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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 7 - Saturday, May 13: Cesena - Saltara, 236 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Live report

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

12:51 CEST   
One week into the Giro d'Italia and the real hostilities open on this long, tough day through the hinterlands of the Marche region. The first half from Cesena crosses the Rubicon, traverses the Republic of San Marino, then challenges the steep climbs of Monte Catria, Monte delle Cesane and the final ascent into Saltare. Strong riders will reign here; don't be surprised if the Giro favourites Basso, Cunego, DiLuca and Simoni are fighting it out for the win.

14:25 CEST   
We're baaaack! It's as if we've never left, with 460 km of Giro racing kilometres to cover in two days. Today's seventh stage is the longest of the Giro at 236 km, and it's not an easy one either. There are several climbs, as noted above, with three of them categorised today: San Marino (km 42.8), Monte Catria (km 137.5) and Monte delle Cesane (km 196.5). The last climb up to the finish at Saltare is not categorised, but it will certainly be decisive: the last 700m have a gradient of over 10%.

Today's "110 Gazzetta" sprint is at Urbino, after 87 km. The youngest rider in the race, Mickael Delage (FDJ) is currently leading that classification, which is very similar to the Intergiro competition of years past.

14:43 CEST   
194 riders left Cesena at 10:48am, and it didn't take long before the attacks started. After 5 km, Bernaudeau, Clement, Baliani, Albizuri, Navarro Garcia and Van De Walle attacked, but they were brought back within 10 km. A crash after 23 km brought down Van Hecke, Lopez Garcia, Luengo Celaya, Navarro Garcia and the luckless Andre Korff, who crashed in yesterday's finale. Shortly afterwards, Sylvain Calzati (AG2R) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) attacked and got a real gap.

After 42 km, they reached the GPM at San Marino with nearly 10 minutes advance over the peloton, covering 39 km in the first hour. Scheirlinckx was first over the top, ahead of Calzati. The two leaders kept increasing their gap out to an impressive 17'48 at km 90. Calzati won the 110 Gazzetta sprint ahead of Scheirlinckx, while both Bertolini and Moreni abandoned the race. The average speed after two hours was 37.3 km/h.

A large group of riders counter attacked at Urbino: Matthew White (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team), Vladimir Efimkin, Joan Horrach Rippoll (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio, Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), William Bonnet (Credit Agricole), Markel Irizar Aranburu (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Philippe Gilbert, Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Evgeni Petrov, Tadej Valjavec, Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros-Würth Team), Alessandro Spezialetti, Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Paolo Bettini, Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Alexandr Kolobnev (Rabobank), Manuele Mori, Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Sergio Barbero, Gabriele Missaglia, Raffaele Illiano, Santo Anza' (Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni), Nicki Sorensen, Bobby Julich (Team CSC), Matthias Kessler, Joerg Ludewig (T-Mobile Team).

15:00 CEST    135km/101km to go
The 30 man counter attacking group gained a minute on the gruppo maglia rosa, as the average speed dropped to 36.2 km/h after three hours. The attacking quickly ate into the time of the two leaders: after the feed zone, the two leaders only had 7'05, with the peloton another minute and a half back. Discovery Channel had taken over the pace making from T-Mobile, as they only had Matt White up front, while T-Mobile had both Matthias Kessler (well placed on GC) and Joerg Ludewig.

By the time the two leaders were halfway up Monte Catria, they only had 4'40 on the chasers, with the peloton at 5'53. Scheirlinckx rode away from Calzati, while the chase group reduced to 13: Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), Evgeni Petrov, Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros-Würth Team), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Santo Anza' (Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni), Nicki Sorensen (Team CSC), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team).

Now, as they approach the summit of the 1368m climb, Calzati trails Scheirlinckx by 2'18, with the Bettini/Kessler group at 2'45, Santo Anza another 0'15 back, then the maglia rosa Pollack at 7'05. So Kessler looks like being T-Mobile's man for the day, but Nicki Sorensen (CSC) is the best placed on GC, just 31 seconds behind Pollack. Bettini is at 1'08, while Kessler is 4'55 down.

