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101st Giro di Lombardia - ProT

Italy, October 20, 2007

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

Hello and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live coverage, today with the 2007 ProTour season finisher, the Giro di Lombardia in Northern Italy. The 'race of the falling leaves' is part of cycling's Monuments and takes place for the 101st time today. The weather is cold and crisp, around 12°, but sunny around lake Como - perfect late season conditions for the riders.

The race started this morning at 10.40am in Varese, city of the 2008 Worlds, after one minute silence in memory of the deceased Italian champion Vito Taccone. It was a fast start by the 179 riders, and Ivan Degasperi from Selle Italia was the first to make a move, quickly countered by the bunch. At kilometre 12 there was a crash that involved Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre-Fondital), Javier Mejías (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Paolo Bailetti (Team LPR) and Daniele Contrini (Tinkoff Credit Systems). The fast pace of the race made it difficult for the riders to rejoin. During the first hour of racing the pros covered 45.7 kilometres.

The second hour of the event was marked by another escape attempt of Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Matteo Tosatto (Quickstep), Morris Possoni (Lampre), Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne) and Niklas Axelsson (Selle Italia). While the tempo of the peloton eased up (42.1 kms/h during the second hour of the race), the composition of the front group slightly changed: Axelsson was caught as Kohl, Tosatto, Possoni and Losada remained at front, later joined by Alan Perez Lezaun (Euskaltel), Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) and Jesus Del Nero (Saunier).

This breakaway finally succeeded and was given a maximum advantage of 10'50" around km 80 after the first climbs of the Intelvi and the Menaggio were behind the riders. In the plain, after 125 kilometres, the breakaway of seven had only 7'25" left over the peloton. The lead then further shrunk and is now 5'45".

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step - Innergetic)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:08 CEST    165km/77km to go
The average speed so far was 41.4 kilometres an hour - after 4 hours of racing. The riders did not take it easy along the route.

15:16 CEST   
Paolo Bettini is of course at the start. Not only is he the reigning World Champion after winning the title again a couple of weeks ago. But he is also the defending champion for this race, after his emotional win in 2006, just shortly after his brother died in a car accident.

15:20 CEST   
The peloton is zooming along at a brisk pace, with Liquigas at the front. The gap has been reduced to 4'24"

15:21 CEST   
Fabian Wegmann is close to the front. He finished third last year. Bettini is all smiles and does what he really likes to do in the earlier part of the races - chat to people.

15:22 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown talked to Daniele Nardello (Team LPR) before the start this morning in Varese. "The course will be made on the Ghisallo," the Italian said. "If I am with the front riders heading to the Ghisallo then I will try to anticipate the move. However, first I have to be there with the front men. Then, the last two climbs will make it very hard to stay with the best."

Asked what his favourites were for the victory in Como, Nardello said, "Schleck, Cunego, Bettini and Rebellin - these four."

15:25 CEST   
The break is going up a little rise. Of the seven riders only Pablo Lastras has rolled down his arm warmers. Despite the sun it's not that warm. But the climb does warm up the riders a bit and little gaps begin to develop. The lead is down to four minutes.

15:26 CEST   
Bettini is very quickly dropping off the front as the peloton hits the slope. Maybe some less chatting earlier and he would be able to breath a little better?

15:27 CEST   
Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) told our man on the course, Gregor Brown, about some health problems amongst the Spaniards of Caisse d'Epargne. "Valverde had a fever; he called the team and said that he was not feeling good," Rodríguez explained about the absence of the team's leader. "A race as hard as this one it is better to stay at home. There are more of us that are sick in the team, including myself and Iván Gutiérrez. I don't know how we will go. Today, I was not able to eat a lot, so I don't know. We will see. Normally it would be a race for me, but now, how I feel, I don't know. It is likely that today the team will try to go in the early escapes."

Indeed, his team-mate Pablo Lastras made it into the day's breakaway. "Tomorrow I will do my last race in Barcelona, then my season will be over. The off-season will not be long, because the Tour Down Under starts so soon. So, this year, I will not take a vacation," Rodríguez revealed about his autumn plans.

15:29 CEST   
The peloton is splitting up now and Bettini is on the wrong end of the line. It does not seem to be his day, but then again he just won the Worlds again. What else do you want. Schleck and Dekker are at the front of the peloton, who have reduced the gap to three minutes. One minute in only a few minutes of racing. It's coming down quite quickly.

15:29 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown also bumped into Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) on the start line and asked him if it was a 'Simoni and Riccò day'? "We are the two that are in the best form," Riccò replied. "We will see how the finale goes. This last race of the season, I hope that this race is an important result for me. Let's hope the legs go well." Was it the last race for the season? "Maybe I will do the Japan Cup."

