEST    216km/25km to go
The chasing three are holding a steadier tempo behind Bettini, with Bernucci, Miholjevic and Moletta trying to save as much energy as possible before the final climb.

17:04 CEST   
The Devolder/Barredo quartet follows Bettini at 1'49, also taking the long descent down towards the Pfannenstiel.

17:06 CEST    218km/23km to go
Bettini, gold shoes flashing as they turn the pedals, has his mind set on one thing today: victory in Zurich. With every pedal stroke, he's pulling further away from his chasers. He takes another right hander and starts the climb.

17:08 CEST    219km/22km to go
The first chasers also reach the foot of the climb at 1'17, then Devolder's group comes through at 1'55.

17:10 CEST    220km/21km to go
Bettini tackles the first part of the Pfannenstiel, and can afford to take it a bit easier as he has over a minute.

Di Luca's group, which looks to be fighting for ninth place is at 3'00.

Devolder is dropped from the third chase group, then Grivko goes off. Only Haussler and Barredo are left, and Barredo's not looking too hot either. The young German may be en route to a fifth place, or better if he can catch the three ahead.

17:13 CEST    222km/19km to go
Bettini picks up speed on a flatter section, then takes the left hander and hits the steeper bit of the Pfannenstiel, now with 1'51 on the three chasers! Haussler (and others) follow at 2'26, then Di Luca is trying to get away from his group at about 3'00.

17:14 CEST   
Bernucci, Moletta and Miholjevic are now two minutes behind the flying Italian. They too reach the steeper bit of the climb for the last time.

17:16 CEST    223km/18km to go
Bernucci drops Moletta and Miholjevic on the climb, and is going for second place. But Miholjevic doesn't fold.

Further back, Gregory Rast has caught Haussler, it looks like.

17:17 CEST    223.5km/17.5km to go
Bernucci realises that he has a gap and makes the best of it, driving towards the top of the Pfannenstiel. The young Italian could salvage a nice second place today.

No-one is stopping Paolo Bettini though. He's already got 2'15 on Bernucci.

17:18 CEST    224km/17km to go
Bettini reaches the top of the Pfannenstiel and is cheered on by the crowds who have braved the rain up here.

17:20 CEST   
Bettini powers over the top and picks up speed on the false flat before the descent proper begins. All he can see in front is grey clouds over the Zürichsee.

17:22 CEST    226km/15km to go
Lövkvist and Chavanel have caught and passed Haussler, it looks like. We'll see soon enough.

Second over the top of the Pfannenstiel is Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) at 2'58!

17:23 CEST   
Someone's coming back to Bernucci - Frank Schleck (CSC). Fourth over is Miholjevic with Chavanel, Lövkvist, Di Luca and an Euskaltel rider.

17:24 CEST    227km/14km to go
Bettini tackles the very last climb in Wetzwil with 3'00 on the nearest chasers, Bernucci and Frank Schleck. This is going to be a huge win by him today.

17:26 CEST    229.5km/11.5km to go
Second and third places might be sewn up by Schleck and Bernucci, but chasing them are Di Luca, Vladimir Miholjevic (Liquigas Bianchi), Chavanel (Cofidis), Lövkvist (FDJ) and Sanchez (Euskaltel).

17:27 CEST    230km/11km to go
Schleck and Bernucci are on the Wetzwil climb, but Bettini is now well on his way back down to Zurich with 11 km to go.

17:29 CEST    231km/10km to go
Bettini has over three minutes. He can afford to stop for a drink here if he wants.

Rast has made it up to Di Luca's group, which has lost Miholjevic. Now Sanchez and Di Luca ride away from the rest.

Schleck drops Bernucci on the Wetzwil climb. Maybe a second place for the Luxembourg champ? No, Bernucci is coming back.

17:29 CEST    232km/9km to go
Schleck reaches the top with about 5 seconds on Bernucci. Di Luca and Sanchez are another 20 seconds back. Di Luca could certainly seal his ProTour jersey today.

17:31 CEST    234km/7km to go
It's anyone's guess who'll get second: Di Luca and Sanchez are picking up Bernucci and Schleck as Sanchez leads on the descent.

Bettini is now at the bottom, being urged on by Serge Parsani in the team car. He still has over 3'00 on the two chasers Bernucci and Schleck, who have found each other again.

17:33 CEST    235km/6km to go
Bernucci leads Schleck on the descent, taking the corners well. In front, Bettini powers along with 6 km to go.

Di Luca and Sanchez are just 18 seconds behind Schleck and Bernucci.

17:35 CEST    236.5km/4.5km to go
Sixth on the road at the moment is Thomas Lövkvist (Francaise des Jeux), followed by Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Gregory Rast (Phonak).

17:36 CEST    237km/4km to go
Sanchez and Di Luca are doing their best to catch Bernucci and Schleck, but the gap is still 20 seconds. It looks impossible with only 4 km to go.

17:37 CEST    238km/3km to go
Paolo Bettini, winner of this race in 2001, is en route to one of his biggest victories. He's got three minutes on his nearest chasers and there's only 3 km to go. Di Luca should be unbeatable in the ProTour after today.

17:38 CEST    239km/2km to go
Schleck and Bernucci are really giving it everything to stay away from Di Luca and Sanchez. They just have to work for another 4 km or so. They have 18 seconds.

17:39 CEST    239.5km/1.5km to go
Bettini goes through 2 km to go and looks very pleased with himself, pulling out his lucky gold chain to go with his lucky gold helmet, lucky gold shoes, lucky gold bike, etc.

17:40 CEST    240km/1km to go
Bettini is at 1 km to go, and is not easing off yet. What a race by this man!

17:41 CEST    241km/0km to go
Bettini gives his gold chain another kiss and can finally salute the crowd as he rides up the finishing straight. He looks behind and salutes his team director as well. He's very happy with himself, and he should be.

17:42 CEST   
Schleck and Bernucci keep the tempo up as they go under 1 km to go. If they play around too much, Di Luca and Sanchez will get them.

17:44 CEST   
Schleck leads under 1 km to go, just 10 seconds ahead of Di Luca and Sanchez. Schleck looks back and Bernucci. Nope, no way. Schleck will have to lead out.

17:45 CEST   
Schleck sprints at 30m to go and Bernucci doesn't contest it. Frank takes second. Di Luca is fourth ahead of Sanchez, and has got the ProTour in the bag.

17:50 CEST   
That wraps it up from a very wet Zurich, where we have seen Paolo Bettini take a meat cleaver to the rest of the field and win by three minutes ahead of an excellent Frank Schleck and a generous Lorenzo Bernucci. Danilo Di Luca's fourth place will keep him in the ProTour jersey and no-one will be able to take it from him now, it seems.

Until next week's Paris-Tours, it's bye-bye from the blimp!

Results

Provisional
1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step            6.06.22
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                 3.00
3 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi        3.09
5 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi       3.11
6 Steffen Wesemann (Ger) T-Mobile              3.28

ProTour standings

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi