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89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 21 - Sunday, May 28: Museo di Ghisallo (Magreglio)-Milan / 140 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Anthony Tan

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

06:38 CEST   
It's all beer and skittles for Maglia Rosa Ivan Basso and his CSC boys as the final stage of the 89th Giro d'Italia, Stage 21, just cruises downhill from the Museo di Ghisallo in Magreglio across Brianza to the traditional final criterium in Milano. As the maglia rosa rolls into town, Stage 21 is the swan song for the sprinters on Corso Venezia and Paolo Bettini will try to take stage number two, as T-Mobile's Pollack and someone from Milram will try to deny him.

14:29 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the final stage of the Giro d'Italia - a straightforward one at last. Today shouldn't change the general classification, as in Milan it traditionally ends in a bunch sprint. We may see a breakaway succeed, if it's strong enough, but the sprinters' teams of Quick.Step, T-Mobile and Milram should have sufficient gas in the tank to control things.

The only intermediate point of note in today's stage is the 110 Gazzetta sprint at km 58. This is important for several riders: Paolo Bettini would like to win it to take back the points jersey (and most combative classification) from Ivan Basso, notwithstanding the final sprint, while Bettini (17 pts), Calcagni (19 pts), Delage (18 pts) and Illiano (18 pts) are locked in a pretty close battle for the 110 Gazzetta classification itself.

14:33 CEST    25km/115km to go
Being a short one, today's stage started at 13:48 with all 151 riders from the Museo di Ghisallo in Magreglio. The riders have been taking it easy, as expected, and the gruppo is still compatto after 22 km.

14:49 CEST    30km/110km to go
There won't be a great deal of racing happening in the stage until we get closer to the Gazzetta sprint in Cambiago.

In the meantime, we can look at the overall picture of this Giro. To start at the top, there should be no doubt in anyone's minds who the best rider is: Ivan Basso. Over nine minutes to second placed Jose Enrique Gutierrez, and 12 minutes to third placed Gilberto Simoni. Those are some very big gaps, and Basso nearly tripled his lead over Gutierrez in the final week.

Equally, there is no doubt that the best team is CSC, given the amount of riding they've had to do on the front. Basso has had the pink jersey since stage 8, which means that CSC have really had to dig deep to defend it. But it's a little easier when your guy is on top.

Of course, this isn't reflected in the various teams classifications. On time, Phonak is first while CSC is eighth. On points (don't ask me why they have two teams classifications), Phonak leads and CSC is ninth. But Phonak haven't done much riding on the front.

14:51 CEST   
The average speed after one hour is 30.4 km/h, very steady when you consider it's been mostly downhill.

15:01 CEST    39km/101km to go
Turning to the points classification, which has yet to be decided, at the moment we have Ivan Basso in the lead by 11 points over Paolo Bettini. With three stage wins and a couple of second places, Basso has been the dominant rider, and if he really wanted the points jersey, he could have got it by winning another mountain stage. But Bettini has been up there in everything, sprinting for every point that he can, winning one stage. Although he's behind Basso coming into the final stage, he is a good bet to take back the purple jersey.

The unbroken peloton reaches Merate, with still a little more descending to go until Milan.

15:06 CEST    42km/98km to go
Skipping a few classifications, because I know everyone is interested. What's the Fair Play classification? It's pretty straightforward: your team scores points by breaking the rules, like getting illegal feeds from a team car, getting pushed by anyone up a hill, throwing your bidon at someone, pushing a fellow sprinter into the barriers, or (the most heinous crime of all), urinating in front of the fans.

Obviously, the fewer points your team has, the better. So far, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare is the squeaky clean team of the Giro, having scored zero points. Chapeau!

15:15 CEST    46km/94km to go
Moving back up the standings, and having a look at the mountains classification. There is no doubt, as is normal in a grand tour, that the top riders on GC are the best climbers. But the mountains jersey (green) rewards climbers who are prepared to attack early in the piece, and the GC riders never do that any more. So yesterday, we saw a close battle between Fortunato Baliani (Panaria), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick.Step) and Ivan Basso.

Basso had accumulated quite a few points thanks to his three mountain top wins, and even led the classification for a while. But Baliani fought back and won the jersey in Friday's tough stage, thanks to being in the long breakaway. Then yesterday, Juan Manuel Garate - who was also in the break on Friday - won the 'Cima Coppi' on the Passo di Gavia to clinch the jersey once and for all. Garate's not a bad climber anyway, and he sits seventh on GC as well.

