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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

92nd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 9-31, 2009

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Stage 20 - Saturday, May 30: Napoli - Anagni, 203 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

10:45 CEST   
Things are starting to wind down now as we head into the next-to-last stage of this year's Giro. Normally this would be a sprinters' stage, but a nasty climb to be faced twice at the end will probably put a stop to that idea.

And normally on a stage like this the podium contenders would just ride along easily and keep half an eye on each other. But with so few seconds separating first and second, we expect some hot action today.

13:52 CEST   
The end is in sight! The exhausted men in spandex shorts have only two more stages to go and then they can claim, "We have survived the 2009 Giro!" Today's stage should supply some more fireworks, though, as there are only 18 seconds separating first and second, and second-place Danilo Di Luca is determined to take back the pink jersey. But Denis Menchov is equally determined not to let it go.

13:56 CEST    61km/142km to go
The race got underway at 12:40, and the peloton waited all of 4 km to get an escape group together. Robert Förster (Milram), Ben Swift (Katusha), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld), Angel Gomez (Fuji), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne), Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Francesco De Bonis ( Diquigiovann) and Guillaime Bonnafond (AG2R) have taken off and built up a lead of 3:43.

13:59 CEST   
The bad news is that David Lopez of Caisse d'Epargne has had to leave the race in an ambulance. He and Matthieu Sprick of Bbox crashed at km. 46, and only Sprick was able to keep on.

14:03 CEST   
Naples appeared in the first running of the Giro 100 years ago, as the finishing town of a relatively "short" stage of merely 242 km. It has hosted a start or finish many times since then.

14:08 CEST    66km/137km to go
So what are we going to see today? Will the group come through to the end? Will Di Lucas snap the stage win for himself and get enough of a lead to take over the pink jersey? Or will we see a sprint? You can talk about it in our forum.

14:13 CEST   
This is actually a relatively flat stage, with only some minor bumps along the way. Until the end, that is. In Anagni the riders take on a circuit course which takes them up a climb twice, with the finish being at the top of the second climb.

14:16 CEST    75km/128km to go
The lead has dropped slightly, to 3:21.

14:18 CEST    77km/126km to go
Hmm, the lead continues to fall, coming down now to 2:49. Is the peloton putting down the hammer or is the group too weak?

14:22 CEST   
The race started today in Napoli, the capital of both the region and the province. It has the rather dubious honour of sitting halfway between two volcanic areas, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields. Vesuvius was very well behaved yesterday as the peloton climbed up it, thank goodness.

14:25 CEST   
Danilo Di Luca picked up a precious eight seconds yesterday to cut his deficit to 18 seconds, but he knows he needs to pick up a lot more than that today. Tomorrow's closing time trial is short, only 14.4 km, but Denis Menchov is demonstrably the better time trialist. Today, Di Luca said, "I’m going to try to win the stage or be there in the sprint. The finish suits my characteristics."

14:29 CEST    85km/118km to go
The gap is really jumping around, from three and half to two and half minutes. Now it is back up to 3:07. The peloton is flyng along in single file, so it looks like they aren't wiling to let this group go.

14:33 CEST   
Who has won here at this year's Giro? Not counting the team time trial, we have 11 different winners for the 19 stages so far. Leading the ranking is Columbia's sprinter Mark Cavendish, with three. Five riders have won two stages each: Alessandro Petacchi, Danilo Di Luca, Denis Menchov, Michele Scarponi, and Carlos Sastre.

14:37 CEST    91km/112km to go
Not quite halfway through the day, and we have a gap of 3:15.

14:41 CEST   
Team-wise, Columbia has the most stage wins with six. They won the team time trial, got three from Cavendish and one each from Edvald Boasson Hagen and Kanstantsin Siutsou. LPR has four wins, and Diquigiovanni and Cervelo both have three. A total of six teams have won stages.

14:43 CEST   
We apologize for the lack of race reporting so far, but -- and you know what is coming -- it is a little hard at the moment to come by information. We'll try to keep you amused in the meantime!

