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100th Giro di Lombardia - ProT

Italy, October 14, 2006

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Live report

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones and Gregor Brown

Live coverage starts: 15:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

14:37 CEST   
Hello and welcome to the coverage of the 100th Giro di Lombardia. This Italian classic is the final ProTour race of the season The parcours takes the riders from Mendrisio to Como, via Lago di Como and the famed Madonna del Ghisallo.

14:46 CEST   
The temperature typical for a fall day in northern Italy: Clouds, around 18°C, some chance of rain.

14:50 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) decided to start the race. The rider and his Spanish team were involved in a controversy with the race organizers over the ProTour jersey, and weather or not it would be presented at the end of the race.

14:52 CEST    165km/80km to go
Riders are descending towards Lecco.

14:55 CEST   
Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Andrea Pagoto (Panaria), Diego Caccia and James Perry (Barloworld) had about 10 minutes on the peloton, we are checking with race officials for an update on the current situation. It is likely this gap will get gobbled up on the steep slopes of Ghisallo.

14:57 CEST   
The riders, after descending into Lecco, will once again be along the shores of Lake Como (or Lago di Como). Lecco, surrounded by mountains, is the home of famed writer Alessandro Mazzoni. He wrote i Promossi Sposi, a book of to young lovers that have to escape their families, floating away on a boat towards Monza.

15:02 CEST   
Once along the lake, the riders will travel up the western shores, passing Onno and onto Bellagio, and then it is all uphill "fun." The addition of the Madonna del Ghisallo in the 1920s helped the race rise to "classic" status. Ghisallo, then a dirt road is now paved but the climb is still an epic. Rising 511 meters in 8.6 kilometres; the climb hits percentages of 14% before reaching the Sanctuary at top, leaving 45km to go.

15:04 CEST   
The descent from Ghisallo, through Asso and on to Erba is thrilling. Every weekend this area is filled with cyclist, and during the week you can find pros training here.

15:05 CEST   
This morning Valverde and Bettini rolled out in their white jerseys. Bettini in the World Champ jersey and The White Bullet in the ProTour jersey.

15:06 CEST   
There was no sign of Basso in the peloton, the rider, who lives near by in Varese, will race tomorrow in an Italian 2-up TT.

15:06 CEST   
Andrea Peron (Team CSC) will also be at the TT tomorrow, it will be his last race as a professional.

15:07 CEST   
Thierry Marichal (Cofidis) attacked early, the first to attack. After which the attacks started thick and fast.

15:09 CEST    170km/75km to go
The race lead was up to 13 minutes, now it is down to 8.

15:10 CEST   
The riders are passing Malgrate. Plenty of gelaterias around this area! The four will not stop for a gelato. They formed at 82km into the race, and since then have been down to the serious business of gap building.

15:10 CEST   
The gap, at 8', is under the control of Rabobank and Milram.

15:12 CEST    175km/70km to go
A couple of big tunnels face the riders. These are not the old-school, un-lit caves, but big and wide. There is first a tunnel of 1600m, closely followed by a tunnel of 2400m.

15:13 CEST   
Nearing Onno, it is Cofidis with Milram and Rabobank. They are pounding hard on the front. It is likely that Cofidis will want to setup Leonardo Bertagnolli. The gap is falling FAST; now under 7'

15:16 CEST   
The peloton just pasted over the old Roman bridge in Lecco. This bridged has been crossed many times in the previous editions of Lombardia. Over the peloton's right is Lecco. The mountain tops are not visible, clouds rest at the top. Even with the clouds, it is a great day for a race. The roads are dry and it will be slightly "cooler" climbing Ghisallo.

15:20 CEST   
The roads for the 4 up front are perfect for staying away. They twist and wind along the cliffs that sit at the side of Lake Como. The roads are so tight, that when open to traffic, cars will honk to indicate to the possible car around the corner that they are coming.

The clear waters are a great place for swimming and sun bathing in the summer. Today, with the clouds, the riders will be spared of any distractions, or Italian girls laying on the beach.

