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Photo ©: Bettini

World Championships - CM

Verona, Italy, September 27-October 3, 2004

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Race 10 - Sunday October 3 : Road Race - Elite Men, 265.5km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 10:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 16:45 CEST

09:59 CEST   
The peloton
Photo ©: Bettini
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live commentary of the final race of the 2004 World Road Championships. Yes, it's the granddaddy of them all, the 265.5 km elite men's road race. Run over 18 laps of the 14.75 km Verona course with the 3.1 km climb of the Torricelle each lap, this should be one of the toughest World's races in recent years.

Last time the World's visited Verona was in 1999 when an almost unknown Oscar Freire (Spain) attacked with 500m to go to win a nine man group sprint and his first rainbow jersey. Freire repeated the feat in Lisbon in 2001, and will line up today as one of the top favourites. His Spanish team is very strong as well, containing last year's champion Igor Astarloa, the silver medalist last year Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) and in-form Juan Antonio Flecha.

The Spanish will be up against the Italians, who will be riding for Paolo Bettini and home town boy Damiano Cunego, and will definitely be motivated to win the big one today. Belgium and France have fairly young teams, but should be able to place riders in the front group, while Germany will have to rely on the climbing and sprinting skills of Erik Zabel, as Jan Ullrich has pulled out.

The Australian squad will likely be working for Stuart O'Grady, who will have to have a good day to survive 18 times up the Torricelle - but anything's possible. He won the Australian road championships in 2003 on a harder course than this one, so he knows how to suffer. Don't count out the Dutch either, with Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker, and let's not forget Kazakhstan with Alexandre Vinokourov - certainly a rider who could win on this course.

10:03 CEST    2km/263.5km to go
The race starts on a cool but clear morning with the Spanish team leading the way. Thousands of people have flocked to the centre of Verona to watch the day's action.

10:05 CEST    3km/262.5km to go
The pack rides together save for Paolo Bettini (Italy), who is off the back asking for neutral service. He needs a new cyclo-computer because his doesn't work!

10:09 CEST    5km/260.5km to go
Although his jersey looks normal, Bettini has gold handlebar tape, gold shoes, and a gold trimmed bike. He's the Olympic champion after all! No rings though - the IOC doesn't like that.

A French rider has attacked - Christophe Le Mevel. He's away on his own now.

10:12 CEST    8km/257.5km to go
Le Mevel has 32 seconds as he rides up the Torricelle, while behind him the Spanish control the tempo in front with three riders. An Irish rider is also up in the front row.

10:13 CEST    9km/256.5km to go
Le Mevel reaches the top of the climb with a 42 second lead over the peloton. There are massive crowds up here.

10:15 CEST    11km/254.5km to go
The empty USA team box
Photo ©: CN
The USA team didn't have the best of starts today. They got lost on the way to the start and couldn't get to their team box. They eventually had to go straight to the start. It was a mini-disaster.

We talked to the USA's Guido Trenti, who was a little upset that they couldn't get to the boxes, but otherwise was ok. "I'm feeling good," he said. "It's a little too hard of a circuit for me. We'll do our best."

10:19 CEST    11km/254.5km to go
The Spanish-led peloton takes the descent fairly gently, allowing Christophe Le Mevel to get a minute's lead. There is little chance of him staying away for another 255 km, especially as he has no-one with him.

10:22 CEST    14km/251.5km to go
The bunch rides past the team boxes for the first time, with some riders taking the opportunity to commune with nature. Van Petegem is at the back, as he prefers.

Le Mevel is now in the final kilometre of the first lap.

10:25 CEST    16km/249.5km to go
Le Mevel crosses the start/finish line 1'30 ahead of the peloton, completing the first lap in 23'12.

10:30 CEST    20km/245.5km to go
Le Mevel is now tackling the Torricelle for the second time as one of the Latvian riders leads the peloton, 1'41 behind the Frenchman. The pace lifts.

10:32 CEST    22km/243.5km to go
The harder pace has knocked 15 seconds off Le Mevel's lead, which is now 1'25. Raivis Belohvosciks is the man doing the damage.

Bettini is back near the front of the peloton. O'Grady is at the back

10:38 CEST    24km/241.5km to go
Van Summeren (Bel) and Belohvosciks (Lat) lead the bunch over the top of the climb at 1'20 behind the lone Frenchman, who is now on the descent. That climb was ridden in 7'40 (7'20 for the peloton). The first one was 7'10. As a comparison, the fastest climb done by the U23's was 6'59.

10:44 CEST    28km/237.5km to go
The Latvians continue to make the tempo at the foot of the descent, and this will doom Le Mevel if it continues. Now the Spanish and Italians get towards the front and the pace slows a bit.

10:48 CEST    31km/234.5km to go
The peloton has picked up the pace again as one of the Swedish riders attacks in the final kilometre of lap 2. Le Mevel crosses the line having ridden the lap in 23'12 (same as lap 1), with Jonas Ljungblad coming across at 1'05. Then Belohvosciks takes off after the Swede.

Filippo Simeoni is in discussion with Bettini near the front of the peloton.

10:50 CEST    33km/232.5km to go
Murillo Fischer (Brazil) has abandoned. Serguei Yakovlev (Kazakhstan) comes across the start/finish at 1'30 behind the peloton, perhaps the victim of a mechanical problem.

Le Mevel has 49 seconds on Ljungblad, with Belohvosciks at 1'12 and the peloton at 1'30.

10:57 CEST    37km/228.5km to go
Le Mevel is riding well as he tackles the Torricelle for the third time. Ljungblad is still solo at 50 seconds while Belohvosciks is another 15 seconds behind the Swede. The peloton is relaxed, riding 2 minutes behind the leader, with the Spanish in front.

10:58 CEST   
Charly Wegelius
Photo ©: CN
Ljungblad and Belohvosciks are now together, as one of the British riders attacks - is that Wegelius?

11:01 CEST    39km/226.5km to go
Ljungblad and Belohvosciks are caught just before the top of the climb by the peloton, where Wegelius is still riding strongly at the front. The gap between Wegelius and Le Mevel is 1'20. The climb was ridden in 7'56 by Le Mevel and about 7'30 by the bunch.

11:03 CEST   
Wegelius comes back to the peloton on the descent, leaving just Le Mevel out in front.

11:04 CEST    40km/225.5km to go
Le Mevel takes the corners on the descent very well. Pagliarini doesn't, as he tries to attack. He holds it up and still has a small gap.

Kirk O'Bee (USA) is sitting in last wheel in the peloton.

11:07 CEST    41km/224.5km to go
Pagliarini has a 10 second lead over the peloton at the foot of the descent, with Le Mevel another minute in front. Now one of the Danish riders is setting the tempo, but the bunch is not closing in on the Brazilian just ahead of them.