15:02 CEST   
Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) has abandoned.

15:04 CEST    137.5km/98.5km to go
Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) reaches the summit of the climb alone, and will be the new mountains leader at the end of the day. But he's being chased by the Kessler group.

15:05 CEST   
Vogondy and Korff have also abandoned. Korff had to be taken to hospital in Rimini after his crash early in the stage.

15:10 CEST    140km/96km to go
After Scheirlinckx, Calzati is second over, then Garate leads the next group over the Monte Catria at 2'56. Vila is fourth, ahead of Efimkin and Pena. The Discovery led peloton comes over 4'08, while the maglia rosa Olaf Pollack is still on the climb.

Scheirlinckx nearly loses it on a sharp corner, nearly taking a layer of lycra off his shorts.

The chase group has reduced in size to the following riders: Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros-Würth Team), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team). Everyone else has been caught by the peloton.

15:13 CEST    145km/91km to go
Of the chasers, Vila, Pena, Garate are all about 1'30 down on GC on the main favourites (Pollack can be discounted for today; he's not coming back). So Discovery is keeping the gap between the bunch and the chasers at about 1'10-1'20.

But the lone leader Staf Scheirlinckx is only 2'52 down on GC, which makes him the virtual leader at the moment.

Gilbert has been involved in another crash, but it's not serious.

A group containing Bettini is being reeled in by the peloton. OK, I knew they were still there.

15:14 CEST   
The descent is not all downhill, and it's not all on good roads. The riders are on gravel roads at the moment as they go uphill again.

15:16 CEST    148km/88km to go
The chase group is now: Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros-Würth Team), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team), Sylvain Calzati (AG2R).

Scheirlinckx is not exactly flying on the descent, but he's keeping it upright, which is the main thing. The roads are pretty narrow in the back country here.

15:16 CEST   
It's Efimkin's turn to nearly lose it on the descent. He locks up on a corner, but keeps it upright.

15:19 CEST   
Discovery takes it more carefully on the descent, with Matt White on the front, swapping off with Beltrán. Speeds of 60-70 km/h are common now on this technical downhill.

15:22 CEST    152km/84km to go
Some heart rate updates: Franco Pellizotti is sitting at 94/190 (49% of max), at 61 km/h. It is downhill :-) Angel Gomez is working a bit harder, at 63% of his max.

Three Discoverys sit at the front of the bunch, which is 4'22 behind Scheirlinckx. The leader has 2'32 on the chasers, but is suffering a bit as he stretches now.

Patxi Vila assumes a very aerodynamic position on the descent, with his chin over the front. No-one is working too hard at the moment, using this chance to refuel.

15:24 CEST    156km/80km to go
It's a gradual descent for a while now, before the next climb. Scheirlinckx checks the course profile and is probably thankful there are no more lumpy bits for the time being.

15:26 CEST    158km/78km to go
Discovery has gotten off the front of the peloton, where a few T-Mobile jerseys now show themselves. They have Kessler up front, but he is definitely not the best placed on GC in that group, so we might see a chase.

15:28 CEST   
Navarro rides up the side of the peloton, with half a pair of shorts. The other half is flapping in the breeze after a crash or two.

The peloton is definitely not riding hard now. Scanlon is on the front, looking relaxed. Pellizotti is still sitting at 95/190, at 49 km/h.

15:33 CEST    163km/73km to go
Scheirlinckx is not pedaling too hard at the moment, and maybe wants the group behind to catch him. He's making a few pedal strokes, then stopping. The gap between him and the chasers is about 2'00, while the non-chasing peloton is at 5'00.

15:34 CEST   
Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia) crashed after 156 km, and although he's back in the peloton, he's suffering a bit. He gets some attention from the race doctor.

15:35 CEST   
Scheirlinckx has to avoid some fire trucks coming the other way. That was close!

