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92nd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 9-31, 2009

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Stage 3 - Monday, May 11: Grado - Valdobbiadene, 198km

Complete live report

By Susan Westemeyer

13:59 CEST   
Welcome back to Italy and the Giro! Today is another flat (or flattish) stage, and we expect another mass sprint at the end. And after yesterday's outcome, today's may be even more exciting.

14:02 CEST   
The peloton takes a jaunt across northeastern Italy today, 198km from Grado on the Adriatic coast, heading inland to Valdobbiadene. From Grado, the peloton headed north to Udine, where they turned to the west for the rest of the day.

14:03 CEST    48km/150km to go
As expected, we have an escape group. A group of five got away at 5km, and has now built their lead up to 7:00 minutes. The escapees are Giuseppe Palumbo (Acqua e Sapone), Yuriy Krivstov (AG2R), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Michael Ignatiev (Katusha) and Björn Schröder of Milram.

14:07 CEST    55km/143km to go
Oops, their lead is falling already. It is down to 6:30.

14:11 CEST   
197 riders took off today at 12:40. Missing was Milram's Matthias Russ, who crashed in the finale yesterday. He and his broken collarbone have already flown home to Germany, where he will undergo surgery tomorrow.

14:14 CEST    60km/138km to go
We look for another mass sprint today. There is a Cat. 3 mountain about 42 km from the end, along with some other bumps in the road. But those probably won't be enough to discourage the men with the fast legs.

Meanwhile, with the stage not quite one-third done, the break's lead continues to fall. It is down to 5:50.

14:19 CEST   
Who will take it today? After yesterday's sprint, Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) has to be the top favourite. But Mark Cavendish doesn't like to finish second, and he will have something to prove today.

But what do you think? Mass sprint or a successful escape? Either send us a mail or share your opinion in our forum.

14:24 CEST    68km/130km to go
Columbia-Highroad and Milram are leading the peloton as they all head to the west. The break's lead is holding steady.

14:30 CEST   
The race started today in Grado, a popular tourist destination known as L'Isola del Sole, (the Sunny Island). By the way, it was given to Austria in 1815 and not returned to Italy until 1918.

14:37 CEST   
Let's take a look at the riders in the break group. Giuseppe Palumbo, 33, has been with Acqua e Sapone since 2004. He turned pro in 1998 with Riso-Scotti, rode for Amica Chips in 2000 and De Nardi 2001-2003. He won the GP Kanton Argau and the GP Gippingen in 2002, a stage in the Giro della Liguria in 2003 and a stage in the Tour de Wallonie in 2007. Palumbo was quite successful as an amateur, winning the Italian U17 road title in 1991, and the World U19 road title in 1992 and 1993.

14:43 CEST   
Yuriy Krivstov of AG2R, 30, rode with Jean Delatour in 2002-2003 before joining AG2R. The Ukranian brings in consistent top ten finishes in time trials.

14:46 CEST   
Quick Step's Mauro Facci is 26. The Italian turned pro with Fasso Bortolo in 2002 and stayed there before joining Barloworld for a year in 2006. He came to the Belgian team in 2007. He's another of those domestiques who can't point to a long palmares.

14:47 CEST    87km/111km to go
The peloton continues to grind away at the escape group's lead, and it is now down to 4:38.

14:53 CEST   
Mikhail Borisovich Ignatiev, to give him his full name, is the youngster of the group at 23 years old. He is, as you might expect, Russian. He turned pro in 2006 with Tinkoff and has stayed with the team with it various names since then. Ignatiev had a number of wins in 2007, including the Trofeo Laigueglia. His biggest career success, though, has to be the 2004 Olympic gold medal in points.

14:57 CEST   
That brings us to Björn Schröder of Milram. The German is 28 years old and rode for Team Wiesenhof from 2003 to 2005 before joining Milram. He won the Regio-Tour last summer, and has ridden the Tour de France twice.

15:03 CEST   
Cavendish felt bad for his team after placing only second yesterday. "They did a perfect job, that's why it's difficult to accept losing," the Columbia sprinter said.

The Manxman always wants to be first over line, but added that, "I can take consolation from the fact that I lost to Alessandro Petacchi, there's no shame about that." There was a bonus to it all, too: "With an ego like mine, to lose to Alessandro isn't such a bad thing."

