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75th World Championships - CM

Varese, Italy, September 23-28, 2008

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Race 6 - September 28: Men's road race - 15 laps, 260.25km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Ben Atkins and Susan Westemeyer

10:29 CEST    Good morning and welcome back to the Grand Finale! Today it is time for the Big Boys to show us who is number one. Will it be Paolo Bettini again? Will we have a mass sprint or another successful escape? We'll know the answer to that in about six hours. And we will be here the whole time, bringing you start-to-finish coverage.

10:36 CEST    Everyone probably knows the course by now. It is a 17.35km circuit in and around Varese, with start and finish in the Hippodrome, which in its real life is a horse race track. The men get to cover this nasty one 15 times, for a total of 260.25km – ouch!

10:42 CEST    Our man on the scene Gregor Brown says it is a warm day, the best day of the week. There are large crowds out and among the onlookers is Filippo Pozzato. Spain was the last to show up at the start, and Oscar Freire was the very last. The Italians look nervous. But our Hedwig Kröner tells us it is a little chilly still, but a blue sky and should be a lovely day.

10:43 CEST    Did Frank Schleck start today? We assume so. Hedwig Kröner tells us she didn't see him start, but did see his bike on top of the team car.

10:44 CEST    The guys are underway and it looks like they are all together so far.

10:46 CEST    Not surprisingly, there is lots of blue at the front of the field – Italian blue....

10:47 CEST    The field heads up the first climb for the first time.

10:49 CEST    And yes, those two climbs are still with us, they didn't go away overnight. The Montello comes first, is 1,150km with an average gradient of 6.5%. At the end of the circuit is the Ronchi, 3,130km with an average gradient of 4.5%.

10:50 CEST    The first attacks go as they start up the climb. We'll see if we can get the names for you.

10:52 CEST    Oleg Chuzhda of the Ukraine was the first to go, followed by Venezuela's Richard Ochoa, but their break was very short-lived.

10:54 CEST    206 riders were supposed to be at the start today, and we haven't heard whether there were any last-minute no-shows. On the other hand, that start list includes USA' s Levi Leipheimer, who has already left for home. However many it is, it is a large field.

10:58 CEST    The good news is that there is no new doping news this morning! No new raids, no new rumours – at least not yet....

10:58 CEST    The first lap is finished! They covered the 17.35km in 28 minutes. Only 14 more to go....

11:02 CEST    Frank Schleck is in the race. We just saw him. He has fallen back to the team car and is getting an adjustment made on his bike.

11:04 CEST    It is cool enough that some riders are wearing jackets, which means that their back numbers are covered. This is good for them (obviously they have to keep warm) but not so good for us, as it is more difficult to identify them.

11:06 CEST    One rider has built up a lead of 10 meters or so. It is Gorazd Stagelj of Slovenia, but he has been caught again.

11:08 CEST    Adil Jelloul, the lone starter from Morocco, had the company of the vice-president of the Moroccan cycling federation in his "box" prior to the start. The three times national road champion, 26 years of age, looked a little lost amidst the turmoil. It was his first time at the Worlds, and he was certainly impressed.

"It's quite a unique experience. My objective? To start the race, and see if I can finish it," he told Cyclingnews. "There are two climbs, and I'm not a bad climber, but I don't know how it's going to go against the pros, obviously..."

11:09 CEST    Frank Schleck is back getting repairs on his bike again.

11:14 CEST    There will be something interesting happening the same time as the race: Team CSC-Saxo Bank is holding a press conference at 12:30, when an important announcement will be made about the team's future. Can it be that Bjarne Riis will be the next to announce his comeback?

Somehow we doubt it. Bur we are sure our staff here at the Worlds will let us know what's up as soon as they can. Personally, we think the team will announce another new co-sponsor.

11:15 CEST    Ochoa takes off again. Two riders have followed him and they have built up a small lead.

11:17 CEST    Christian Poos of Luxembourg is one of the riders with him and the other is Chuzhda of the Ukraine, again.

11:26 CEST    The pack is now going under the 1km marker, and soon we should see what kind of lead our trio has.

11:31 CEST    35km/225.25km to go As they crossed the finish line, the time gap was about 2.30.

11:32 CEST    "We are very content after the win of Fabio Duarte in the under 23 race," said Colombia's Félix Rafael Cárdenas to Cyclingnews. "Today, though, it will be a different race."

11:35 CEST    Yaroslav Popovych detailed the objectives of the Ukrainian team to Cyclingnews after signing in. "We will see how we feel in the beginning of the race. We'll try to put a rider in a breakaway. Grivko, and another rider will stay in the bunch for the finish. We'll see how the race unfolds, and if he feels good, we'll try to do something. Against the bigger teams, the strategy is easy: we don't have to do anything, we just try to hang on!" Popovych also thought that the course profile was not that challenging, but that the distance and race speed would be determining. "The course is difficult, with a lot of turns and twists. There's only one serious climb for one kilometre, though. Still, depending on how fast the race will be made, it will certainly hurt after 230-250 kilometres...

