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89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 1 - Saturday, May 6: Seraing - Seraing ITT, 6.2 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Anthony Tan, Les Clarke and Brecht Decaluwé

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 18:00 CEST

10:48 CEST   

PREVIEW: Today's 6.2 kilometre TT is just long enough not to be called a prologue - even though that's what most people are calling it! It's fairly non-technical with few hard corners apart from one hairpin bend. However, there's a two and a half kilometre climb with a nasty kick at the beginning, so it should suit the power riders who can turn a big-gear, but who can also pedal at a high cadence.

Starting at the Place Communale and following the Quai Sadoire on the banks of the River Meuse for the first 1.2 kilometres, direction south, riders then make a quick left, right, left before starting the climb (km 1.5), heading along the Chaussée de la Troque (km 2.7) and Boulevard Pasteur (km 3.1).

After 600 metres of 'Pasteurising', it's time for a hairpin turn 100 metres before the 4 kilometre checkpoint at the Place des Houilleurs, which marks the highest point on the parcours.

After the hairpin, the course then takes the rider onto the Boulevard Galilée (km 4.2), through the Place de la Bergerie (km 4.8) and an easy left onto the Rue de Bas-Sarts (km 5.7), before a 500 metre finishing stretch on the Rue du Val St. Lambert.

14:36 CEST   
It's a nice day in Belgium. I should repeat that just to make sure I'm not dreaming, as everyone agrees the winter here was very long. But in the last couple of weeks, spring has sprung and there are leaves on the trees again, with plenty of sunshine to make you think the gloomiest February on record was just a hoax made up by the weather people.

But enough about the weather, suffice to say that it's above 20 degrees, sunny, and there's very little wind for the start of the 89th Giro d'Italia. Today's first stage is not being called a prologue, despite the fact that it's a 6.2 km individual time trial. You will forgive us (I hope) if we lapse occasionally in the heat of the moment and call it a prologue.

The parcours is situated in Seraing, on the outskirts of Liege, where just two weeks ago the last spring classic (Liege-Bastogne-Liege) finished. And we'll stay in Belgium until Tuesday, as the Giro celebrates the Italians living in this part of the world.

In 6.2 km, the riders have to climb and descend 100m, making this a very tough start to the Giro d'Italia. It's not overly technical, although there are a few corners after the descent where caution will have to be taken. The first rider go today is the Czech neo-pro Frantisek Rabon (T-Mobile), who leaves at 14:34. The last rider off is defending champion Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) - who is no slouch over the shorter distances - and he will depart at 17:51. In total, there are 198 riders starting today.

14:52 CEST   
All of the favourites will be going off later today, and there are plenty of candidates for the first maglia rosa. Jan Ullrich is probably not one of them, but the T-Mobile rider's time will be of interest anyway, to gauge his improvement since the Tour de Romandie. He leaves at 16:24. His teammates Serguei Gonchar (17:08) and Michael Rogers (17:30) will also be interesting to watch.

15:07 CEST   
Glancing a little further down the start list, we can see Bobby Julich (CSC) off at 16:46, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) at 17:31, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) at 17:33, Jose Rujano (Selle Italia) at 17:34, Brad McGee (FDJ) at 17:36, Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at 17.39, and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) at 17:44. They're all here...

At the moment, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) has just left the start ramp. He is a good rider in his own right, finishing in the top 20 in the Giro three times.

15:24 CEST   
We'll get some times of the early riders soon, but there are a couple of other tidbits of info that are of interest. Before the start, at 14:33, a minute's silence was held in memory of two Italian Alpine troops that were killed in Kabul yesterday.

Also, we did have a brief thunderstorm earlier, which made the roads wet for a time. But they are drying out nicely now, and the favourites should all get good conditions to ride in.

15:33 CEST   
And we have our first intermediate times posted, with Philippe Gilbert leading the way with an 8'29, 1 second better than Evgeni Petrov (Lampre-Fondital) and seven better than Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas).