15:05 CEST   
LPR and Columbia are leading the peloton. They just rode on part of an airport's runway. Planes flew overhead with red,white and green smoke tails. We just hope that no one tried to land or take off!

15:07 CEST   
The escape group is now riding at 41 km/h, and the chasing peloton is at 43 km/h.

15:10 CEST   
Mark Cavendish is not only the overall leader but also the best young rider (he is only 23). But since he is currently being "pretty in pink", the maglia bianca goes on the shoulders of the runner-up.

The white jersey isn't going far away, though, as his Scandinavian teammates are passing it back and forth between themselves. On Sunday, Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway (21) wore it. But in that second stage, Swede Thomas Lövkvist, the "oldie" of the trio at age 25, finished ahead of Boasson Hagen and took it over.

15:13 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC) is racing on home roads. "I have not read all that my fans have written on the roads, but they always have fun."

He produces Prosecco and had more than twenty mules on his farm.

15:14 CEST    98km/100km to go
The gap has increased again. It is up to six minutes. Perhaps the peloton got held up by security checks at the airport – that happens to all the rest of us!

15:17 CEST   
It's lunchtime now, in Fontanafredda, a town of about 11,000.

15:21 CEST   
Cavendish and Lance Armstrong have a nice chat underway. No idea what they're saying, but there is a lot of gesturing and laughing.

15:23 CEST   
World Champion Alessandro Ballan couldn't ride the Giro because he is still recovering from a nasty bout of Cytomegalovirus. He is not just sitting at home watching the race on TV, though. He is already at today's finish line, which is only about 35 km away from his home in Castelfranco Veneto.

15:28 CEST   
ISD's Oscar Gatto is also from this area.

15:28 CEST   
"Today the team is working for me. I know these roads well, I am at home," said Oscar Gatto (ISD). "It will be a nervous finale, with some ups and downs."

15:33 CEST   
First-year pro Ben Swift of Team Katusha admitted he was "a little surprised" at finishing third in yesterday's sprint. He considers himself to be more of an allrounder than a sprinter. Today's finish should be even better for the 21-year old. "If it's all together at the end and I'm in a good position, I'll certainly give it another shot."

15:35 CEST   
The Italian CONI has suspended Alejandro Valverde for two years. Check our news. We will update this story as events occur.

15:39 CEST    123km/75km to go
OK, back to today's race! With 75 km to go, the gap is down to five minutes.

15:40 CEST   
We have now entered the Province of Treviso, whose capital is Treviso.

15:41 CEST   
Cavendish looks bored. No doubt he wonders why they have to waste so much time in a stage before getting to the importat part – the sprint!

15:42 CEST   
Everyone is going 41 km/h right now. The escape group is going by some lovely green fields. And some of those plants look like grapevines.

15:44 CEST   
There is one intermediate sprint today, at km.128.2. It is in Conegliano, a city well known for its wine, mainly Prosecco (speaking of grapevines!)

Did you know there are three kinds of this? They are: tranquilo (still), frizzante (slightly sparkling) and the best known, spumanti (sparkling). Conegliano also features Italy's oldest and most prestigious wine school.

15:45 CEST   
There was no sprint at the sprint, so to speak. The five in the break just rode right through it as if it wasn't there, with Palumbo leading the way.

15:48 CEST   
What does one eat in the Treviso region? A lot, actually. But that doesn't surprise you, does it? The risotto with wild asparagus sounds good to us, but we think we will pass on the sopa coada, or pigeon soup. Likewise the snail stew.

We won't starve though – some of the popular favourites are risi e bisi (rice with peas) and pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans).

15:49 CEST   
The peloton now rolls through the intermediate sprint en masse, with the gap now being 4:35.

15:56 CEST   
The escape group is going up a climb right now, not a ranked one, but tough enough.

15:58 CEST   
This is the San Pietro de Filleto, with an average gradient of 11.9%, with two sections of 16%. It is said to bear a strong resemblence to the legendary Mur du Huy.

15:59 CEST   
Now the field starts its way up. Will this first of three climb today prove to be too much for any of the sprinters?

15:59 CEST   
Up through the vineyards they go...

16:00 CEST   
Facci gets a visit from his Quick Step team car.

16:01 CEST   
Ouch, they just hit one of the very steep sections...