11:11 CEST    46km/219.5km to go
Pagliarini has closed to within 40 seconds of Christophe Le Mevel, who goes under the start/finish line for the third time having ridden the lap in 23'23. Pagliarini is at 37 seconds, then the peloton is at 52 seconds, led by Wegelius, Belohvosciks and De Groot. They're definitely not taking it easy at the moment.

11:16 CEST    50km/215.5km to go
Brochard (France) has to stop for a front wheel change after a puncture. Meanwhile his teammate Le Mevel is on the Torricelle for the fourth time, leading Pagliarini by 50 seconds and the peloton by 1'10. The pace has eased in the bunch again with one of the Spaniards in front.

11:20 CEST   
Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland will joining Johan Museeuw, and Steven De Jongh as a guest in the studios of Belgian channel Sporza. Scott was due to race in the Australian team, but wasn't able to get rid of the virus that forced him out of the Vuelta. While the race is on, he'll be getting in touch with us to pass on a few expert comments

Here's how he sees this year's World's:

"The course in Verona is hard; mainly because the climb is not steep but it's long and in the last laps it might prove decisive. Like Freire said, with the changes made to the '99 circuit, the race has become tougher. The recovery period the riders get is very short, because even on the descent you still have to work; to keep a lead or to get back on! When you get back into town there's a few corners and cobbles after the finish line and those might cause the peloton to be strung out. It's best to have a good position at the bottom of the climb, that way you waste less energy getting back to the front.

I think that Stuart O'Grady and Allan Davis got a fair chance on this type of parcours. I'd like to see O'Grady there in the final. I mean, for guys like Zabel and Freire it will be hard too, and if they are there for the sprint, I bet Stuey and Allan will show their faces too. This year, it is very possible that there might be a sprint finish, that is if the riders decide to ride a careful race the first hours.

A few countries and riders are in the same boat this year; I don't expect the favourites to be on their own in the last laps, everybody will be working hard. If the peloton decides to race from the start, maybe, in the end a rider like Evans, who is capable of going in the breaks on the climb, can try and stay with the better Spanish and Italian climbers. And there's a few of the young Australians who can prove helpful to the more experienced riders. I don't know how Dodger will have recuperated from the time trial. I'd say that he's someone to look out for in case he is feeling ok.

After all, there's quite a few different scenarios possible in the World Championships. As it is a hard race, it might be possible for a big break to go away early in the race. Many will agree, there's luck and favourable circumstances involved in winning this race. As I said, it all depends on how the riders want to ride the race, but I sort of expect a first selection to be made after 160 to 180 km; then with about 40km to go there will be another explosion. The peloton might let a break go at first and then start winding it up and up and reel it in.

The Italians worked very hard last year, they controlled the race from the word go, which meant that Bettini was virtually on his own in the final. They might deploy the same tactics or they might get some help from the Spanish; Spain has got a very strong team lining up as well.

My outright favourite: Bettini; because he is a fantastic climber and has got a decent sprint in his legs after a hard race. But I also want to put Basso's name down, if tactics come down to it. He is strong and in form, he won Emilia just recently. Then there are Valverde, Astarloa, Freire, O'Grady and a bunch of possible top ten finishers like Allan Davis, Philippe Gilbert, etc. Nobody has been mentioning the French riders, but they have a few strong men too. Don't forget experienced guys like Dekker, Van Petegem, Baguet, Hauptman! To spice things up, there might be a few surprises, as always!"

11:21 CEST    52km/213.5km to go
Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) has set off in pursuit of Pagliarini and Le Mevel on the climb. The rest of the peloton is riding as a solid block.

Efimkin catches Pagliarini, and the pair are 40 seconds behind the French rider.

11:24 CEST    54km/211.5km to go
Christophe Le Mevel (France) is getting to know the Torricelle quite well as Vladimir Efimkin drops Pagliarini towards the top. He is at 56 seconds, the Brazilian at 1'10, and the peloton at 1'50.

Le Mevel rode the climb in 7'53.

11:30 CEST    57km/208.5km to go
Le Mevel rests his forearms on the tops of the bars, riding smoothly on the flat after the fourth descent. 49 seconds behind him is Efimkin, who made up 7 seconds on the descent. Pagliarini is still at 1'10, and surprisingly hasn't made up any ground. Neither has the peloton, which is at 2'00.

11:31 CEST    58km/207.5km to go
Efimkin is also using the semi-aero position on the bars as he tries to get the Frenchman. So far no-one has succeeded, and Le Mevel has ridden the best part of 60 km solo.

11:34 CEST    60km/205.5km to go
Le Mevel crosses the start/finish line for the end of lap four, having ridden another very consistent lap of 23'22. Efimkin is now at 27 seconds, doing well. Pagliarini is at 1'05 and looking behind him. The peloton is at 2'25 or so.

11:38 CEST    63km/202.5km to go
Le Mevel looks back for the Russian rider as he takes the left hander leading up to the Torricelle. He sits up a bit and Efimkin should be able to close the gap soon. Two leaders are better than one.

11:41 CEST    66km/199.5km to go
Vladimir Efimkin is suffering as Le Mevel finally sits up properly and waits, halfway up the climb. The pair come together at last.

11:44 CEST    66km/199.5km to go
Photo ©: Bettini
Click for larger image
The bunch is now 2'55 behind Le Mevel and Efimkin, with Pagliarini somewhere in between. Most of the Aussie team is at the back of the bunch, while Fred Rodriguez (USA) has shown himself at the front.

11:46 CEST   
Scott Sunderland offers his opinion on how things are going so far: "There's a steady pace in the peloton, they're not sitting back and the average speed is quite high early on in this type of race. After 60km it already looks like everyone is keeping on their toes. Of course it's also because riders are trying to get some food in and they want stay aware of what's happening in front. They probably will be taking it a bit easier soon.

"Zabel must be feeling good; he's often to spotted close to the front. In the peloton a lot of riders think Zabel is an amazing rider: he's there from the first races in the season until the end. It's known that he does a hell of a lot of kilometres on the bike on training as well. He doesn't give in, keeps it going the whole season through and I think he would make a great world champion."

11:47 CEST    68km/197.5km to go
The fifth climb was ridden in 7'55 - probably a minute slower than we can expect in the final. Le Mevel and Efimkin are now making good their escape on the descent.

Pagliarini is stuck in between a rock and a hard place, and he's over the top of the climb 1'43 behind the leaders.

11:51 CEST    70km/195.5km to go
Pagliarini is now on the descent, using a position that carries some risk: his rear end is over the back of the saddle, about 5cm away from the rear wheel. A bump would probably compromise his chances of having little Pagliarinis!