"The big favourite, of course is Bettini. This is Italy, he could make a historic triple back-to-back win. But if a small group comes into the finish together, there's also a big possibility for Freire. He also lives close to here! They are the two big riders to watch out for. But if a big breakaway goes, then look for Ballan. He's a rider for the long distances."

11:37 CEST    The peloton is content to let the three riders go at this point. There is still a long way to go.

11:39 CEST    Thomas Lövkvist of Sweden does a striptease at the back of the field. No, he has pulled his radio out and is now carrying it in his mouth. Let's hope he doesn't hit a bump.

11:41 CEST    "We are a small team, but we are strong. We will try something in the finale," said Austria's Christian Pfannberger to Gregor Brown before the start. Team Austria has three riders in its team, Pfannberger, Thomas Rohregger and Stefan Rucker.

"It is important, even if we are a small team, that we are there to the end, the last two laps. If I have the force I will try to go with Bettini's move. Am I the captain? Yes."

11:42 CEST    American Dave Z. was his usual mellow self this morning at the start as Cyclingnews desperately tried to get a serious assessment of leadership roles and team strategy out of him. "It's all pretty top secret at this moment - obviously, we are probably the strongest team here, so if I give away our strategy at this moment in time, it could be leaked on the internet and revealed to some people, and then we might fail! So for the good of the team, let's keep it a secret. "We'll just try to do the best we can do... it's hard to predict anything and speak of unknowns. We're all pretty motivated - I certainly know I am!"

Asked about the course, Zabriskie could not comment, either. "After the first lap, I will have an impression of it. I haven't seen the course as a whole yet, only parts of it. I haven't done a full lap yet."

11:43 CEST    "I am good. I hope for a good race and I hope to have a good finish," said an always low-key Mauricio Soler at the start to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown. "I feel good for today, but it will be difficult with the number of professionals and contenders today." Soler was king of the mountains in the 2007 Tour de France and won a remarkable win in Briançon. This year has been difficult for him with crashes disrupting his racing programme. Like Cárdenas, Soler took pleasure with Duarte's win in the Under 23 race. "It was a good race the other day, Duarte raced a good race."

11:44 CEST    Wow, the lead for our trio is now up to 4.55! The peloton is staying calm, though.

11:48 CEST    If it comes to a mass sprint today, one rider to keep an eye on is Tom Boonen of Belgium. "Tornado Tom" wasn't allowed to ride the Tour de France, after his little cocaine escapade, so he is looking to top off the season with a bang. The only problem might be that he crashed this week in training and bunged up one of his hands, but he says he is ok.

11:50 CEST    51km/209.25km to go The three leaders have gone under the 1km marker with a lead of over six minutes.

11:51 CEST    Bettini has dropped back to the team car for a little chat. He is, of course, absolute tippy-top favourite, having won the title the last two years. The little Italian has extra motivation this year, since he surprisingly announced that he is retiring after this race and wants to go out as reigning World Champion. The downside of that, of course, would be that the World Champion jersey wouldn't be seen in the peloton in 2009.

11:52 CEST    The leaders have now finished three laps and have only 12 more to go. If we calculate correctly, using all of our fingers, that means they are one-fifth done with the race.

11:55 CEST    "I am going well and I am relaxed here for the start. We are going to do a race as a team and take advantage of all the possibilities," said Gabriele Bosisioof Italy's squadra azzurra to Gregor Brown. Fans started to recognise Bosisio after he won the Olympic test race in Beijing last year. He backed up that success this year by with at the Giro d'Italia's stage to Pescocostanzo and riding into maglia rosa. "It is my first time, I did the pre-Olympic race last year, but today is another thing all together. I have an extra motivation because I am riding with Bettini in his final race."

11:56 CEST    Chuzhda is trying to adjust something on his bike, and falls back a metre or two.

11:57 CEST    Speaking to Cofidis manager and AIGCP president Eric Boyer beside the start/finish area, as the riders were sent off on time at 10.30 this morning, Cyclingnews got a glimpse of the Frenchman's thoughts on the various riders' chances. "The French team has a good chance to finish on the podium with Sylvain Chavanel. I also know that Amael Moinard is very strong at the moment, so I would like to believe in our chances! Of course, I also know that Bettini is very strong, Rebellin is very strong, Freire is very strong, Boonen is very strong... But one rider I will particularly watch is Nick Nuyens, actually. People don't talk much about him, but he could be the one to make the difference, too!"

11:59 CEST    The gap is now eight minutes. They have been underway 1:28.

12:00 CEST    Crash! Michael Barry (Canada), Nicolas Roche (Ireland) and several others went down. Fortunately it looks like they will all be going again.