15:22 CEST    183km/62km to go
Hungry? Grab the feed bags. The 4-some is in the feed zone. Italian Diego Caccia leads the four. His silver chain hangs out of his jersey. Looks like a cross. Up on the top of Ghisallo, he could pick up a medallion of Ghisallo, the saint of cyclists.

15:24 CEST   
James Perry is the 2002 South African TT Champion. Caccia and Pagoto both have no wins in their palmares. But Totschnig has won tons of Austrian races (his home country), but the stage in the 2005 Tour de France was his biggest win.

15:28 CEST    190km/55km to go
The peloton races through the feed zone in Onno, 5'15 behind the break, which is working hard along the shores of Lake Como. The lake looks very inviting... It's a cool autumn afternoon, but quite dry, and it's really a perfect day for the final classic of the season.

15:29 CEST    191km/54km to go
And now, the leaders are getting close to the foot of the Madonna del Ghisallo. Caccia does another turn, looking somewhat stressed.

Rabobank has the control of the peloton, while CSC also is doing a bit of work.

15:32 CEST   
Flecha, Boogerd and Peron lead the peloton now. The chase is getting very, very serious. Gas is poured on the fire before the peloton reach the foot of Ghisallo.

15:34 CEST   
Ghisallo is 5.9% average gradient. At the beginning it touches 14%! That is steep. To try this out for yourself, ride around here, any weekend and ask some local rider "Dov'è Ghisallo?". Where is Ghisallo. Most riders will ride with you to the foot of the climb, maybe even over the top.

15:35 CEST    192km/53km to go
The climb starts for the four. Or three! Perry has gone out the back door. CSC is on the front, with some Gerolsteiner presence, perhaps for Tin-Tin Rebellin!

15:37 CEST   
The front trio just based a nasty sign: 14%. The sign indicates the gradient. They are going to hit the 14% in the slow, and painful right-hand bend. There are water spouts, with fresh mountain water along this area, but they won't stop for that.

15:38 CEST   
Barloworld loses Caccia. The non-ProTour setup did well to have two riders in the early move.

15:38 CEST   
Bettini is showing himself on the front of the peloton. He has intentions to be at the front when the gruppo hits the 14% section.

15:40 CEST   
Bettini said this morning at the start referring to Valverde: "There are rules us riders respect; it is good that Alejandro is here at the start to take in the satisfaction of this race. The political fighting should not be fought on the roads but at other, more appropriate times."

15:40 CEST   
Bettini is 2'40" behind the duo. He is on his own.

15:41 CEST   
An amazing show of force by Il Grillo Livornese. He is showing his cards quite early, and will need companions to make this move stick. This Italian has lots of grit!

15:42 CEST   
Bettini just picks up Perry, next should be Perry's Barloworld teammate.

15:43 CEST   
Rebellin, Schleck, Di Luca, Sanchez and Ricco join Bettini.

15:43 CEST   
Remember last year, it was the young rider from Modena, Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir), who won his first pro race by beating Bettini. Riccò is now in his 2nd year as a professional.

15:45 CEST   
This climb is dragging ON! The rises a total of 511 meters in 8.6 kilometres. There are easier sections after Guello, but there is a nasty kick up to the top. T the top there is a little bar, that will be packed today with tifosi, but there you can get a nice caffè.

15:46 CEST   
Caccia is caught!

15:47 CEST   
Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Frank Schleck (CSC), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Ricardo Ricco (Saunier Duval). Bettini is flying! He is leading the charge. Lots of emotion here, he is sure to be thinking of his brother Sauro.

15:48 CEST   
Di Luca is sitting on the tail-end. Tin-tin Rebellin is right on the wheel of Bettini, the rider from Verona looks strong. (They pass a bus!)

39.5km ave after five hours of racing

15:50 CEST    200km/45km to go
Boogerd gives a hand to Di Luca, encouraging him to work. They are on a slight descent.

15:51 CEST   
Remember how we said that Bettini would need some companions to make his move stick. Well he has it. This is a dream group. .... Di Luca and Bettini are past winner. Boogerd (many times), Rebellin and Schleck have finished on the podium.