The top 10 so far:

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 8.29
2 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 0.01
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 0.07
4 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Française des Jeux 0.09
5 Sven Krauss (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.12
6 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 0.13
7 Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita) Team Milram 0.14
8 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.15
9 Peter Mazur (Pol) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.17
10 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Credit Agricole 0.18

15:43 CEST   
The average speed of Philippe Gilbert, who still holds the fastest time, is 43.85 km/h. Organisers predict the quickest time will be around 7'55, or 47 km/h. That's not going to be easy on this course, which contains quite a serious climb, especially the start of it.

15:48 CEST   
The slowest rider so far is Rabobank sprinter Graeme Brown, who completed the course in 9'39. So far, 65 riders have finished, of the 198 starters.

15:55 CEST   
We have a new best time! Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel), who has posted an 8'24.

15:57 CEST   
Alex Kolobnev (Rabobank) comes in with an 8'41, well outside the top 10.

Mirco Lorenzetto (Milram) has just set off, as Spezialetti (Liquigas) comes down the final descent, over the speed hump, and sprints to the line. Everyone is rating this as a very hard time trial. Spezialetti finishes in 9'11.

15:58 CEST   
Sergey Yakovlev (Liberty) follows in 8'32, a pretty handy time that will give him seventh.

16:00 CEST   
A Aranaga (Euskaltel) comes down the hill but fails to negotiate the corner, and ends up almost sitting on the top of the barrier. He's unhurt, and quickly regains his position and finishes in 9'17.

16:02 CEST   
Luis Felipe Laverde (Panaria) is on the climb, as Leonardo Piepoli comes down the hill, reaching the speed hump at 500m to go, then the dangerous corner. He fares better than Aranaga, and finishes in 8'58.

16:04 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital) has smashed the best time of Rubiera, clocking 8'10! That's 45.5 km/h, which is not bad for this course.

16:06 CEST   
Laverde exits the descent and sprints to the line, finishing in a respectable 8'34 for 10th.

16:11 CEST   
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team) comes home in about 8'45, well off the pace of Bruseghin, who has the best time at the moment. The top five:

1 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 8.10
2 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.14
3 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française des Jeux 0.19
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
5 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre-Fondital 0.20

16:13 CEST   
Edalaine (Credit Agricole) comes around the last corner, and gets it cranking again in the biggest gear, rocking from side to side as he reaches top speed. His final time is 8'57, not good enough to threaten Bruseghin.

Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner) is a bit quicker in 8'39.

16:14 CEST   
Robbie McEwen is next off. This is definitely not his type of course, and he's basically using his road bike with a pair of clip on TT bars.

16:16 CEST   
McEwen reaches the start of the climb at a fairly calm pace, and gets out of the saddle now as he hits the 10 percent section.

16:18 CEST   
McEwen gets back on the bars as the climb flattens a bit. Just behind him is Andy Flickinger (Bouygues Telecom), riding a massive gear on the climb. He's a tall feller, and has a bike to match.

16:20 CEST   
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) ends with a time of 8'39, which is quite decent without threatening the top 10.

McEwen is now at the top of the climb in 6'10. He gets out of the saddle and prepares for the descent.

16:22 CEST   
McEwen is well into the descent now, but still fairly relaxed. He's not going to risk crashing for the sake of a few more seconds. He hits the steep part on the narrow road, over the speed hump, then around the last corner and up to the line. His final time is 8'46 for 40th so far.

Benoît Joachim is starting now, as Jan Ullrich prepares. Der Kaiser is ready.

16:25 CEST   
Der Jan is go!! Like a magenta streak from the start house, Ullrich is on his way.

Meanwhile, there is chaos at the other end of the parcours as Fran Perez (Caisse d'Epargne) nearly catches Ruben Lobato. He clocks the best time of 8'06!!

16:26 CEST   
Perez did well there, as he would have been slowed by the cars in front of him on the descent.