12:03 CEST    Who are the Spaniards riding for this year? Not Alejandro Valverde, as one might assume, but rather sprinter Oscar Freire – who after all has won this title three times already.

12:07 CEST    There is no question about which nation is leading the national ranking here: Germany. The Germans have medalled in every single race so far, taking one gold, one silver and three bronze. The next closest with two medals each are Italy (gold, silver) and the USA (gold, bronze).

12:09 CEST    Only one athlete has been able to win two medals: Judith Arndt of Germany, who won bronze in both the time trial and road race. Dave Zabriske is the only one who has a chance now at two medals. He won bronze in the men's time trial, and is the only one of the medal-winning men who is also in today's race.

12:14 CEST    The break is now 9.54.

12:16 CEST    Vladimir Miholjevic of Croatia gets a new bike. He looks to have been one of those who went down earlier.

12:17 CEST    And our trio goes over the finish line, starting on their fifth lap.

12:19 CEST    Australia's Adam Hansen is in his second race here at the Worlds, having ridden the time trial earlier. "It wasn't easy. But overall I was happy with my result of 34th. Which is better then last year.......... ok, neither is great, but with the prep I had coming into this race (almost getting a skin graft on my arm from a crash in Ireland) and the amount of time I could put towards the TT I couldn't expect much. With all that aside, I was happy with how I rode. I was constant with my power throughout the whole TT."

12:22 CEST    Now the break is up to 10.55. How big will the field let it get before they react? There is still a long way to go. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain) has to pull over with a mechanical, but is quickly on his way again.

12:23 CEST    Sanchez has made his way through the team cars and is now back in the field.

12:26 CEST    Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown tells us that he saw Cadel Evans at the start here this morning – watching, not riding.

12:27 CEST    Ochoa was the next to have a mechanical. Will his two companions wait for him?

12:28 CEST    The field has finally passed the one kilometer banner and is calmly approaching the finish line. They finally cross it 11.56 after the leading trio.

12:29 CEST    Looks like the other two didn't wait. Ochoa is still frantically making his way after them, but he should be there momentarily.

12:32 CEST    Ochoa is back in the group and grabs a bottle as the trio passes through the supplementary feeding zone.

12:36 CEST    Andre Greipel was a last-minute addition to the German Worlds team. He says he was helped in his training by Columbia teammate Marcel Sieberg and Milram's Ralf Grabsch, since all three of them live in the same apartment building in the Cologne, Germany, area. The three also got together for a glass of champagne Thursday to celebrate Bert Grabsch's gold medal in the time trial. Older brother Ralf even shed a tear or two of pride and happiness.

12:40 CEST    We have to agree with Robbie McEwen's pre-race assessment: "I think it will really turn into a race of attrition." 260km is a looooooooong way to go, especially at the end of the season.

12:44 CEST    153.25km/107km to go Our leaders have crossed the start/finish line again. That makes six laps out of 15 done – still not even the half!

12:48 CEST    The Gazzetta dello Sport says there is a "tsunami" facing cycling: the doping samples of 14 riders will be opened and tested again tomorrow, and that some big name riders are included. The Italian paper adds that two of them are in today's race.

12:50 CEST    And here is the news from CSC, as we expected, a new sponsor. "IT FACTORY will be the new main sponsor in cooperation with Saxo Bank from January 1, 2009, and three years onwards. The team will be named Team Saxo Bank – IT FACTORY."

12:54 CEST    We are still waiting for the field to get to the start/finish line.....

12:59 CEST    Oh here they come at last! Good grief, the gap is now 14.53. Which brings us to the question – what if the three lap the field? Then theoretically the whole field would have to be taken out of the race, leaving this trio alone to ride over 100 km and fight each other for medals! But at least each of them would get one...

13:00 CEST    David George of South Africa has a mechanical. One new front wheel, please!

13:02 CEST    We are bringing you the report today in a tag team. Ben Atkins is going to be your escort for the next two hours or so. Let's hope he can encourage the field to get its act together and start chasing!

13:04 CEST    Thanks Susan - as she handslings me into the action and starts to circle around the top of the track.

13:05 CEST    The blackboard man now says 15:13! Will they stay away..? Of course they won't!

13:05 CEST    If they did it would probably be the biggest upset in history.

13:08 CEST    Big Marcus Burghardt of Germany is smiling away on the front of the peloton. He's really not bothered about the three up front.

13:09 CEST    The three breakaways are coming up the finishing straight for the finish of yet another lap, still taking turns nicely.

13:11 CEST    104.7km/155.55km to go There they go, end of lap six, nine more to go before we find out who will take the rainbow jersey for this year.

13:12 CEST    Some of the road graffiti must have been done right at the last minute, there are sections where the race vehicles have completely wiped it out making the tarmac almost completely white... and probably their tyres too!

