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83rd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 13 - June 4, 2000

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Stage 4 - May 17: Scalea to Matera, 233 km

Cipo towed to 30th win

Mario Cipollini
Photo: © AFP

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

We join today's stage with 60 kilometers to go. All riders started this morning, but not all were OK. Linda McCartney has been dogged by bad luck, and their rider Matt Stephens came down twice yesterday and injured his knee badly the second time. Another rider that isn't feeling so well is Sweden's great hope for the GC, Niklas Axelsson riding for Ceramica Panaria-Gaerne. The talanted Swede is suffering from bronchitis since the Giro del Trentino, and says that it feels like he is breathing through a straw when he gasps for air.

There is no doubt that the weather today is hot, very hot when you look at the faces of the two riders ahead of the peloton. The sweat is streaming down the foreheads of Diego Ferrari from Amica Chips and Ceramica Panaria-Gaerne's Evgeni Seniouchkine. They have a gap of almost five minutes, and they are friendly, sharing a Dr Pepper with each other.

Back in the bunch it is Moreni's boys who have to keep the pace up, since they have the maglia. Liquigas is being joined by Lampre, and five minutes quickly turns into two minutes. Mauro Zanetti from Vini Caldirola has the misfortune to crash, and Ivan Basso from Amica Chips rides straight into him and leaves Zanetti on his stomach with a Carrera on top him. Basso excuses himself and rides away with a messed up thumb, while Zanetti walks away to search for his bike.

The riders are preparing for the climb of Monte Scaglioso, and Vini Caldirola has moved to the top together with Cantina Tollo. They are not helping each other though, Vini Caldirola are busy setting the pace for Francesco Casagrande, and Cantina Tollo with Danilo Di Luca as their ace, are just riding alongside and stressing the pace even higher. Right behind them follow Mapei, and then Saeco. Saeco are keen to keep the pace down so that Cipo will survive today. They are turning right from the main road into a smaller one leading up in the mountains. From here it is 30 kilometers to go.

The first attack comes from Victor Pena of Vitalicio Seguros. He'll be ok for a while since Saeco leads the peloton, and they are in no hurry. A rider from Lampre is pushed out in the gravel and crashes heavily. If it's Barbero it will be his second crash today. La Francaise de Jeux rider Daniel Schnider attacks and bridges up to Victor Pena, and after him follows Selle Italia's Fortunato Baliani. Baliani's team mate Freddy Gonzales bridges across, and with him follows the peloton. Felix Raphael Cardenas from Kelme is the first rider over the top, and he keeps his little lead on the descent even if it looks like it might cost him much. If he keeps descending like that it is better for everyone that he is on his own. Serguei Gonchar from Liquigas punctures during the descent, but immediately rejoins.

Pavel Tonkov moves up to the front, raises the speed but the attack comes from Di Luca. Daniel Schnider follows with him, but Di Luca hesitates and waits for the rest. Good luck for Di Luca and bad luck for Schnider. The motorcycle that broadcasted when Di Luca rejoined the peloton then accelerates back to Schnider and hits him. Schnider has no chance of staying upright, he falls to the ground with his head and his elbow first when he is just ahead of the peloton. Mercatone Uno who are driving the peloton instantly slow down and everyone manages to ride around the upset Swiss.

Mercatone Uno keep the pace down so that Schnider can rejoin, but there are riders who don't understand that. Santi Blanco from Vitalicio Seguros attacks. How convinient, wonder what everyone's waiting for? A smaller group forms around Blanco. Hopefully Schnider is now back on again. The one interested in maintaining the breakaway is Alessandro Petacchi from Fassa Bortolo, but he is the only one being a good boy, and the break is caught. Axel Merckx then tries to attack, but it's not his day today. "Vai!" he shouts without anyone listening. It is ten kilometers to go, and the road steepens again.

Chann McRae from Mapei rides close to the top together with Selle Italia's Raul Alexander Montana. Surprisingly enough, Cipo is still with the group. I defended him yesterday, but the way he is holding onto Mario Scirea is not acceptable. If a stage ends on the top of a hill, the winner should climb there by himself.

A new attack comes, this time from Vini Caldirola's Massimo Donati, this is more of it. He isn't hesitating. The peloton doesn't either. Cantina Tollo's Andrea Tonti moves to the front with Di Luca behind him, Pavel Tonkov attacks again but also he hesitates and waits for Tonti. Pavel Padrnos and Mauro Zanetti emerge at the front of the peloton, and so does Matt White from Vini Caldirola.

The roads with two kilometers to go are very narrow. Polti's Silvio Martinello has a good wheel, and so has Mario Cipollini who sits behind. Enrico Cassani is the leadout for Martinello, and he has gone early. He is at the front with more than 1000 meters to go. Di Luca goes to the front yet another time, but no-one's thanking him for being there before the red flag, he is also alone.

He is quickly passed by Lampre's Mariano Piccoli and Vitalicio Seguros' Angel Vicioso. Cipo lies right behind them and there's no doubt that he'll win it - his 30th Giro d'Italia stage win, when he finally leaves the wheel he has been following. No doubt unless someone saw him pacing earlier, that is. Right behind him, Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero from Vitalicio gives Silvio Martinello a hard push when the cross the line as 3d and 4th. Just like Mario did yesterday, he instantly apologizes. Stop pushing other riders around could also be a solution.

The tifosi in Matera have surely gone crazy. Usually no fans are allowed right in front of the podium, but these guys are halfway up on the podium, stealing the champagne. A big guy in black glasses had to be called in to protect the riders on the podium from their loving fans.

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