15:22 CEST    52km/88km to go
The 110 Gazzetta classification, instigated this year to mark the 110th birthday of La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Giro's sponsoring newspaper, is an intermediate sprint points score. There's one 110 Gazzetta point during the stage, and the first to this gets five points, as well as points in the points and combativity classification. It's replaced the Intergiro this year, and is easier to keep track of because it's not scored on a strange time bonus system.

Speaking of sprints, there are also cash primes along the way. Paolo Fornaciari has just won one in Usmate.

15:35 CEST    55km/85km to go
Fornaciari also wins the intermediate sprint in Bernareggio. More cash for the team coffers.

15:43 CEST    60km/80km to go
The weather today is pretty decent. It's humid, as it often is in Milan, and 25 degrees. There aren't big crowds out at the finish, but when the shops open at 3pm, we'll see more people coming out.

15:54 CEST    67km/73km to go
And at the Gazzetta sprint, Bettini wins ahead of Delage, to give Bettini the win in this competition, tied on points with Delage and Calcagni, who was third ahead of Van de Walle, Illiano and Scarselli.

Straight after the sprint, Missaglia attacks and is now 1'25 ahead of the peloton.

15:59 CEST    70km/70km to go
The average speed after two hours is 32.7 km/h, as Missaglia stretches his gap out to 2'42.

16:01 CEST    75km/65km to go
The peloton is in chase mode now, with Missaglia a fair way in front: 3'10. But no team has taken control. There's a Credit Agricole there, and a Liquigas, a couple of Lampres and a Quick.Step or two - no CSCs though.

16:02 CEST   
Ah, now some CSCs. Even Ivan Basso rolls through for a turn. Good to see. The peloton is in a long line.

16:05 CEST    77km/63km to go
This is a fast chase, and they're easily doing 50 km/h. We have about four or five teams going after the lone Missaglia.

Bettini needs to finish in the points today to win the purple points jersey, after he won the 110 sprint.

Lombardi, with pink handlebar tape on, does a tough turn over a bridge. There are about 25 riders working in this chain, and Missaglia has lost most of his advantage. It's 1'10, down from 3'10.

16:09 CEST   
Maybe they want to get Missaglia back before the entrance to Milan. It's rare you see a chase organised like this, with so many contributors.

16:13 CEST    82km/58km to go
And Missaglia is swallowed by the flying peloton at Sesto San Giovanni. Oh well, he didn't quite make it to the finishing circuit.

16:19 CEST   
"Beer and skittles" does not refer to drinking an alcoholic beverage with some sweet candy, although it can probably be done without too much damage. Skittles = ninepins = not quite ten pin bowling. Beer is, of course, beer. Even if you don't link English beer, and that's quite OK by me if you don't.

The (English) phrase more or less means that it's all easy and pleasurable. It comes from "Life's not all beer and skittles" meaning that it's not all eating, drinking, and play.

16:23 CEST    86km/54km to go
The gruppo enters Milan compatto, so Missaglia didn't spoil the CSC party coming into town. The pace has eased back a notch - it was very fast there with the chasing.

16:28 CEST    88km/52km to go
The CSC led peloton comes to the finish line for the start of the first of 11 x 4.8 km laps.

Henk Vogels crashed a few km back, but comes back to the peloton just as it goes under the banner.

16:31 CEST   
Nicki Sorensen (CSC) leads the bunch at a very steady tempo, then Lombardi takes over. They enjoy the parade, and the crowds are lining this circuit the whole way round, sometimes five deep.

16:34 CEST    90km/50km to go
The speed is 33 km/h or so on this opening lap, as CSC leads the bunch along at a gentle pace. Paolo Bettini is sitting towards the front, chatting to people.

16:37 CEST    92km/48km to go
Davide Bramati (Quick.Step) rides in front of the peloton, in his last Giro and his last race. Past the finish line, he gets a standing ovation from the crowd and also from the whole peloton. Well, more of a pedaling ovation.

16:40 CEST   
The battle between Basso and Simoni yesterday is a big talking point today. Basso won the stage because he wanted to do it for his newborn son, and also because CSC had given away three stages already (well, maybe two, depending on how you classify Piepoli's first stage win on that wet descent). Also, Basso was simply the best rider.

Simoni wanted to win the stage because he hasn't so far in this Giro, and he was on home turf as the stage started in Trento. And because Basso asked him to take it steady on the descent of the Mortirolo. So when Basso turned up the heat with 3 km to go to Aprica, Gibo was not a happy chappy. So he sat up and cruised across the line at 1'17 down.