13:17 CEST    Still very quiet in the peloton, Germany still seems to be in control, but if it wasn't for the temperature there wouldn't be a bead of sweat on any of them.

13:21 CEST    Some information about the breakaway guys while we have a few moments. Christian Poos of Luxembourg has probably the funniest name in the race today, he's been around for a good few years now. He currently rides for Luxembourg registered Continental team Differdange - Apiflo Vacances. His only notable results this year were in his national championships where he came second in the time trial behind Kim Kirchen and third in the road race behind Frank Schleck.

13:26 CEST    Ukrainian Oleg Chuzhda rides for the small Spanish Continental Contentpolis - Murcia team. He's only 23, and you could say that this was his breakthrough season, as he won the category two ranked Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid back in July.

13:27 CEST    Here comes the peloton towards the finish line, the clock says 17 minutes and counting...

13:28 CEST    17:43! If they're not careful they'll all get pulled out!

13:28 CEST    Still well over half the race to go though so plenty of time to close things down...

13:28 CEST    ... so long as the break doesn't lap them of course!

13:33 CEST    The Italians seem to have decided enough is enough and start to crank things up a bit on the first climb. Marzio Bruseghin and Gabriele Bosisio put the hammer down on the front and the gap is actually starting to close!

13:34 CEST    We're told it's down to 16:35 already.

13:36 CEST    Richard Ochoa rides for the Pro-Continental Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni - Androni Giocattoli team so he's probably the celebrity up there in the break.

You might say he's just coming into form right now as he won a stage of his home Tour of Venezuela at the end of last month. Can he become World champion?

13:37 CEST    No.

13:39 CEST    The end of lap seven is upon us already, it only seems like a few minutes ago that the peloton crossed the line.

13:40 CEST    The Italian team is really stringing the bunch out here now with most of them on the front in one line.

13:40 CEST    Are we going to see some action in the peloton at last?

13:41 CEST    Brus' is stomping on his pedals as Luca Paolini comes through on the Ronchi climb.

13:43 CEST    They're clocking everyone's speed on the fastest descent of the course by the way. Great Britain's Russell Downing is the one most likely to lose his licence at the end of the day, he currently leads the standings with 85.544kph.

13:43 CEST    Andrea Tonti now leads for the Italians, with Matteo Tosatto right behind him.

13:44 CEST    Ooh! We have an attack! Luca Paolini has jumped off the front and has taken a group with him. More names ASAP.

13:46 CEST    The activity has cut the lead the 14:11 to the three leaders.

13:47 CEST    Geoffroy Lequatre of France tries to jump away but they won't let him go and it looks like the Paolini group is being caught now.

13:48 CEST    Yep. They have them now.

13:49 CEST    We have a crash in the bunch involving a few riders, they're having trouble untangling their bikes.

13:51 CEST    David George of South Africa came down, with Ricardo Mestre of Portugal, Lars Ytting Bak of Denmark and a Spanish rider that may have been Samuel Sanchez. We'll get back to you on that one obviously!

13:52 CEST    The peloton crosses the line and the gap is now just under 14 minutes.

13:52 CEST    Gerard Ciolek of Germany has a front wheel puncture, but he should be able to make it back on as the pace has dropped again.

13:55 CEST    Luxembourg is massing towards the front as the peloton takes the first climb.

Probably trying to stay out of trouble after that crash, not to chase their teammate down!

13:56 CEST    Luca Paolini get a quick wheel change, but he's soon off again and into the safety of the peloton.

13:57 CEST    A French rider now calls for assistance. It looks like Lequatre, our attacker from a few minutes ago.

13:58 CEST    Luxembourg is still right on the front, indicating that the pace has dropped right off.

14:01 CEST    Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown also spoke to Tyler Farrar (United States) before the start today. "It is always nice to win a race and it helps coming into a big race to know that the form is where I would like it to be," he said. The rider from Oregon who resides in Gent, Belgium, came directly from France's Tour du Poitou. He won the first stage and held the race leader's jersey for one day.

"I have not seen the course yet because I just flew in. The course is hard, so it will kind of be a 'wait and see' situation. I will try to survive in case it does come down to a sprint, and then I will do what I can. "Young team? There are many young guys and it is the first world championships for three of them. They are young, but at the same time they have had some good results."

He did not preview the course but he watched the under 23 and women's race on TV. "It is a little different in the elite race because the teams are so strong and that makes for different tactic, in the other races it can be unpredictable and crazy."

14:02 CEST    Bruseghin is back on the front for Italy with two Germans behind him.

14:02 CEST    Brus' suddenly kicks and has a bit of a gap, what's he up to?

14:04 CEST    They've pulled him back without too much fuss, but he continues to set his fast pace, it looks like Italy have decided that the race is going to start soon.

