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91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 2 - Sunday, May 11: Cefal¨ - Agrigento, 207km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

14:34 CEST   
The riders have survived the dreaded team time trial yesterday afternoon, and are ready to take on a real road race. Today's second stage takes them -- and us -- 207 km north to south across approximately the middle of the island. The stage looks like it is made for escape groups, with lots of ups and downs along the way. Or will the sprinter teams be able to hold things together and give the speedy men a chance at the finish in Agrigento?

14:36 CEST   
Today is Mother's Day in many parts of the world, so we would like to wish a Happy Mother's Day to all the moms reading this, to all the moms associated with cycling, and to all the moms who -- like us -- have to
work today!

14:39 CEST   
Things got off to a late start this Sunday morning, with only 196 riders taking to the road in Cefalu seven minutes late, at 11:47. Not at the start was Milram's Igor Astarloa, who won the World Championship in Hamilton, Canada, in 2003. Team Milram told Cyclingnews that the Spaniard woke up with a fever and stomach problems this morning.

Our man in Sicily, Shane Stokes, is happy to report sunny skies and warm temperatures today for the stage.

14:42 CEST   
Dionisio Galparoso of Euskaltel made the Giro's first breakaway attempt, taking off at km 16. He got up to a 1.20 minute advantage, but he was only able to stay away for nine km or so. He was back in the peloton one km before the day's first ranked climb.

14:46 CEST   
The mountain points went this way: 1. Emmanuele Sella (CSF), 2. Felix Rafael Cardenas (Barloworld) and 3. Kevin Seeldraeyers (Quick Step).

That mountain was the Cat. II Gattieri. The climb is 17,98 km long and the mountain is actually not all that high, only 810 metres. It features an average gradient of 4.5%, with a maximum of 9%.

14:49 CEST   
As we expected, an escape group got away on the descent. Jeremy Roy (Franšaise des Jeux) and David Loosli of Lampre got away and quickly built up a lead of over 10 minutes.

That was too much for the peloton, and Slipstream led the charge to bring them back. By km 77, the lead had dropped to 6'50.

14:53 CEST    94km/113km to go
Steve Morabito (Astana), Patrick Calagni (Quick Step) and Mauricio Soler (Quick Step) all took a tumble at km 90, but managed to catch back up with the peloton. The duo up front meanwhile have managed to build their lead back to 9.30.

14:57 CEST   
If there is to be sprinter winning today, it will be one who comes over the hills well, and who can sprint uphill. Even the last four km today are all up, up and away! We know one sprinter who has shown that he can come over the climbs quite well -- Erik Zabel, of Team Milram, who would dearly love to claim his first Giro stage win.

15:04 CEST    102,8km/105km to go
The leaders have gone into the feeding zone with a lead of 9,20. That means the peloton is going to have to wait a while for its lunch.

15:06 CEST   
Lunch will be served to the peloton today in Vallelunga Pratameno, a thriving agricultural centre, famous for its broad beans, grapes and almonds.

Appropriately enough for today, it is also famous for the Mother Church, built in 1634, and dedicated to the Madonna de Loreto, the city's patron saint.

15:12 CEST   
We have a birthday boy in the race -- High Road's Adam Hansen is turning 27 today. The ôCrocodile Manö has promised to write a Giro diary for Cyclingnews, but wouldn't you know it, the High Road hotel here doesn't offer internet! Keep an eye out in the coming days though.....

15:12 CEST   

15:16 CEST    112,6km/95km to go
The leaders are now at the second climb of the day, with the peloton 8.43 behind them. This is the Cat. III Polizzello, 10 km up and 813 meters high. The average gradient is 3.6%, with a maximum of 8%.

15:23 CEST   
A handful of riders have escaped from the peloton and crossed the mountain ranking about 30 seconds ahead of the crowd. Well, actually it was only two riders, Emanuele Sella (CSF) again and Jure Golcer (LPR).

15:27 CEST   

Sicily is the largest of Italy's regions, and the largest island in the Mediterranean. It was at one time an independent Kingdom, and in fact also ruled over Malta and southern Italy.

Agriculture plays an important role here, and the island is famous for its lemon and orange orchards. When the riders get thirsty along the way, they can just stop at an orchard and pick a piece of fruit -- or perhaps not.....

When it comes to food, Sicily is best known for its desserts, a notion of which we heartily approve. Cannoli, Biscotti, and a number of other yummmy things are native here.

But the riders would do better to ignore those calorie and fat-laden (albeit very delicious) goodies and concentrate more on such (also delicious) things as the many fresh vegetables and fish, including tuna, swordfish, sardines and many more.

15:30 CEST   
How will today's stage end? Will this escape group come through, or another one, or will it come down to a mass sprint or ...... Let us know what you think.

A lot of people are picking Paolo Bettini as a hot favourite for the day.