15:54 CEST   
Poor Di Luca is suffering. But he is doing better than most, say Valverde, who is not in sight.
Bettini rides without glasses.
Sam Sanchez and Ricco are sort of the dark-horses. We know the Spaniard is on form, but neither of them have ever podiumed in this fall classic.

15:55 CEST   
Boogerd in the Dutch national champ jersey leads the front group, they are oh-so close to the duo. Perhaps Totschnig will give any remaining power to the aid of Rebellin.

15:56 CEST   
The tifosi are out in huge numbers. This is great. Sanchez is drifting off the back with Pagoto. Di Luca is clinging on. Bettini leads. This is amazing!

15:56 CEST    200.7km/44.3km to go
Di Luca hangs on... Riccò off, as the riders head over the Cima, or summit

15:58 CEST   
We THINK Riccò and Sanchez should get back on easily. Well, maybe. There are five men pounding up front, followed by the Italian-spanish duo.

16:00 CEST   
The Killer is putting us in doubt. He is at the back of the 5, shaking his legs, trying to get the blood flowing and wake them up. He is pulling through, doing his turns as the five HAMMER down the descent.

16:02 CEST   
Bettini has his glasses back on, rainbow coloured of course. He wears number 1, rides on a Time bike. The Belgian team will switch to Specialized bikes next year. While Di Luca is on a Bianchi, a classical Italian steed. But the team, will switch over to American-made Cannondales for 2007. A big move, helped by their new Tech man, Mario Cipollini. The super sprinter is in Como today, ready to watch the finish.

16:03 CEST    209km/36km to go
Before reaching Como, any escape that forms on Ghisallo will face the final two smaller climbs: Civiglio (15.7km to go) and San Fermo della Battaglia (5.7km). Note that San Fermo is short and steep, close enough to Como for a solo bid.

16:04 CEST   
Ricardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Andrea Pagoto (Panaria) are close to being caught by five chasers Fabian Wegmann, Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Matteo Carrara (Lampre)

16:05 CEST   
The front five are in Asso, or "Ass" in the local dialect. No kidding! Bettini is shaking his legs, but he looks fresh. He is pushing Schleck along on the descent. Bettini looks oh so smooth.

Likely that Bettini will but in the death-blow attack on San Fermo.

16:07 CEST    210km/35km to go
The leaders cooperate well on the final part of the descent, but are only 16 seconds ahead of the seven man chase group. Let's see what Rebellin does. He could sit up in front, as he has two teammates behind.

16:08 CEST    212km/33km to go
Boogerd, Bettini and Schleck look the strongest in front. Di Luca is definitely the weakest (or he looks to be). Rebellin is a bit of an unknown quantity. At the moment, it's looking like a Bettini or Rebellin victory, but things can change. It's good to see the world champ showing the colours at this end of the season.

Sella, Noè and Gustov are in a second chasing group at 30 seconds.

16:09 CEST   
The leaders look nervous, as the chasers are coming closer. 10 seconds to the Totschnig/Wegmann group.

16:11 CEST    215km/30km to go
At the moment, they are close to Salvatore Commesso's home town of Erba, and not far from the late Fabio Casartelli's home of Albavilla.

The two front groups are coming together.

16:12 CEST    217km/28km to go
They go through a tunnel and come out with 12 leaders instead of five. Gerolsteiner is well represented with three riders: Davide Rebellin, Fabian Wegmann, Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), then Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Frank Schleck (CSC), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Ricardo Ricco (Saunier Duval), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Andrea Pagoto (Panaria), Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Matteo Carrara (Lampre).

Emanuele Sella (Panaria-Navigare), Andrea Noè (Liquigas) and Volodimyr Gustov (Team CSC) are chasing at 15 seconds.

16:14 CEST   
The leaders use this opportunity to refuel, as Sella, Noè and Gustov are 35 seconds back, with the main peloton at 2'00.

16:16 CEST    221km/24km to go
Bettini urgently signals for his team car. He wants food. Now!

The next climb is Civiglio.

16:17 CEST    222km/23km to go
The sun peeks out behind the clouds as the breakaways work together for a bit. Gerolsteiner has Totschnig and Wegmann working hard for Rebellin, while Bettini marks the dangerous rider from Verona closely. This next climb will cause some splits.