15:39 CEST    167km/69km to go
Scheirlinckx is 1'05 ahead of the chase group, because he's soft pedaling and looking behind him all the time. But the peloton must be cruising, because it's fallen back to 6'20, with no-one taking any responsibility to chase.

If Garate's group catches Scheirlinckx, then either Garate, Vila or Pena could take pink today.

15:40 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert is back in the bunch, chatting to Bettini.

15:42 CEST    162km/74km to go
Scheirlinckx continues to eat and drink as he waits for the chasing group. He cuts a long, lean figure on the bike.

The Italians are out in force today to watch the Giro go by. It's nice and sunny.

Looks like Missaglia has attacked the dawdling peloton...

Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel) has abandoned.

15:45 CEST    165km/71km to go
Scheirlinckx is finally caught and the front group is now: Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Staf Scheirlinckx, Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Serguei Yakovlev (Liberty Seguros-Würth Team), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team)

Sylvain Calzati (AG2R) has been dropped.

Pollack is back in the peloton. Impressive! It follows the leaders at 7'12.

15:46 CEST   
Missaglia is off in pursuit of his teammate Santo Anza, apparently. Or it's just Missaglia alone, 6'05 behind the lead group.

15:48 CEST   
Victor Pena does a turn in the break, pedaling a big gear. Cyclingnews interviewed Victor recently, and he told us that the Giro was one of his goals.

15:49 CEST   
After five hours, the average speed is 34.8 km/h.

15:50 CEST   
Missaglia is probably engaged in a fruitless chase, 6'00 behind the front group, which is rolling over nicely. The valley here is very green as they ride alongside a river.

15:54 CEST   
The situation now: The nine leaders are 5'05 ahead of Gabriele Missaglia, and 6'47 ahead of the peloton. They are heading towards the final climb of the day, the Monte delle Cesane, via the Gorla del Furlo, a beautiful deep gorge that will provide a bit of relief from the sun.

15:56 CEST   
Vila, the best placed rider in the break, stretches at the back. It's been a long couple of days in the saddle, and the speed shows it. No-one wants to ride flat out until they have to, at the end.

15:57 CEST    176km/60km to go
Missaglia eats and sits up. He's wasting his time as Liquigas has started to chase pretty hard. They're 6'10 behind the leaders.

15:58 CEST   
Missaglia is caught, as Andriotto and Spezialetti lead the chase. Lombardi and Blaudzun are also there for CSC. This break ain't going to last, in that case, as the bunch sits on 55 km/h.

16:00 CEST    179km/57km to go
There's no such urgency among the leaders, who are still eating, drinking and making merrie as they exit the gorge. They have 5'32 on the bunch as they go through a tunnel.

Kessler is sitting on a bit more now (he was working before). He has the maglia rosa in the group behind him, so he can afford to miss a few turns. The break isn't really working well together.

16:02 CEST    180km/56km to go
Garate urgently signals for assistance from his team car. His quads look extremely lean. Maybe he needs feeding up!

16:03 CEST    181km/55km to go
Garate finally gets the assistance he wanted from Serge Parsani. He actually wants to study the next two climbs in detail, so Parsani shows him the map. It looks tough.

The bunch has gone from being totally relaxed to totally strung out in a few km, as it races through the gorge at 55-60 km/h.

16:06 CEST    186km/50km to go
Flat tyre for one of the Rabobank riders: Ardila.

Verbrugghe does a turn in the front group, then Kessler rolls over. Then Garate. The nine are hanging together now, but plenty of riders don't want to work. Mori tries to pull out of fourth wheel, but fails.

Gerolsteiner is now leading the chase with Liquigas and CSC.

16:07 CEST    187km/49km to go
The leaders are almost in Fossombrone, at the foot of the Monte delle Cesane. Their advantage has shrunk dramatically thanks to the chase, and it's now 3'54.