14:07 CEST    The gap is down to 13:46, which is surprising after the Italians' efforts, that's only a few seconds since they crossed the finish line.

14:09 CEST    Brus' ups the pace again on the Ronchi, a lot of riders look like they're hurting back there and Spain's Benjamin Noval has trouble hanging on.

14:09 CEST    Come on Ben! Us Ben's have got to stick together!

14:10 CEST    Usually in a race like this you have to look at the riders' bikes and helmets to work out who they are as they are obviously riding and wearing the ones that they're paid to ride and wear the other 364 days of the year.

14:11 CEST    There are a few exceptions there though, most of the Gerolsteiner Germans have plain white Specialized 2Ds instead of the usual pale blue.

14:12 CEST    Bettini though has a another new Barza Designs scheme on his, it's a lot of Italian blue, but there are obviously still lots of rainbows on it!

14:13 CEST    Our three breakaway boys are still going strong, but so is Brus' and he's pulled the gap down to 12:30.

14:14 CEST    The front three must have crossed the line without us seeing, the peloton is flying through the pretty main streets of Varese so they're not far from crossing it themselves.

14:16 CEST    Here they come, under the 1km red kite.

14:20 CEST    138.8km/121.45km to go The gap is coming down, and it's Bosisio that brings us towards the line, but Andre Greipel of Germany leads over 11.27 behind the breakaways.

14:20 CEST    We're over halfway there now, and Bruseghin is back on the front for Italy.

14:21 CEST    The commissaire show the break a piece of paper with 11 on it. Where's the blackboard man?

14:23 CEST    The front three are on the Ronchi climb again, and they're all starting to look a bit tired.

14:24 CEST    Not so Bruseghin and Bosisio of Italy who pound their pedals with Greipel and Burghardt of Germany right behind them.

14:25 CEST    Poos leads the threesome over the top, but looks considerably more laboured than he did a few laps ago.

14:26 CEST    "It will be a really hard day – 260 kilometres," said Frantisek Rabon of Team Czech Republic to Gregor Brown. "We are just three riders so we have to look to the bigger teams, like Italy and Spain. If it is possible, we will follow until the end and then maybe try something. We cannot jump from the start and be in the break-aways, so, it will depend how we feel – me, Roman Kreuziger and Martin Mares. Then we will play one card in the finale five laps with a break of maybe 20."

He analysed the Under 23 men's of Friday. "The elite men's race is different than the Under 23 race. You never know with an attack; the Colombian guy tried and he won, and that will probably be our tactics."

Rabon races for Team Columbia in the season and indicated that the Worlds will be his last race of the season.

14:28 CEST    The peloton is steadily being thinned out by the retirements of the less fancied riders. Dragan Spasic of Slovakia is the latest one to go.

14:30 CEST    Everybody gets into that scary ski style tuck as the peloton comes down the fast descent. No news on anyone knocking Russell Downing off his top spot though. Nobody got over 85kph that time.

14:33 CEST    The three leaders have less than a kilometre left of lap nine.

14:34 CEST    158.15km/102.1km to go Here they come. 4:03.59. Six laps to go.

14:36 CEST    The gap is now down to 8:42. There shouldn't be too many more laps before they're caught.

14:37 CEST    There are now four Italians on the front of the peloton. Matteo Tosatto and Luca Paolini have come back up to help Brus' and Bosisio.

14:39 CEST    The peloton is coming through the Varese streets once more, what's the gap going to be on the line this time?

14:40 CEST    Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Team Norway has many supporters in Varese. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown witnessed first-hand their passion last night in Varese's centre. "Yeah? They really go to the bars?" Arvesen, winner of Tour de France's stage to Foix, responded with a laugh.

"There are a lot of Norwegians here and many are here for me, but also for the whole Norwegian team – it's great."

He enjoys the atmosphere and one of the couple of times he can don the national jersey. "It is always nice to be a part of the Worlds. I am not in really good shape this year, but it is nice anyway. I will try to take it easy a little in the beginning. Maybe I will go in an attack early in the race. We saw that in the under 23 and the girls that the break-away can go pretty far. "I think it is a course where you can sit in the front and spend more energy than in the peloton, but not much more."

14:40 CEST    Our Gregor gets around, doesn't he!

14:41 CEST    Here they come into the "Mapei Cycling Stadium".

14:42 CEST    Bosisio brings us towards the line, and it's 7:45 as they cross.

14:43 CEST    Correction 7:46. An all-important second. Could make the difference... actually no it won't...

14:47 CEST    Could it be that the "Mapei Cycling Stadium" is a small step towards the company getting back into the sport on a larger scale? It still supports a lot of grass roots stuff, but who could forget the great team of the nineties that used to dominate the classics.