15:33 CEST   
Riccardo Ricc˛ of Saunier Duval set his sights on today's stage, saying that it, "at least on paper, suits my characteristics, but also suits those of many other riders."

15:36 CEST    122km/85km to go
The lead is shrinking, down to 8.15 now.

15:41 CEST   
Gerolsteiner wasn't really totally happy with its performance yesterday. Directeur Sportif Christian Henn said it was ok, but they had been hoping for fifth or sixth place. "It could have been better. But it could also have been a lot worse," he admitted.

15:45 CEST   
The peloton just race past a field with two lively horses, who acted as if they wanted to join in the fun. That no doubt brought back some bad memories for Milram's Erik Zabel, who was brought down by a horse in Gent-Wevelgem a number of years ago.

15:51 CEST    133km/74km to go
Time for those after-lunch drinks now. There is a lot of activity of riders going back to the team cars and stocking up on water bottles. And it looks like the clouds are gaining the upper hand. We hope it stays dry, as the finish could be nasty in the rain.

15:56 CEST   
At km 143.9 we have our first intermediate sprint of this year's Giro, at Serradifalco. And fittingly enough for today's stage, it is at the top of a small climb...... the sprinters will love that!

But with the two escapees and Slipstream pulling everyone along, we won't really see the sprinters go for it.

15:56 CEST   

16:02 CEST    142,9km/65km to go
Well, the sprinters won't go for it, but the two breakaway riders did. They put on a good show, with Loosli taking the points.

16:07 CEST   
Daniele Bennati and Enrico Gasparotto have pulled away from the peloton. Are they just going for the intermediate sprint points, or is this a serious attempt to get away?

16:10 CEST   
The lead has now dropped to under six minutes. At this point we are not real sure what is with Bennati and Gasparotto.

16:14 CEST   
The "Argyle Armada" is still at the head of things, followed closely by Astana.

Astana had been picked by many to take the team time trial, but the team ended up in "only" seventh place. Not bad, said DS Sean Yates, considering "We had no time for preparation and were still able to put up a good time."

16:16 CEST    146km/61km to go
The time is shrinking like crazy now, it is down to 4.40. And a number of riders are taking a nature break.

16:21 CEST   
David Zabriskie has crashed and it doesn't look good. Yup, there come the paramedics with a stretcher to carry off the Slipstream rider.

Alberto Contador of Astana went down, too, but is apparently ok.

16:24 CEST    142,9km/65km to go
Apparently it was a railroad track which brought the two riders down. That is a real blow to Slipstream, and to Zabriskie, who seems to be jinxed in the Grand Tours.

And the lead is still going down, down, down -- it is only 2.16 now.

16:27 CEST    156km/51km to go
The two leaders ride into Cannicatti with a lead of only one minute. It won't be long now.....

At km. 156.2, the Giro goes through Canicatti, which can look back on a sad chapter in Italian-American relationships. After the island was liberated by American forces in 1943, eight Italian civilians, including an 11-year-old girl, were killed by American troops.

16:29 CEST    157km/50km to go
That was it! Everyone is together again -- but it probably won't be long until the next escape attempt comes about.

The weather has changed too, and we may well get some rain.

16:32 CEST   
There are a number of extremely colourful jerseys in the peloton this season. CSF is quite dashing in green and orange, and let us not forget those Slipstream argyles.....

16:33 CEST   
Slipstream's Julian Dean has scrapes and smears on his left leg and ripped shorts. Wonder if he went down with Zabriskie and Contador?

16:37 CEST    162km/45km to go
Let's take a look at the e-mail inbox. Benni says that Cyprus is the biggest island in the Med Sea, and not Sicily. We admit it is a number of years since we studied geography.....

16:39 CEST   
Luca, writing from Russia, is sorry that Alessandro Petacchi is not in the Giro and hopes that his team-mate Erik Zabel can take the win today.

James of Louisiana thinks it will come down to a mass sprint, too.

16:44 CEST   
Jamie of Ohio joins us in picking World Champion Paolo Bettini to take the stage, but warns everyone to keep an eye out for Ricc˛.

Luca from Russia wrote again with a different pick for today: ôI think it will be a great battle at finish between Bettini, Zabel and Lorenzetto, and... I want to see Zabel's win, but my favourite, surprisingly, is Mirco.ö That sounds like a great finish to us!

16:53 CEST   
Slipstream is still at the head of the peloton and seems to have everything under control. American Christian Vande Velde was overjoyed to put on the Maglia Rosa, even if he didn't know how long he would be able to keep it. "Now we will just take it day by day. We are easy, we are happy with one day in pink. The next objective for me, personally, would be to pass it to one of my team-mates. I was lucky enough to have it for one day and I want to spread that around," he said.

16:56 CEST    177km/30km to go
Gruppo compatto -- how long will it be before someone gets away? Or will we really have a mass sprint?

