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83rd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 13 - June 4, 2000

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Stage 20 - June 3: Briancon to Sestrieres, (ITT) 34 km

Hruska conquers the mountain, Garzelli in pink

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

Stefano Garzelli
Photo: © AFP
Pavel Tonkov waits on the podium. His cap is turned backwards and his eyes are observant, or maybe just attentive. This stage will make all the difference in the race. It is unusual that the top riders are separated by less than a minute after so many mountain stages, but that is what has happened. The former Russian cycling king, Tonkov isn't directly involved in the fight for the podium, but he is a good time triallist and interested in making up some time. Gilberto Simoni who is the next man to go looks very relaxed and happy as he sits on the edge of the podium. Tonkov rolls off and Simoni moves up to a chair on the podium. Garzelli and Casagrande wait behind him. The leader of the race is the last man to start. He wears a black fillet (headband), a nose-plaster and has a head-phone attached to his ear.

The crowds waiting for the riders at Sestriere are magnificent. On every available space, a big tribune has been built. Mercatone Uno rider Ricardo Forconi comes in wth a good time, nearly a minute faster than early leader Marzio Bruseghin from Banesto. Vitalicio Seguros' Jan Hruska, winner of the first TT, a.k.a the prologue, comes in with an even better time right after. He is more than a minute faster than Forconi. It is known that he is a good triallist, but don't forget that this is the same road where Bjarne Riis won his Tour de France back in 1996. Better luck with the weather this time though. Ivan Gotti rolls over the line five minutes after the winner. To him it doesn't matter that it is an uphill TT, he lost quite an age to the front riders yesterday, and he hates, hates, hates all kinds of time trials!

Stefano Garzelli has a good time as he passes Montegenevre at kilometer ten. Do you think he is fighting? He fights for all what he is worth. He fights to win the Giro. Simoni has already passed over the Montegenevre and is on his way down. He rides smooth and easy, in and out of the short tunnels built in the mountain wall, his knee pointing out the way everytime. Casagrande is on his way up to the summit of the first climb. He is not as fast as Garzelli, it shows. He still has a fair bit to go. Garzelli has already started the beautiful descent. The precipice falls below him, and on the other side the mountain rises high. Casagrande is almost two minutes behind him, and that after ten kilometes!

Dario Frigo, one of my personal favourites in the race, has ridden a good race and comes in as the second rider after Hruska. There's nothing much you can do about that Czech guy, is it? Serguei Gonchar from Liquigas shows that he also knows how to time trial uphill. Wonder what gears he was riding? Simoni has passed the Intergiro in Cesana Torinese, his time is 32.36. Tenth best today. Casagrande passes at 33.55. The time report about Garzelli is very vague. Just to make it more exciting. :-)

An Italian Matteo-flag is streched over the road. Maybe it is the name of the guy who put it there, 'cause there ain't no Matteo left in the race. Tiny, tiny raindrops have started to fall. Some spectators hide under umbrellas, and most riders are already back at their hotels or at least in their cars and buses. Casagrande rides with his back hunched up, yes he suffers today, but he still wears that mask of stone. The nice thing about a mountain time trial is that the riders look so casual. No aerodynamic helmets from outer space. No soon-to-be-forbidden-by-the-UCI bikes. A tribar, a cap and a lot of acid. Simple and plain. Couldn't be better to watch.

The road screams out Pantani's name. Written over and over again, but it isn't Pantani who passes. It is Garzelli who rides over his written name, on his way to the victory. Pavel Tonkov has six kilometers to go. The road up to Sestrieres is over ten kilometers, but it really starts here. At the Liquigas signs and barriers, where the road leaves the green valley and disappears in the wood. Jose Luis Rubiera from Kelme gets a good time at the finish, as does Leonardo Piepoli from Banesto. Garzelli passes under the Liquigas sign, his head moves back and forth. It is easier to be tired and motivated than just tired.

Andrea Noe' from Mapei finishes in a better time than Frigo did, but he couldn't threaten Hruska either. Casagrande passes under the Liquigas sign. He hasn't given up, he just continues in a pace he know he can survive. Garzelli can't afford to relax or to slow down, not at all. Tonkov finishes at 1.04.13. Not the best of times, but enough to keep his place ahead of Buenahora in the G.C.

Simoni who comes after clocks 1.02.15. which is way better of course. Garzelli is alredy on his way. His head moves from side to side, and so does his elbows. The road is still very steep, even though it is close to the line, there's people everywhere and not everyone cares about the barriers. Garzelli clocks 1.01.06, which is enough to place him right behind Noe', but more important, it might has won him the Giro. One kilometer to go for Casagrande, snot and phlegm is hanging from his face. Normally you don't see too many women running after the riders, at least not before the stage is finished, but today both women and kids are running after Checo on the road. When he crosses the line, he is almost two minutes after Garzelli. The Mercatone Uno rider didn't get tired, he did not ease off, instead he took the lead in Giro d'Italia with one minute and twentyseven seconds advantage over Francesco Casagrande.

