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89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 3 - Monday, May 8: Perwez - Namur, 202 km

Complete live report

Welcome back to the first grand Tour of the 2006 pro cycling season - the Giro d'Italia, starting in Belgium this year. On the menu for today is the third stage from Perwez to Namur on a bit of a hilly classics terrain. The peloton will take on the Côte d'Ahin with 57 kms to go before attacking the final cobbled climb to the Citadel of Namur. Surely a stage for puncheurs, who might take the opportunity to slip into the maglia rosa?

14:34 CEST   
We certainly know that Quick.Step's Paolo Bettini would like to do just that. He sits 34 seconds behind overall leader Paolo Savoldelli and can't wait to grab the jersey to return to Italy with. But there are other possibilities. What might be Gerolsteiner's plans? With Stefan Schumacher just 13 seconds off, and Davide Rebellin 18 seconds behind, the German team might consider attacking as well!

Caisse d'Epargne sits on a good spot, too, to take over the lead with Francisco Perez Sanchez and José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios. Last but not least, the GC contenders like Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Ivan Basso (CSC) and Gibo Simoni (Saunier), all excellent climbers, will surely test their legs and those of their rivals on that last wall up to the Citadel. But will they want the jersey and its responsibility within their ranks so soon? Somehow, we have our doubts...

14:40 CEST   
All the riders took the start this midday in Perwez, so there are still 198 men on the road today. The bunch went off at 12.17 for the 202-km long stage, and as usual in the Giro d'Italia, the pace was rather gentle during the first two hours: 38,7km/h.

14:42 CEST   
Nevertheless, an early attack tried to get a gap after 30 mins of riding: Iban Mayoz (Euskaltel) took off, then Moises Aldape Chavez (Panaria) and Santo Anza (Selle Italia) joined him. But the peloton did not let them gain any ground. Minutes later, at km 18, Raffaele Illiano (Selle Italia), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel) and - again - Moises Aldape Chavez (Panaria) tried, and were given the Go.

14:50 CEST   
The breakaway quartet then easily gained a solid lead - after 45 kilometres into the stage, their advantage was already over 4 minutes. Team Quick.Step, riding for Bettini today, is controlling the pace of the peloton.

A word on the weather: Unfortunately, Belgium is honouring its bad reputation. It's raining, with temperatures about 19° Celsius, but only very little wind. Grey skies hover over the colourful bunch, who is surely looking forward to getting to Italy tomorrow evening!

14:58 CEST    100km/102km to go
At the moment, the breakaway's lead has been reduced just a bit to 3.40, and they're just hitting the first GPM of today, the Côte de Evrehailles. It's a Cat 3 climb, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

15:06 CEST   
The Italians are unlucky today: Early on in the stage, Paolo Savoldelli flattened but he got back onto the bunch with the help of his teammates. Alessandro Petacchi also had a puncture about half an hour ago - but he too, was quickly given a new wheel.

Amael Moinard (Cofidis), who rides his first Giro d'Italia, took the GPM points ahead of Adalpe.

15:12 CEST   
A question reaches us from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about the term "puncheur" - it designates riders who have the capacity to take things into their own hands at race finishes, drive very hard on their own initiative to bring home a spectacular win.

15:18 CEST    112km/90km to go
Nick Gates (Davitamon) and William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) just went down, but both were able to continue the race.

Unfortunately, it's still raining in Namur, so the cobbles of that final climb will be wet and slippery when the riders will get there.

The bunch will soon come to the feed zone.

15:32 CEST    120km/82km to go
The leaders' advantage is now at 3.25, and the overall speed of the race has adapted to the poor weather conditions: after three hours of racing, the tempo is still down at 38,05km/h, so we expect the stage finish at about 17.25.

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery Channel) is the next victim of the wet tarmac.

