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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 2 - Sunday, May 7: Mons - Charleroi Marcinelle, 197 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: 17:00 CEST

08:46 CEST   
A fast, flat stage for the sprinters from Mons to the grimy industrial burg of Charleroi, with a wide open last 2km on Avenue E.Mascaux that should be perfect for Ale-Jet Petacchi and Rockin' Robbie McEwen to fight it out for the victory.

14:31 CEST   
Welcome back to Wallonia for the second stage of the Giro d'Italia, which is opening with a very Belgian flavour this year. Today's 197 km leg started in Mons, in the province of Hainut, and will finish in Charleroi, in Namur. It's a suitably grey day for such a stage, with a little rain falling this morning and temperatures around 15 degrees now.

As noted, today is a classic sprinters' stage, with just one small climb at Silenrieux after 144 km. The Intergiro point is at Morlanwelz (km 98.4). This year the scoring system appears to have changed back to a points score for the blue jersey, which makes more sense than the time bonus system.

The man in pink after a pretty impressive ride in yesterday's time trial is Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), who will have the task of defending the jersey today. But for the most part, it will be the sprinters teams of Milram and Davitamon who will cancel any breakaways.

14:44 CEST    85km/112km to go
At the moment, with 84 km covered at an average of just over 39 km/h, we have a breakaway of four riders clear: Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia), Mickael Delage (Française des Jeux), Beñat Albizuri (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom). The four, who attacked after 23 km, have a lead of 5'55, which puts Missaglia in the virtual maglia rosa by over five minutes, as he started the day in 60th place at 43 seconds.

14:51 CEST    88km/109km to go
The group had a maximum lead of 6'18 after 65 km, but Discovery has been controlling things for their man Savoldelli.

There have been a couple of cash primes along the way too, with Missaglia taking the first one after 55 km and Albizuri the next at km 81.

15:02 CEST   
The lead has increased again, out to seven minutes, as these four riders make good their escape. None of them are any particular threat for the GC, so Discovery could quite happily give them 10 minutes and let one of them have the pressure of the jersey. Of course, Milram and Davitamon probably have other ideas for today's stage.

15:10 CEST    100km/97km to go
The leaders have reached the "110 Gazzetta" (which has replaced the Intergiro) point after 98 km, with Delage taking the points ahead of Albizuri and Missaglia.

15:12 CEST   
Paolo Bettini sits at the back of the peloton, chatting to Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis). Meanwhile, Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) strips off his leg warmers with apparent ease.

The four leaders navigate a roundabout with Delage leaving a small gap, but chasing back on.

15:13 CEST   
Most of the riders are still in leg warmers. The predicted maximum of 25 didn't really happen today. Oh well, it is Belgium after all.

15:20 CEST    108km/89km to go
The leaders are now back on wet roads, as the peloton behind them continues to be led by Discovery, Davitamon and Milram. Also on wet roads. They tackle a wet cobbled corner through Morlanwelz and the gap has come back to 4'35.

15:21 CEST   
An Italian military band is playing a rousing tune at the finish.

15:25 CEST    112km/85km to go
Missaglia looks the most nervous of the breakaways. They are all working well together, doing 10-15 second turns. They're now out in the countryside again, where there is a certain hint of greyness as they pass the fields.

15:27 CEST   
Paolo Savoldelli is sitting in about 10th wheel, behind a host of blue jerseys, with the odd red, yellow and white Davitamon jersey as well.

15:30 CEST   
There's a bit of an age difference in the break: Mickaël Delage is only 20 years old, while Missaglia is 35. The latter looks to be the strongest and Delage has to close another little gap as he takes it easy on the wet roads.

Paolo Bettini is munching on a snack, keeping his energy levels up. It's vital to do that every day in a three week tour.

The Italian military band is now jogging up the finishing straight, still playing...

15:32 CEST    118km/79km to go
The leaders pass through the feed zone at Merbes-le-Château, still on a 39 km/h average pace.

15:35 CEST    120km/77km to go
Missaglia signals for his team car (that's getting close to an anagram) and obtains some refreshment. Meanwhile, they have kept their advantage to 4'42 as they ride through crowds of very damp Wallonians.

15:38 CEST   
The peloton now passes through the feed, with Panaria jerseys prominent at the rear. Serge Baguet (Quick.Step) is also recognisable.