16:18 CEST   
Matteo Carrara born on 25.03.1979. He last wins came in 2003, when he was racing for the Denardi-Colpack. Then he went wild with 4 wins, including 2 point overalls in stage races. He started with Polti as a stagiaire at the end of 2000, then a full time pro with Colpack in 2001

16:19 CEST   
Noè and Gustov are with a Discovery rider: Stijn Devolder, not Emanuele Sella. They are chasing the leading group of 12.

16:20 CEST    224km/21km to go
Frank Schleck has his usual poker face on. He looks good today, but has to work to close a gap to Bettini, Wegmann and Boogerd now.

16:23 CEST   
Pagoto now does a turn with Wegmann and Bettini, with the world champ definitely not shirking his duty. Samuel Sanchez has to close a gap now. They're going very fast on the approach to Civiglio.

2'15 to the next chase group of three. It's over for them.

16:24 CEST    225km/20km to go
Di Luca rolls through next, but will not be looking forward to this next climb. He was the weakest of the five who made it to the top of Ghisallo together.

Bettini is now in discussion with Sanchez. And it's probably not to do with his multicoloured helmet.

16:25 CEST   
The road starts to go uphill and Di Luca leaves a gap. The Liquigas rider closes it slowly as Totschnig drives it on the front. This group won't hang together for long.

16:26 CEST    226km/19km to go
Now the Civiglio starts in earnest, with Carrara, Boogerd and Bettini in front. Sanchez and Di Luca hang off the back, as Totschnig is dropped.

16:27 CEST   
Totschnig has done his job for Rebellin, and can take it easy now. Bettini is on the front with Rebellin marking him closely, then Sanchez coming through for a turn.

16:28 CEST   
And then there were 10. Riccardo Ricco is dropped.

16:29 CEST    227km/18km to go
Pagoto is the next rider in trouble as Bettini sets a hard tempo. Rebellin is good as he takes over for a turn. Moreni also.

16:30 CEST   
Pagoto claws his way back as the pace slows around a hairpin, then Di Luca attacks! Moreni marks him.

16:31 CEST   
Di Luca's attack is brutally countered by Bettini. Moreni tries to go with him. Bettini nearly runs into a motorbike.

16:32 CEST    228km/17km to go
Bettini powers along, just like he did last year. The Gerolsteiner rider is close as Bettini reaches a flatter section on this narrow climb. Is it Rebellin or Wegmann?

16:33 CEST    230km/15km to go
It's Wegmann, not Rebellin, who is almost on Bettini's wheel. But not quite as the descent starts. Bettini nearly goes off the road...

16:34 CEST    231km/14km to go
This is a super technical descent and Bettini is giving it full gas. He nearly hit a safety barrier with his knee, then nearly went into the rocky wall on the other side of the road after a bend. He reaches a hairpin and gets around it ok.

16:34 CEST    232km/13km to go
Bettini takes another hairpin, keeping Wegmann at bay. And another.

Sanchez is leading a chase group with Moreni, Carrara, Rebellin and Boogerd.

16:35 CEST    234km/11km to go
It's the world champion on his own in front, but how much of a gap will he have at the bottom? Wegmann is at five seconds. Moreni now takes over from Sanchez, 10 seconds back.

16:36 CEST   
Bettini nears the bottom of the descent of Civiglio. Still one more climb to come. And a few more hairpins.

16:37 CEST    235km/10km to go
Bettini rides down into Como, as Schleck has joined the Boogerd/Rebellin chase group, which now numbers six riders.

16:38 CEST    236km/9km to go
Paolo Bettini checks back and Wegmann has caught him, with a lot of effort. Two leaders, with a chase group of six: Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Frank Schleck (CSC), Matteo Carrara (Lampre). The gap is maybe 15 seconds.

16:39 CEST   
Wegmann does a turn(!), allowing Rebellin a chance to sit on the chasers. The gap is 22 seconds. Bettini takes over on the flat, looking back at Rebellin.

The next climb is the very steep San Fermo di Battaglia.

