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Photo ©: Bettini

91st Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008

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Stage 9 - Sunday, May 18: Civitavecchia - San Vincenzo, 218km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

14:26 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro. Today we are zipping 218 kilometres up the west coast of Italy, along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The day looks to be custom-made for the sprinters, who will no doubt be chomping at the bit for one of their few opportunities in this year's race.

The stage ends in San Vincenzo, which is near to the home of none-other than two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini. He would certainly be more than happy to steal the show from the men with the big thighs and speedy legs. But after today the weary warriors can look forward to their first rest day.

14:33 CEST    93km/125km to go
The situation right now is: Two riders have taken off and have a 9'25 lead over the peloton: Yuriy Krivtsov of AG2R and Mickael Buffaz of Cofidis. Milram and Liquigas are leading the chase.

14:36 CEST   
Krivtsov didn't waste any time today. He broke out at km 0, and within 3 kilometres, Buffaz had caught him. The two just took off and by km 36, their lead was 10'40. It has dropped slightly since then, but stays around the nine and a half mark.

14:39 CEST   
The first two-thirds of the race are just about as flat as they can be. Then there are a few major bumps, including the Cat. III Campigliaria Marittima, which is only 209 meters high. Another small climb comes only 9.5 km before the finish, but will it be enough to slow down the sprinters and take them out of things?

14:41 CEST   
The race started promptly today at 11:58 with 181 riders having lost two riders yesterday. Here is a complete list of the riders who are no longer with the 91st Giro d'Italia.

Stage 1 DNS: Maximiliano Richeze (CSF Group Navigare) 

Stage 2 DNS: Igor Astarloa (Team Milram) 

Stage 2 DNF: David Zabriskie (Slipstream Chipotle – H30)

Stage 3 DNF: Bradley McGee (Team CSC)

Stage 4 DNF: Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC)

Stage 4 DNF: Dominique Cornu (Silence-Lotto)

Stage 4 DNF: Tom Stubbe (Française des Jeux)

Stage 5 DNS: Nick Nuyens (Cofidis)

Stage 6 DNF: Enrico Poitschke (Team Milram)

Stage 6 DNF: Kevin De Weert (Cofidis)

Stage 6 DNF: Rene Mandri (AG2R La Mondiale)

Stage 7 DNF: Alberto Loddo (Tinkoff Credit Systems)

Stage 7 DNF: Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux)

Stage 7 DNF: Aitor Galdos (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

Stage 7 DNF: Patrick Calcagni (Barloworld)
Stage 8 DNF: Steve Morabito (Astana)
Stage 8 DNF: Sergio Ghisalberti (Milram)

14:46 CEST   
Team Astana had a scary moment yesterday, when Alberto Contador went down. He complained about problems with his right arm but was able to finish the stage. He didn't go to the hospital, but the team doctor diagnosed bruised tendons and muscles in the right elbow." Team spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews this morning, "Today's race will have to reveal how bad it is. It is not ideal to have a crash few days before an important time trial and we hope he is able to maintain the aerodynamic position in the time trial. The problem is that the injury is just at the position where he has to rest on his TT handlebars."

Alberto Contador crashed mid-race yesterday, but was able to continue, unlike team-mate Morabito
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:51 CEST    102km/116km to go
The two escapees are maintaining a lead of 9'20.

14:58 CEST   
The race started at midday in Civitavecchia, which means "ancient town". It is a harbour town featuring two moles, a breakwater and a lighthouse.

15:00 CEST   
Buffaz is a Frenchman, although he was born in Switzerland. He will turn 29 on May 21. He turned pro in 2003 with Jean Delatour and rode for Agritubel in 2005 and 2006 before joining Cofidis last year. He is not one of the larger riders in the peloton, at 1,75 meters and only 64 kilos. This is his second Giro – he finished 126th last year. Going into today's stage, he was in 110th place, 48'19 down.

15:04 CEST   
Buffaz is in second wheel, stretching his neck in a bit of unusual way - almost looks like he is shaking his head. The duo passes a field of hay bales to their left. The peloton will ride by in nine minutes and 12 seconds - that's the current gap.

15:08 CEST    115km/103km to go
Over three hours raced and the field, passing along a straight canal on their right, is still fairly relaxed. A smiling Paolo Bettini is enjoying the sunshine, showing off his World Championships jersey, but is in the Quick Step train that is working for Visconti to keep the maglia rosa.

15:10 CEST   
The helicopter of the RAI television channel seems to be drafting off the peloton! Not fair, but the duo in front keeps riding on and Krivtsov takes some food from his team car, which also provides a bit of a relief.

