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Photo ©: Bettini

92nd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 9-31, 2009

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Stage 12 - Thursday, May 21: Sestri Levante - Riomaggiore (ITT), 60.6km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

14:00 CEST   
Welcome back to what has been called "the" decisive stage of the Giro, a "monster" time trial, which if it doesn't actually decide the overall winner, will certainly have a major effect on the rankings.

It runs 60.6km from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore – it is not only long, it is curvy and climby. As our Cyclingnews preview says, the roads twist tightly up and down - they simply don't do straight and flat in this region.

14:02 CEST   
Bart Dockx of Silence-Lotto was the first to head out today. Dario Andriotto of Acqua & Sapone has the best time at the finish so far, 1:42:12, which puts him 10 seconds ahead of Katusha's Ignatiev. Dockx, by the way, is slowest so far, over three minutes down.

Andriotto also had the best time at the third time check, covering the 44.5km in 1:19:26. Best time so far at the second time check (34.5km) is Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R), and at the first check we have a best time by Bartosz Huzarski, of ISD.

14:05 CEST   
There are three intermediate time checks, at km 18.6 (top of the first climb), 34.5km (roughly the bottom of the first climb) and 44.5km, the top of the second climb.

14:09 CEST   
Dockx no longer has the slowest time. That "honour" now belongs to Evgeny Sokovlev of Bbox Bouygues, who came in at 1:51:48, more than nine and a half minutes back. Wonder what the cut-off time will be?

14:12 CEST   
We suspect that the official Giro timing may have a problem, or did Fuji's Alberto Fernandez really need 1:47:16 to cover the first 18.6km?

14:13 CEST   
If so, he sure sped up later, as he crossed the second time check at 1:00.10. Hm, negative speed?

14:14 CEST   
Bertolini of Diquigiovanni just put in a new best time at the second time check, 55:08.

14:15 CEST   
By the way, Tyler Farrar of Garmin crossed the second time check in the time of exactly one hour flat. But even here he was slower than Mark Cavendish, who had a time of 58:41.

14:18 CEST   
So who is going to take the honours today? Lance Armstrong has to be an obvious candidate, especially after yesterday's strong showing, and his teammate Levi Leipheimer is perhaps most often mentioned as the potential winner. But how about Ivan Basso? Denis Menchov? Or Damiano Cunego, who still has something to prove in this race? Even race leader Danilo Di Luca shouldn't fare too badly. Give us your thoughts in
our forum.

14:21 CEST   
Here is some Garmin news: David Zabriskie has hit the finish line in 1:45:11, which makes him 10th at the moment. Doing better is teammate David Millar, who had the second best time at the second check, 48 seconds behind Bertolini.

14:27 CEST   
As usual, the riders are setting off at one-minute intervals, with the top twenty going off at three-minute intervals. Bart Dockx of Silence-Lotto opened the gala at 12:05, and Danilo Di Luca will be the last to head down the starter's ramp at 15:49.

14:29 CEST   
The cut-off time in today's stage may well play a role. With 29 riders in so far we already have a time difference of over nine and a half minutes. The cut-off time is a percent of the winner's time, added to his time. We are, however, not sure whether it is 12 or 15 percent. At any rate, it wouldn't surprise us to see some riders finish outside of the time limit today.

14:32 CEST   
If you are looking for straight sections or flat sections today you are wasting your time. The first climb starts only 2.8 km after the start, and they don't start descending until km 26. Then they start up the next climb, hitting the top at km 44.5 and not starting to descend until about km 55.

Oh, now let's be fair, we found a flat section: the last 1.4 km to the finish line.

14:35 CEST   
Cavendish continues to lead Farrar at the third time check, 1:25:17 to 1:25:50.

14:37 CEST   
Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad) waves
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

We send birthday wishes today to Mark Cavendish, who today hits the ripe old age of 24. Not that he really has anything to celebrate: two stage wins, several days in the pink jersey.... We wish him good legs and fair sprints in the future!

14:38 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins of Garmin is on the course now. Some people consider him a dark horse to win here today.

14:40 CEST   
We have a new leader! Yuriy Krivtsov of AG2R is now at the top of the charts, with a time of 1:41:27, which is 45 seconds faster than Andriotto.

14:43 CEST   
Giovanni Visconti of ISD set a whopping new best time at the first check, 55 seconds faster than the previous one. Can he hold that speed on this long, difficult course?

14:45 CEST   
And of course we wish a Happy Birthday to Mauricio Ardilo of Rabobank, who has hit the big three-oh today!

14:46 CEST   
Millar is continuing on at a measured pace. He was also second best at the third check, only 11 seconds behind Bertolini.