Ullrich is on the climb, pedaling a massive gear and staying on the bars.

16:28 CEST   
Alberto Ongarato (Milram) finishes in 9'03.

Ullrich is a fair way up the climb now, and hasn't done badly.

16:29 CEST   
Rémi Pauriol (Credit Agricole) is struggling up the climb.

Ullrich is sitting in 32nd place after 3km, 18 seconds off the pace. Let's see what he does on the descent.

16:30 CEST   
Hubert Dupont (AG2R) finishes in 8'40, well off the pace of Fran Perez, who has an impressive time of 8'06.

16:33 CEST   
Ullrich reaches 500m to go in 8'06, then takes the corner and sprints for the line. His final time is 8'39 for 25th. Relative to the Tour of Romandie prologue, that should be a better result. He was 90th in the prologue there.

16:34 CEST   
That final corner has seen a few incidents so far. A couple of riders have crashed, and Française des Jeux even lost a bike off the roof of its car into the crowd there. Three people were lightly injured. Fortunately it wasn't worse.

16:35 CEST   
The top five so far:

1 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 8.06
2 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.04
3 Remmert Wielinga (Ned) Quick Step-Innergetic 0.11
4 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.18
5 Iñigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Team CSC 0.23

16:38 CEST   
Johann Tschopp (Phonak) finishes in 8'45, as Sandy Casar comes in behind him with a time of 8'32. Not bad.

Beñat Albizuri (Euskaltel) is on the course now, riding in a very forward position.

16:41 CEST   
Albizuri reaches the top of the climb as Marc de Maar (Rabobank) finishes his ride in 9'05. Not a brilliant time, but he definitely looked like he was going for it.

16:42 CEST   
Koen de Kort (Liberty Seguros) ends his ride in 9'03.

16:45 CEST   
Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre-Fondital) motors up the climb as a young rider tries to keep pace with him on a side road, lasting about 30 metres before dropping off.

16:47 CEST   
Bobby Julich (CSC) is under way. He could be the first to break Perez's time of 8'06.

16:49 CEST   
Tiralongo finishes off in 8'54 for 71st. Julich is compact on the climb, staying on the TT bars. He's fifth fastest after 3 km, 6 seconds slower than Bruseghin.

Jonathan McCarty
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

16:50 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to Jon McCarty at the depart in Liege and Phonak's other American was pleased to be at his first grand tour. "It's my first grand tour and I'm just happy to be here," he said. "I think in a few days we'll be able to go for stage win."

With names such as Axel Merckx and Victor Hugo Pena in the Phonak lineup, McCarty added, "We've got a good experienced team here and the teamwork is good." The American competed on home turf at the Tour of California in February, where compatriot Floyd Landis won the overall title, and he believes that the foundations laid during that race will serve the team well in terms of team work at the Giro.

16:51 CEST   
Julich takes the final corner and he hasn't got a great time. He was probably going hard to the first time check. He finishes in 8'35, nearly half a minute slower than Perez.

16:53 CEST   
Padrnos (Discovery) powers to the line in 8'34, a good time for the tall Czech rider.

Axel Merckx (Phonak) is on the climb.

16:55 CEST   
Juan Manuel Garate (Quick.Step) ends his ride in a very good time of 8'26, which will give him sixth place behind Fran Perez.

16:58 CEST   
Wim Van Huffel (Davitamon-Lotto) is next off. He was 11th last year, but is a bit behind in form this year.

Mathew Hayman
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

16:58 CEST   
Cyclingnews also caught up with Australian Mat Hayman, who is currently recovering from injuries sustained in last Monday's Rund um den Henninger Turm but he didn't seem to be suffering the effects of that crash before today's prologue.

"I'm a little worried about my knee," he said. "But hopefully in a couple of days I'll feel good and have a go." With the climbers set to dominate this year's Giro, Hayman knows the chances for a stage win are limited and said, "It's an increasingly thing that a lot of the stages are controlled by the leading teams, so we have limited stages to have a go..."