Gotta love all the "treachery" that goes on in this sport. Especially in Italy! Basso has now officially shed his nice guy image :-)

We'll have more on this tale very soon on Cyclingnews.

16:51 CEST   
Going back to the classifications, Paolo Savoldelli has led the combination classification since day 1, and has never been headed. He has a sizeable advantage over Gutierrez and Basso, and today won't change things.

16:56 CEST   
And to the combativity classification, which is more or less a combination score as well. You get points for the 110 Gazzetta and mountains, as well as placing highly in the stage. But it's different to the "Gran Combinata". Ivan Basso leads it by one point over Bettini, but the latter will take that back today. Actually he already has with his win in the Gazzetta sprint.

16:57 CEST    101.6km/38.4km to go
The peloton has now completed three laps, with the speed lifting each lap. That last one was in 7'45, averaging 37.161 km/h.

17:00 CEST   
The Azzurri d'Italia classification is easier to explain. 4, 2, 1 points for the first three in the stage. So it's like a mini points score. So easy is it.

17:01 CEST    107km/33km to go
Volodymir Gustov leads the CSC train on the fifth lap, still at a very steady pace. Fabio Sacchi is sitting on 51% of his max heart rate.

17:03 CEST    110km/30km to go
Di Luca and Vila are at the back of the bunch, chasing on after a chat to the race director.

CSC lifts the tempo slightly. The fourth lap was 38.23 km/h, and the fifth should be quicker.

17:06 CEST    111km/29km to go
Bobby Julich takes his turn on the front of the bunch, round the U turn and back along the viale Bianca Maria.

17:07 CEST    112km/28km to go
Now it's Blaudzun, one of the nine CSC riders with pink bar tape. He leads up the finishing straight to end the fifth lap. Six to go. That lap was done in 7'19 or 39.36 km/h). They're definitely not going hard yet.

Jens Voigt takes over.

17:09 CEST    114km/26km to go
Now they're on the Viale Maino on lap 6, with the bunch starting to line out a bit.

17:11 CEST   
The Trofeo Fuga Piaggio classification rewards the rider who has spent the most time in a breakaway. The prize is a Piaggio scooter. But the break has to be less than a certain number of riders (10, I think) for the rider's kilometres to count. Points scored = kilometres in front, and Christophe Edalaine will win that with 364 points.

17:12 CEST   
Sacchi's heart rate is still on 52% of max, but he's now doing 52 km/h. Tap, tap, is this thing on?

17:14 CEST    117km/23km to go
Veikkanen is on 48% of his max (90/187) at 46 km/h. Yes, the pace has increased. CSC is giving it a bit of gas now, as it leads the bunch back up viale Bianca Maria. Then up to the finish line with the bunch quite strung out.

17:16 CEST    118km/22km to go
The seventh lap sees a bit more tempo, but no-one has been willing to attack CSC yet. They go across the cobbles next to the tram tracks, with Jens Voigt powering on the front and 'Gustavo' Gustov on his wheel.

17:16 CEST   
That last lap was 6'52: 41.942 km/h.

17:19 CEST    120km/20 km to go
Finally, the teams classifications: The Fast Team is the same as any normal team classification. The stage time of the team's best three riders *each day* is taken at the end of the stage. The Super Teams is scored on points, in a similar way.

17:20 CEST    122km/18km to go
Bobby J is on the front now as the bunch strings out into the finishing straight, up to the end of the seventh lap. Basso is nicely nestled in eighth or ninth wheel.

17:20 CEST   
Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval) is last wheel, and has been for a while.

17:21 CEST    123km/17km to go
That last lap was 6'28, or 44.53 km/h. Everyone is pretty tired, but we should see at least one more attack before the end. Just one? CSC isn't going to make it easy.

17:23 CEST   
Gutierrez and Pena are sitting just behind the CSC train. They are second and ninth on GC, respectively.

17:27 CEST    126km/14km to go
End of lap 8, and there are just three laps to go (kms have just been reverse engineered by the commentator). It's strung out, and the sprinters teams haven't bothered to come to the front yet. Mirco Lorenzetto (Milram) has crashed. That will hurt their stage winning chances.

Just under 47 km/h for that lap.

17:28 CEST    127km/13km to go
CSC just keep lifting the tempo, and it's going to be a brave rider who attacks today. No-one is in a position to do so at the moment.

Lorenzetto rides across the line in a lot of pain, a big graze on his right thigh.

17:29 CEST   
Sorensen leads down the long Viale Maino on lap 9 at 61 km/h. Ouch.

17:30 CEST    128km/12km to go
The CSC boys still look good, even at this high speed. Now Panaria is moving its train up for someone to attack.