17:00 CEST    183km/24km to go
This word just in: Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) has won the final stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk.

17:04 CEST   
Today's stage ends in Agrigento and if that name rings a bell, it shows that you know your cycling history. It was here in 1994 that France's Luc Leblanc beat Italy's Claudio Chiappucci to win the World title. In fact, the run in to the finish line follows the same route from 14 years ago. Milram's Igor Astarloa -- who of course, won the World title himself in 2003 in Hamilton, Canada -- is picking someone like Paolo Bettini or defending champion Danilo Di Luca to take today's stage. He was actually casting an eye on it himself, but came down with some nasty intestinal problems that caused him to DNS today.

17:06 CEST    188km/19km to go
The peloton is zipping along on some newly paved road, and going by a number of greenhouses. Unfortunately we are also seeing a number of raindrops

17:09 CEST    190km/17km to go
Astana's Morabito is dropping off the back. He is showing evidence of his crash earlier today.

17:12 CEST   
Rabobank's DS Erik Breukink sees today's stage this way: "We are going to have to climb a lot, in the finale as well. And, there will also be an uphill arrival. It is very unlikely that this stage will result in a bunch sprint. Hence, Graeme Brown's opportunities will be limited in this stage. His most important objective is simply to stay healthy."

17:13 CEST    192km/15km to go
The peloton is splitting now on one of those unranked climbs. Falling off the back is Robert F÷rster of Gerolsteiner -- he is definitely a sprinter and not a climber.

17:15 CEST   
And Slipstream has slipped away from the head of the peloton. We see lots of those light gray LPR jerseys near the front and Astana is lurking, too.

17:17 CEST    194km/13km to go
Well, that wasn't quite true. David Millar and Vande Velde are both still up in the front. Andreas Kl÷den isn't far away, and neither are Bettini, Ricc˛, Rebellin.....

17:19 CEST    193.8km/13.2km to go
LPR leads the peloton over the finish line for the first time, as they now take off on a round course through Agrigemento.

17:20 CEST   
Yes, we know it is Agrigento and not Agrimento. We were just testing to see if you were paying attention.

17:24 CEST    199km/8km to go
No one has gotten away, or even tried to. All the favourites are still up near the front, and LPR has definitely taken over the lead work.

17:26 CEST   
There are are about 60-70 in the leading group now. Erik Zabel is there, but at the tail end.

17:29 CEST    204km/3km to go
Team Diquigiovanni is trying to help with the lead, too. Is sprinter Danilo Hondo in this leading group? LPR is certainly doing its best to get the stage win for Danilo di Luca.

And now they have started going up!

17:30 CEST   
It is not just uphill, it is also hairpin curves. LPR continues to grind it out up front. Bettini, Contador, Rebellin -- they are all up there too.

17:32 CEST    205km/2km to go
Where is Vande Velde? He's not in the first 20 or so.

17:32 CEST    206km/1km to go
Rebellin is concentrating on Di Luca and Bettini is keeping an eye on both.

17:33 CEST   
Still at least three LPR riders in the lead. Now we see Piepoli too.

17:34 CEST    206km/1km to go
Escape! JoaquÝm Rodriguez is going for it

17:35 CEST   
The Caisse d'Epargne surprised everyone with his escape at the 1 km mark, and is going to be able to pull it off.

17:36 CEST   
they caught him at 100 meters. Ricardo Ricc˛ outsprints Di Luca and Rebellin.

17:37 CEST   
The group totally fell apart on that final km, and the riders are still dribbling over the finish line.

17:38 CEST   
Ricc˛ took the win over Di Luca and Rebellin, with Pellizotti and Savoldelli making up the top five.

17:39 CEST   
Another group grinds it way up that final climb. No doubt they are not the last to come it.

Pellizotti takes over the pink jersey. He now leads by one second over Vande Velde.

17:40 CEST   
That's it for today. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you again tomorrow, as the group works it way in the other direction, going back up to the north of the island.

Provisional results
1 Riccardo Ricc˛ (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott                                      5.48.35 (35.629 km/h)
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes                                                        
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                                                     
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                                       
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR Brakes                                                      
6 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                                               
7 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Franšaise des Jeux                                           0.04
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                                                     0.08
9 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott                                           
10 Andreas Kl÷den (Ger) Astana                                                           

General classification after stage 2

1 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                                6.15.16
2 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30                   0.01
3 Chris Anker S°rensen (Den) Team CSC                                                0.07
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes                                                        
5 Morris Possoni (Ita) Team High Road                                                0.08
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                                                         
7 Nicki S°rensen (Den) Team CSC                                                      0.17
8 Bradley McGee (Aus) Team CSC                                                           
9 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team High Road                                           0.18
10 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR Brakes                                                 0.19

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