In terms of favourites for the three weeks, Hayman said, "CSC and Discovery are pretty big favourites - Discovery ave brought a different team and it looks pretty strong." The 'Aussie diesel' added that, "I think you'll see a few surprises."

16:59 CEST   
Axel Merckx (Phonak) comes home with a nice ride of 8'34 for 21st.

17:00 CEST   
Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) is on track for a good time too. He's a local boy, and knows the course very well. After the first time check, he's 9 seconds down.

17:02 CEST   
Verbrugghe's time is 8'18, not bad at all, even if he does hold the Giro prologue record.

17:03 CEST   
Andrea Noè (Liquigas) is home in 8'29, just inside the top 10.

17:04 CEST   
Jens Voigt (CSC) is next off. Let's see what he can do today.

17:06 CEST   
Marco Pinotti (Saunier Duval) rides up the climb at 31 km/h, averaging 95% of his maximum heart rate. Ouch.

17:08 CEST   
Van Huffel's final time is 8'48. Pinotti flies down the descent and finishes in 8'27 for 8th. Not bad going for the Italian TT champ.

17:10 CEST   
Voigt is riding a good tempo on the climb, and is near the top. Meanwhile, Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile) is motoring up behind him.

17:13 CEST   
Voigt is only five seconds off the pace after halfway, and now takes the descent at a good speed. He won't do the quickest time though. He powers to the line in 8'15 for third. That's decent.

17:15 CEST   
Gonchar is riding well, and has set the quickest time at halfway.

Jason McCartney comes to the finish first, in 8'21 for 6th. Excellent time by the American.

Now here's Gonchar. The Ukrainian finishes in a fantastic time of 8'05! New best time!

17:17 CEST   
Serge Baguet (Quick.Step) is next over in 8'26: quite good for 12th place.

17:19 CEST   
Gonchar's time doesn't last long though. Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) smashes it home in 8'03. Great ride by the German.

17:25 CEST   
Dario Cioni finishes his 6.2 km in 8'20, which puts him in the top 10 for the time being.

Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Panaria) is on the start ramp.

17:29 CEST   
Gorazd Stangelj (Lampre-Fondital) is on the climb now, really working at it. Meanwhile, Yoann Le Boulanger (Bouygues) finishes in 8'25 ish.

17:30 CEST   
Christophe Brandt (Davitamon) does a very decent 8'19, which puts him in the top 10.

Meanwhile, Paolo Bettini has saddled up in his gold and blue kit. He's riding a fairly normal road bike with a disc wheel and small TT bars.

17:31 CEST   
World TT Champion Michael Rogers is on his way too, hitting the climb now.

17:34 CEST   
Tom Danielson (Discovery) is on the climb too, and after 3.1 km he's 8 seconds slower than Stefan Schumacher.

The current top five at the finish:

1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 8.03
2 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 0.02
3 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.03
4 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.07
5 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.12

17:35 CEST   
Carlos Sastre (CSC) finishes in 8'17 - not bad at all. Not quite top five, but certainly top 10.

17:37 CEST   
Danielson flies down the descent, and hammers to the finish in 8'11 for 5th place provisionally.

17:38 CEST   
Rogers is slightly better than Danielson with an 8'07. 4th fastest for the world champ.

Now, Danilo Di Luca assumes the position in the starting gate.

17:40 CEST   
Bettini finishes in 8'32, nearly half a minute off the pace. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is in too, ending in 8'08 for fifth. Good time.

17:41 CEST   
Aaron Olson is another American who is riding his first grand tour, and the Saunier Duval Pro Tour rookie was genuinely excited to be starting the Giro in Liege. "It's definitely great to be here," he said. "It's a big organisation; being at the Giro is amazing - it's a dream come true!"