15:33 CEST   
The climb has disintegrated the front group. Only four are left over, with Matteo Tosatto (Quickstep), Morris Possoni (Lampre), Alan Perez Lezaun (Euskaltel) and one of the Caisse d'Epargne riders.

15:34 CEST   
The Caisse rider in the front group is Alberto Losada Alguacil.

15:35 CEST   
Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was happy to be at the race this morning. "My wife is from Lombardia, so this is kind of my home race," he told Cyclingnews. "It will be the same as every year - I am here better than most years thanks to the lighter start, so hopefully pay dividends today but we will have to see when we hit the Ghisallo."

The Australian didn't feel that he had anything to do with the much discussed ProTour Jersey controversy after Danilo Di Luca was thrown out of the classification: "Nothing to do with me," the now-leader of the series said. "I want to be in the jersey tonight. I just want to do a good race today and finish off what has been a good season for me, and that will do."

Will it be his last race? "Yeah, I think I have been at the front enough this year. I will stay here [in Italy] for a while, holiday, then I will go to Australia for a few promotional things."

As for today's strategy, "I will be watching the favourites and see what happens, same as every year."

15:38 CEST   
Tosatto is taking a good pull on the front and Perez has to dig deep to catch the back end of the front group again. Tosatto is feeling strong and is now gesturing to the others to take some pulls as well.

15:39 CEST   
An 18-man group including Fränk Schleck has left the peloton.

15:41 CEST   
Spaniard Carlos Barredo of Quick.Step-Innergetic Feeling was feeling sick this morning. "We have Bettini and Visconti," he told us about his team's plans for the day. "The key point is Ghisallo, and we hope to have four or five up front on there. After that point we will see for who the team will work for. If an escape goes of five or seven, it is certain that one of us will need to be there, otherwise we will work. We have the men dedicated to watch the escape, and then after that the men for Ghisallo.

"It is a race that is very hard for this point in the season. However, it is beautiful race, and most importantly it is necessary to have a good head for the race. The riders who are concentrated have a good race." Look for a full interview with Barredo in the coming weeks.

15:43 CEST   
There a ton of spectators on the Ghisallo, the climb that could decide the race. They don't look too warm, no wonders most riders are still making use of their arm warmers. And Tosatto IS strong. He is leaving his breakaway companions behind.

15:44 CEST   
Tosatto is first passed the chapel and over the top. The high-speed downhill is next.

15:46 CEST   
We currently see Andy Schleck in front of his team-mate Carlos Sastre. So not sure if the earlier info was incorrect or if both Schlecks are in this group. On the front, the threesome have almost caught up again with Tosatto, who is dangling less than 100 metres in front.

15:48 CEST    205km/37km to go
The group with about twenty riders is now 1'38" behind the leaders. It is led by three riders from CSC.

15:48 CEST   
Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step - Innergetic) told Cyclingnews before the start that race strategy for his team "depends on how Paolo goes today. If we are both there in the finale than it is going to be an advantage for our team; we are able to put fear into our adversaries. If Paolo is not going well he would be the first to make himself available as a helper. A lot depends on him.

"This is the last major appointment for me this year, and a very beautiful race," he continued. "Tomorrow I will do the time trial, and then the Firenze-Pistoia will be my last race for the season. For vacation I will head to Santo Domingo."

15:48 CEST   
Giovanni Visconti (Quick.Step - Innergetic) told Cyclingnews before the start that race strategy for his team "depends on how Paolo goes today. If we are both there in the finale than it is going to be an advantage for our team; we are able to put fear into our adversaries. If Paolo is not going well he would be the first to make himself available as a helper. A lot depends on him.

"This is the last major appointment for me this year, and a very beautiful race," he continued. "Tomorrow I will do the time trial, and then the Firenze-Pistoia will be my last race for the season. For vacation I will head to Santo Domingo."

15:50 CEST   
Liquigas is leading the peloton, which also includes Fabian Wegmann. Will they be able to come back? The 20-rider group is going strong!

15:52 CEST   
"I am doing well," said one of the race favourites, Fränk Schleck to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "My morale is high due to the weather and my recent win. The team spirit is there."

What do you think of Paolo Bettini? "Oh, he is good." How are going to get rid of him? "I don't know! I can't wait for the sprint, I have to drop him some how and some where. There will also be other dangerous riders today, I have to drop them all before the finale. The win in Emilia was different, the course ended on a really hard climb, and who was the strongest won."

He looked forward to the off-season, "After this hunting." (For a recent interview with Schleck, read Motivation running strong.

15:54 CEST   
Well, Tosatto managed to break the will of his three chasers and has extended his lead. His mouth wide open he is in an aero position and goes quickly along the Italian roads. Vai, vai!

