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Photo ©: Sirotti

89th Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 6-28, 2006

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Stage 6 - Friday, May 12: Busseto - Forli', 227 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones with additional reporting from Tim Maloney

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

08:18 CEST   
A long, dead flat classic sprinters' stage to the hometown of Italian champ of yore, Ercole Baldini, where McEwen will look to trump the competition on the last 2.5km along Forlì's Corso della Repubblica.

14:29 CEST   
Welcome to today's sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia, a flat, fast run between Busseto and Forli. The main difficulty today is the length of the stage: 227 km. As well as the fact that there are not even very many corners en route. It's a classic sprinters stage, and we can expect Robbie McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team to combine with T-Mobile to keep things under control.

There are no categorised climbs today, and the 110 Gazzetta point comes after 83.6 km in Rio Saliceto.

14:35 CEST    105km/122km to go
Today's stage started 10 minutes before midday with 194 riders still in the race. After only 6 km, Andoni Aranaga (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Christophe Edalaine (Credit Agricole) attacked, and they got the crucial gap that was necessary to form the break of the day.

After 14 km, they already had one and a half minutes, which they built to a maximum of 6'14 at the 110 Gazzetta sprint at Rio Saliceto, won by Aranaga from Edalaine and Matveyev. They've also been travelling at a handy average speed of 44.15 km/h for the first two hours. The gap is now 5'18, with T-Mobile and Davitamon controlling.

14:43 CEST    110km/117km to go
The three leaders have now reached km 110, and are not far from the feed zone in Nonantola. They still have a five minute plus lead over the peloton, which is not a lot in a stage like this. Most of the breaks so far have been very tightly controlled, and teams aren't willing to hand out big time gaps.

14:56 CEST    128km/99km to go
The feed zone doesn't change things a great deal in terms of the situation on the road, and Aranaga, Matveyev and Edalaine keep an advantage of 5'24, still riding along at a nice brisk tempo.

15:04 CEST    137km/90km to go
At the moment, it's Jan Kuyckx (Davitamon-Lotto) leading the peloton with a magenta train on his wheel. The gap is down to 4'08, and it's nowhere near big enough for the three in front to stay clear.

15:06 CEST    137km/90km to go
All the T-Mobile riders are smiling today, with their man Serguei Gonchar in the pink jersey. Jan Ullrich is looking pretty happy with the situation, as he sits near the front of the peloton.

15:11 CEST    142km/85km to go
Most of the bunch is enjoying the pace today, which is by no means slow: 43.15 km/h after three hours. It's a little like motorpacing, with T-Mobile and Davitamon doing all the work. Gonchar has Rogers on his wheel, so the Australian is both being protected and protecting his team captain.

15:15 CEST    146km/81km to go
Milram and Gerolsteiner have a few riders near the front of the bunch, as do Selle Italia, who for the first time, don't have a rider in the break. But Jose Rujano is sitting in about 15th wheel, behind the combined Davitamon and T-Mobile trains.

15:17 CEST   
Ullrich looks relaxed as he sits behind a few of his teammates, with the long haired Frantisek Rabon ahead of him.

15:31 CEST    152km/75km to go
The Discovery riders sit a little way back, but still close to the front of the bunch. Savoldelli is sharing a word with Gilberto Simoni.

Interestingly, in yesterday's TTT, Discovery only had their front three riders in the train on the TT bars, while the rest just sat on the cowhorns with their hands on the brakes. According to thepaceline.com, the team "opted for safety over streamline, as they were not willing to take unnecessary risks on a stage where they felt they were already in a position of power by being up on GC. With arms in the bars, and away from the brakes, there is more risk of an accident if a rider were to tire or make a mistake. But the result is more effort expended by the riders, but this was a pre-race decision the team made together."

Most other teams, including CSC and T-Mobile, thought otherwise. The course was flat, dry, not overly windy, and non-technical. Well, we'll find out at the end of the Giro how important this was.

15:35 CEST    157km/70km to go
The three breakaways, Edalaine, Matveyev and Aranaga, are rolling over each other nicely. Like the other day, there is a strong orange presence in the break. What we really need is a Euskaltel, Panaria and Rabobank rider in front. That would be fun. OK, so I'm easily amused.