15:11 CEST   
Krivtsov, 29, is no stranger to Buffaz, as he turned pro at Jean Delatour in 2003, so the two rode together for a year. In 2004 the Ukrainian went to AG2R. His most successful year was in 2003, when he won stages in the Tour de Romandie, Circuit de la Sarthe and the Tour de l'Avenir. In addition, he was third in the World U23 Time Trial Championships in 1996.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 9.12

15:13 CEST   
Now it's Buffaz' turn to get a word in with his directeur sportif and get a bit of a draft from the car.

Besides Quick Step, there are also Liquigas, Milram and High Road near the front. There are still almost 100 kilometres to go, so the pace won't pick up in total earnest until a bit later.

15:15 CEST    126km/92km to go
Krivtsov is currently 129th overall, over 56 minutes down.

Markus Eichler of Milram is leading the peloton. The German is also writing a diary for Cyclingnews this year.

Markus Eichler leads the peloton's chase
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:18 CEST   
Eichler gets a bottle from a team-mate, so he can continue to work at the front. He gestures something, maybe he also wants one of those yummy milk products from the sponsor? He had revealed to Cyclingnews in the past that he really likes the Milram products...

15:24 CEST   
The peloton passes a bird refuge. The birds aren't too impressed with the speeding bicyclists, though and wish for some peace and quiet.

On the front, the two riders keep trading turns. At the moment, Buffaz is leading Krivtsov. The gap has dropped to eight and a half minutes.

15:30 CEST    134km/84km to go
Bettini chats to a rider from the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli team - looks like Alessandro Bertolini. The PVC team qualifies for the longest team name in the Giro. But only because An Post - M. Donnelly - Grant Thornton - Sean Kelly Team couldn't get an invite to the Giro....

Bettini is still smiling, indicating that the pace is tranquilo. But the two front runners are not in agreement, having spent the better part of the race on the front. In fact, Krivtsov attacked at kilometre 0. Can't leave any earlier. Buffaz joined him a little while later and their break for more than 130km shows its effects.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 8.26

15:32 CEST   
The peloton passes Castiglione della Pescaia, where a few spectators have come out on this nice, sunny Sunday.

15:36 CEST    136km/82km to go
Gerolsteiner has gathered on the right hand side of the road. Today, they are hoping for a win of Robert Förster. The sprinter has won stages in the Giro before, with the win in Milano two years ago being the highlight.

Gilberto Simoni has won the Giro before – can he do it again?
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:41 CEST    144km/74km to go
Di Luca is talking to Nocentini. The latter gestures with his right hand, making sort of a wave – no doubt the two are talking about the finish of today's stage. A little rise some 15km form the finish is the sole chance for the non-sprinters to take off for a stage win.

A smiling Simoni gives the thumbs up, but he is not expected at the front today. He lost a bit of time a couple of days ago, when the road went up and he really was expected to do well. But the real mountains are still to come and he may be back on the front soon.

15:44 CEST   
The peloton enters a tunnel, but it is wide and not one of those dangerous, unlit ones that can cause havoc when the riders go from a sunny day to complete darkness at 40 or 50km/h.

The gap has dropped to under eight minutes.

15:49 CEST   
Matthias Russ is riding along in the white jersey for the best young rider. But he is in second place in that competition. Appropriately named Giovanni Visconti leads the competition of the giovani riders – but he is busy wearing pink, which is preferred, of course. Not that the riders have any choice; the organisers make it very clear which jersey will have to be worn.

15:50 CEST   
Mark Cavendish (Team High Road) is moving up on the right. This finish has his name written all over it. The young Britain has an incredible second season and already scored one Giro stage win!

15:53 CEST   
Natasha from Sydney is keeping us straight. Adam Hansen is from the north Queensland city of Cairns and has won the Crocodile Trophy twice (2003 and 2005).

15:55 CEST   
Buffaz is hanging on while trying to stuff himself with a sports bar. Buffaz passes Krivtsov once the Frenchman has finished eating.

The riders are close to the beach, where kite surfers are enjoying the day.

15:57 CEST    160km/58km to go
Eichler is still thirsty - he is indicating to a team-mate to get him another bottle. You can hear the other sigh, as he now has to get all the way from the front all the way to the back, get a bottle and get all the way back to front. It's hard work.

16:01 CEST   
Française des Jeux and Liquigas are contesting the intermediate sprint. Both teams are sprinting full force. It looks like Bennati took it, meaning he got third. Buffaz and Krivtsov passed the spot more than seven minutes earlier.

16:04 CEST   
Geert Steurs (Silence - Lotto) is now on the front as well - a sign that Robbie McEwen may be feeling well and contest the sprint. Steurs has his right elbow bandaged, victim of one of the many crashes in a first week of a Grand Tour, when everyone is fresh and the racing nervous.