The leaders are now back into the open countryside, and could be forgiven for experiencing a sense of deja-vu.

15:42 CEST   
The peloton lines out a bit as it hits a straight section of road.

The four leaders: Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia), Mickael Delage (Française des Jeux), Beñat Albizuri (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom) are now beginning to climb steadily. The day's GPM (gran premio montagna) is after 144km.

15:47 CEST    129km/68km to go
Vladimir Miholjevic's heart rate is sitting at 72% of his maximum of 186, which means that things aren't really hard in the peloton at the moment. The gap to the leaders is still 4'30. And the military band is still playing at the finish. As you can see, it's all happening.

15:51 CEST    130km/67km to go
Van Hecke is working on the front of the bunch for Davitamon, with Milram and Discovery still up there too. It's a bit of a grind today, in the damp weather.

The military band has quite an impressive repertoire. They probably need a larger euphonium section, because you can never have too many of them in a brass band.

15:52 CEST   
Bramati and Bettini are now in conference with their DS Serge Parsani in the Quick.Step car.

15:55 CEST   
The gap has come down to 3'12 as the pressure continues in the chase. Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) is visible towards the back of the bunch, with his blue cross on his white jersey rapidly turning grey.

16:00 CEST    133km/64km to go
The bunch rides past a group of cows (first official sighting of this year's Giro) some 3 minutes behind the breakaway. Fabio Sacchi (Milram) is on the front, working at 85% of his maximum HR.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) is surrounded by his entire team, about 20 riders back in the peloton.

16:04 CEST    136km/61km to go
Robbie McEwen has moved up towards the front, staying out of trouble. Two of his teammates are in discussion in second and third wheel.

Simoni is helped by a couple of teammates as he increases the humidity in his vicinity at the back of the bunch.

16:07 CEST    140km/57km to go
Christian Knees and Mirco Lorenzetto (Team Milram) lead the bunch now, with Jan Kuyckx and Preben van Hecke (Davitamon) next in line. They've brought the gap back to 2'45, and it's slowly but surely coming down. There is very little chance that this break will stay clear, but maybe a counter attack will make things interesting.

16:11 CEST   
Yesterday's prologue was a small surprise for Team CSC leader Ivan Basso, who finished 13th, 23 seconds behind Savoldelli. "I had hoped for more, but I wouldn't exactly say I'm disappointed," Basso said to team-csc.com. "Realistically, I'd expected to be about four or five seconds faster, but I guess today wasn't my day. But there are a lot of tough stages ahead, and I'm not worried about the time I lost to Savoldelli today. It's plain to see that he's in great shape, but at the same time he is a specialist in this particular discipline. The Giro is rolling now and there's still a very very long way to Milan."

16:13 CEST    144km/53km to go
The leaders are now on the climb to Silenrieux, and it's Labbe who accelerates with half a km to go to take the points by a big margin. He does it all in the big ring.

16:15 CEST    145km/52km to go
Delage takes second ahead of Albizuri and Missaglia, some 25 seconds behind Labbe. The leader sits up and refuels.

The bunch makes its way up the climb at a solid pace, with one of the Davitamons leading.

16:18 CEST    147km/50km to go
Kuyckx leads the bunch over at 2'32 behind Labbe, with one of the Euskaltels getting a small gap, presumably to commune with nature.

Missaglia discusses matters with Labbe, possibly relating to his previous attack for the climbing points. The Frenchman isn't too concerned. He'll have the green jersey at the end of the day.

16:25 CEST    152km/45km to go
The chase is not hard, but it is relentless. The four leaders have been out in front since km 23, and the cold and wet would have taken its toll. The roads are dry now, but the legs will be feeling it. The leaders are all pedaling biggish gears, normally a indication of tiredness.

16:27 CEST   
Gianni Savio is a happy man today. His Selle Italia team has been prominent in the break with Missaglia, and still holds the virtual maglia rosa.

Marc De Maar (Rabobank) sheds his rain jacket and gives it back to the team car.

16:30 CEST   
A reader has asked whether the first official sighting of cows coincided with Fabio Sacchi's turn on the front of the bunch. The significance there is of course Sacchi's team: Milram. Maybe the question should be, were they Milram cows?

We may never know...