14:46 CEST   
Five different riders have worn the pink jersey so far: it started out with Mark Cavendish (two days), then to Alessandro Petacchi (one day), Thomas Lövkvist (one day), Danilo Di Luca (seven days) and Denis Menchov (nine days).

14:50 CEST   
Carlos Sastre had perfect timing with his attack yesterday, according to teammate Serge Pauwels. "He showed he picked the right moment when the favourites were looking at each other and I was in a good position to slow down the chase group containing the favourites."

14:53 CEST    100km/103km to go
The lead group is now approaching the feed zone in Cassino, best known as the site of the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War II, which resulted in many casualties on both sides.

The gap is now slightly up again, to 3:23.

14:57 CEST   
The mountain jersey here is green and has rested on the shoulders of four men at this year's Giro. David Garcia (Xacobeo) and Mauro Facci (Quick Step) both wore it for one day before it drifted over to Danilo Di Luca for six days. Since then it has been worn by Stefano Garzelli.

15:02 CEST    108km/95km to go
The gap is now at its biggest: 3:49.

15:06 CEST   
Four riders have passed around the white jersey for best young rider. Cavendish got it first (two days) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin) wore it one day. Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia) had it the longest, but won't take it home. Kevin Seeldraeyers has worn it now for four stages.

15:10 CEST    113km/90km to go
And the lead yo-yos down again, to 3:11.

15:10 CEST    121km/82km to go
Whoops, lets make that 2:57 now!

15:15 CEST   
The jersey for the rider with the most points in the maglia ciclimino and has been worn by only two riders so far. Petacchi wore it for four days before handing it off to Di Luca, who has had it the last 14 days.

15:19 CEST   
The sun is shining again today. A variety of teams are sharing the lead work: Barloworld and Columbia are the first two we see.

15:23 CEST    131km/72km to go
The lead seems to be plummeting -- it is down to 1:47 now.

15:24 CEST   
Menchov has the lead and has defended it rather easily the last few days, despite Di Luca's best efforts, but the Rabo Russian isn't counting his chickens before they hatch. "I’ve got to be attentive," he said. "We’ve got to wait until the final finish line in Rome."

15:26 CEST   
The peloton is really speeding along now, and, surprise surprise, we see those gray LPR jerseys near the front. At the other end of the field is Lance Armstrong, who has dropped back to talk with whoever is driving the team car.

15:29 CEST   
1:33 now for the group in front. De Bonis drops back to pick up a can of Coca-Cola.

15:32 CEST   
The leaders go through the town of Ceprano with a lead of only 1:21. They don't look quite as well organized as they did earlier.

15:33 CEST   
Milram's Björn Schröder and Robert Förster had quite an adventure after yesterday's stage. After riding back down Vesuvius, the bus driver told them it wasn't far to the hotel and they could ride their bikes to it. First they got lost and then they couldn't remember the name of the hotel. The driver of a neutral material car gave them the hotel name, but it turned out to be the hotel for tonight – 160 km away.

The two doughty Germans decided to head towards the water and without knowing where they were going, ended up in "narrower and narrower and darker and darker cobblestoned alleys, where no one would go voluntarily," Schröder wrote on radsport-news.com. They kept on and eventually found their hotel – thanks to the team bus parked outside it.

15:35 CEST   
A big day for the Germans in the Bayern Rundfahrt today. They faced a time trial, and as expected, Linus Gerdemann of Milram used it to jump into the overall lead. The TT was won by Columbia's Tony Martin ahead of his teammate, World Champion Bert Grabsch. Gerdemann was third.

15:36 CEST    139km/64km to go
Only 1:05 for the leaders now.

15:38 CEST   
A Liquigas rider is ferrying water bottles up to Pellizotti, Basso and Co. -- he looks quite deformed!

15:41 CEST   
What was Vesuvius like? "It was a really crazy stage with a very dangerous run-in to the climb," said Garmin's Tom Danielson. "Cobbles, cars, dogs, holes, and people running into the road made for a very scary approach to the line."