15:56 CEST   
Tosatto is now 42 seconds ahead of the three chasers and 1'41" ahead of the big chase group, still led by CSC. Volodymir Gustov is another rider for the Danish outfit in the front.

15:58 CEST   
Time for an energy bar for our rabbit in the front, Matteo Tosatto. But it's hard to eat in this phase of the race, when the riders are totally exhausted. He is taking a bite, though, and washes it down with some water.

15:59 CEST   
Well, the three chasers have given up and are waiting for the chase group, just as Tosatto heads into a dark tunnel. Hopefully he can see the light at the end of it pretty soon.

16:01 CEST   
There are some impatient people in the first chase group and Gusev of Discovery Channel is one of them. He has attacked together with another rider.

16:04 CEST   
Gusev et al has been caught again. Now a Predictor Lotto guys gets some momentum on the right hand side and launches a vicious attack! It is American Chris Horner.

16:07 CEST   
There was a crash involving Possoni and another rider. Horner just passed them in a roundabout.

16:10 CEST   
Andy Schleck is doing a great job at the front of the chase group for his brother. Needless to say, World Champ Paolo Bettini did not miss this train, either, together with Riccò.

Tosatto's pedaling does not look very smooth anymore. He is suffering.

16:16 CEST   
The remainder of the break is now caught, also due to the crash.

Karsten Kroon (CSC) now takes off out of the chase group. He passes Tosatto on the Civiglio climb.

16:19 CEST   
Three CSC men and two Lampres look at each other, waiting for the others' move. Cunego is at the front. Kroon is not far away at all.

Cunego, Schleck, Riccò, Cunego, Evans are coming out of the group now.

16:20 CEST   
The climb in is tough. Schleck attacks and tests his adversaries. Riccò follows, the others too.

16:22 CEST   
Fränk Schleck (CSC), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Ricardo Riccò (Saunier) and Cadel Evans (Predictor) are leading the race now. Not sure how far away Bettini is.

They're on top of the climb now, diving into the twisty descent.

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Prodir)
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

16:24 CEST   
There are some nasty corners here. Evans follows the others in his white ProTour jersey. He still has some form after this long season!

16:26 CEST    232km/10km to go
They are pacing into town now. Evans is cautious in the descent.

16:29 CEST   
Cunego is leading as Samuel Sanchez and Riccò close up again. There is Gusev, Schleck, Evans...

Schleck has crashed!

16:29 CEST    236km/6km to go
He sits on the ground, not badly hurt it appears. But the others are gone , now!

16:32 CEST   
The chase group with Wegmann and two other CSC riders has reached the front riders. They hit the San Fermo climb now. Kolobnev has a gear problem and is going backwards there, for a moment.

16:34 CEST   
Sanchez, Dekker, Cunego, Riccò, Wegmann, Evans, Kolobnev... we have a front group of about 10 riders, in which Cunego is the most active at the moment.

16:36 CEST   
Cunego and Riccò test their legs. Dekker manages to hold on pretty well. Wegmann also holds on to this terrible pace. They are all still together.

16:37 CEST   
Cunego and Riccò might battle this one out between them. They have a gap over their rivals now as the tifosi go wild along the road...

16:39 CEST   
The Gerolsteiner rider is Davide Rebellin, not Wegmann - sorry about that.

Riccò and Cunego have made it across the climb. Only 5 kms to go. They speed down the descent now. But will the others come back again?

16:41 CEST    239km/3km to go
The collaborate well together, knowing a sprint between them two will be better than against five other riders... This descent is less tricky, fortunately. They're in Como now.

16:42 CEST    241km/1km to go
That's it for the bidons, too.

Samuel Sanchez is in Rebellin's wheel now, but he might not make it back to the front. Last kilometre!

16:43 CEST   
Riccò leads as Cunego looks behind. The others are close but not close enough. Cunego comes around Riccò as the sprint starts with 100 m to go. Cunego wins!

16:46 CEST   
The chasers waited too long on the finishing straight. Nobody wanted to do the work. Samuel Sanchez takes third.

16:47 CEST   
Thanks for having joined us again today here at the shores of beautiful lake Como. Paolo Bettini lost out on this race as he missed the decisive breakaway in the finale, on the Ghisallo climb. Fränk Schleck could have won but crashed dramatically in Como, before the front group went up the San Fermo climb. We hope he didn't hurt himself too much and will keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.

16:47 CEST   
Well, a long season has again come to its end. We'll of course be back with more Live coverage even in the off-season, as winter also means muddy cyclo-cross! Don't forget your rubber boots. Until then, enjoy!

Provisional results
1 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital)
2 Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
3 Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
4 Andy Schleck (Team CSC) 
5 Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)