16:33 CEST    157km/40km to go
The riders are now on a two lane highway, with the big peloton closing in on the four breakaways. They are all getting tired now, missing some turns. Delage looks right and sees cows. At least they'll get a tailwind now.

The average after four hours: 39.3 km/h

16:36 CEST    158km/39km to go
The leaders are under 40 km to go now, as they hold 2'03 over the peloton. They've just passed an old military plane museum.

Delage attacks to take a sprint, but then realises rather foolishly that it was the 40km to go banner...

16:37 CEST   
Nick Gates (Davitamon) is leading the bunch, with a couple of Milrams in tow, then many Discoverys. 1'53 to the four out in front.

16:38 CEST   
The finish today in Marcinelle was the scene of terrible mine disaster on August 8, 1956, where a fire took the lives of 262 mine workers 50 years ago.

Also, today is Paolo Savoldelli's birthday! He was given a cake at the stage start in Mons today, toasting his 33rd birthday, although it wasn't surprising to see him pass it off to one of the Discovery Channel soigneurs after blowing out the candles. Mmm...cake...

16:41 CEST    162km/35km to go
The leaders pass through Florennes and under a railway bridge. The peloton continues to get closer, splitting and reforming around various traffic obstacles. The gap is only 1'24 now, and the bunch is in a line.

16:44 CEST    164km/33km to go
Delage munches on an energy bar, looking pretty relaxed after such a long day in the saddle. Missaglia is back with his team car, asking for guidance. He rides past the other three, who don't bother to chase him.

16:45 CEST   
Albizuri was on the front when Missaglia rode by (it was only a stealth attack), and the two Frenchman weren't particularly interested in closing the gap. Now Albizuri is chasing Missaglia alone.

16:47 CEST    167km/30km to go
Missaglia gets some protection from the crosswind by the moto sitting next to him. Meanwhile, Albizuri gets nothing except the wind. However, Missaglia waits for him, somewhat impatiently.

16:48 CEST    168km/29km to go
Albizuri is finally back with the Italian, after a hard chase. Now Missaglia accelerates and the Basque has to hurt a bit to hold his wheel. The bunch is still over a minute behind the two leaders: 1'37 with 30 km to go. The chase has died a bit.

16:50 CEST   
Delage and Labbe are now absorbed by the agglomeration of riders behind them.

Miholjevic is sitting at 51% of his maximum, after the pace eased off there for a bit.

16:51 CEST    171km/26km to go
Albizuri is looking a bit knackered, but he comes through for a turn. Missaglia is definitely the strong man today. They enter Mettet, and it takes them a few minutes to pass through it.

16:53 CEST    172km/25km to go
25 clicks to go and we still have two leaders: Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia) and Beñat Albizuri (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They have a minute and a half over the peloton, which will now up the tempo to bring them back with 10-15 km to go.

16:54 CEST    174km/23km to go
CSC has moved up Basso to the front of the peloton, just behind the combined Milram/Davitamon chase. There are only four riders working, but that's all that's necessary with a small group in front.

16:56 CEST   
The tall Alessandro Vanotti is leading the chase at the moment, with Gates and Kuyckx behind.

16:58 CEST    176km/21km to go
The two leaders hang a right hander turn and the bunch can just see them. The pace is definitely on now. Savoldelli sits in the front bit of the peloton, behind a couple of teammates.

Knees leads the bunch around the corner, 47 seconds behind the break.

16:59 CEST   
The leaders hit a small climb, and it hurts now. Missaglia continues to do the work in front.

Vanotti gets out of the saddle on the climb as the bunch closes in. Van Hecke sits second wheel. Beltrán is up there too, protecting Savoldelli.

17:01 CEST    177km/20km to go
The lead pair go under 20 km to go, and Albizuri looks back and sees the bunch just 13 seconds behind.

17:02 CEST    178km/19km to go
Another little climb, and this could be it for the break. Albizuri rides up next to Missaglia and thanks him for waiting earlier. They are passed by Vanotti and the rest of the bunch.

17:04 CEST    180km/17km to go
Vanotti keeps the tempo high, and he has plenty of support from the Davitamon riders too. It's going to be very hard to attack now.

Miholjevic's heart rate has moved up to 63% of max, at a speed of 58 km/h. I don't believe that was on a climb.