16:40 CEST   
Bettini looks much stronger than Fabian Wegmann, but looks can be deceiving. Wegmann is probably just trying to protect Rebellin behind. Maybe Rebellin can bridge up on the next climb.

Di Luca is trying to get back onto the first chase group.

16:41 CEST    236km/9km to go
Di Luca is already 48 seconds behind, so he ain't coming back. The two leaders have 28 seconds and Bettini is extremely nervous. They both get rid of water from their bidons. Like last year, Bettini looks to be the man.

16:42 CEST    237km/8km to go
Wegmann and Bettini chat as they start the San Fermo climb. There's only one way this can go, really.

16:43 CEST   
Boogerd leads the chase group onto the climb. Let's see who's got legs.

16:44 CEST    238km/7km to go
Di Luca is now on the climb, but he's fighting a losing battle. He can already see the group in the next hairpin above him.

Bettini powers along in front, but is not attacking.

16:44 CEST    238.5km/6.5km to go
And Bettini attacks! No, he doesn't want to go with Wegmann to the finish. They pass a flag waving fan.

Wegmann's eyes are popping out with the pain.

16:45 CEST   
Wegmann is crying now, but he's holding Bettini at less than 5 seconds. Good on him!

16:45 CEST    239km/6km to go
Bettini is in front, and now Wegmann is feeling it a bit more, but is trying to keep the gap close. He could return on the descent again.

16:46 CEST   
Schleck tries to attack the chase group, but is caught. Bettini goes past 6 km to go with a growing gap on the poor Fabian Wegmann. The German could still come back though.

16:47 CEST   
Bettini does look comfortable, but he can't get rid of Fabian Wegmann.

The chase group is at 28 seconds. It's not over yet. Schleck attacks again, but they all mark him.

16:48 CEST    240km/5km to go
The San Fermo climb twists and turns as Bettini reaches the top with 15 seconds on Wegmann. Then 27 to the chasers.

16:49 CEST   
Sanchez leads the chasers over the top, trying to pick up Wegmann, who will at least get a descent now. Wegmann must be having trouble concentrating though, after that effort.

16:50 CEST    241km/4km to go
Bettini is racing down towards the finish with 12 seconds on Wegmann and 20 on the chase group of six. He should be able to hold it, but anything can happen in the final kilometres.

16:51 CEST    242km/3km to go
Wegmann isn't coming back - the gap is still 12 seconds between the front two riders. Can he hold on for second? One rider is chasing alone in third position on the road. Sanchez.

16:52 CEST   
Bettini takes a wide hairpin, then Wegmann, then a rapidly approaching Sanchez.

16:52 CEST    243km/2km to go
Bettini nears the bottom of the descent as Sanchez and a pained looking Wegmann get together and start chasing. 9 seconds.

16:53 CEST    244km/1km to go
Final kilometre, and Bettini has got it, surely. He is cheered by thousands of tifosi along the finish straight.

Moreni tries to get up to Wegmann and Sanchez.

16:55 CEST    245km/0km to go
And Paolo Bettini wins the Giro di Lombardia, very emotional at the finish!!!! Brilliant ride again, and he has emulated Oscar Camenzind, who won this race in the rainbow jersey in 1998.

Sanchez edges out Wegmann for second, then Moreni comes in for fourth alone. Rebellin wins the sprint for fifth ahead of Carrara, Schleck and Boogerd.

16:57 CEST   
Paolo Bettini can't believe it as he cries for his brother Sauro, who died in a car accident a week and a half ago. He's with his wife Monica and Sauro's kids now, is both happy and sad.

17:04 CEST   
And on that note, we will close our live coverage of the Giro di Lombardia and all the major races this season. For me (Jeff), it is also my last live coverage for Cyclingnews as I have a new challenge awaiting me. So I'll put the Hindenburg V-1 into 'park', turn off the mini-bar, which is strangely empty, and hand off to the next Cyclingnews crew. Thank you for your support and criticism over the last seven years. You've been a wonderful audience.


1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick-Step
2 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
3 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner
4 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
6 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
7 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
8 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
9 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
10 Andrea Pagoto (Panaria)