11:53 CEST    71km/194.5km to go
All of Pagliarini's attributes have survived the descent but the Italian-based (Treviso in fact) Brazilian is still a good 1'40 behind the two leaders. The bunch is not doing a lot at the moment, and is 2'50 back.

11:57 CEST    74km/191.5km to go
The leaders cross the line at the end of lap 5, having ridden the lap in 23'17 - faster than last lap. Pagliarini is at 1'40 while the peloton is still coming through the team boxes, grabbing feed bags by the dozen.

12:01 CEST    76km/189.5km to go
Mick Rogers and Matt White
Photo ©: CN
The Russian team has got a couple of riders in front, slowing the peloton down for their teammate up the road. The gap at the start/finish is 3'55.

Raivis Belohvosciks has abandoned - absolutely no surprises there. This is about his second race since May.

Nearly all of the Australian team: O'Grady, Evans, Hayman, White, Crake, are at the back of the bunch, taking it easy.

12:06 CEST    80km/185.5km to go
Le Mevel and Efimkin are now on the sixth climb of the Torricelle, cooperating well with the Russian working hard. Pagliarini is slipping further behind, now at 2 minutes, while the main bunch is at 4'22 led by Eladio Jimenez and Johan Van Summeren. The Italian team hasn't had to do a tap of work yet - perfect for them.

12:12 CEST    84km/181.5km to go
The leaders reach the top of the climb with 2'50 on Luca Pagliarini (Brazil), who is suffering but clearly riding to see how far he can get today. He keeps looking back for the peloton. Finishing is probably not high on the agenda. The climb was ridden in 8'04, the slowest yet today.

There's hardly any wind up the top - it's another very calm day.

12:20 CEST    89km/176.5km to go
The race has now settled down as the two leaders, Le Mevel and Efimkin, reach the end of lap 6 with a 4'40 lead over the peloton. That lap was also ridden in 23'17, so the cooperation is good.

Pagliarini hasn't given up yet, and is about 2'30 behind the two leaders.

Scott Sunderland comments: "No exciting things to report now, in the peloton all is peaceful, and we can expect that not a lot is going to happen during the next laps; so it's time for that necessary snack break or to get another beer out off the fridge!" [mmm...beer...]

12:22 CEST   
Bettini moves to the right of the peloton as he tosses something to the Italian team helpers in the boxes.

12:26 CEST    93km/172.5km to go
Pagliarini comes across at 3'17, then the peloton - very relaxed - is at 5'47. Everyone is sitting on the tops of the bars, not interested in riding. We'll probably have to wait a few more laps until things heat up.

Le Mevel and Efimkin are now on the Torricelle for the seventh time.

12:28 CEST   
The US have put a couple of riders at the front of the bunch, along with three of the Aussies. We might see the pace increase a little now.

12:38 CEST    100km/165.5km to go
Efimkin and Le Mevel fly down the descent of the Torricelle, with Pagliarini 4'25 behind them and the peloton at 6'13. The climb was ridden in 8'11 - it's getting slower each lap. It's not really a steep climb, averaging a little over 5 percent, but it's over 3 km long and will really sap the riders' legs at the end.

12:40 CEST   
The Spanish team is now back on the front together with the Ukrainians. Erik Zabel is well placed in the top 20, while Vinokourov is about halfway down the field. It's still very watchful.

There's a crash at the back: Löwik and Wegmann are down, as is a Danish rider. Rogers and Crake are also down for Australia.

12:42 CEST    103km/162.5km to go
Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) was also brought down in the crash. He takes a while to get serviced but he eventually gets a wheel. All riders are back up and chasing on. The pace isn't too high at the moment, so they should be able to rejoin the peloton.

12:44 CEST    104km/161.5km to go
The end of the seventh lap, and it's still Christophe Le Mevel (France) and Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) in the lead, having ridden that lap in 23'48. Things are slowing down.

12:46 CEST    106km/159.5km to go
Pagliarini passes the team boxes, asking for a bidon from the Brazilians. He doesn't get one, but luckily one of the Aussies gives him a bottle. He's at 4'29 behind the two leaders, with the peloton another 2 minutes back.

12:51 CEST    108km/157.5km to go
The bunch crosses the line as one solid unit, led by the Norwegians and Spanish. Horrillo and Arvesen are up there. The gap is 7'02 to the two leaders, while Pagliarini is riding his own race in between at 4'50 behind the leaders.

12:57 CEST    111km/154.5km to go
The peloton reaches the foot of the Torricelle almost as the two leaders reach the top. The gap is around 7'20, with no team wanting to chase just yet. The two leaders rode the climb in 8'22 - slower again than last time.

13:00 CEST    114km/151.5km to go
Frigo moves up next to Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) and a couple of the Spaniards in front of the peloton, which has started to ride a little harder. The two leaders are tiring, but they'll have quite a few more laps of freedom.

Pagliarini is now at 5'50, but is maintaining his advantage over the peloton.

13:04 CEST    117km/148.5km to go
Pagliarini is really hurting now as he summits the Torricelle 6'36 behind the leaders. Horillo and Jimenez lead the bunch over at 7'10, having made up 10 seconds or so.

13:08 CEST    120km/145.5km to go
The end of the eighth lap sees Christophe Le Mevel and Vladimir Efimkin complete a 24'12 lap - again slower than before. But with a 7'20 gap they can afford to relax a bit. They're nearly at the halfway point.

13:12 CEST    121km/144.5km to go
Wesemann (Ger) leads the bunch past the team boxes for the eighth time. Michael Barry (Can) is also up there - he was seventh in Hamilton last year and wants a good ride today.

The two leaders are now approaching the Torricelle for the ninth time.

13:15 CEST    124km/141.5km to go
Pagliarini crosses the line 6'40 behind the leaders, having lost no time on the descent. The bunch is not doing a lot, except there are now a few more US jerseys near the front, including Chris Horner. It's 7'45 across the line.

13:18 CEST    126km/139.5km to go
Christopher Baldwin (USA) and Paul Crake (Australia) are now at the front of the bunch, which is probably gearing up to start racing in the second half. The Spanish riders are ever present at the front too. The Italians have been up the front, but not on the front.

Pagliarini is suffering on the climb again.

13:22 CEST    127km/138.5km to go
Christian Vandevelde is setting a harder tempo in the front now, with Horrillo on his wheel. This will affect the gap to the leaders, who have reached the top of the Torricelle for the ninth time. Only nine laps to go boys! That climb was 8'36, the slowest yet.

Pagliarini is not riding very fast any more.

13:23 CEST   
Pagliarini is caught on the climb. Just the two leaders now.