14:47 CEST   
We hear the time cut off will be 25 percent today, so there are some riders probably a little happier now about their chances to continue in the race.

14:49 CEST   
Milram's Thomas Rohregger was the last to go, and soon we will be in the top twenty.

14:50 CEST   
The first climb is the Passo del Bracco, ranked Category Three. It is 613 metres high, and the riders will climb 504 of those meters over 15.8km. The average gradient is 3% but some sections are up to 8%.

14:52 CEST   
We wonder what has happened to Fuji's Hector Gonzalez. He had the second best time at the second time check, but doesn't show up on any later time checks, which he should have passed long ago.

14:55 CEST   
Bertolini has now moved into first place overall. His time of 1:39:50 is over a minute and a half faster than Krivtsov's time

14:56 CEST   
And Oscar "the Cat" Gatto is now at the bottom of the list. His time of 1:52:19 was 31 seconds slower than Sokolov.

14:57 CEST   
Mauricio Soler of Barloworld is on the course now. He was in 19th place going into the day, so we are now sending the riders off at three minute intervals.

14:58 CEST   
David Millar has now knocked Bertolini off the throne! The Scot came through in a time of 1:39:46, which was four seconds faster than the Italian.

15:00 CEST   
Team Columbia is now two-three at the first time check, with Marco Pinotti second and Edvald Boasson Hagen third.

15:01 CEST   
We are happy to report that Hector Gonzalez has popped up and was noted as fifth fastest at the third time check.

15:01 CEST   
The day's second torture instrument, or climb, is the Monterosso al Mare, Category Two. Here the riders climb 537 of its 548 metres, over 8.8 km. It may be shorter but it is nastier: an average gradient of 6,1%, with max of 10%.

15:04 CEST   
Armstrong is on the course now.

15:04 CEST   
Astana's Lance Armstrong doesn't mince words as to the stage. "The Giro TT is wicked hard. Never, ever flat and 62 kilometres. I'm doubtful for riding the TT bike as well. And the descents? Insane."

15:06 CEST   
Have we mentioned that Visconti also has the fastest time at the second time check? He is still speeding along, 1:36 faster than Bertolini.

15:08 CEST   
The start is in Sestri Levante, right on the Mediterranean. It is perhaps not as well known as other Italian Riviera destinations, but is turning into a big favourites of the Italians. It has two bays, whose names we like: Baia delle Favole, (Bay of the Fables), and Baia del Silenzio, the (Bay of Silence). The Bay of the Fables, or Fairy Tales, was named for Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, who lived here in 1835.

15:11 CEST   
Wiggins shows why he is a secret favourite here, setting a new best time at the first time check, 24 seconds faster than Visconti.

15:17 CEST   
Armstrong is on the road now, and he is not using his special time trial bike. He has normal wheels, and a normal helmet. However he does have clips, aero bars clipped on to his handlebars.

15:17 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre is another favourite today. He is not even using clips.

15:18 CEST   
We see, though, that Wiggins is wearing an aero helmet. Is that why he has such a good time?

15:19 CEST   
This portion of the Italian Riviera is known as Cinque Terre, which translates as Five Lands, although it is acutally only five villages. The whole area is also the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is noted for its rugged beauty.

15:20 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre is looking forward to today's stage. Back at the Giro presentation in December, he said, "I like this time trial, demanding and hard. It will be one of the favorable days, there will be the hard climbs though and I hope it all equals out."

15:21 CEST   
Boasson Hagen and Pinotti are now second and third at the second time check.

15:23 CEST   
Simoni is the next to tackle the course.

15:25 CEST   
Garzelli just passed the man who started one minute in front of him.

Visconti has the new best time at the third time check.

15:26 CEST   
Garzelli now has the best time at the first time check, but Scarponi who started later was even faster. His time is not yet up though.

15:29 CEST   
Wiggins sets a new best time at the second time check, of 53:13.

15:29 CEST   
Ivan Basso will be the next to go, as Thomas Lövkvist has already taken to the course.

15:31 CEST   
Bosisio, Di Luca's mountain helper, has taken the new best time at the first check.

15:34 CEST   
Jim Ochowitz, now working with BMC, says, "I think Lance has been well prepared for the race. Most of his preparation over the winter was geared for this race. The collarbone break set him behind but he's growing into the race. He looks really good - iti's the typical Lance Armstrong. He's got great experience and a lot of confidence and I think you're seeing that here today."

15:35 CEST   
Carlos Sastre is the next to go. Cervelo DS Jean-Paul Van Poppel sees good chances for Sastre today. "It's the big day so we will see how it goes, because it's not the usual time trial. In fact it is very unusual. It contains super hard climbs and the downhill is very technical. Everything is there and everybody can go to their maximum and I think that Carlos will do a good time trial, I really believe he can do that."