15:45 CEST   
41 seconds now with the peloton tearing along at 51 km/h.

15:48 CEST   
37 seconds and the maglia rosa group will be able to see the escape group soon. And catch them soon.

15:49 CEST   
Silence-Lotto has led the chase. This is the most we have seen of them so far in this year's Giro.

15:53 CEST    154.4/48.5km to go
It's over now for the escape group. In a few minutes we will have our intermediate sprint, and the winner gets bonus seconds. We also see that Danilo Dl Luca is hanging on to the rear wheel of super sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. Will LPR try to slingshot Di Luca into the lead at the sprint?

15:53 CEST   
It was a Belgium stage in the Ardennes today. Bert De Waele of Landbouwkrediet took the win from a splintered breakaway. He managed to stay clear by a length over the sprint from Greg Van Avermaet (Silence Lotto) and Lars Boom (Rabobank).

The morning's leader Borut Bozic did not find the hills of the Adennes to be in his favor and was dropped early on.

15:54 CEST   
It's all LPR at the head and they take off in a team time trial, followed of course by Rabobank!

15:55 CEST   
Rabobank put an end to that attempt, and Menchov is right back in his favorite position, seemingly permanently attached to Di Luca's rear wheel.

15:56 CEST   
The two GC leaders make their tandem way up to the front of the peloton as the sprint approaches.

15:57 CEST   
And Menchov jumps out for the sprint! Di Luca doesn't follow.

15:59 CEST   
Petacchi took the sprint points ahead of Menchov, with Di Luca jumping up at the last minute to join them for third.

Good work by Petacchi, who caught on to what Menchov was doing and was able to use his sprint abilities to run up and spoil his plan.

16:01 CEST   
Markus Fothen of Milram has jumped out of the field and is trying to get away. The Giro has been so far sadly disappointing for both him and his team so far.

16:01 CEST   
Menchov was able to pick up two seconds on Di Luca, so at the moment he leads by 20 seconds.

16:03 CEST   
Fothen has company now. He has been joined by Agnoli and Brut, and they have about a 20 second lead.

16:04 CEST   
Over in the Tour of Belgium, Boom took the overall lead ahead of Van Avermaet with De Waele in third - both trail by 1 second. That's even closer than our race here!

16:06 CEST   
Do you suppose Di Luca will have nightmares in the future of being perpetually followed by a man in a pink jersey? He can't get rid of that pink shadow not matter what he tries. "I tried in every way to break away from him, but nothing," Di Luca said. "We'll see in the time trial in Rome, but for the moment he's the favourite because he's still in front."

16:07 CEST   
Agnoli has dropped out of the lead group, which only has about a 15 second lead.

16:09 CEST   
ISD and Silence-Lotto are at the head of the peloton. The duo in front has about 19 seconds.

16:12 CEST    167km/36km to go
LPR all huddled together (so to speak) as if they are discussing their plans for how next to take over the pink jersey.

And now we hear that rain is predicted for Rome tomorrow, which would NOT be nice for the closing time trial!

16:12 CEST   
33 seconds now for Fothen and Brut.

16:15 CEST    168km/35km to go
35 km to go for the leading duo, with a lead of 33 seconds. They will soon start on the circuit course in and around Anagni.

16:18 CEST   
The stage ends in Anagni, a small medieval town with small twisting streets and steep lanes – hm, that sounds like fun!

16:19 CEST   
Silence-Lotto continues to lead the peloton, followed by two ISD riders and then Rabobank behind them.

16:21 CEST    173km/30km to go
Armstrong looks to be enjoying a comfortable day rolling along in the pack.

16:22 CEST   
40 seconds now for Brut and Fothen, as more Silence-Lotto riders move up to the front of the peloton.

16:24 CEST   
LPR is nowhere to be seen, at least not in the front of the peloton. What are they up to now?

16:25 CEST   
Now we see one LPR rider right in the middle of the Rabo group -- who else but Di Luca?