15:40 CEST   
One of the four breakaways, Raffaele Illiano (Selle Italia), might be on a quest again to win the Intergiro Classification, as he did so in 2004. At km 132.5, the new 110 Gazzetta intermediate sprint will come up again - we'll see how he does there.

15:45 CEST   
There are still about 75 kilometres to go, and our four-man breakaway has an advantage of 3.50 minutes. As a reminder, Raffaele Illiano (Selle Italia), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Markel Irizar (Euskaltel) and Moises Aldape Chavez (Panaria) took off at km 18 and have been riding ahead of the peloton since, reaching a maximum lead of 4.27 after 76 kilometres.

15:53 CEST    134km/68km to go
There have been reports in the Belgian press that some members of the Walloon parliament were going to skip political decision-making today to head to Namur and watch the finish of this Giro's stage - a move severely criticized by their colleagues. We wonder if they have changed their minds looking out of the parliament windows... rain and fog is all there is to see...

At the intermediate sprint, Irizar (Euskaltel) takes the points ahead of Illiano (Selle Italia) and Aldape (Panaria).

15:58 CEST   
The leaders are able to maintain their advantage at a stable 3.45, circling bravely. Behind, Quick.Step is still driving the peloton, which is riding on a wide, straight road at the moment. Most riders are wearing their rain jackets, understandably.

16:01 CEST   
Oops! In a roundabout, Markel Irizar (Euskaltel) slides away to the right and hits the ground... unhurt though. He's able to catch up with his fellow breakmates right away.

16:07 CEST    147km/55km to go
The breakaway is at the Côte d'Ahin. Irizar in front, watching Illiano. Moinard is in last position, waiting to attack?

16:13 CEST    147km/55km to go
And Moinard attacks! But Aldape, a Mexican, is able to pull in front of the Frenchman... Irizar got third, while Illiano didn't sprint.

16:16 CEST   
Meanwhile, the bunch has engaged in the chasing and reduced the gap to the breakaway to 1.20 minutes. The field is strong out on the descent of the Côte d'Ahin, still with a Quick.Stepper in front.

16:20 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca has a mechanical, we're told from radio corsa. Still waiting for confirmation... And Petacchi crashed! He's back on his feet, but looking like he's hurting a bit. He's on the bike now, four teammates are with him. A Liquigas rider was also involved. They're riding off again.

16:25 CEST   
The blue train of five is chasing back onto the bunch. Petacchi gets a push, too - he looks shocked. The bunch is now in Huy, where Alejandro Valverde recently won the Flèche Wallonne. Team Milram will soon be reunited within the pack, but they're having trouble in the streets of Huy as there are many in-race cars.

16:29 CEST    157km/45km to go
Leonardo Scarselli (Quick.Step) is leading the pack now, with Bettini in second position. The four breakaways are still in front, about 1.40 ahead - they don't want to catch them too soon neither. This should help Petacchi and his teammates, who are still chasing.

16:35 CEST    160km/42km to go
Illiano and Adalpe look like they have trouble holding on to the other two now. In a windy descent in Wanze, the two have lost contact of Irizar and Moinard but the four are now back together - not riding very hard anymore, though.

16:37 CEST   
Team Milram is back in the bunch now. Petacchi takes a drink. Phew!

16:39 CEST   
Scarselli is doing an excellent job riding in front all the time. He gets out of the saddle in a short hill, dragging on the strung-out peloton behind him. CSC and Lampre are also close to the front line.

16:44 CEST   
In front, Moinard is getting angry at Illiano - the Frenchman still wants to give it a go while the others seem to have resigned. Chavez and Irizar are still working a bit. They still have an advantage of 1.34, with 35 kms to go.

16:47 CEST   
At the right side of the bunch, CSC is keeping Ivan Basso out of harm's way, while it's still Quick.Step leading. They're driving at 41 km/h now.

Petacchi still sits at the back of the bunch, surrounded by his teammates. His left knee is bleeding a bit. That doesn't look like he's going to sprint today...