16:10 CEST    188km/48km to go
Basso and Savoldelli move up to the front of the peloton as it continues to chase. The leaders pass by a high, arched bridge through Fossombrone, 3'35 ahead of the peloton.

16:10 CEST    189km/47km to go
The leaders hit the climb of Monte delle Cesane now, and it starts to hurt. It's 10 km long, and pretty darn steep in bits.

16:12 CEST   
The climb averages just under 7 percent, and the nine leaders have just 3'10 over the peloton as Kessler, Garate and Pena take the front positions. Scheirlinckx is dropped almost immediately. He did his work for Verbrugghe.

16:13 CEST    190km/46km to go
This is nasty: 18%. Garate leads Kessler and Verbrugghe. Yakovlev is dropped.

Belotti rides a bit ahead of the peloton, which starts to break up on the climb.

16:14 CEST   
Seven leaders: Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone), Francisco J. Vila Errandonea (Lampre-Fondital), Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Phonak Hearing Systems), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step-Innergetic), Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team).

16:15 CEST   
Pellizotti's heart rate has risen to 176/190 (92%) and he's only doing 14 km/h! That gives you an idea of how tough this climb is.

16:16 CEST   
Bellotti rides about 10m ahead of the bunch, which slowly makes its way up the steepest part. Jan Kuyckx is a fair way back, with Philippe Gilbert.

The leading break is still led by Garate.

16:18 CEST    191km/45km to go
Bellotti is caught by the CSC led peloton, which is still fairly big: 50-60 riders and a long tail. A group of riders on horseback watch the race go by.

Cuesta leads Basso in the bunch. Savoldelli is right there, with Scarponi, Cunego.

Efimkin attacks the front group!

16:18 CEST   
Pollack is also dropped from the bunch, but that's no surprise.

16:20 CEST    192km/44km to go
Cunego is also up there with Basso and Savoldelli, but not looking like attacking. The tempo isn't super hard in the bunch, but the steepness climb is making it hard enough. You get barely any advantage from sitting on.

Efimkin has a nice gap now, as he reaches the gravel section of the climb. He has 0'15.

16:22 CEST    193km/43km to go
Di Luca is one of the last riders in the bunch. That's not a good sign for the Liquigas captain. Meanwhile, CSC and Lampre have control of the front. Jose Enrique Gutierrez is up there for Phonak. Di Luca gets support from Noè as the road goes down for a bit.

Efimkin pedals in his lowest gear up a slightly less steep section of the climb, on a very narrow road.

16:23 CEST   
The bunch continues to sit 2'45 behind Efimkin, getting smaller all the time. The Russian is therefore doing very well, and he looks good for the moment. But there's still a bit of riding to come.

16:25 CEST    194km/42km to go
Di Luca is really struggling now, but he's holding onto the shrinking peloton in about last wheel.

Cuesta is up front for Basso, then Tiralongo for Cunego just behind, then Rubiera for Savoldelli, and Gonchar.

Efimkin is caught by Garate and co. The Spaniard gives the Russian a small glance.

16:27 CEST   
Di Luca and Wim Van Huffel are fighting it out for last position in the bunch of 50 on the Monte delle Cesane, which gets easier now.

16:29 CEST   
The road flattens a tad, and Di Luca and Van Huffel move themselves up, wisely.

The leaders are on another downhill section of his climb, but it doesn't last long. Garate sets the tempo. They are 3 km from the summit.

16:30 CEST   
Garate accelerates and gets Mori for company. Then Verbrugghe, Vila and Pena bridge up. We've lost Efimkin and Kessler.

Scheirlinckx is caught by the bunch.

16:32 CEST    195km/41km to go
Rujano is now sitting in last wheel in the bunch, just behind Di Luca. The road is fairly narrow here: one lane, but it's still quite forested.

Garate continues to drive the pace in the front group of five.

16:33 CEST    196km/40km to go
The bunch is definitely not working hard, as it sits 3'18.

There's at least one rider doing better than Di Luca today: Jan Ullrich. He sits quite relaxed, about 3/4 of the way down the small bunch.

