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88th Giro d'Italia - PT

Italy, May 7-29, 2005

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Stage 4 - May 11: Giffoni Valle Piana - Frosinone, 220 km

Complete live report

14:29 CEST   
Welcome back to the Cyclingnews special observatory post - the Hindenburg IV blimp, or as we all emotionally call it after being stuck up here the fourth night, "our little house on the prairie". Today, we will hover up North along the Mediterranean coast, right over the Bay of Naples, and see the riders of the Giro peloton head pretty straight towards a very probable sprint finish at approx. 17.15 pm (that's calculated using an average speed of 40 km/h).

14:34 CEST   
45 riders were blood-tested this morning, including big names such as Damiano Cunego and Paolo Bettini, and all were declared fit to start. There were no abandons in Giffoni Valle Piana either: all 193 remaining riders from yesterday's stage signed in and embarked on their 211 km journey to Frosinone.

14:37 CEST   
Today's stage is as flat as a Neapolitan pizza freshly baked in the local Trattoria's wood fired ovens. Some call them Pompeii ovens, as they are traditionally round, dome shaped just like the famous volcano...

The first rider to get truly active today was Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier), who attempted a very early break within the first kilometre after the start. He was caught soon after by a very fast peloton. After several other inconclusive jumps, Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) and Marco Pinotti (Saunier) gave it a go together at km 23 and succeeded. Saunier Duval was clearly told to get some action going this morning...

14:41 CEST   
10 kilometres later, the pair had already made a gap of 1.10 in front. Gerolsteiner's Sven Krauss, who heads the Intergiro classification and sits in third position for most combative rider, also took his chances to get some more points and countered the attack at km 34. Another ten clicks later, Krauss was at 1.23 of the leading pair, which in return had a 4.14 advantage over the bunch.

14:48 CEST   
The Giro is again providing for some very fast racing today: 48 km were covered in the first hour! The bunch drove by just East of the Vesuvius on the outskirts of Napoli. For the sake of education, the antique cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried by Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD. From the vulcanologists' observatory at 608m, one has nevertheless a beautiful view of the nearby islands of Capri and Ischia. The caldera's top lies at 1,281 m (4,200 feet). It's 700 m wide (circumference is 12 km) and 200 m deep...

But I guess that wasn't on the rider's minds right when they passed it! Krauss' gap to the front pair actually increased instead of diminishing. Poor guy - made his mind up just a little too late to bridge to Vasseur and Pinotti, and it seemed that he was caught between the leaders and the bunch. With 150 km to go, he was two minutes behind them, with the bunch following at another 3.15 minutes (5.15 from the leaders).

14:53 CEST   
Cyclingnews talked to Gerolsteiner DS Christian Henn, who is following the race in his team car. He confirmed our assumption, but was still happy about the move: "There were a lot of attacks in the first half hour, and it just wasn't possible to jump with every one of them - the tempo was so high, too. Sven did get away, but couldn't make it to the other two in time. He's courageous, a very young rider who wants to give every thing for his jersey. We're happy with the way the race has evolved for us: Yesterday, Sven Montgomery and Markus Fothen were also very active. It all looks very good."

15:00 CEST   
As the leading riders Vasseur (Cofidis) and Pinotti (Saunier) passed the Intergiro in Caserta at km 78, Sven Krauss behind had already given up and was swallowed by the bunch, which was the 3.28 behind the front pair. Meanwhile, Nicolas Inaudi (Cofidis) crashed at km 76, but got back on his bike.

15:07 CEST   
Speaking of the town of Caserta: The Pallazzo Reale La Reggia is often seen as an Italian Versailles. Built in the 18th century, the Royal Palace has an especially beautiful garden with a cascade of 78 metres - the water falling into a prodigious pond of marble, featuring characters of the Roman myths of Ovid's 'Metamorphosis': One can see Diana bathing with her nymphs and Acteon being torn to pieces by his hounds. OK, that imagery doesn't really coincide with our situation here, I admit it...

15:14 CEST   
I wonder what goes on the minds of the Fassa Bortolo riders - their overwhelming dominance in the sprint finishes hasn't been very successful lately, as the other teams decided to put some pressure on. Instead of the usual silver train leading the bunch in the last kilometres, there were actually two or even three trains happening... And supersprinter Petacchi has had a hard time in that sort of finish being less protected by his teammates.

15:18 CEST    130km/81km to go
We're at km 130 now, and the bunch is still speeding as in the beginning of the stage: 42,6 km/h! Meanwhile, Nicolas Inaudi (Cofidis) has abandoned, his injuries being too painful to continue in that sort of pace. We'll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything about him. The leaders still have a 5.36 minutes advantage over the speeding peloton.

15:21 CEST   
And speeding it is, stretched out like a snake winding through the flat but very beautiful countryside. Did I mention the weather yet? I think I forgot, as it's always nice here in Southern Italy: the sun is out with just a few clouds providing for an occasional shade, with temperatures of about 25 degrees Celsius.

15:26 CEST    132km/79km to go
The pedalling of the two leaders still looks alright, but one can tell it's hard work. Pinotti and Vasseur take pretty short turns... as they pass by an Italian family watching at the roadside, all dressed in Pink!