14:51 CEST    Martin emailed us earlier to remind us that going by all the other results there must be a German on the podium. He reckons probably Stefan Schumacher, but reminds us to look out for Fabian Wegmann, Gerard Ciolek and Andre Griepel.

14:51 CEST    The Germans certainly have a lot of options!

14:54 CEST    The leaders are on the Ronchi climb again and Poos is looking a bit fried. They're all grimacing a bit actually, but they have been up the road for quite a while though.

14:58 CEST    The Italians are massing on the front now, but it's still Brus' who's doing the work.

Paolo Bettini sits in eighth wheel at the back of his team, and almost the entire Spanish team is right behind him.

15:01 CEST    171.5km/88.75km to go The gap is down to 5:48 now with the leaders approaching the end of lap 10

15:02 CEST    173.5km/86.75km to go Here they come, across the line, 10 laps down, five to go. That's two-thirds distance folks!

15:04 CEST    Tim Heathers writes regarding that news about the Saxo Bank team's new sponsor. "What exactly is IT Factory?".

Well, our own Hedwig Kröner was at the press conference today and can confirm that it is a Danish software company. Stay tuned to the news for more information.

15:07 CEST    The Italians lead the peloton towards the finish line but the Belgians and the Germans are moving up alongside and it's the pale blue with black gold and red - behind Bruseghin of course - of Maxime Monfort that comes through. Brus' doesn't want to give up his place at the front, not to a Belgian anyway and the Italians take things on again.

15:08 CEST    The gap is down to four and a half minutes with one third of the race to go.

15:09 CEST    Poos momentarily gaps his companions on a drag, but surely he can't have attacked them. They all look tired and must be looking forward to getting caught now.

15:11 CEST    After telling you how many fans Kurt Asle-Arvesen has here in Varese, we can now tell you that he's pulled out of the race. Apparently he stopped just after the pit boxes but then retraced the course back to them - highly dangerous and against the rules!

15:12 CEST    Brus' is now on his own with four Belgians right behind him.

15:13 CEST    Okay folks, just as the race is starting to hot up I'm going to hand you back to Susan Westemeyer who can tell you why Tom Boonen is in fourth wheel at the moment...

15:14 CEST    Thanks for the great hand-off, Ben! And as to Tom Boonen – who knows? Ha ha, just kidding.....

15:16 CEST    But speaking of Boonen: He has 14 wins on the season, which makes him second-highest winner on the season behind Mark Cavendish. He most recently won two stages in the Vuelta a Espana.

15:18 CEST    The speed has clearly picked up in the field, they are no longer all bunched together. Nor are they strung out single file, though, they aren't quite yet at that stage.

15:19 CEST    Those baby-blue Belgian jerseys are at the front of the field now.

15:20 CEST    The gap has really dropped, now it is down to 3.28.

15:21 CEST    Bettini has five wins in this his last season, most recently taking two stages in the Vuelta.

15:22 CEST    Now the field has really turned on the speed. Bruseghin is in the lead again, up out of the saddle and giving it his all.

15:22 CEST    Gerry van Gerwen, Milram's team manager, thinks that Boonen will win today. But if he had his way, then either Erik Zabel or Gerald Ciolek would take the title.

15:23 CEST    Paolini and Bettini move up to the front.

15:23 CEST    The way things are going, we expect a move any minute now.....

15:24 CEST    A leading group of 10-15 riders has formed.

15:25 CEST    The lead is now only 2.07.

15:25 CEST    Bettini himself leads the chase, followed by Christian Knees of Germany.

15:26 CEST    A French rider takes off, followed by a Belgian.

15:27 CEST    Two riders behind them, then three or four, with the pack then 20 or so meters back. The three leaders are still ahead, but their time is almost over.

15:30 CEST    190.85km/69.4km to go The three leaders are at the start/finish line again. Now we will get a good idea of how far back the field is. It looks like the field is all together again with, what a surprise, an Italian at the front.

15:31 CEST    And here comes the field, only 1.28 down!

15:31 CEST    We are going to go out on a limb and predict that the three will be caught in this lap.

15:32 CEST    David Millar won't win today – he just left the race.

15:33 CEST    Damiano Cungeo tries his luck, and is followed by a French rider and another we can't make out. Knees gives chase.

15:34 CEST    Bettini gives chase too and catches Knees and the other three.

15:34 CEST    Chuzhda is alone now in the lead.

15:35 CEST    The group is Bettini, Knees, Cungego, Moinard of France and Rodriguez of Spain.

15:37 CEST    But they have only a short lead over the field, and aren't working together.

15:37 CEST    That break is over.

15:37 CEST    Steven Cozza of the USA is now leading the field.

15:38 CEST    Another group of five or six has gotten away.

15:39 CEST    It is a very fluid situation right now, with attacks coming and going, everything changing from second to second.