16:35 CEST    197km/39km to go
The leaders reach the summit of the Cat. 2 Monte delle Cesane with Juan Manuel Garate towing them all the way. Verbrugghe sprints for the points and gets them ahead of Garate and Vila.

It's quite undulating for a climb.

Pollack's dropped group also has Ardila in it, it looks like. The Rabobank man punctured at a bad time, just before the climb.

16:36 CEST   
The bunch, which still contains all the top favourites, hauls in Yakovlev next. There are still seven riders ahead, but only five in the lead group.

16:38 CEST    199km/37km to go
At the summit of the climb, the gap is 3'44. Cuesta leads the group over, then Basso, and a couple of other CSCs. Stangelj, Tiralongo and Cunego are all up there.

16:39 CEST   
Kessler crashes - ouch. How did that happen? He had just made it back to the lead group too. Maybe it was on a graveled corner.

16:41 CEST    201km/35km to go
The five leaders reach a more open part of the descent, a big contrast to the heavily wooded road on the other side. The peloton is taking it easy. Gonchar is right up there, with Ullrich and Rogers to assist him.

16:42 CEST   
Garate gets a little gap on the descent as he pushes it. The bunch loses a little time, as CSC is taking it steady.

16:44 CEST    206km/30km to go
CSC is really taking it slow, but caution is advised on this slightly slippery descent.

The five leaders are back together, under 30 km to go.

16:45 CEST    207km/29km to go
Through Isola del Piano, and more descending to come before another climb at 14 km to go.

16:46 CEST    208km/28km to go
There's a bit of discussion among the front riders, with the Spanish speakers exchanging words. They are laughing now, so it must have been something not too serious.

Kessler is halfway between the leaders and the peloton. Not really an ideal situation.

16:48 CEST    209km/27km to go
Garate gets more map advice from the Quick.Step team car. The bunch goes under 30 km to go now at 3'57.

16:49 CEST    210km/26km to go
35.3 km/h after six hours of racing. It's been a long day out. Now, will CSC chase to limit the damage a bit? The gap is 4'00, and one of Garate, Pena or Vila could well take the pink, depending on time bonuses at the end. Assuming they stay away, of course.

16:50 CEST    211km/25km to go
Cuesta and Voigt swap off on the front of the bunch, keeping the tempo up. The lead five go under 25 km to go.

16:52 CEST    212km/24km to go
Behind Cuesta and Voigt, there is Basso, then a stack of Lampre-Fondital riders with Cunego well protected. Ullrich and Gonchar are next to each other too.

16:54 CEST    213km/23km to go
Kessler is caught by the bunch, as he gets a bidon ready to hand to his teammate. He has blood pouring down his right leg as a result of that crash (third time this week!) and is not happy.

The CSC chase is led by Sorensen, and is now only 3'21 behind the five leaders. It's a pretty serious pursuit.

16:56 CEST    214km/22km to go
CSC and Lampre look to be setting it up for either Basso or Cunego to win today. They have the peloton strung out, and Lampre in particular has a lot of men up front.

Pellizotti HR watch: 145/190, or 73% of max, at 51 km/h.

16:57 CEST    216km/20km to go
Verbrugghe wants to keep the pace up, while the others aren't really interested. Garate goes through, and no-one follows him. It's a pretty poor degree of cooperation.

Garate now decides to go full gas at 20 km to go. Now they chase...

16:58 CEST    217km/19km to go
Juan Manuel Garate has been the most active rider today, and no-one seems to want to work with him. Pena is first to bridge the gap, then the others. In pain.

Verbrugghe counter attacks.

Pollack has made it back to the peloton again, or has he?

17:00 CEST    218km/18km to go
Kessler now gets seen to by the race doctor to mop up the blood. The bunch goes under 20 km to go at 2'45 behind the break.

Verbrugghe's attack went nowhere and the five hit the second last climb together. It's pretty steep.