16:02 CEST    135km/63km to go
The escapees are over the top, and enjoying a descent, although their lead has dropped dramatically, to 2:45.

16:05 CEST   
How about a history lesson? Treviso joined up with Venice in 1389, but they all fell to Napoleon in 1797. The area was turned over to Austria, which held it until the area was liberated in 1866, and it joined the Kingdom of Italy.

16:06 CEST   
"It would really be nice to be here and fight for the finale on my home roads. Unfortunately, I am fighting this virus and I have just started racing. I think I will come back for the Memorial Pantani," said Ballan on Italian TV.

"I know they all say the world champion jersey brings bad luck, but I am happy to have it."

16:07 CEST   
LPR and Katusha have taken over the lead work in the peloton.

16:09 CEST   
Two orange and blue-clad riders have gone down. A Rabo rider went down in the ditch and we now hear that the Garmin rider laying in the middle of the road is Christian Vande Velde. He is not yet riding again and it is unclear whether he will be able to continue.

16:10 CEST   
That would be a real blow to the American team, as Vande Velde is also their hope for the Tour de France. They have already had one major disappointment in this Giro, when they didn't win the opening team time trial.

16:11 CEST   
Good news! Vande Velde is back on his bike and Zabriskie is bringing him back up to the peloton.

16:12 CEST    140km/58km to go
The lead continues to drop, now down to 2:18.

16:13 CEST   
Schröder is back at his team car getting something to eat and drink. Some yummy Milram buttermilk and cheese, perhaps?

16:14 CEST   
Cavendish is safely tucked in the peloton. His teammate Lövkvist is next to him, wearing the white jersey in Cavendish's stead.

16:15 CEST   
Oh very bad news: Vande Velde had to drop out and is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. We wish him all the best.

16:16 CEST    147km/51km to go
In about another 10km we will have today's ranked climb.

16:18 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer of Astana is one of the top favourites to win this race, but he almost lost it all yesterday. While descending the Monte Bello in the finale, he blew a tire, at 65 km/h. "Pulled it out, thankfully! It was scary to say the least," he twittered. We agree, it is pretty scary to think what might have happened if he had hit the pavement.

It also cost him some time, and he finished 13 seconds down. Oddly enough, though, he moved from being 19th overall at 13 seconds to being 18th overall, 40 seconds down.

16:22 CEST   
Liquigas's Ivan Basso lost some time yesterday, but wasn't too worried about it. "The three seconds? I don't like it, but it happens. It was partly my fault but also part of the course. Anyway, I am confident," he said.

16:24 CEST    153km/45km to go
The break has just entered Miane, "the City of Wine". Sounds like our kind of town!

16:25 CEST   
Our mountain is rapidly approaching. It is the Combai, a Cat. 3 climb, at km156.7. It is a mere 391 meters high. The riders will go 136 meters up over 2.2 km. The average gradient is 6.2%, with a max of 10%. Although another source tells us the average is 3.9%, with a max of 13%.

16:27 CEST   
A crash? or two mechanicals at the same time? Ben Swift of Katusha is getting a new tire, while Caisse d'Epargne's David Lopez Garcia fixes his own chain and is more swiftly back on his way.

16:28 CEST   
Miane has invested a lot money in pink balloons in honour of the Giro. Quite pretty. The gap is down to 1:25.

16:30 CEST   
The gap is under a minute as everyone works their way up the climb.

16:32 CEST   
Facci breaks out to take the mountain points. Schröder had looked like he was having problems on the climb, but took off to take second at the summit.

16:33 CEST   
Krivtsov was third. But the peloton is only 30 seconds back, so they should all be caught on the descent.

16:37 CEST   
Everyone goes tearing down among the grapevines now ... the leader are holding on to a scant 15 second lead. Palumbo is not giving up, but has taken off to try and save a lead.

16:38 CEST   
Liquigas leads the charge, in their distinctive electric-green jerseys.

16:39 CEST   
Palumbo gives up his attempt, and the whole escape is over.

16:41 CEST    161km/37km to go
The peloton negotiates a very tight hairpin curve. It was a bad time to be caught in the back, because those riders just lost time.

16:42 CEST   
They are on the closing circuit course, with Liquigas still leading the way.

16:42 CEST   
Lot and lots of grapevines...