Italian rider Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) celebrated a win in stage 7
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:07 CEST   
Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes), who won the stage a couple of days ago, is back at the team car and team duties. No break for him today, just breaking his back, carrying bottles for the boys. He puts them in the back of his jersey - the domestiques are really skilled in carrying as much as they can.

16:10 CEST   
The peloton passes a roundabout, always a bit nerve wracking. But the pace is still not full on and Barloworld's Bellotti finds time to smile and wave.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 7.26

16:14 CEST   
Contador is also bandaged up, below his left elbow. So far he looks like he is doing OK, but we will see in the time trial.

16:17 CEST    168km/50km to go
The two front runners have 50km to go. The lead is still almost seven minutes, but the smiles have given way to a look of labour in the front part of the bunch. Krivtsov is in a time trial position, with his hands over his handle bar.

16:21 CEST   
Our readers are not of one opinion when it comes to today's pick. Some favour Erik Zabel, while others point out that the Milram rider will more likely get second. With McEwen, Cavendish, Bennati and Förster there are many names to pick from.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 6.48

16:23 CEST    171km/47km to go
The Astana boys are moving up on the right hand side. Now is the time to be at the front, to not get involved in crashes, like Astana did yesterday. The gap of Krivtsov and Buffaz is down to 6'18.

Robbie McEwen is looking to win today
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:26 CEST    173km/45km to go
And there is Robbie McEwen. His sleeves are green-yellow, as he was Australian Champ in the past. Behind him is Nick Gates, with the same sleeves. Lotto also has the current Aussie champ, Matthew Lloyd, in the line-up. That's some horse power from Down Under!

Krivtsov and Buffaz pass the 45km to go sign. The gap is below six minutes, as the peloton is still close to the coast.

16:29 CEST   
The break has started the climb up to Campiglia Marittima. A few more kilometres and they can sprint for the GPM. They are likely to be there ahead of the peloton.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 5.53

16:32 CEST    176km/42km to go
The break is taking a wide left hand bend, with a lot of spectators having gathered on the right hand side of that corner. A few more hairpins and the two are over the top. At the same time, the peloton passes the 45km to go sign, so they are are still a few kilometres behind and just now starting the climb.

16:33 CEST   
The two are not sprinting and Krivtsov passes the GPM ahead of Buffaz.

16:35 CEST   
It's a pretty country side side out there - a rolling terrain, with patches of woodlands. The break will particularly enjoy the fact that they are going down right now. Of course, so is the lead and it is now 5'30.

16:37 CEST   
The peloton is hitting the hill and the pace gets nervous. Lots of riders are out of the saddle, with the green jersey of Emanuele Sella at the front.

16:38 CEST   
Sella now gets a gap and nobody reacts. He will be allowed to take the points and increase his lead in the mountains classification. He passes 4'50 behind the leaders.

16:39 CEST   
Buffaz is drinking a Coke. Now that is the sports drink for you right there. It should keep him awake, though, if there was any danger for him to fall asleep.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 4.50

16:41 CEST   
That was our only ranked climb of the day, the Cat. III Campiglia Marittima. It is only 209 meters high, with an average gradient of 4.2% and a maximum of 9%.

The town is dominated by a Castle built between the 8th and 9th centuries and rebuilt between the 12th and 13th centuries. It is another sea-side resort, with a harbour, water park and "wide and beautiful pinewoods".

16:44 CEST    184km/34km to go
The lead is now down to about 4 minutes. Looks like they won't make it clear to the end, after all.

Current race situation

  • Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R La Mondiale) and Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone)
  • Peloton at 4.23

16:46 CEST   
Who comes to Tuscany and doesn't think about eating and drinking? The riders are concentrating on the road right now, but we can think ahead to their dinner.

The region is known for its simple foods using fresh products, rather than sauces and heavy seasonings. Being on the coast here, we would recommend the Caccoicco, a n fish stew with several different types of fish and shellfish cooked in wine, tomatoes, and chilli pepper.

16:48 CEST   
The sprinter teams are definitely at the head of the peloton now -- Milram, High Road, even Danilo Hondo himself.

16:50 CEST   
Thomas Fothen and Robert Förster of Gerolsteiner are also up front. The Giro isn't going the way Team Gerolsteiner thought it would -- it is going much better. "It's going so well I can hardly believe it," said DS Christian Henn. "We have not only maintained our lead in the team ranking, we have been able to improve it."

16:51 CEST   
A CSF rider is lying in a ditch, Filippo Savani, and he seems to be injured. Everyone is taking great care with him.

16:52 CEST    188km/30km to go
Savini is sitting up and conscious, but still in the ditch. We doubt he will continue today.

16:54 CEST    191km/27km to go
The two ahead are still zipping along, some 3'18 ahead.