13:29 CEST    130km/135.5km to go
Sandy Casar (France) has abandoned. The pace is increasing on the Torricelle, led by Johan Van Summeren (Bel) and Pedro Horrillo (Spain). It's 6'47 at the top, meaning that a minute was shaved off on that climb. So easy is it.

13:33 CEST    133km/132.5km to go
The two leaders cross the start/finish for the end of lap 9, cheered on by the big crowds lining the sides of the roads. The lap time was 24'55 for an average speed of 35.5 km/h.

Pagliarini - dropped by the peloton - pops a wheelie at the top of the Torricelle.

13:36 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: "For the readers it must be hard to stay awake in this stage of the race. The race still has to break open, which I expect to happen five to four laps from the finish. There's a bit of movement now in the peloton, but I assume most favourites think it's too early to make a move. The pace is getting quicker now, so some guys might be thinking about taking the break back soon."

13:41 CEST    137km/128.5km to go
The Spanish are leading the way 6'40 behind the two leaders, who are on the climb for lap 10.

13:44 CEST   
Aha - Daniele Nardello (Italy) and Markus Fothen (Germany) have attacked the bunch, and a Dutch rider has joined them along with two more. Jimenez (SPain) and one of the Americans.

Casar's father died yesterday, which explains his abandon.

13:46 CEST    140km/125.5km to go
The Spanish obviously have a Plan in mind, as Eladio Jimenez refuses to work with Nardello. The Spanish are leading the peloton in pursuit and the six man break comes back to the fold.

13:47 CEST    141km/124.5km to go
There's an immediate counter attack by Simeoni. But he can't get a gap as he has a German and Spaniard on his wheel. This will have a bit of an impact on the leaders, who are at the top of the climb.

Luca Mazzanti launches the next counter attack for the Italians, taking eight riders with him. They have a gap, and a couple more riders bridge up.

13:49 CEST   
Jimenez and Isidro Nozal are in the break and of course won't take a turn, and the cooperation vanishes. The peloton comes back gradually.

13:52 CEST    143km/122.5km to go
Mazzanti drives to the top of the climb, just 4'31 behind the two leaders - they've made 2 minutes in that climb. The race is definitely on now.

Talabardon (France) has crashed on the climb.

13:53 CEST    144km/121.5km to go
According to Belgian TV, Tom Boonen has had some stomach problems. He tried to overcome them by drinking some cola.

The peloton has split over the top of the climb, with about 30 riders holding a 10 second gap over the rest of the bunch.

13:55 CEST   
Van Summeren and Horrillo are leading the first group about 20 seconds ahead of the main peloton on the descent. This could be interesting...

13:59 CEST    148km/117.5km to go
Van Goolen has made the front group along with Van Summeren, Petito, Pellizotti and five(!) Spaniards. They have a 25 second gap to the main peloton.

The two leaders cross the line at the end of lap 10 after doing a 25'04 lap. They're tiring, and will be caught within a couple of laps. But Le Mevel and Efimkin have done well.

14:01 CEST    149km/116.5km to go
The chase group is splitting as Moerenhout does a big turn. They cross the line just 3'05 behind the two leaders. Vainsteins is in the group.

Tom Boonen has abandoned.

14:05 CEST    151km/114.5km to go
Some of the names in the chase group, which is now just 1'43 behind the two leaders: Horrillo, Jimenez, Zaballa, Luis Perez, Nozal, Mazzanti, Frigo, Petito, Pellizotti, Pugaci, Popovych, Calzati, Fothen, Subido, Vitorino, Baldwin, McCartney, Trenti, Duque, Moerenhout, Van Summeren, Van Goolen, Ardila,Scott Davis, Fofonov, Vainsteins. Spain is very well represented, as are the USA and Italy.

The peloton is two minutes behind this group.

Vainsteins needs some mechanical help.

14:07 CEST   
Christophe Le Mevel (France) and Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) are nearing the end of their reign in front as they ride up the Torricelle for the 11th time. Behind them, it's Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) towing the chase group, which is certainly an interesting one. The peloton is relatively calm.

14:08 CEST   
Morten Hegreberg (Norway) has abandoned.

Nick Nuyens (Bel) had problems on the last lap when a plastic bag got caught in his drive train. He's back in the peloton.

14:10 CEST    155km/110.5km to go
The Italians are leading the chase in the peloton, 1'45 behind the big group. The two leaders are less than a minute ahead of that group now, which is being led by Popovych and Duma for the Ukraine. Vainsteins is sitting in last wheel.

14:13 CEST    156km/109.5km to go
McCartney and Schumacher have been dropped from the front group, which is now led by Johan Van Summeren who is hammering in the big chainring. That's really making the others hurt. They reach the top 55 seconds behind the two leaders. Vainsteins is dropped, and is at 1'10 but may be able to get them on the descent. There are about 30 riders in this group.

14:15 CEST   
Nardello and Simeoni tow the peloton over the top of the climb, 2'43 behind the two leaders - effectively 1'50 behind the big group. That's dangerous, even at this stage of the race.

14:17 CEST    157km/108.5km to go
Vainsteins has made it back to the group on the descent, and the big group is rapidly picking up the two leaders, Le Mevel and Efimkin. The Spanish aren't riding too much though, it's mainly the Colombians.

14:22 CEST    161km/104.5km to go
The full composition of the chasing group: Horrillo, Jimenez, Zaballa, Luis Perez, Nozal (Spa), Mazzanti, Frigo, Petito, Pellizotti (Ita), Pugaci (Mda), Popovych, Duma (Ukr), Calzati (Fra), Kessler, Fothen (Ger), Subido, Vitorino (Por), Baldwin, Trenti (USA), Duque, Ardila, Freddy Gonzalez (Col), Moerenhout (Ned), Van Summeren, Van Goolen (Bel), Tschopp (Swi), Kluyev (Rus), Scott Davis (Aus), Fofonov (Kaz), Vainsteins (Lat).

They are picking up Le Mevel and Efimkin as they reach the end of lap 11. The peloton is still at 2'10. Bettini has to get a wheel change at the team boxes.

14:23 CEST    163km/102.5km to go
Scott Sunderland comments: "A bit of a surprise there: the Italians tried to get the race going but in doing so they caused a split in the peloton with too many riders. There are four Italians and five Spanish riders in the front now. But they are sitting calmly because their big names are still in the second group. The smaller teams are taking their chances and trying to establish a good lead, but they are not getting any cooperation from the Spanish nor the Italians. Surely riders like Popovych want this break to work though."

The two leaders have just 13 seconds at the end of the lap, having ridden that last lap in 25'13. They sit up. Le Mevel has been in front for 160 km!!

14:25 CEST    164km/101.5km to go
The peloton comes across the line 1'18 behind the leaders, as Bettini drops back to get some mechanical attention. He's waited on by two teammates. They'll take him back but it will cost some energy. Bettini hasn't had a good day with his mechanicals.