17:01 CEST   
The five are on the climb, and it hurts immediately. But behind, Lampre has taken over with super tempo man Marzio Bruseghin lifting the tempo.

17:02 CEST    219km/17km to go
This is a steep little climb! Must be at least 15 percent here. No-one can get a gap though. Pena leads, staying in the drops.

Bruseghin hammers to the foot of the climb. This could be fun in the bunch. They turn left, and they are on it.

17:02 CEST    220km/16km to go
Efimkin is finally caught and passed by the bunch, where Marzio Bruseghin sprints up the first part of the climb with Cunego and Basso in tow.

17:04 CEST   
Now the steepness of the climb bites. Bruseghin is still on the front, then Szmyd, Tiralongo, Cunego and another teammate. Basso is right up there, and Simoni and Selle, and Savoldelli, Scarponi...but no Di Luca. Gonchar is limiting the damage too.

Di Luca is dropped.

17:06 CEST    221km/15km to go
The five leaders are still cooperating in the loosest sense of the word.

Di Luca is suffering. Ullrich gets in the drops and motors up just behind the front group, passing riders who have blown. He's definitely not in a high gear. It's snowing flower blossoms too.

1'45 between the peloton and the break.

17:07 CEST   
Pena on the front again on a flatter section, while behind, it's still Bruseghin driving it for Cunego.

Garate takes over, but can't get a gap. All the five seem as strong as each other.

Di Luca is hanging onto the peloton, just. With Noè to help him. Liquigas has Cioni looking a lot better today.

17:08 CEST   
Pellizotti is back at 177/190 (93%) at 25 km/h. Ouch.

17:08 CEST   
Up front, Mori signals for his team car. They're past the 15 km to go banner, and the climb has eased in severity.

17:10 CEST    222km/14km to go
The peloton is perhaps 40 riders strong, with all the top favourites there. Lampre has five men in front, with Basso, Simoni, Gonchar and Savoldelli well placed.

The climb steepens for the front riders again, and they opt for the little gears.

Bruseghin continues to power away, and the bunch goes under 15 km to go at 1'36 behind.

17:12 CEST    223.5km/12.5km to go
The leaders could still do it, but it's going to be close. They don't look like taking pink though.

Now Vila does a turn in the break. Then Garate attacks, but is chased.

Rujano and Di Luca are last wheels in the peloton. Doesn't look good on this first hilly stage for them.

Valjavec can't hold Bruseghin's pace, and signals for Tiralongo to take second wheel. Then Cunego and Szmyd.

17:13 CEST    225km/11km to go
The leaders are on the descent now, while Bruseghin leads the bunch over the top of the climb at 1'00. Di Luca and Noè have to give a little just over the top, but they should get back on. Yep. Just behind the knackered Valjavec.

17:14 CEST   
Pena and Verbrugghe roll through on the descent, while Mori and Vila sits behind. Garate really wants this break to work.

Four Lampres are leading the chase: Bruseghin, Tiralongo, Cunego and Szmyd.

17:14 CEST   
58 seconds. Basso sits comfy behind Cunego.

17:16 CEST    226km/10km to go
The leaders go through Cartoceto with 10 km to go, still descending. But they hit another little climb, and the tiredness shows. Garate on the front again, looking back for help. Now Mori does a turn, then Verbrugghe fights to hold their wheels.

17:16 CEST   
Bruseghin continues to lead the peloton, 1'00 behind the break. It's also on the small climb. Ullrich is still there, towards the back of the bunch, getting out of the saddle a lot.

17:18 CEST   
Bruseghin leads the bunch under 10 km to go, at 56 seconds. It will be close, as there is still more descending to come.

17:19 CEST    227km/9km to go
The breakaways start to believe in their chances, but they will really have to work now. Amazing they've stayed away for this long.

Vila rolls through for a turn, while his team chases behind. Hmm....

17:19 CEST    228km/8km to go
Pellizotti is at 151/190 hr on a 70km/h descent. He's in the bunch, 50 seconds behind the break.