Riding on the team of pre-race favourite Gilberto Simoni puts Olson in the special position of riding for one the Giro's strongest riders, and he said that, "Everyone is very motivated. We checked out the team time trial course the other day and it looks good. Gilberto's looking fit and we're sure he'll do well."

17:43 CEST   
Jose Rujano's final time is quite good: 8'29. Not bad.

Here comes Jose E. Gutierrez (Phonak), with another 8'03 for the new best time! Just quicker than Schumacher.

17:43 CEST   
Brad McGee is next in, and has done a good ride too. In fact, it's a great ride: 8'01! Another best time.

17:44 CEST   
Di Luca is even quicker than McGee at the first time check. This is a great finish to the prologue first stage of the Giro d'Italia in sunny Seraing.

17:46 CEST   
Di Luca is level with McGee at the top of the climb, and now takes the descent at full speed. This will be very close. But there are still more riders to come.

Damiano Cunego is next to go. What can he do? Against the clock is not his specialty.

17:46 CEST   
Di Luca comes up short though. He ends in 8'09 for 8th. Not a great descent.

17:48 CEST   
Cunego is onto the climb now, really giving it some gas. Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) is ahead of him, getting towards the top of the hill.

Ivan Basso, probably the favourite today, is looking his usual serene self in the starting gate.

17:50 CEST   
Basso is waved off, and starts powerfully.

Simoni is already 11 seconds down on Di Luca at the first time check. Bert Roesems (Davitamon) rides to the finish in a time of 8'26.

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery), the last rider, is about to leave.

17:51 CEST   
Ivan Gutierrez is off the pace, surprisingly. He's 9 seconds slower than McGee at time check 2.

17:52 CEST   
Gilberto Simoni brings it home in 8'16, for 12th. That's about normal for Gibo.

17:52 CEST   
Here comes Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne). No maglia rosa for him: he finishes in 8'06 for 6th. Still quite decent though.

McGee keeps the top spot.

17:54 CEST   
Cunego is at the foot of the descent now, and takes the last corner, sprinting to the line in a time of 8'15. Not so much difference between him and Simoni.

Alessandro Petacchi is also getting near the end of his ride.

17:56 CEST   
Petacchi's time is 8'25 for 28th position. He'll have to work pretty hard to lift the maglia rosa in the first few days.

Savoldelli has smashed McGee's first time check by 5 seconds! Basso was 10 seconds slower than Savoldelli too. So the Discovery man is on track for a great start to the Giro.

17:57 CEST   
Basso takes the last corner gently, and drives to the line in a time of 8'13. That's out of the top 10, but a bit quicker than Simoni and Cunego. Slower than Di Luca though.

17:58 CEST   
There's just one rider who can beat McGee now, and it's Paolo Savoldelli. He was 10 seconds(!!) quicker than the Australian at the top of the climb, and given his descending skills, there can only be one result...

17:59 CEST   
Savoldelli does it!! Great ride by the Discovery Channel lead and defending champion. He finishes in 7'50, 11 seconds(!) better than Brad McGee, and nearly 48 km/h average. That was a fantastic time trial.

18:05 CEST   
Well, there you go. Paolo Savoldelli has clearly recovered from his dodgy tummy during the Tour de Romandie to post a great time in the opening stage of the Giro d'Italia in beauteous Seraing. He was fastest at the first time check, even faster at the second time check, and brought it home to finish 11 seconds clear of his nearest challenger, Bradley McGee (FDJ). Third place went to José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak), who put in a surprisingly good ride.

Ullrich's final position was 80th. That's a bit better than Romandie.

That's all from us today. Please check back at 14:30 local time tomorrow for the first stage of the Giro, between Mons and Charleroi Marcinelle.


1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel                         7.50
2 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) Française des Jeux                           0.11
3 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems          0.13
4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 
5 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team                              0.15
6 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears     0.16
7 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears    
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team                               0.17
9 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                               0.18
10 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                                   0.19


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