15:36 CEST   
Ochowitz is picking Armstrong to win today and Leipheimer to take the overall title.

15:37 CEST   
"It's completely different than a normal time trial," says Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre of Cervelo. "I don't know if I'll be better or not, but it appears to be a different scenario for a climber. Everybody must remember Carlos Sastre is a climber, not a specialist in the time trial."

15:38 CEST   
Lövkvist has his power meter on, and appears to be keeping his effort at a certain level. He's certainly not going all out.

15:39 CEST   
Visconti approaches the finish line and looks like he will have a new best time.

15:39 CEST   
And does he have a new best time! 1:37:17, which is 2:29 faster than Millar.

15:40 CEST   
Leipheimer is now in the starting blocks.

15:42 CEST   
Garzelli has now caught the man who started two minutes ahead of him. He is going to make some time good in the GC today.

15:46 CEST   
Sastre is bucking the trend and is riding a TT bike, so he is getting every bit of help he can. Of course his sponsor is Cervelo, which builds those aerodynamic beauties.

15:46 CEST   
Michael Rogers went on his way three minutes ago and Denis Menchov just took off.

15:47 CEST   
Boasson Hagen moves into second place at the finish, ahead of Millar.

15:48 CEST   
Stefano Garzelli is on fire! He has caught and passed Navarro and De Greef. And Serpa.

15:49 CEST   
Di Luca is in a long-sleeved skin suit (that's a lot of pink, we must say) and is now started. All the riders are now underway.

15:50 CEST   
This isn't the only important stage remaining in the Giro, Denis Menchov of Rabobank reminds us. "The most important stage is the time trial, then the stages to Monte Petrano, Blockhaus and Vesuvio. Those are the four most important stages." The Russian noted that "You have to be in top condition for that one special day, even if it not really a day for specialists. I will use a normal bike on that stage, which seems like a normal stage really."

15:51 CEST   
Armstrong came through the first time check in 33:36, which is 43 seconds behind the best time. That puts him in sixth place.

15:53 CEST   
Garzelli has the best time at the second time check and Wiggins at the third.

15:54 CEST   
We mentioned Di Luca's pink skinsuit. Of course they are all wearing skinsuits today.

15:56 CEST   
Current leader Danilo Di Luca sees himself doing quite well today. "It will be myself, Rogers and Menchov within a few seconds," he said. "If I lose 40 seconds to [Denis] Menchov, that would be great. I will use the normal [road] bike and time trial bar extensions.

16:00 CEST   
Armstrong has passed the second time check, 29 seconds down in fifth place.

Meanwhile, Pinotti is in at the finish with the second-best time, bumping his younger teammate Boasson Hagen down a place.

16:02 CEST   
What do we eat here in Cinque Terre, you wonder? (Like you are really afraid of going hungry here in Italy.) The obvious answer is seafood, with anchovies being a local specialty. The area is also known for its pesto sauce, and a common baked product is Focaccia. No surprise, there is also local wine and even a grappa and a lemon-flavoured sweet liquer.

16:02 CEST   
Armstrong seems to be picking a lot at his skinsuit. Does it not fit right?

16:05 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer of Astana is one of the top favourites for today's win. He said, "If it were a normal Tour de France-style time trial or any other time trial, I would say the gaps would be bigger. It is a really technical time trial and probably a slower time trial than normal. It means a guy like Di Luca won't lose as much."

16:06 CEST   
Rogers is also wearing an aerodynamic helmet today. The three-times World Time Trial Champion said of today's stage, "The descents are very difficult - it cannot be won on the descents, but it can be lost there. The difference will be made on the climbs. I would like to see time gaps in my favour and finish in the top three."

16:07 CEST   
Armstrong goes up a climb. Lots of people along the way cheering him and everyone else on.

16:08 CEST   
A fan runs along and shows off his underwear, from behind. Fortunately it wasn't a thong.

16:09 CEST   
Rogers is wearing the Australian national champion jersey today, as he is Australian time trial champ.

16:10 CEST   
Wiggins comes toward the finish and will set a new best time.

16:11 CEST   
And Wiggo is in with a time of 1:36:27, which gives him a 49 second lead.

16:12 CEST   
Basso is only ninth at the first time check. Sastre's TT bike is paying off - he's sixth at that time check, two seconds faster than Armstrong!

16:13 CEST   
Bruseghin is just behind Armstrong at the first time check.

16:15 CEST   
Leipheimer was second at the first time check, one second back.