17:05 CEST    181km/16km to go
The crowds get bigger as we near the finish. The final part of today's stage is downhill, and with two teams controlling things, it's going to be very hard to get away.

17:08 CEST    182km/15km to go
The GC riders move up to the front too, to stay out of trouble. This is always a very nervous part of the stage. Davitamon-Lotto and Milram have control, with Discovery setting up a train on another track to protect Savoldelli.

17:09 CEST    183km/14km to go
They're now passing through Châtelet at a brisk tempo. At least the roads are quite dry now, and there won't be any extra surprises in the sprint...

17:10 CEST   
64 km/h for Miholjevic at 73% of his max HR. Imagine how fast he could go at 100 percent?

17:10 CEST    187km/10km to go
Vanotti leads the bunch under 10 km to go, and the speed is very high. They go over the Sambre.

17:11 CEST    188km/9km to go
Christian Knees hammers with several Davitamons behind him. The finish at Marcinelle is approaching.

17:12 CEST   
Paolo Bettini has moved to the front with a teammate. He's spinning a pretty low gear too. Petacchi's train has formed...

17:14 CEST    190km/7km to go
It looks like a McEwen/Petacchi battle in Marcinelle today, but maybe one of the others can surprise. The front of the peloton has changed a bit, with Wielinga (Quick.Step) doing a turn. So Bettini has a cunning plan today...

17:14 CEST   
They funnel through a narrow corner, then up a hill. The Milram boys are still together, although Petacchi is not on the back of the train. He's with McEwen, a few wheels back.

17:16 CEST    191km/6km to go
Now Discovery puts a couple of men on the front with Savoldelli in third, then Bettini. Cunego moves up, along with Basso.

A Rabobank rider crashes face first: Kolobnev. Miraculously, he's not too badly hurt and he is up and riding again. He put out his arms just in time.

17:17 CEST    192km/5km to go
Ekimov now does a turn as they go under 5 km to go. Now it's a rush to control things.

17:17 CEST    193km/4km to go
One Quick.Stepper leads the whole Milram train, with Bettini right up there ahead of Savoldelli.

17:18 CEST    194km/3km to go
Sacchi is now at 89% of his maximum, and is definitely in the firing line in front of the bunch. They go around a roundabout, and through Charleroi. Milram has six riders in front, including Petacchi. Then McEwen.

17:20 CEST    195km/2km to go
Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) and Fabrizio Guidi (Phonak) are sitting next to McEwen. Nearly a crash on another roundabout. That strings it out. No-one fell though, but plenty lost time. Bettini gives Förster a grope on the behind. Or maybe just a push.

17:20 CEST    195.5km/1.5km to go
The corners are making it tricky, but the finishing straight is 1.6 km long. They're on it now. Four Milrams, then Petacchi, McEwen...

17:21 CEST    196km/1km to go
One Milram pulls off. Sacchi next.

Brown has McEwen's wheel, then Pollack is up there for T-Mobile.

17:21 CEST   
Three Milrams left for Petacchi. It's the ideal lead out. Two left. Petacchi is still tailed by McEwen. Bettini tries to move up, as do Pollack and Korff.

17:22 CEST    197km/0km to go
Ongarato leads out Petacchi until 200m, but Petacchi can't do it. He hits the wind too early. It's McEwen who does it!!! Pollack second, then Bettini in a very tight finish. Petacchi took fourth, disappointed.

17:31 CEST   
It was Pollack who pre-empted Petacchi's final move, and McEwen reacted quickly to jump past and take the stage win by a bike length. It was very very close for second, but Pollack appears to have gotten it from Bettini.

The general classification doesn't change, and Paolo Savoldelli still has the pink jersey with 11 seconds advantage over Brad McGee (FDJ), and 13 seconds over Jose E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak). Savoldelli also has the points and mountains jerseys, so Labbe missed out there.

That's all from Marcinelle. We'll bid you farewell until tomorrow, and dream of brass bands...


1 Robbie Mcewen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                       4.51.40
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                               
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                          
4 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram                     
5 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone            
6 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance                        
7 Alberto Loddo (Ita) Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni  
8 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                         
9 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare         
10 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                                   
11 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                              
12 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Credit Agricole                                
13 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux                     
14 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas                                
15 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                            
16 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team        

General classification after stage 2

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel                  4.59.30       
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                         


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