14:25 CEST   
Scott comments: "It's good to see the race getting a bit more exciting. The peloton is having to work now and we might see some riders going out the back door. We're finally seeing some interesting racing."

14:27 CEST    166km/99.5km to go
Simeoni and Nardello continue to lead the peloton, catching Schumacher and McCartney. Le Mevel is in second last wheel, just ahead of Vainsteins. He probably won't survive the 12th Torricelle.

Bettini is back in the bunch.

14:29 CEST    167km/98.5km to go
Duma takes over from Van Summeren in the lead, with Kessler close behind. The Spaniards are sitting back in the peloton.

Le Mevel is dropped just as Calzati attacks. Interesting move! Ardila goes with him.

14:30 CEST    168km/97.5km to go
Calzati and Ardila have about 10 seconds lead on the group, but the counter attacks are coming. It's another Colombian - Duque who closes the gap. But the rest of the group comes back, led by Pellizotti.

14:31 CEST    169km/96.5km to go
If at first you don't succeed...Calzati attacks yet again, and this time there is no reaction.

14:33 CEST    170km/95.5km to go
The peloton has caught the front group, thanks to the work of the Italians. A Swiss rider - Steve Zampieri - takes off after Calzati.

14:34 CEST   
Zampieri closes the gap to Calzati and we now have two leaders, with the peloton at 15 seconds. Zampieri is very strong.

14:37 CEST    171km/94.5km to go
One of the Irish Davids - O'Loughlin? - as at the front of the bunch as it summits 16 seconds behind the two leaders. Then a Dutch rider and a Pole counter and are off in pursuit on the descent.

Philippe Gilbert (Bel) is off the back of the peloton as it comes over. There are plenty of others dropped now - the pace is pretty hard.

14:37 CEST   
Simeoni is one of the last over, but he's done his job for the day by closing that gap.

14:39 CEST   
Koos Moerenhout (Ned) and Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) have closed the gap on the descent, and we have four leaders.

14:40 CEST   
Frank Høj (Denmark) is also off in pursuit - he gets them at the bottom.

14:43 CEST    175km/90.5km to go
Bettini is still having problems - maybe he's getting a bike change. He's back with several teammates past the team boxes. This has been a disastrous day for him so far.

The five leaders: Calzati (Fra), Zampieri (Swi), Moerenhout (Ned), Huzarski (Pol) and Høj (Den) have 28 seconds now.

14:46 CEST    178km/87.5km to go
Wauters and Monfort (Belgium) have abandoned. Bettini is still at the back, signaling to his team car. This will be good for Cunego... Bettini gets some treatment for his knee, which is sore.

Van Summeren attacks, with Hondo taking his wheel. No go. The gap is 1'00 over the line.

14:48 CEST    180km/85.5km to go
Bettini is now being brought back to the front of the peloton by his teammate Luca Paolini. But the pace is fairly high, and this will not be easy. The attacks continue in the bunch, but the five leaders are working well and have a minute.

14:51 CEST    182km/83.5km to go
Jimenez and R. Ivanov lead the bunch to the foot of the climb, 1'01 behind the leaders. Peter Van Petegem has moved himself up too.

14:53 CEST    184km/81.5km to go
Scott Davis (Australia) is back to the front of the peloton, keeping an eye on things. Denys Kostyuk (Ukraine) has attacked in pursuit of the five leaders.

14:55 CEST   
Bettini is in deep discussion with Paolini at the back of the peloton. This is an important time for him and the Italians - who do they ride for? He's now off the back a bit. He's having a really bad day. Paolini signals for assistance as Petito brings Bettini back to the peloton.

14:57 CEST    185km/80.5km to go
The five leaders have 1'10 over the peloton now, with Bettini being helped by three teammates at the back. He's still there, but they haven't started racing really hard yet.

Kostyuk is 43 seconds behind the leaders.

14:58 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: Wow, Bettini has problems; apparently with his knee. He's been at the back for a while now, seeking help from the car for what appears to be a knee injury. There is a bit of helpless hesitation in the team but they are taking him back to the front now, which is costing valuable energy of the whole team!

"It doesn't look good for Bettini. He almost has to let go of the peloton. It's such a shame what is happening to him. He looks to be hurting badly. The Italian team is looking at losing their leader!"

14:59 CEST    186km/79.5km to go
A Polish rider drives the pace to the top of the Torricelle. Bettini is clinging on for dear live at the back, but won't last long at this pace. Look out now for Cunego, Basso and Garzelli for the Italians.

15:03 CEST    188km/77.5km to go
Calzati, Zampieri, Moerenhout, Huzarski and Høj are now on the flat heading towards the team boxes. Kostyuk is not making up any ground on them - he's at 46 seconds. The peloton is at 1'10.

15:05 CEST    189km/76.5km to go
Zabel leads at the foot of the descent, with the peloton now 1'45 behind having eased up. Interesting...

Scott Sunderland comments: "Although the pace isn't high at all in the peloton, Bettini is struggling, he's trying to toughen it out but I don't know if that is a good thing. Pain like that doesn't go away after a few laps. I'm afraid the Italians will have to let go of their aspirations for the World Title for Bettini. This opens new perspectives on the race though. Don't overlook Basso. The peloton is still very much together. I think the way the race is going for the Italians, it definitely looks good for guys like Erik Zabel and Stuart O'Grady."

15:07 CEST    191km/74.5km to go
The breakaways take the time to grab feed bags from their boxes, with Høj looking good. Moerenhout was in the break a few laps ago, so he must be feeling ok today. The peloton is relaxed again - Vainsteins on the front.

Scott Sunderland: "Nice to see Frank Høj in that break. He's a strong rider, and surely one of the funniest guys in the peloton. When he rode with me for the Palmans team, we shared some great laughs. He has become a good friend. Frank is someone who can psych himself up for a race like today. I think he's going to have a good ride here in Verona."

15:09 CEST    192km/73.5km to go
The leaders reach the end of the 13th lap, having ridden that one in 22'24 - the speed is definitely picking up as we approach the serious end of the race.

Kostyuk comes across at 50 seconds.

There are more attacks in the peloton as one of the Canadians attacks.

Bettini is talking to Franco Ballerini in the team car now. Will he stay in the race?

15:10 CEST   
The Canadian is Charles Dionne, winner of the San Fran GP (T-Mobile International) twice. He crosses the line 2'17 behind the break, with the peloton about 50m behind.

15:12 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: "The pace in the peloton is really very slow; the whole race has been very boring so far if you ask me.