There's not a lot to say about the countryside today, as it's mostly flat with small towns punctuating the fields of crops, and the odd tree. It's sunny but not too warm, with temps in the low to mid 20s.

15:38 CEST    162km/65km to go
The peloton takes a right hander, and keeps the gap at 4'05 behind the three breakaways. Van Hecke is helping out at the front with Kuyckx. Then a magenta train follows, with Gonchar nestled in 10th wheel. His pink jersey is a fair bit lighter than the T-Mobile magenta.

Ivan Basso and a couple of CSC teammates are just behind the chasing train.

15:44 CEST   
Aranaga rolls through again for 15 seconds, drops to the back of the breakaway trio. Four minutes back to the peloton, where a couple of T-Mobiles are swapping off with the Davitamon-Lottos. The heavy artillery: Jan Ullrich, Mick Rogers and Matthias Kessler won't be employed today. T-Mobile has a double goal too: they have sprinter Olaf Pollack, who could even take pink if he finished in the top two today.

15:46 CEST    165km/62km to go
Of the breakaways, Sergiy Matveyev is the best placed on GC, sitting 3'43 behind Gonchar. So he's in the virtual maglia rosa for a little time yet.

Ullrich is now spinning in a lowish gear, which is not something you see often from Der Jan.

15:48 CEST    167km/60km to go
Philippe Gilbert is currently sitting at 112 bpm, which is 51% of his maximum heart rate. That shows you how easy it is in the peloton.

3'53 to the three leaders.

15:55 CEST    172km/55km to go
Matveyev, who is another fairly handy Ukrainian time trialist (not of Gonchar's calibre though), gets a bit of encouragement and food from his Panaria team car. He looks comfy as the stage enters its fourth hour. The gap is still 4'02.

Tomorrow is even longer than today: 236 km! And it's a lot lumpier too. Then there is a mountain top finish on Sunday, followed by a short, fairly flat stage on Monday, then a tougher 187 km stage on Tuesday.

15:56 CEST    173km/54km to go
Medicina greets the Giro as the first three riders come through. Plenty of folks are out to watch the race flash by.

16:02 CEST    176km/51km to go
The peloton passes through Medicina, still travelling at a controlling but not hard chasing tempo. The two Davitamons, Van Hecke and Kuyckx, lead the magenta train, and are working hard once again.

Fabio Sacchi's heart rate is currently 111/195max, while Leonardo Scarselli's is 111/190max.

16:05 CEST    178km/49km to go
We'll now start to see the tempo rise in the peloton as we hit the final hour. The three in front have done well to stay clear since km 6.

Yep, as if on cue, Bert Roesems moves up to the front of the bunch to help his teammates. The effort is starting to show on the front riders in the peloton.

16:09 CEST    181km/46km to go
Robbie McEwen, the stage favourite for today, is riding along in his maglia ciclamino (purple, for want of a better description) next to teammate Nick Gates. The pace lifts as the bunch crosses a bridge, and the chase is on.

Leonardo Scarselli (Quick Step-Innergetic) is still sitting at 111/190, which is 58% of his max HR. Note: resting heart rate is not factored into these equations.

16:12 CEST    184km/43km to go
Scarselli goes back for bottles, then sprints back to the peloton. His heart rate reflects the extra effort: 159/190, or 83% of his max. That's what makes the job of a domestique hard, is the constant ferrying of bottles and other stuff from the team cars to his teammates in the bunch.

The gap has dropped fairly dramatically: it's now 3'05.

16:14 CEST    185km/42km to go
Gonchar looks rock solid as he sits behind his teammates at the front of the bunch. He's worn the maglia rosa a few times in the past, but he was very happy to get it yesterday, as this photo shows.

16:16 CEST   
The gap is coming down rapidly now as the bunch has stepped it up a gear. 2'47 to the three in front. Milram has also got a few riders up the front of the peloton, trying to lead out Lorenzetto for a good placing.

Maximiliano Richeze (Panaria) has a heart rate of 133/195 (68%) at the moment, sitting at 43 km/h.

16:18 CEST    189km/38km to go
Teams are now starting to move their riders up to the front of the peloton, and the battle for position has begun with 40 km to go. The roads are pretty wide and it's not that windy, so gaining position is easy. So is losing it.