Maglia rosa Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:43 CEST   
Today's finish is in Valdobbiadene, population 10,624. This is a self-described "picturesque wine growing area". Its best known product is ProseccoConegliano-Valdobbiadene, a dry sparkling wine. Yum yum...

16:48 CEST   
There are now more Giro d'Italia photos from stage one and stage one. Have a look!

16:49 CEST   
LPR is at the front, with Barloworld and Acqua e Sapone moving up to help.

16:51 CEST   
Everyone is holding all together here, no one will be allowed to get away.

16:54 CEST    173.1km/24.9km to go
The sprinters's teams have this part of the race firmly under control.

16:55 CEST   
Another tight curve for the peloton, but fortunately everyone stays upright.

16:56 CEST   
One Liquigas rider has moved to the front of the field as they work their way up a climb.

16:59 CEST    176km/22km to go
They have now finished their first lap of the closing circuit and head off for their second time around.

17:00 CEST   
Tthere is a whole flock of Liquigas riders at the front, with Ivan Basso in fifth or sixth place.

17:01 CEST    178.3km/19.7km to go
Oops, we were a bit hasty. Now they have crossed over the finish line for the first time and take off on the bell lap.

17:02 CEST   
The former break riders are falling back now. Schröder is at the end of the peloton, and Palumbo has lost contact.

17:03 CEST   
They head up the Santo Stefano, everyone trying to hang on. Cavendish is still hanging out with Lövkivst and looking comfortable.

Not so Jason McCartney of Saxo Bank, who is falling off the back.

17:05 CEST   
Armstrong and Leipheimer near the front, with Basso in second position. Cancellara has fallen back.

17:06 CEST    182km/16km to go
Liquiga is really pushing the speed here. How many sprinters will be able to hold this pace on this climb?

17:08 CEST    183.3km/14.7km to go
They are descending and the peloton is definitely breaking up a bit here. Will it come back together in time?

17:09 CEST   
Attack! Thomas Voeckler and Davide Malacarne of Quick Step have taken off.

17:09 CEST   
Now an ISD rider take off after them, Grivko, followed by none other than Saxo Banks's Jens Voigt.

17:10 CEST   
Luca Mazzanti of Katusha has joined Voigt. A few more have joined them too.

17:11 CEST   
The next to jump out in pursuit is Leipheimer. There are about 10-12 riders in a roughly formed group now.

17:12 CEST   
The peloton has stopped! A crash apparently near the front.

17:13 CEST    188.2km/9.8km to go
That should be it for the escapees. Seems unlikely the peloton will recover in time to catch them now.

17:14 CEST   
It doesn't look like anyone is injured. It was apparently a crash very close to the front of the group, so that is why everyone had to stop.

17:14 CEST   
Needless to say, at this point it is very hard to know who is where.

17:15 CEST   
The peloton is totally broken up. Cavendish is one of those who was held up – looks like he will lose his pink jersey today.

17:17 CEST   
Only 23 seconds between the lead group and the first chasing group.

17:18 CEST   
LPR is leading the first group. We think now that Cavendish is in the first chasing group, so perhaps he can make it back after all.

17:19 CEST    192.5km/5.5km to go
The lead group is rather large, maybe 40 riders? Petacchi is in it.

17:19 CEST   
Ferrar of Garmin is also in the lead group.

17:20 CEST   
15 seconds for the Cavendish group now.

17:21 CEST   
Let's make that 25 seconds again, as there is now a climb.

17:22 CEST    195km/3km to go
Cavendish couldn't keep up with his group and has fallen back. Bruseghin of Lampre has pulled out of the lead group and is going for it.

17:23 CEST   
Cavendish knows he has no chance and isn't trying any more.

Visconti takes off as Bruseghin is caught.

17:24 CEST   
Visconti has a nice little lead as he goes up through the town. He passes under the 1km marker.

17:25 CEST   
The sprinters are trying their best, but it doesn't look like they will catch Visconti. Or will they?

17:26 CEST   
They catch him. Pozzato opens the sprint for Petacchi, who jumps to the lead. Farrar second but unable to get around Ale-Jet.

17:27 CEST   
Cavendish comes in, over a minute and half down.

17:36 CEST   
That was it, folks! Another dramatic ending. We don't expect a sprint tomorrow, though, so be sure and join us then for another exciting stage!

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