"Zabel is sitting at the front and things are looking good for him as the race hasn't really started yet. I haven't spotted Peter Van Petegem at the front at all, and don't get it wrong, that's a sign he's feeling good! A few of the Belgians have left the race already but Peter and Serge Baguet are still there. The group in front is doing well, but more than likely they won't be given much more time...not with only five laps to go."

15:13 CEST    195km/70.5km to go
Zampieri leads the break to the foot of the Torricelle for the 14th time as Høj has problems changing into the small ring.

15:16 CEST    197km/68.5km to go
Zampieri continues to set the pace in the break with the Polish rider Huzarski on his wheel. Huzarski won a 213 km stage of the Peace Race last year after an incredibly long breakaway.

Matt White (Aus) is now leading the peloton, some two minutes behind the break.

15:18 CEST    199km/66.5km to go
Bettini is pedaling in the small gear, but really hurting, losing the peloton on the climb. They're not even riding hard yet... Bettini is dropped. His teammates leave him. Ballerini gives him some support from the team car and he rides back to the peloton.

15:21 CEST    200km/65.5km to go
Petito has permission to attack now, and takes Polish rider Marek Rutkiewicz with him. A few others tag on. The pace is hurting the peloton, but it's intact.

The five leaders are at the top of the Torricelle for the 14th time. Only four more...

15:22 CEST    201km/64.5km to go
Kostuk crosses the summit at 1'06 behind the five leaders. He's not coming back to them. The peloton is over two minutes back now.

15:22 CEST   
Ballerini is probably on the phone to Argentina now :-)

15:24 CEST    202km/63.5km to go
Bettini gets a push from Bodrogi as he summits the climb at the back of the bunch. The gap is 2'07 at the top.

Löwik has punctured.

15:26 CEST    203km/62.5km to go
Høj is the best descender here, and has to take it easy in order not to drop the rest. He goes back to Moerenhout and has a chat.

Kostyuk is halfway between the break and the peloton, humming a Fatboy Slim tune.

15:29 CEST    205km/60.5km to go
Calzati leads the break past the team boxes with 1'23 to Kostyuk and 2'13 to the peloton. There are now three Italian jerseys on the front, starting to ride hard. The bunch is still pretty big - well over 100 riders. This hasn't been a hard race yet.

15:31 CEST    208km/57.5km to go
The leaders cross the line for the end of lap 14, having done that lap in 23'10. They're cooperating well, and it's putting pressure on the Italians in the peloton. There are still three Italians riding in front. Bettini has moved himself back up!

15:33 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) has been dropped due to a mechanical.

Kostyuk is across the line now, 1'35 behind the leaders with the peloton riding hard, led by Petito at 2'10.

15:33 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: "The Italians are riding tempo but not flat out, in the next lap for sure we can expect to see some fireworks. While the Italians are still undecided about what they want to do, it's looking more and more positive for the other sprinters. The Spanish have Freire so they are sitting back and watching. Zabel and O'Grady must be starting to feel the thrill by now."

15:36 CEST    211km/54.5km to go
Garzelli is one of the Italians doing the work along with Petito. Further behind, Basso and Bettini are together with the rest of the team.

The five leaders take the left hander onto the Torricelle for the 15th time, with Zampieri in front again. Huzarski takes over, then Moerenhout, Calzati and Høj at the back.

15:37 CEST   
Kostyuk is finally caught just at the foot of the climb, through the feed zone. It's the Italians on the front. The gap is 1'53.

15:38 CEST   
Scott is not impressed with the race: "Once again we see that it's the riders who make the race; not the course. When I see who are still up there, at the front, I think it's a bit of a shame really, as it takes the excitement away, it's been a very boring World Championships to watch. This race hasn't been a tough as what fans were hoping for; the predicted spectacle certainly hasn't been there. All the riders I spoke with over the last weeks expected things to explode a lot earlier, at km 140-160... let's hope we get a great finishing lap!"

15:40 CEST    213km/52.5km to go
Petito does one more turn and pulls off, leaving two Italians on the front of the peloton. Garzelli is in second wheel behind Mazzanti, it looks like. Albasini (Swi) is next, then Horner and a bunch of Dutch riders.

Mazzanti pulls off. Now it's Garzelli making the tempo.

15:40 CEST   
Now it's over for Bettini. He's dropped and has the company of Petito. His main problem is to recover in time for the remaining rounds of the World Cup.

15:43 CEST   
Scott comments: "Høj is riding a smart race as far as I can see. He hasn't been wasting too much energy and has taken a lot of time to recover after bridging the gap to the front group. He looks to be doing fine. Together with Moerenhout
he must be the best rider in that break.

"On the climb the peloton has opened up the gas a bit more. I think a few victims will fall. I spot some Aussies in the belly of the peloton. Damn, Bettini stops the race. There goes my bet!"

15:45 CEST    215km/50.5km to go
Nardello is now on the front of the bunch, leading on the Torricelle. The peloton is strung out now in pursuit of the five leaders. Moreni takes over and hammers, causing a bit of a split. Not quite. 58 seconds at the top as Nozal takes over.

I have to respectfully disagree with Scott about the race: this is a normal World Championship! Just look at the last few years...

15:46 CEST    216km/49.5km to go
It's less than a minute to the leaders as Høj flies down the descent. The peloton is back together, and Van Summeren is back to the front.

Scott comments: "I spoke to Neil Stephens yesterday evening and from what he told me yesterday, he must be pretty happy with how the race is evolving. I think Stuey is ready and waiting!"

15:48 CEST    218km/47.5km to go
Huzarski is having problems following the break on the descent, losing time in the corners. Høj looks back and tells him to get back on. He obliges.

Schleck is at the front of the bunch but not driving it. It's over a minute again.

15:49 CEST   
Sosenka takes over from Schleck. Now it's O'Grady on the front for the first time at the foot of the descent.

15:51 CEST   
Scott responds, "Ha! You're right making that comment. The World's have been quite boring the last few years. Most lively one for me was Plouay 2000, when I got seventh...that was the last one in which I got excited!"

15:52 CEST    219.5km/46km to go
Calzati leads the break into the final kilometre, as the peloton grabs feed bags etc. past the team boxes. Only three more laps to go after this. Mick Rogers is towards the back of the peloton.

15:53 CEST    221km/44.5km to go
At the end of the 15th lap, the five leaders are still: Sylvain Calzati (Fra), Steve Zampieri (Swi), Koos Moerenhout (Ned), Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) and Frank Høj (Den). They rode that lap in 22'50.

The peloton is very strung out now, led by Nardello and Nozal.

15:55 CEST   
White does a hard turn, but it's too hard and he has to wait for the peloton. Rogers and Davis are now well placed near the front. It's 1'05 across the line.

15:56 CEST    223km/42.5km to go
White, Rogers and A. Davis lead the peloton over the cobbles at the start of lap 16, just over a minute behind the five breakaways. The Spanish have moved up en masse, and Astarloa is there.