15:42 CEST    About 15 rides are ahead of the field, but not a lot, and it is not a well-organized group. Chuzhda is now alone in front by about 40 seconds and isn't ready to quit yet.

15:42 CEST    The peloton is together again.

15:43 CEST    Hubert Krys of Poland is the next to try his luck.

15:44 CEST    A motorcycle just pulled into the road just in front of Chuzhda. Not close enough for danger of a crash, but he had to brake.

15:45 CEST    Two Italians and a Belgian pull the peloton up the last climb of this round.

15:46 CEST    Louw Strydom in Virginia asks: "Has Ivan Basso been spotted among the spectators? Varese is his home town."

Actually his home town is Gallarate, which is a few km south of here, but that's splitting hairs. We haven't actually seen him here today, but assume that he's around. He was training with the Italian team two days ago though.

15:47 CEST    And that's it for Chuzhda! Bruseghin leads the way past him. And Ballan attacks right away!

15:48 CEST    Five or six riders go with him – a Belgian, two Spaniards and ??? They have a good break, too.

15:49 CEST    A third Spaniard is on his way to the group: Valverde.

15:51 CEST    This group isn't working. Bettini is in it, Garate, Rodriguez, Kolobnev – we don't have all the names and numbers.

15:53 CEST    But here is the list: Bettini, Ballan, and Cunego of Italy; Garate, Rodriguez and Valverde of Spain; De Weert of Belgium; Kolobnev of Russia, H. Miholjevic of Croatia and Germany's Fabian Wegmann.

15:55 CEST    208.2km/52.05km to go Could this be "THE" group? They have a lead – well maybe it isn't that much, about 12 seconds.

15:55 CEST    A Colombian rider has a mechanical – this was not a good time for that!

15:56 CEST    Okay, it was 11 seconds and not 12 ...

15:58 CEST    The leading group has gotten larger and has increased its lead.

16:01 CEST    Germany's Andre Greipel is one of those who has joined the front group. On the other hand, Bruseghin is finally given up his lead work and is dropping back. That man deserves a round of applause, he has put in an awful lot of hard work today.

16:02 CEST    Le Mevel of France is now in the lead, followed by an Italian – Pozzato. The Frenchman has a nice little lead.

16:03 CEST    He's not that far ahead, though. And Gabriele Bosisio is the next to drop out of the race.

16:04 CEST    There are now four riders giving chase, while Le Mevel builds up his lead.

16:05 CEST    Well, it sure isn't Pozzato giving chase, is It? Duh....... wonder who it is!

16:05 CEST    How about Tosatto? Sounds close....

16:07 CEST    Whoever it is, Le Mevel is about to be taken back into the group. Lots of riders have dropped out now, including Zabriskie and Zberg – the Zs are out...

16:07 CEST    Garate and Frank Hoj of Denmark are together now but they don't really have much of a lead.

16:08 CEST    And they too are caught. A Spaniard goes off alone.

16:08 CEST    They are going up the final climb again, and now it is a French rider who takes off.

16:09 CEST    He has been joined by four others, and others come up to them.

16:10 CEST    Everyone is looking into being in "the" group of the day – which makes things very nervous. Rebellin tries it but without success. Paolini falls off the back.

16:11 CEST    A group of five now has a slight lead, including Rebellin, Cunego, Rodriguez, Grivko and – who is the fifth?

16:12 CEST    The fifth man is Wegmann again.

16:13 CEST    Pfannberger of Austria takes off after the lead group.

16:15 CEST    The Austrian has caught up to the lead group. The little Alpine nation would love to take home a second medal from these Championships.

16:16 CEST    And a Slovenian rider has joined the lead group now.

16:17 CEST    They don't have much of a lead, though. Looks like they will be caught momentarily.

16:18 CEST    225.55km/34.7km to go The leaders tear up to the finish line. The field is right behind them, at 7 seconds.

16:19 CEST    Boonen grabs a bottle of water as he goes through the feed zone.

16:20 CEST    Belgium move to the head of the field. They have caught the lead group. Gosh, who are they working for?

16:20 CEST    Gilbert leads the way, with Boonen on third wheel.

16:21 CEST    Tossato is the next to break out. Rodriquez follows.

16:22 CEST    Noval of Spain has called it quits for the day. Meanwhile the pack has caught Tossato and Rodriguez.

16:23 CEST    Le Mevel is out, as is Paolini.

16:24 CEST    We have a group of 47 riders. We aren't sure if that is everyone or not, but think we can safely predict that our winner will come out of this group

16:25 CEST    There are now three Slovenian riders near the front.

16:27 CEST    A mechanical for Zabel – that is really bad timing. He is hoping for a quick change.

16:28 CEST    Everyone together, giving it their all.

16:30 CEST    Contador, Andy Schleck and Robbie McEwen have all dropped out, too. McEwen told our Hedwig Kröner, "This is too hard for a sprinter like me!"