Savani looks to have injured a knee and/or shinbone. At least he is finally out of the ditch.

16:56 CEST   
Savini is being brought to the ambulance. He is sort-of walking, with much support and not putting any weight on his left leg.

16:57 CEST   
This is very hard to believe, but Savani is getting back on his bike!

16:58 CEST   
Buffaz and Krivtsov have now passed over the finish line for the first time. The peloton is not so terribly far behind. Further back, Savini is going in slow motion and using his left leg only very gingerly.

17:00 CEST   
The peloton came across the finish line for the first time only 2'18 back. It won't be long now. The two leaders certainly aren't giving up yet, though.

17:01 CEST   
Let's get back to our dinner menu, and thereby we shouldn't forget the many fresh vegetables, either, which are often eaten raw, steamed and drizzled with olive oil and a little garlic, or cooked in a method called saltare -- steamed and then sauteed in olive oil, chili pepper and garlic.

We'll follow that up with some pecorino (sheep's milk) cheese and some good fresh (salt-free) Tuscan bread, and wash the whole thing down with a glass of one of the local specialties, like Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino. Bono appetito!

17:03 CEST   
The peloton raced into San Vincenzo at km 195, but after crossing the finish line for the fist time, it then makes two loops, rather like the bow on a package, before coming to the finish line.

17:03 CEST    198km/20km to go
And the lead has now shrunk to 1'45.

17:05 CEST   
The peloton can just about see the escapees now for the first time. Kevin Seeldraeyers of Quick Step is now pulling the peloton along behind him.

17:07 CEST    200km/18km to go
The lead is under a minute now.

This area has been populated since the early Paleolithic era -- now that's going back a few years! -- and was the site of a major Etruscan civilization, which were subsequently conquered by the Romans.

It is another seaside town famous for its tourism, featuring more than 300 boat slips and the most hotel rooms on the Etruscan coast. Imagine a thick forest running all the way down to the ten-km long white sand beach, and you can understand why it is so popular.

17:08 CEST    203km/15km to go
Bettini, Riccò and Sella have pulled away from the peloton and are only 30 seconds behind the two leaders.

17:09 CEST   
The three aren't really getting away. Riccò sits up, Bettini is undecided, but Sella knows what he wants and takes off without the other two.

17:12 CEST   
Sella has reached Krivtsov and Buffaz.

We hear too that back in the field, Christian Pfannberger and another rider have crashed, possibly another CSF rider.

17:14 CEST   
Bingen Fernandez Bustinza (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) crashed in a separate incident. This does not look good, either. They are telling him not to get up. They are putting a neck brace on him.

17:14 CEST   
Bingen is on the stretcher.

Sella has taken off alone up front.

17:17 CEST    208km/10km to go
The peloton has now caught all three of the riders who were up front and everyone is together again. Liquigas is at the head of the peloton now.

17:18 CEST   
Luis Felipe Laverde went down a few minutes back with Pfannberger, but is back in the race now, with a team-mate at his side.

Current race situation

  • gruppo compatto

17:19 CEST   
Mark Cavendish of High Road is putting in an appearance near the front. Gerolsteiner is also making its presence known.

17:20 CEST    211km/7km to go
High Road is leading things now, with three riders at the head of the field.

17:23 CEST   
Overall leader Visconti is up near the front, too, holing on to all his chances. There are now more High Roaders up front, to set things up for the speedy little Manxman.

17:23 CEST    215km/3km to go
The peloton is moving along now at a good clip, with High Road still leading the way.

17:24 CEST   
Frantisek Rabon of High Rod takes over the lead as they pass through a pretty wooded section.

17:25 CEST   
Robbie McEwen can be seen near the front now, too. He isn't happy with the way his Giro has gone so far.

17:26 CEST   
High Road, Milram, Liquigas, Lampre , Liquigas --- they are all battling it out up front now.

17:27 CEST    217km/1km to go
High Road leads the way down the last km. Who will jump first?

17:28 CEST   
Milram leads the way and Robert Förster comes up on the right. But Bennati takes it by a whisker over Bettini, with Zabel third.

17:31 CEST   
Visconti successfully defended his leader's jersey today.

Tomorrow is a rest day for the peloton and for us, too. But stop by Cyclingnews tomorrow to catch up on all the news, and join us again Tuesday for the first individual time trial of this year's Giro.

Provisional results

1 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas                                                   5.30.06 (39.624 km/h)
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step                                                          
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto                                                     
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                                            
5 Koldo Fernandez De Larrea (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                                     
6 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                                       
7 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team High Road                                                     
8 Tiziano dall'Antonia (Ita) CSF Group Navigare                                           
9 Julian Dean (NZl) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30                                  
10 Alexandre Usov (`) AG2R La Mondiale    

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