15:57 CEST    224km/41.5km to go
White has the peloton completely lined out as they ride past the Adige river and towards the Torricelle. The gap is under a minute again as Høj assumes the position at the back of the break.

15:59 CEST    225km/40.5km to go
White continues to drive with Rogers on his wheel. The gap at the foot of the climb is 46 seconds. Now it's Rogers on the front.

Zampieri attacks, taking Moerenhout with him.

Bettini has abandoned, as expected.

16:00 CEST    226km/39.5km to go
Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van Goolen have abandoned, cutting the Belgian chances down further.

Zampieri and Moerenhout are clear.

16:01 CEST    228km/37.5km to go
Zampieri and Moerenhout are riding hard on the climb, but it's clear that they are really suffering. Rogers is making tempo behind, and it's hard enough to make Mancebo hurt.

16:03 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: "The Aussies have taken the race in hands now - a sign that Stuey is feeling up to it. Whitey has got that typical painful grin on his face as he's putting in some hard work leading the peloton. Dodger is there too - he must have digested the effort in the TT really well, as I thought he would. He's a very professional rider and surely he would have made sure there wasn't too much alcohol and partying going on after his great victory earlier this week."

16:03 CEST    229km/36.5km to go
Rogers and Davis lead the peloton up to Huzarski, who is absorbed. Høj will be next, then probably Calzati. The bunch is in a line.

16:06 CEST    230km/35.5km to go
Moncoutié counter attacks from the peloton, but there is a reaction from the Italians. The two leaders are caught by Høj, and then the peloton. All back together as another Swiss rider attacks - Calcagni.

16:08 CEST    231km/34.5km to go
Mancebo leads the peloton in pursuit of Calcagni, with two Danish riders on his wheel. The Italians are up there in numbers, as is Allan Davis (Aus). Mick Rogers has been dropped and is in the second group, which is coming back on the descent. The pace has slowed. Horner is there, as is Cunego. Evans is suffering, chasing on the back.

16:09 CEST   
Patrick Calcagni (Swi) leads on the descent, riding a good line through the corners. He has 15 seconds and is riding hard.

16:10 CEST    232km/33.5km to go
The peloton - still 60-70 riders strong - is not chasing too hard in pursuit of the Swiss rider. He has 12 seconds.

16:10 CEST   
Scott Sunderland comments: "Ah well, at least I got my second guess right: nothing happened after 160km but things are changing with 40km to go. There's still a huge peloton together but that situation might be very different soon. A few guys are going out the back. The peloton is getting closer to the guys in the break now, thanks to the efforts of the Australians."

16:11 CEST    234km/31.5km to go
Calcagni reaches the bottom of the descent with the peloton led by Høj at 18 seconds.

16:13 CEST    236km/29.5km to go
The pace slows and Moreni attacks, but is chased down by an Italian. then a French rider counters, but has the whole peloton on his wheel. This is playing right into the hands of the Spanish, Germans and Australians, who want a bunch sprint.

Arvesen is at the front as the peloton hits the team box area.

16:16 CEST    236km/29.5km to go
Calcagni reaches the end of the 16th lap with a handy 25 second lead over the Nozal/Zaballa led peloton. The lap time: 22'12, almost 40 km/h.

O'Grady has moved to the front as Evans does a strong turn.

16:17 CEST    237km/28.5km to go
Evans continues to drive on the cobbles with O'Grady in third wheel. Only two more laps. There is a host of Spaniards in front too. The Dutch are there, as is Arvesen for Norway.

16:17 CEST   
O'Grady slips back to fourth behind Evans and the two Spaniards.

Garzelli has abandoned. No surprises there, as he was used as a worker.

16:18 CEST    238km/27.5km to go
Scott Sunderland says, "The Germans and the Australians are still having a lot of teammates in the front, so any of the non-sprinters wanting to have a go at it mustn't wait too long. There are a lot of attempts now, but not from the favourites. The attacks haven't been successful, they aren't violent enough but the tempo is still picking up. Another rider I noticed is Kurt Arvesen, clearly in form.

"Stuey has been brought to the front - he's in third position. I feel really good about this! Peter Van Petegem is still sitting comfortably in his spot, with Baguet by his side. Don't wait too long mate."

16:20 CEST    240km/25.5km to go
It's Evans, Nozal and Zaballa leading the peloton at a savage pace - all strung out. Evans pulls off and drops back. The two Spaniards are in front, then O'Grady. Calcagni is still away but his gap is sinking.

16:21 CEST    241km/24.5km to go
Calcagni grabs a bidon at the feed zone just as he is caught by the Spanish Armada. The second last climb is about to begin. Nozal - the axe man - leads.

16:21 CEST   
Zampieri attacks again! The man can't die. But he gets approximately 10m off the front before the pain becomes too much. Nozal doesn't even flicker.

16:22 CEST    242km/23.5km to go
Nozal looks back, still pedaling hard. O'Grady and Freire are there, as is Zabel. Cunego moves up. Now is a good time to attack, if you can... Rogers is back in 10th wheel.

16:24 CEST    243km/22.5km to go
Nozal's tempo is super hard and even gaps the rest of the peloton. Pellizotti grabs his wheel, then O'Grady looking smooth. Frigo and Bertagnolli are up there, as are Freire, Astarloa, Valverde....

One of the Italians attacks - Bertagnolli - but he can't get rid of Nozal and O'Grady. Now it's Luis Perez taking over the pace making. O'Grady slips back a bit. Zabel moves up.

16:25 CEST   
Cunego has moved into third wheel behind Perez and Basso. Boogerd in fourth.

16:25 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: "O'Grady is looking very strong. Van Petegem is as calm and collected, with the appearance of a sphinx. I'm wondering what he is planning. Kurt Arvesen is still sitting in the front too, nice to see. Freire is still there too, so is Pellizotti."

16:27 CEST    244km/21.5km to go
Luis Perez sets a fierce tempo, and the peloton is very very small. Maybe 25-30 men. Basso and Cunego are there, as is Allan Davis, Boogerd, Vinokourov. Astarloa is dropped.

Basso attacks and gets a small gap. Perez can't match it and Basso is away.

16:27 CEST    245km/20.5km to go
Valverde and Vinokourov take over and chase after Basso. There are four Germans at the back of the bunch, with Zabel.

16:28 CEST   
The peloton is totally destroyed. Basso leads and now it's Boogerd coming up to him on the descent.

16:29 CEST    246km/19.5km to go
Basso and Boogerd hammer but there are five Spaniards towing the front group of 25 in pursuit. They'll get them, surely.