16:31 CEST    Ross McEwen writes from Brisbane asking how his brother Robbie is getting on out there. Well Ross, he was in the main bunch at the end of lap 12 and we haven't heard differently since then so it looks like Rocket Robbie is still in with a shot. Actually, we just answered his question a minute ago without knowing he had asked!

16:32 CEST    Amelia Baldwin asks why Italians wear blue. We're pretty sure it's to do with the Italian royal family, similar to why the Dutch wear orange.

16:33 CEST    Sylvain Chavanel of France is now on third wheel – let's not count him out!

16:33 CEST    Garate drops off the back now.

16:34 CEST    Ciolek is now out of the race.

16:35 CEST    Alexander Efimkin of Russia tries an attack, but the others won't let him go.

16:35 CEST    Ballan leads a group of five, with Wegmann on the other end of the group.

16:36 CEST    Van Avemaet is also in this group, as well as a Spaniard.

16:37 CEST    Wegmann moves into the lead and Rodriguez follows him.

16:39 CEST    Ballan, Van Avermaet, Breschel, Rodriguez, Wegmann – that is the current group.

16:39 CEST    240.25km/20km to go The group is struggling to work together.

16:40 CEST    Come on, guys, get it together! Or do you want to be caught?

16:42 CEST    Behind them the peloton is falling apart into four or five groups. There aren't that many riders left in the race at this point.

16:43 CEST    242.9km/17.35km to go Another rider has joined the leaders, a Swede, probably Thomas Lövkvist. They have about a 12 second lead as they start on the bell lap.

16:44 CEST    Lövkvist leads the break group. They are now joined by Dutch rider Robert Gesink.

16:45 CEST    Now Wegmann leads the group again. Up the first – and penultimate – climb they go.

16:46 CEST    The lead group has gotten larger, and its lead looks to have gotten larger, too.

16:47 CEST    The group tears down the descent, trying to put as much time as possible between themselves and the next group.

16:48 CEST    245.25km/15km to go Time to decide – will the Italians try to bring things back for Bettini, or let it go for Cunego and Rebellin?

16:48 CEST    Van Avermaet had his problems on the climb but is still hanging on at the end of the group.

16:49 CEST    Breschel goes for it, followed closely by Gesink, Rebellin and Pfannberger.

16:50 CEST    The leading group is not working together at all, it is every man for himself.

16:50 CEST    Bettini is looking around talking with everyone, he looks very nervous. He even has a chat with Erik Zabel.

16:51 CEST    Van Goolen of Belgium tries his luck out of the lead group. The pack is 28 seconds back.

16:52 CEST    Are we going to have a mass sprint? Or will someone be able to get away?

16:53 CEST    Bettini looks to be going around the pack shaking hands and saying goodbye. Has the pack given up hope of catching the lead group?

16:54 CEST    There are 12-15 riders in the lead group.

16:55 CEST    Various riders try to get away, but none are successful.

16:55 CEST    They now head up the last climb. This would be a good place for an attack!

16:56 CEST    The two Italians lead the group up the climb.

16:57 CEST    Rodriguez tries to attack, but the Italians catch him quickly.

16:57 CEST    Three riders have joined the lead group from the back.

16:58 CEST    Breschel takes the lead now. Gesink follows and the two have a tiny gap.

16:59 CEST    All together again.

16:59 CEST    There are three Belgians in this group.

16:59 CEST    Rebellin goes!

17:00 CEST    He leads a group of five or six who won't let him go. And Ballan is the next to go.

17:00 CEST    Six riders now ahead, with three Italians among them!

17:02 CEST    Pfannberger goes next. The lead group is Ballan, Rebellin, Cunego, Pfannberger, Rodriguez and Breschel.

17:03 CEST    256.25km/4km to go Rebellin goes again. Then Breschel.

17:04 CEST    Attack and counter-attack, without end! Several riders make it back to the group.

17:04 CEST    Ballan takes off and quickly builds up a lead.

17:04 CEST    That could be it!

17:05 CEST    He has a huge lead now.

17:05 CEST    Sørensen leads the chase but it looks like they have no chance now.

17:06 CEST    259.25km/1km to go Or do they? It is hard to tell how big the lead is.

17:06 CEST    No, he has it.

17:07 CEST    Behind him the others are pedalling furiously – but so is he! He grimaces as he goes up the slight incline to the finish line

17:08 CEST    Ballan has plenty of time to celebrate his World Champion title!

17:09 CEST    And it's a one-two punch for Italy, as Cunego comes in second. The Dane Matti Breschel is third, with Rebellin fourth.

17:11 CEST    What a finish! A great attack by Ballan and a great performance by the home team of Italy. He worked hard today and earned his title well.

17:11 CEST    That's all, folks! Thanks for joining us today and for all the racing here this past week. It's been fun!

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