Complete Live Report

Welcome to the 20th, and decisive, stage of Giro d'Italia, a 34 kms time trial from Briancon in France up to Sestriere in Italy. We have three major opponents within 49 secons. Stefano Garzelli (Mercatone) is supposed to be the best against the clock but this race two quite hard climbs. The stage has three parts. First ten kms uphill to Colle di Monginevro, then ten kms down and then the final 14 kilometres up to Sestriere.

The race is already on but most of the riders are content with keeping themselves within the time limit. One who isn't is probably Marco Pantani who finished second yesterday but is 28th overall. He will probably set the standard for the race. Something about the bikes, or rather the gears: Leading rider Casagrande will be riding 53/41 rings with a range from 11 to 21 at the back. Garzelli has the same on the back wheel but 53/39 rings. Finally Simoni has the same rings as Casagrande but 11 to 20 at the back. Casagrande has also issued a warning for Tonkov but that seems more to be a courtesy than anything else. But the Russian is a better TT rider than the top three.

The situation before this stage:
1 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Sidermec      92.44.17
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Albacom                0.25
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Daikin                         0.49
4 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Mapei-Quick Step                         2.46
5 Hernan Buenahora Gutierrez (Col) Nectar-Selle Italia        3.50
6 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                          5.17
7 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                          5.26
8 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca            6.35
9 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Banesto                              7.12
10 Santiago Blanco Gil (Spa) Vitalicio Seguros                8.01

15.40 CET - The best times so far: Bruseghin (Banesto) 1.03.02; Borgheresi (Mercatone) 1.03.05; McGee (FDJ)1.03.53; Barbosa (Banesto) 1.04.51; Vergnani (Cantina Tollo) 1.04.46; Sciandri (L McCartney) 1.04.51; Voskamp (Polti) 1.05.22; Dekker (Rabobank) and Milesi (Vini Caldirola) 1.05.29

15.57 CET - There is an Intergiro also today, at 20.3 kms, before the final climb. The best times so far: Borgheresi and Savoldelli (Saeco) 32.39; Mc Gee 32.52; Bruseghin 33.07

More times at the finish: Gualdi (Mobilvetta) 1.05.50; Duma (Panaria)1.03.20.

16.05 CET - All top riders are now out on the road. Conti (Vini Caldirola) comes in at 1.03.20, same as Duma on third so far.

The situation:
Bruseghin    1.03.02 
Borgheresi   1.03.05 
Douma        1.03.20 
Conti        1.03.20 
McGee        1.03.53

16.18 CET - Ricardo Forconi (Mercatone) is doing a good race and has passed Rebellin (Liquigas) on the road and finishes in the lead: 1.02.18. Merckx comes in at 1.04.16. Intergiro: Gontchar (Liquigas) 32.04, fastest so far.

16.25 CET:- The first reports from the top riders: Tonkov has passed the mountain prize at Colle di Monginevro at 24.09. There is also a report saying that Garzelli and Casagrande has the same time at 3 kms.

Savoldelli comes in at a disappointing 1.05.37 while Tonti (Cantina Tollo) gets 1.04.20. Fincato 1.04.39.

16.30 CET - Garzelli on the first mountain: 22.38, Simoni 23.26.

Hruska finishes at 59.40 and takes the stage lead.

16.32 CET - Casagrande passes at 24.23, more than a minute and a half behind!

16.36 CET - It seems as Garzelli has the grip on Casagrande with a third of the race done. But the worst climb is still left. Peña, winner of the last TT in Bibione comes in at 1.03.27.

16.44 CET - Garzelli passes the Intergiro after 20.3 kms still 1.40 ahead of Casagrande. He hasn't gained anything down from the first mountain. Now the second is waiting. Their times: 32.15 and 33.55.

16.50 CET - Piepoli (Banesto) finishes at 1.02.51. Eight riders left on the road. Simoni is reported to ride a little faster than Casagrande but he hasn't gained more than five seconds at the Intergiro. But he climbed the first mountain faster than the two others.

16.55 CET - Garzelli is reported to have lost ground to Simoni and Casagrande. He is still ahead at seven kms to go but only 25 seconds, Simoni has taken more than half the gap and there is still a lot of climbing to do. And Casagrande is now only 49 behind the suffering Garzelli.

More finishers: Noé gets 1.01.03, second so far, and Rubiera gets 1.03.04. Six riders left.

17.00 CET - They are closing in on Garzelli now. At five kms Casagrande was 42 seconds behind, there are 17 left to lose for Garzelli. Another report says the gap is more than a minute. In a couple of minutes we know…

17.04 CET - Simoni is first on the road. Tonkov has arrived at 1.04.13, let's forget him. The contradictory reports get their explanation. We got the overall gap. But Casagrande hasn't given up. Simoni's time: 1.02.15

17.07 CET - Garzelli comes in at an impressive 1.01.06.

17.11 CET - Casagrande won't make it, he comes in at 1.02.58. Second overall, well behind Garzelli but only six seconds ahead of Simoni.

Provisional results:

Provisional results:
1. Jan Hruska (Cze) Vitalicio                    59.49
2. Andrea Noé (Ita) Mapei                         1.14
3. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno           1.17
4. Serguei Gontchar (Ukr) Liquigas                1.41

General classification:
1. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Mercatone Uno       93.45.48
2. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola      1.15
3. Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre Daikin            1.21







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