16:19 CEST   
The average speed after four hours: 42.8 km/h.

16:21 CEST    191km/36km to go
One of the breakaways, Andoni Aranaga, has a couple of wins already in his third year as a pro. Last year, he won stages in the Vuelta Asturias and Vuelta a la Comunidad Valenciana, so he's no slouch.

16:23 CEST   
Sergiy Matveyev is more accomplished. He has stage wins in the 2006 Tour of Langkawi (the ITT stage), as well as Firenze-Pistoia twice (2004 and 2005), Ukrainian TT Championship (2003), the time trial stage in the Circuit Des Mines (2002), and a road stage in that same race in 2001.

16:24 CEST   
Christophe Edalaine only has one win in his sixth year as a pro: a stage in the Tour de L'Avenir in 2003.

16:26 CEST    194km/33km to go
The leaders and peloton are now in Imola, best known for its motor racing circuit. Jan Kuyckx is hammering on the front of the bunch, and the gap is down to 2'10. Still, the peloton isn't strung out.

16:29 CEST    195km/32km to go
Joerg Ludewig does a turn, then Bert Roesems rolls through. The breakaways are still working as hard as they can, but are definitely feeling it. The gap is under two minutes now: 1'58.

16:32 CEST   
The Lampre boys move up the peloton, led by Paolo Fornaciari. The bunch is travelling at 47 km/h, which is sufficient to reduce the gap to 1'50.

16:36 CEST    197km/30km to go
The three leaders go under 30 km to go, and will try and keep their advantage for as long as possible. They've already been out in front for 191 km, making this the longest breakaway of the Giro.

There are plenty of Marco Pantani (RIP) fans out today. This is near his home town, and they still love him in Italy.

16:40 CEST    200km/27km to go
The race hits the 200 km mark with the three holding a bit over a minute on the bunch.

16:42 CEST    203km/24km to go
Kuyckx and Van Hecke are looking a bit ragged, but they've still got a bit of work to do for their team captain McEwen. The bunch is under 25 km just 59 seconds behind the three breakaways.

16:43 CEST    204km/23km to go
The question is whether anyone will try to counter once the break is caught. It's pretty much going to be a lost cause today, given the flat profile of the stage and non technical finish. May as well save it for tomorrow, which is a lot more open.

16:44 CEST   
Blaudzun moves up to the front for CSC, protecting Basso, as Bert Roesems does a strong turn.

16:46 CEST    207km/20km to go
The leaders go through Faenza, through more Italian villas and fields. the bunch has them in its sights, just 43 seconds behind.

Aranaga pulls off after another turn.

16:47 CEST   
The breakaways see various race cars drive past them, and they know the end is nigh. They all have a sort of resigned look on their faces. But, this is what they get paid for.

16:49 CEST    209km/18km to go
Di Luca is in the middle of the bunch, looking calm.

Aranaga gets out of the saddle and stretches, looking back for the peloton. Only half a minute. The bunch isn't even lined out at the moment, it's more of a broad sprawl across the road.

16:51 CEST    210km/17km to go
The bunch is on a four lane road and it's CSC and Davitamon doing the work in front. The three leaders: Andoni Aranaga (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), Christophe Edalaine (Credit Agricole) sit up and wait. It's over, but it's been swell. They've been away for around 205 km.

16:52 CEST   
The bunch is now together, as a couple of AG2R riders, including Mark Scanlon, take over for a bit. The race has just passed the five hour mark.

16:54 CEST   
The two AG2Rs are likely working for Tomas Vaitkus, or perhaps setting it up for another attack. Milram has a train going to match AG2R.

16:56 CEST    212km/15km to go
The tension is now apparent as we hit the final 15 km. The road is so wide and straight that it's easy to move up, so the speed has to be very high to keep things under control. Liquigas is now on the front.

16:58 CEST    213km/14km to go
Liquigas has three riders on the front, then three CSCs with Ivan Basso in tow. Discovery has Savoldelli near the front, but not quite there. Now Christian Knees (Milram) helps to keep Lorenzetto out of the wind.

16:59 CEST    214km/13km to go
Basso looks very calm as he sits behind Lombardi. It's just a matter of staying out of trouble today, and that means in the front in this phase of the race.