16:30 CEST   
Basso asks Boogie to do a turn but the Dutchman points back to the group, which is 10m off their back wheels. All together with Spain looking strong. But Italy has the Cunego card to play.

16:32 CEST   
A Spanish trio lead on the descent, with no more than 25 riders in this group. They're not hanging around, as Freire is up here. Mancebo and Perez are setting the tempo. Bertagnolli is in last wheel. There's one US rider there, but it's hard to pick him out. Maybe Vandevelde.

16:35 CEST    249km/16.5km to go
There are six(!) Spanish riders in this leading group, which contains: Valverde, Mancebo, Perez, Nozal, Serrano, Freire, Basso, Cunego, Paolini, Bertagnolli, Allan Davis, O'Grady, Parra Pinto, Wesemann, Zabel, Boogerd, Kroon, Vinokourov. The next group with Vainsteins in it is at 25 seconds. Forget them.

16:36 CEST   
Horner is the US rider in the break. Kessler is also there, and one of the Luxembourgers.

16:37 CEST    251km/14.5km to go
Six Spaniards lead the group through for the last lap, having ridden that in 21'03. Savage pace. Zabel is there, as is O'Grady. What a performance by the Spanish!

16:37 CEST   
Scott Sunderland: "Stuey is riding a very, very strong race. He's still got a few guys to deal with there - like Zabel, but still has Allan Davis by his side! Boogerd sits in the front, Perez is opening the throttle and Astarloa has to let go now: no new title for him."

16:39 CEST    252km/13.5km to go
More riders in the front group: Valverde, Mancebo, Perez, Nozal, Serrano, Freire, Basso, Cunego, Paolini, Bertagnolli, Allan Davis, O'Grady, Ardila, Parra Pinto, Kessler, Wesemann, Hondo, Zabel, Boogerd, Kroon, Rasmussen, Schleck, Van Petegem, Vinokourov, Horner.

The Spanish train, led by Nozal, is hammering towards the Torricelle for the last time.

16:41 CEST    254km/11.5km to go
Nozal and Mancebo lead the way with Serrano third in line. The Italians are starting to move up again. There are some good sprinters here: O'Grady, Davis, Zabel, Hondo, Wesemann, Valverde....

16:41 CEST   
It's now Mancebo in front at the foot of the climb. Nozal says goodbye.

16:42 CEST    256km/9.5km to go
Mancebo leads with Perez and Serrano following. Freire is right there of course, then Ardila. Frigo (not previously mentioned) is also there.

Mancebo pulls off.

16:43 CEST   
Frigo is no longer there anyway :-) He's just been dropped.

16:44 CEST    257km/8.5km to go
Perez, Serrano, Freire are in the lead with Paolini and Cunego in fourth and fifth. Vino and Boogerd are watching, as is Rasmussen. Rasmussen attacks!

16:44 CEST   
Rasmussen gets a gap as the Spanish train doesn't react.

16:44 CEST   
Rasmussen is riding well, he has 5 seconds. Now Serrano takes over from Perez. The Spanish train is now a caboose.

16:46 CEST   
Rasmussen can't get a big gap but it's dangerous. The Italians are sitting behind the two Spanish in front. Now Boogerd attacks in pursuit of Rasmussen, his trade teammate.

16:47 CEST    258km/7.5km to go
Boogerd goes past Rasmussen then Freire gets on his wheel. Cunego and Basso follow, and here comes O'Grady. Dangerous. Valverde's there too.

16:48 CEST   
Basso drives with Valverde and Freire on his wheel. Then it's Cunego, Boogerd and O'Grady. They're at the top. Six leaders.

16:48 CEST   
Rasmussen and Vino are chasing but are caught by the rest of the group, with Germany working for Zabel.

Six leaders: Boogerd, Freire, Valverde, Cunego, Basso, O'Grady

16:49 CEST   
The cooperation isn't great on the descent, but it's there. This is interesting. The group behind is coming back though.

16:50 CEST    260km/5.5km to go
Correction: it's Cunego in front, not Paolini.

We have: Boogerd, Freire, Valverde, Cunego, Basso, O'Grady

16:51 CEST    261km/4.5km to go
The leaders are losing ground to the chasers as the Germans bridge the gap. O'Grady is in front, but it's all together again.

16:52 CEST   
We now have 18 leaders, including Boogerd, Freire, Valverde, Cunego, Basso, O'Grady, Davis, Serrano, Bertagnolli, Paolini, Kessler, Wesemann, Zabel, Schleck, Vinokourov, Rasmussen. They're at the bottom of the descent.

16:53 CEST    262km/3.5km to go
Wesemann drives it at the base of the descent. 3 km to go. Basso and Cunego are in second and third wheel. Perez is there too. Horner is on the back.

16:54 CEST   
It's an interesting group and it looks to be a group sprint...but

16:54 CEST    264km/1.5km to go
Wesemann leads past the team boxes for the last time. Serrano and Mancebo are on his wheel. Then Perez. Valverde and Freire are back there too.

16:55 CEST   
Valverde brings Freire up to the front. Wesemann is still in the lead as they get towards one km to go. Basso is now trying to help Cunego.

16:56 CEST   
Vinokourov attacks, but everyone gets on his wheel.

16:56 CEST    264.5km/1km to go
1 km to go and the Spanish are leading out with Perez, Valverde and Freire. Then Boogerd.

16:56 CEST   
Paolini is next to Zabel. O'Grady is brought up by Davis. The final straight begins.

16:57 CEST    265.5km/0km to go
Hondo leads out with Freire and Zabel on his wheel. Then Valverde takes over...now Freire...it's Freire for the third time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zabel second.

16:58 CEST   
Paolini takes third ahead of O'Grady and Davis, Valverde sixth. Wow!

Only Van Steenbergen, Merckx and Binda have won three World Road Championships. That puts Freire in rather select company. And he's only 28.

We thank Scott Sunderland for his comments today, and he finishes off with: "What a fantastic finale and what a great win! Congratulations once again to Oscar Freire, an incredible apotheosis. I was on the edge of my chair the whole last lap. The adrenalin rush of the last fifteen kilometres made up for what otherwise was a very slow day. Stuey rode an amazingly strong race and I would have loved to see him take the title, a medal at least. And what about Alby!? Allan Davis was very strong too, and I'm sure that the coming seasons we'll see a lot of nice things from him also."


1 Oscar Freire (Spain)            6.57.15
2 Erik Zabel (Germany)
3 Luca Paolini (Italy)
4 Stuart O'Grady (Australia)
5 Allan Davis (Australia)
6 Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
7 Michael Boogerd (Netherlands)
8 Chris Horner (USA)
9 Damiano Cunego (Italy)
10 Frank Schleck (Luxembourg)
11 Ivan Basso (Italy)

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