16:51 CEST    172km/30km to go
Liquigas is driving at the left, close to the front of the bunch now, while the lead of the breakaway is still the same: 1.25.

16:53 CEST   
Petacchi has stopped at the side of the road now. The Giro doctor is with him and puts on some ointment on his knee. They're off again.

16:57 CEST   
Petacchi is now holding on to the driving doc's car, getting more treatment. Unfortunately, it's still raining which won't make this any easier for him. He's 50 seconds behind the bunch.

The lead of the escape group is now down to 1.01.

17:01 CEST    178km/24km to go
With 25 kms to go, the bunch is under one minute behind the breakaway. We're headed towards the exciting finish now! Petacchi et al. don't seem to be chasing - they'll lose some time today it looks like.

17:04 CEST   
Getting into Namur, the riders will have to be very careful as the roads will be narrow and twisty before the final climb. The riders are slowly starting to get into position as the breakaway is now in sight on this long, straight road.

17:07 CEST    182km/20km to go
That's it for our four breakaways - swallowed just before the 20-km-mark. Gruppo compatto.

17:11 CEST   
Now they're taking up speed. Gerolsteiner is there, Liquigas mingle, as the fight for position starts. The first riders are having trouble at the back as the bunch is pacing at 61 km/h. Alessandro Spezialetti (Liquigas) is in first position on a descent, while Di Luca sits behind him.

Petacchi is now over 2 minutes behind.

17:17 CEST   
We're still outside of town, on a flat straight road through some fields. CSC is now racing in front at over 70 km/h - it's Bobby Julich in the wind. Basso in third position. Now Voigt takes over. Tom Danielson (Discovery) is right there as well.

17:21 CEST    193km/9km to go
The Quick.Step riders are not in front of the bunch anymore, we're wondering. Robbie McEwen is up front, and McGee with FdJeux. A Phonak rider drives up hard - they're really giving it full gas now! Into Namur...

17:25 CEST    195km/7km to go
They're manoeuvring through the curves now, gently... still on large roads but not for long. Jens Voigt is still in front, with Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner).

Now Kessler (T-Mobile) has crashed, with two Euskaltels just after crossing the Meuse river. But the all look OK and are able to continue.

17:27 CEST    200km/2km to go
Now its' Quick.Step in the front again. They're on the cobbles now. This is going to be interesting!!

17:28 CEST   
Loddo is leading - he has attacked. He's marked by Chechu Rubiera (Discovery).
The peloton is about 40 riders strong, 5 seconds behind them. Rubiera is now leading! Schumacher drives up to him under the 1000m-mark!

17:29 CEST   
Schumacher now leads in front of Rubiera. 800m to go. Bettini is a few secs behind with some others. The sprint is on!

17:30 CEST   
Schumacher is hammering in front, pushing through... And he does it! Rubiera second, Rebellin third.

17:33 CEST   
What a stunning finish! Schumacher fully lived up to recent expectations - a new star is born! That was one impressive ride, also be Chechu Rubiera, who just couldn't counter the German's massive strength in the end.

17:38 CEST   
That gives him the maglia rosa, with Savoldelli second. It wasn't to be for Bettini...

That's it from us in the CN blimp for now, join us again for another exciting Giro stage in rainy Belgium tomorrow: Another hilly stage with two climbs from the Ardennes classics, Cote de Wanne and Stavelot-La Haute Levee in the first half, but things could come back together in the rolling last half for a bunch sprint finish. We'll see if Petacchi has recuperated. Ciao for now!

1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                             5.14.43
2 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.02
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                  0.06
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                           
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux                                
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                      
7 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                
8 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 
9 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                   0.09       

General classification after stage 3

1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                            10.14.04
2 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           0.13
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                  0.23
4 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears   0.29
5 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.31
6 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team 
7 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française des Jeux 
8 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears        0.32
9 José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems             0.33
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                 0.37


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