16:29 CEST    178km/25km to go
The pea-green Liquigas jerseys are now mixing in with Silence-Lotto at the front of the chasing peloton.

25 km to go and the gap has fallen to under 20 seconds.

16:32 CEST   
The peloton will have the two escapees in a moment, as they are now all on the closing circuit course. The ending today has been described as similar to many a Spring Classic. Guess that is why Silence-Lotto is doing so much lead work, they want to set up a win for Philippe Gilbert.

16:32 CEST   
Liquigas up at the front now, as they start climbing.

16:34 CEST   
About 10 riders have built up a small gap, including of course Menchov-

16:35 CEST   
Oops, that wasn't Menchov but a Lampre rider -- too much pink and blue here!

16:35 CEST   
The filed will have them in a second anyway.

16:37 CEST   
Szmyd takes the mountain points.

16:38 CEST    185.3km/17.7km to go
A rider goes! From Cervelo? But he doesn't get away.

16:39 CEST   
When will LPR make its move?

16:40 CEST   
Lots of attacks now, with no one getting away.

16:41 CEST   
They are descending and not wasting any time. Three riders have a small lead.

16:42 CEST   
THe long stretched out peloton snakes around a series of hairpin curves.

16:43 CEST   
Bartosz Huzarski (ISD), Anthony Charteau (Caisse d'Epargne) and Paulo Tiralongo (Lampre) now have an 11 second lead over the peloton.

16:44 CEST   
The three look back nervously as they are about to be joined by Marco Pinotti of Columbia.

16:45 CEST   
The four men in front are trying to get organized, but it doesn't look good for them as Saxo Bank has the peloton in a long, thin line in pursuit.

16:46 CEST   
The pink jersey is situated nicely near the front as they hurtled towards the finish.

16:47 CEST    193km/10km to go
The four in front have 20 seconds, but we doubt that will be enough...

16:49 CEST   
Huzarski empties his jersey pocket, anything to reduce weight and gain a few seconds!

16:52 CEST   
The closing climb is not so steep, it might be something for the sprinters after all. But we think Di Luca will have other plans. Perhaps Petacchi will lead him out?

16:55 CEST    200km/3km to go
The field is bearing down on the escapees.

16:56 CEST   
Pinotti goes for it. He is a time trial specialist, so he ought to be able to achieve somehing But he can't lose his companions, and now they are caught.

16:56 CEST   
They fight desperately to hold on to their lead but resistance is futile.

16:57 CEST    201.1km/1.9km to go
The captains are all in the lead as the end nears. Of course Menchov is attached to Di Luca's rear wheel.

16:58 CEST   
LPR is leading the way to set things up for Di Luca -- they hope.

16:58 CEST   
A silence Lotto rider goes --Gilbert, followed by Popovych.

16:59 CEST    202km/1km to go
Voeckler has joined the two leaders. Nothing today for Di Luca!

16:59 CEST   
Voeckler and Gilbert are alone in the lead and going hard.

17:00 CEST   
Gilbert powers his way to the win.

17:01 CEST   
That is the first Belgian win in this Giro, the first this season for Gilbert and one of very few at all this season for Silence-Lotto.

17:01 CEST   
Armstrong is not in the first group, but is back in a group with Pinotti and Navarro. They come in with a time of 1:38 down.

17:03 CEST   
Well, that was certainly not the ending we expected today! Where was the LPR/Di Luca attack?

17:03 CEST   
That was it for today. Join us again tomorrow for the closing time trial -- and let's all hope for continued good weather!

Provisional results

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto                               4.30.07
2 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom                               
3 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                     
4 Allan Davis (Aus) Quick Step                                              
5 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale                                  
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                          
7 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Columbia - Highroad                       
8 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) ISD                                               
9 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervelo Test Team                                     
10 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Cervelo Test Team                                    
General classification after stage 20
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                               
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                            
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                          
4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                                     
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas                                                 
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                              
7 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                     
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad                             
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale                                     
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.                                    

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