15:30 CEST   
The bunch is led by Fassa Bortolo - of course - as well as Qzuick.Step. Bettini is sitting comfortably in it, as well as Robbie McEwen, surrounded by fellow sprinter Zabel and some teammates of Petacchi.

15:32 CEST   
There's been a crash! Some Francaise des Jeux riders, Rabobank, and one Davitamon rider is getting help to get out of grassy ditch - it's Nick Gates. He's alright though, getting back on his bike and continues.

15:34 CEST   
Now there are some groups chasing to get back to the front line... Nothing too bad happened back there, everybody continued.

15:39 CEST   
The bunch is back together now, getting over this little shock. These things happen so quickly, fortunately they're all wearing helmets now! Illes Balears is doing the work now, with Basso chatting and laughing with his CSC teammate Blaudzun close behind.

15:45 CEST   
It's time for some fun! Marco Pinotti up front squirts his bidon as his DS in the car beside him through the open window, as Erik Zabel and Paolo Bettini seem to get along fine too, joking around...

15:49 CEST   
Walter Beneteau (Bouygues), Cyrille Monnerais (Francaise Des Jeux), Thomas Dekker (Rabobank), Andrea Peron (CSC) and Nick Gates were the ones who crashed 15 minutes ago. But all seem to be fine, at least we haven't heard anything that could indicate the contrary. The bunch is riding easily now, some take the time to get some fresh water bottles from the team cars behind. Temperatures have risen to 29 degrees, so it's crucial to drink a lot.

15:55 CEST   
The leading pair attacks a small climb now, and Pinotti gets out of the saddle. Behind, the chase is getting organised again, but I'm sorry to say we haven't got any heartrate information for you today. We might later on. Fassa's Gustov is now heading the peloton.

16:03 CEST    153km/58km to go
It's always a merry mingling in those European professional pelotons in these sort of races - the riders take the time to exchange latest news about ... we don't know, but Rory Sutherland (Rabobank) and Russell van Hout (Selle Italia) are happily chatting along while they're riding through Cassino.

16:06 CEST   
The gap is stable around four minutes for the leaders, which have 50 km yet to master. The bunch will surely not ride in on them too soon to prevent further attacks. It must be one of these stages where the guys have agreed to proceed 'piano, piano' - there are still a lot of kilometres to go in this Giro!

16:10 CEST   
Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) is keeping himself at the back of the bunch. Looks like he got a scare at that crash earlier on.

Correction as to the stage finish: I was wrong in calling it untechnical. In fact, finale today is pretty difficult with a downhill section, curve after curve, and an uphill part before the line. Sorry about that.

16:11 CEST   
Gates, Gustov and Codol are doing the chasing in the back. So Gates mustn't have been hurt too badly by the crash... Good on him!

16:12 CEST   
We also have an update on Nicolas Inaudi who crashed at km 76: he has a big bruise on his thigh, but nothing broken after being taken to hospital.

16:14 CEST   
Here we go: finally some heartrate info! Fabio Sacchi, for example, is at 126 / 185 bpm (68% of his max).

16:16 CEST    167km/44km to go
And the chase is paying off: the bunch is slowly but steadily moving in on the leaders. Only 2.40 minutes left for them.

16:21 CEST   
The big bunch is taking up all the width of the two-lane road, with about ten riders forming a thread in the front. Erik Zabel has moved to the back and is calling for his team car. Rasmussen is also getting full bidons at his Rabobank team car.

Up front, Vasseur is still keeping it up, but does he really hope to make it?

16:22 CEST    171km/40km to go
Vasseur and Pinotti are driving through Roccasecca now. Gap: 1.18... getting tight, isn't it?

16:26 CEST   
The lead is decreasing rapidly - the break is not exactly sitting up, but they certainly ain't trying anymore... Pinotti shakes his head to Vasseur: he's done. Everybody is getting ready for the finale.

16:30 CEST    176km/35km to go
The riders seem to slow down a little at this point, as it would be risky to catch the break too soon. Wim Van Huffel (Davitamon) in front of the bunch with his teammates as well as some Fassa riders.

16:36 CEST   
Meanwhile, the weather has turned a little cloudy with forecasts of thunderstorms. It doesn't look like rain at the moment, though. Let's hope the riders make it to the finish dry. Massimo Codol leads the bunch in front of Nick Gates, who looks alright. His jersey is a little dirty, but that's all.

16:38 CEST   
With 30 km to go, the pace is reasonable, and here comes a counter-attack! It's Trent Wilson (Selle Italia), who has already passed the former break which is just getting caught.

16:40 CEST   
And 'Willo' is speeding, looking good!

16:42 CEST   
Stuart O'Grady is at 75 percent of his maximum heart rate of 188 bpm. Fabio Sacchi is doing 149/185 bpm. The bunch is barely reacting to the attack.

16:43 CEST    186km/25km to go
The bunch has passed the 25 km mark. Wilson should have 15 seconds or so, but will he make it?