17:31 CEST    130km/10km to go
Around the U-turn and back up the viale Bianca Maria, then left and under the 1 km to go banner as they near the end of lap 9. CSC is just riding this as a team time trial.

17:32 CEST    131km/9km to go
I think everyone is resigned to a bunch sprint. Quick.Step and Milram have their trains ready, and a Milram rider explains the situation to the Panaria train, which has back off.

End of lap 9 - just two to go. And still gruppo compatto.

17:33 CEST   
Alessandro Vanotti punctures. Bad time, and he's going to have a hard time getting back. Milram hasn't had much luck this stage.

17:34 CEST    132km/8km to go
Ah, he is chasing back on behind the Milram car.

That lap was done in 5'57 at 48.4 km/h.

17:34 CEST   
Cuesta does a turn as the CSC train continues to make everyone's life difficult.

17:35 CEST    133km/7km to go
The pace is 55 km./h, and Ongarato's heart rate reflects that: It's 87% of his max.

Lorenzetto cruises around very slowly. Will he finish?

17:37 CEST   
Bettini has kept himself in contention, sitting in 10th wheel.

Sorensen on the front again, powering the train around this circuit. No-one can attack, it's not possible at this speed.

17:38 CEST    135.2km/4.8km to go
They sweep around the final bend in a long line. CSC in front, then Quick.Step and Milram. 1 lap to go!

Lorenzetto abandons. Bad luck for the Milram rider. He must really be in pain to pull the pin this close to the end.

17:38 CEST   
That lap was 5'45: 50 km/h. It's quick. Ongarato is now at 90% of his max.

17:39 CEST    136km/4km to go
The peloton speeds into the final lap and CSC hasn't dropped back yet.

17:40 CEST    137km/3km to go
On the cobbles, and it's Voigt in front. Basso is well placed in seventh wheel. This is such a good team. Then a Quick.Step Milram challenge.

17:40 CEST   
A Euskaltel rider drops off the back as Milram finally organises its train with about 3 km to go.

17:41 CEST    138km/2km to go
An attack! It's one of the Milrams. Cortinovis!

Savoldelli does a turn, then drops off, for Scarselli to work.

17:41 CEST   
Cortinovis is absorbed by Scarselli and the peloton. But there are three more Milrams there, then Pollack, Bettini and Vogels are all up there.

17:41 CEST   
Into the U-turn for the final time, and everyone is around safe, it looks like.

17:42 CEST   
Milram winds it up but keeps an eye out on the rest. Gerolsteiner puts a couple of men in front for Förster.

17:42 CEST    139km/1km to go
Sven Krauss leads under the kilometre to go banner.

17:42 CEST   
Milram takes control again with two men, then Krauss and Ongarato(?)

17:43 CEST   
Milram attacks! The second in line leaves a gap and Ongarato has a gap.

17:43 CEST   
But Krauss brings them up behind and he's gone.

17:44 CEST    140km/0km to go
Förster jumps with Bettini behind, but he can't get through. Förster wins the stage!!! Bettini is not happy. Richeze second, then Pollack.

17:48 CEST   
Well, Bettini actually put his arms up a little in frustration, but also in celebration as he did win the points jersey. Förster's sprint was fine - he chose the left hand barrier, and Bettini thought he could go around on the left. No room at all, and he had to sit up.

Ivan Basso and CSC have finished off a fine Giro d'Italia too, with a great display of power riding in this final stage. Basso is the king, that's for sure!

17:51 CEST   
So it's Basso, Gutierrez and Simoni as the top three on GC, Bettini in the points jersey, Garate in the mountains, Bettini wins the 110 Gazzetta, and Savoldelli wins the Gran Combinata. Phonak will win the two teams classifications, while Basso will get the Azzurri d'Italia, Bettini the most combative, Edalaine the Trofeo Fuga Piaggio, and Panaria the Fair Play. That should cover it.

Thank you for following the Giro d'Italia live with Cyclingnews. You've been a wonderful audience.

Ciao for the last time from Milano!


1 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                     3.56.03
2 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare           
3 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                   
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                           
5 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone              
6 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram                                    
7 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2R Prevoyance                                
8 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                  
9 Renaud Dion (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance                                 
10 Koen De Kort (Ned) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                 

Final general classification
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                            91.33.36
2 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                  9.18
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                              11.59
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                    18.16
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team               19.22
6 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux                                    23.53
7 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quick Step-Innergetic                          24.26
8 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                        25.57
9 Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems                  26.27
10 Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Spa) Lampre-Fondital                     27.34


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