17:00 CEST    215km/12km to go
Puncture for a Phonak rider. Looks like Victor Hugo Pena.

T-Mobile and Liquigas are sharing the workload now.

17:02 CEST    216km/11km to go
Rabobank moves its sprinter Graeme Brown up for the first time. For T-Mobile, it's Jan Ullrich himself who is towing the peloton.

Philippe Gilbert's heart rate: 145/196, or 73% of max.

17:03 CEST    217km/10km to go
Under the 10 km to go banner, and Ullrich leads them through with everyone fighting for position. The speed is 50 km/h.

Richeze is sitting at 169/195, or 86% of his max, as he's already working quite hard.

17:04 CEST    218km/9km to go
Ullrich and Kessler swap off on the front, with one of the Liquigas riders. Ullrich is definitely not spinning now.

17:05 CEST    219km/8km to go
Fabio Sacchi's heart rate is 150/195. The Milram rider is getting as good workout.

17:06 CEST    220km/7km to go
Now Quick.Step moves up to the front, then Rabobank, then Milram. Bettini probably has ambitions today, but can anyone beat McEwen? The road is still two lanes broad, and the speed is constant at 51 km/h. Scarselli's heart rate reached 174 there as he did a turn in front.

17:08 CEST    221.5km/5.5km to go
There's a lot of pushing and shoving going on as the bunch fans out on the wider parts of the road, then narrows to avoid the safety barrier. A couple of Selle Italias are on the front, working for Loddo.

17:09 CEST    222km/5km to go
Davide Bramati winds it up under the five km to go banner, then a Bouygues mini train takes over. No team can really control it today.

17:10 CEST    223km/4km to go
Sacchi is now up to 155/195. It's all happening on the front now. Bouygues really wind it up.

17:10 CEST    223.5km/3.5km to go
Olivier Bonnaire (Bouygues Telecom) does a massive turn and the pace picks up to 60 km/h. Gilbert's HR is up to 87% of max.

17:11 CEST    224km/3km to go
Bouygues has really damaged the bunch, but they've run outta gas. Milram on the front at 3 km, then Quick.Step and Rabobank behind. Where is McEwen? He's just in front of Bettini.

17:12 CEST    225km/2km to go
Milram has three men at 2 km to go, leading Lorenzetto. McEwen sits there as Savoldelli moves up with Gilbert, behind Ekimov.

17:12 CEST    226km/1km to go
Final kilometre, and it's still Milram on the front. McEwen is there, but there's a crash. A T-Mobile rider is down: Ludewig?

17:13 CEST   
They take the final bend and the sprint is on. Milram leads , but they're out of men. Loddo leads McEwen, then Bettini.

17:14 CEST    227km/0km to go
Loddo has to start early, then Vaitkus goes, before McEwen powers around the Lithuanian for his third stage win. Pollack nips in for second, and takes the maglia rosa!

17:16 CEST   
The peloton rolls in in bits, with that crash really splitting things up. It shouldn't cause any time gaps, as it was in the last 3 km. Kessler and Korff fell for T-Mobile, as did Flickinger for Bouygues.

McEwen won that by half a bike length from Pollack and Vaitkus. Looks like Loddo was third. Vaitkus did well to go from that far out, but he's a rider who can do that.

17:17 CEST   
71 km/h for that sprint!

17:23 CEST   
Well, that wraps it up from a long stage today, but we'll be back with tomorrow's even longer one between Cesena and Saltara. Olaf Pollack is the new leader, but we might see Gonchar back in pink tomorrow. Ciao!


1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                5.24.13
2 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  
3 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) AG2R Prevoyance                              
4 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone             
5 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                           
6 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak Hearing Systems                      
7 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic                         
8 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Team Milram                                    
9 Axel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare        
10 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir                             
11 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                  
12 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears            
13 Koen De Kort (Ned) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team                   
14 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux                        
15 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank                                       

General classification after stage 6

1 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  20.54.34
2 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team                                   0.02
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                             0.08
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team                                        
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                             0.13
6 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team             0.22
7 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC                                         0.31
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                  0.33
9 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                           0.35
10 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team     0.40


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