16:46 CEST    189km/22km to go
And Wilson has been caught. Good move to shake things up a bit before the finale! Speaking of which, the last hairpin corner of seven is at 750 m to go. There's Renshaw, Wilson and Da Cruz leading Baden Cooke up. Perez Cuapio sits in last wheel. FDJ is taking over now for Cooke; Quick.Step also up there, and Cofidis.

16:47 CEST    191km/20km to go
The bunch is nicely stretched now of course. They're hammering again! Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen are also well back inside the peloton.

16:48 CEST   
Oh - Bettini and Di Luca are talking. What are they up to?

16:51 CEST   
Lampre is moving Cunego and Simoni up too for protection. FDJ is still doing the job, and the high pace is showing: Calcagni (Liquigas) is at 77 percent of his max. heartrate of 198, whereas Ventoso (Saunier) is at 136 of 188 bpm.

16:53 CEST   
Calcagni is now at 181/198 bpm, meaning 91 percent of his capacities, as he's riding in front, where Freddy Bichot is driving.

16:54 CEST   
These are large, straight roads here, no need to worry right now. A Phonak train has formed chasing the bunch at its tail. Valjavec had a flat it appears.

16:55 CEST    196km/15km to go
15 km to go. Rast got dropped from the Phonak chase. They will need another 10 seconds. FDJ still driving for Cooke, with Lilian Jégou in front. Valjavec is back in the bunch.

16:57 CEST   
Crash! Daniel Schnider from Phonak seems a little hurt, but he's standing. Two CSC riders are also waiting for another bike.

16:59 CEST   
The bunch was stopped, as a Phonak rider slammed right into its back. Lorenzetto from Domina down too, and a Liquigas. Schleck and Zabriskie (CSC) too.

17:00 CEST    201km/10km to go
Now the peloton is a thread of pearls... A saddle break maybe caused the crash! Calcagni seems to be out of the race.

17:02 CEST   
Liquigas ' Miholjevic is leading a pretty big group, with Fassa now taking its turn. The crash was caused by a touch of wheels between Lorenzetto and a CSC rider, then the bunch stopped.

17:03 CEST   
CSC is driving the train now to get Basso safely into the finish.

17:04 CEST    204km/7km to go
Il Grillo and Lancaster were also in the fall. The bunch is hammering along, while some dropped riders get 'assistance' from the FDJ car.

17:06 CEST    205km/6km to go
There are three groups now, but we don't exactly know where the sprinters are. They've hit the last little hill. McEwen is up there, it seems.

17:07 CEST    206km/5km to go
Sabaliauskas is leading. Tom Danielson is in the second group. Di Luca, Cunego, Bettini are all in the first group.

17:08 CEST   
Leukemans is driving for McEwen now. Moreni is there, so is Petacchi as they arrive in Frosinone. Euskaltel attacks!

17:09 CEST   
It's Aitor Gonzalez! And Bettini jumps too, as does Emanuele Sella.

17:10 CEST   
Now they're caught again, the group is intact. Cioni is moving up and further increasing the pace.

17:11 CEST   
Celestino is up there for Domina Vacanze, and the road do twist.

17:12 CEST   
Celestino, Bettini, Cioni are leading, Cooke is also there.

17:12 CEST   
Celestino still leading at 500 metres...

17:13 CEST   
Bettini sprinting...

17:13 CEST   
Oh, no, a crash! But Bettini won!

17:13 CEST   
It's Cooke, but he's standing up, walking. Everything OK.

17:14 CEST   
He slammed right into a barrier, he might have won this hadn't he crashed....

17:21 CEST   
That was a tight finish! I wonder what my heart rate is at the moment... I'll measure it for you next time! What about yours? Hope you enjoyed the coverage! Stay tuned for more information as well as tomorrow's stage from Celano to L'Aquila, which will include just a little more climbs... Ciao from Italy!

17:28 CEST   
Cyclingnews has just been informed that Paolo Bettini has been disqualified! This sprint was very irregular, as Bettini knew that Cooke was right behind him, and when he moved to the left, Bettini did the same, effectively cutting him off. The podium is still empty. We have to wait for a decision here.

17:29 CEST   
Bettini is arguing with some officials, looking very annoyed. But I bet Cooke was annoyed, too!

17:31 CEST   
Luca Mazzanti is honoured on the podium for this stage win! So Bettini is at least relegated.

17:33 CEST   
That would mean Cioni second, Scarponi third, and Bettini has just been confirmed fourth!

17:34 CEST   
This of course doesn't give Baden Cooke his stage win or even second place back... bummer.

17:36 CEST   
OK that's it for now. Have a great day and thanks for reading!


1 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramica Panaria            5.10.09
2 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas - Bianchi
3 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team
4 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze               0.02
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick.Step                   0.04
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                 
7 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi       
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                 
9 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Quick.Step 
10 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita          
11 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis-Le Credit Par Telephone    
12 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi     
13 Julian Dean (NZl) Credit Agricole            
14 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
15 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team

General classification after stage 4

1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step                  
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi              0.13
3 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Ceramica Panaria   
4 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi         
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                0.21
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi            0.27
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team  0.32
8 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 0.36
9 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze               0.37
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita          

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