17:20 CEST    230km/6km to go
Garate wants it to work. Vila does a short turn, but maybe he's soft pedaling. 48 seconds at 6 km to go. Very close! Remember the final climb averages 10%.

17:22 CEST    231km/5km to go
The bunch of perhaps 40 riders is in hot pursuit of the break. Cunego is a good chance for the win today. Vila is probably not happy about his team's tactics, but Cunego is a good bet.

Ullrich sits behind Rujano. Not much shelter for Der Kaiser there.

Verbrugghe attacks on the flat. Smart move!

17:22 CEST    232km/4km to go
But the peloton is only 35 seconds behind as the Belgian Cofidis rider gets a good gap over his breakaway companions. He can't climb as well as them, but he looks good now. 7 seconds.

17:23 CEST    233km/3km to go
Di Luca has moved up to the front of the bunch, behind the Lampre train. Can he survive the final climb without losing too much?

Verburgghe hits 3 km to go and has 43 seconds. Nice riding.

17:24 CEST    233.5km/2.5km to go
Merckx moves up to the front of the bunch too, then Tiralongo and Danielson start to work.

Verbrugghe has 7 seconds on the rest of the break as the finishing climb starts. The last 700m averages 10 percent, but the whole climb averages 5%.

17:25 CEST    234km/2km to go
Verbrugghe does everything he can to hold the rest at bay. Pena, Garate, Vila and Mori are nearly caught by the bunch, where Tiralongo and Danielson are leading.

17:26 CEST   
Basso looks good near the front, next to Savoldelli. Tiralongo makes a hard pace.

Verburgghe buries himself as Mori attacks the chase group.

17:26 CEST    234.6km/1.4km to go
Verbrugghe might win today. He has a decent lead with 1.4 km to go. More than 10 seconds on the chase group, with the peloton still at half a minute.

17:27 CEST    235km/1km to go
Verbrugghe is inside the final 1 km. On the cobbles now. Now it gets steep, but the Belgian doesn't care. He wants the victory.

17:28 CEST    235.5km/0.5km to go
700m, 600m, 500m. Verbrugghe is really hurting, and he has 30 seconds on the bunch. They can't catch him now.

17:28 CEST   
Verbrugghe reaches the steepest part, and really is giving it gas. 400m. Not there yet.

17:29 CEST   
Verbrugghe starts to die as the four chasers reach 500m to go. They're 150m behind.

Savoldelli has attacked the bunch.

17:29 CEST   
Rik Verbrugghe will win the stage, but Savoldelli might get second.

17:30 CEST    236km/0km to go
Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) wins the stage after a fantastic attack in the final 5km. Really well earned, that one. He's a happy man.

Savoldelli takes second at 14 seconds, ahead of Mazzanti and Gutierrez and Rebellin. Basso sixth, then Gonchar. Will Gonchar take pink?

17:31 CEST   
Gonchar will get back into pink again.

Ullrich finishes at 1'05. Not a bad effort by Der Kaiser today. Don't write him off for the Tour yet.

17:41 CEST   
There you have it. A great ride by Rik Verbrugghe, who on paper was probably the worst climber in that five man group. But he attacked at the right time, and held off the bunch on that really steep final section. Savoldelli looked good for second place, but he couldn't gap the rest. Di Luca lost a little time, some 15 seconds, to the main favourites, while Cunego even lost a few seconds.

Tomorrow is a proper mountain finish. Look out for Ivan Basso...

Until then, ciao!


1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone          6.42.15
2 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team         0.14
3 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare                    
4 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems             
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                0.16
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                         0.17
7 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team
8 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                         
10 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                             0.20

General classification after stage 7

1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team                           27.37.08
2 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team         0.05
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                         0.11
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                0.32
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                0.53
6 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team  0.55
7 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            0.56
8 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems           1.02
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                     1.06
10 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                        1.09
11 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                             1.20


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