16:15 CEST   
Garmin really needs to win a stage, and you can bet Jonathan Vaughters is praying mightily that Wiggins' time holds up. They targeted the TTT to the exclusion of just about everything else -- a gamble which didn't pay off

16:16 CEST   
Di Luca also went for weight savings over aerodynamics. No aero bars, no aero helmet....

Most riders are using deep section carbon wheels which are far lighter than the usual disc wheels.

16:17 CEST   
A new best time at the finish! 1:35:41 for Janez Brajkovic of Astana.

16:18 CEST   
Michael Rogers is significantly back at the first time check, over a minute down.

16:19 CEST   
Menchov whizzes through the first time check in record time, by far the fastest.

16:20 CEST   
We don't have the exact time for Menchov, but it is said to be 18 seconds faster than Leipheimer.

16:21 CEST   
Armstrong comes to the third check in 7th place, at 1:16:09.

But we have yet another new leader! Garzelli is 11 seconds faster, with a time of 1:35:32.

16:22 CEST   
Di Luca is through the first time check in a time of 33:19, which is fifth place.

16:23 CEST   
Bosisio approaches the finish line but won't set a new best time. He is fourth.

16:25 CEST   
As of the first time check, Leipheimer had made up 25 seconds on Di Luca.

16:25 CEST   
Basso ninth at the second time check, at 53:45:0.

16:28 CEST   
Scarponi finishes the stage in 1:37:22, which makes him seventh at the moment.

16:31 CEST   
Leipheimer looks a bit temative in the curves, but you must remember that not only did he crash yesterday, he also crashed badly California and had to sit out for a while.

16:32 CEST   
Menchov descends, looking good. He has very good chances today.

16:34 CEST   
Leipheimer has just now gone through the second time check in third place, three seconds down.

16:36 CEST   
Ivan Basso of Liquigas offered an intersesting perspective on today's stage. It is not the curves or the climbs or descents that make the time trial so difficult, but its length. The problem will be the ability to concentrate for the whole time.

16:37 CEST   
Rogers continues to fall back, coming through the second time check in 14th place, 1:14 down.

16:39 CEST   
Menchov looks to be aiming for his second stage win. He was first at the second time check, in 52:38, which gives him a lead of 12 seconds.

16:40 CEST   
Cunego crosses the finish line in 11th place with a time of 1:38:36.

16:40 CEST   
Armstrong is the next to come to the finish line. No win for him today.

16:41 CEST   
Armstrong's time is 1:36:55, which is 1:23 down and puts him at the moment in sixth place.

16:42 CEST   
Di Luca is hunched down as low as he can to try and grab every second he can.

16:43 CEST   
Di Luca is tenth at the second time check, with a time of 53:24, which is 46 seconds down.

16:44 CEST   
Di Luca needs to start counting seconds. He has already lost 46 seconds to Menchov today. He can only lose 34 more or Menchov will be in pink.

16:46 CEST   
Pellizotti is climbing. Perhaps he would be more aerodynamic without those long blond curls.

16:50 CEST   
Perhaps Di Lucas should have paid more attention to the weather. He wipes the sweat from under his sunglasses.

16:51 CEST   
Not such a good day today for Team Columbia. Rogers has lost 1'26 already, and Lövkvist lost 3'00 at the second time check.

16:52 CEST   
Popovych made up the three minutes on Kevin Seeldrayers, who started ahead of him, and crossed the finish line just ahead of the Belgian.

16:54 CEST   
Menchov takes on a climb, with his shoulders rocking lightly side to side.

Leipheimer is up out of the saddle as he climbs.

16:55 CEST   
Leipheimer has the best time so far at the third time check by 30 seconds, 1:14:27.

16:56 CEST   
Menchov will be the next at the third time check.

16:57 CEST   
This is not good: we see a few raindrops.

16:58 CEST   
The road looks wet in places.

16:59 CEST   
It looks a bit harder going now for Menchov as he approaches the top of the second climb.

17:00 CEST   
It's not that hard going for Menchov though -- he is 34 seconds faster than Leipheimer, with a time of 1:13:53.

17:01 CEST   
Now it is Di Luca's turn to torture himself on this final climb.

17:02 CEST   
A pink-clad fan runs out into the road to accompany Di Luca.

17:03 CEST   
Basso carefully makes his way down towards the finish.

17:04 CEST   
Di Luca passes the Antler Man, who is wearing a Leipheimer tee shirt.

17:05 CEST   
Di Luca crosses the third time check in 1:15:39. We must quickly compare that to Menchov but we think that the Russian is now in virtual pink!

17:07 CEST   
Thomas Lövkvist finally approaches the finish, and is way back in 21st place.

17:08 CEST   
And only a few seconds later Ivan Basso crosses the line in 1:36:46, making him 7th at the moment.

17:09 CEST   
Sastre is the next to come in -- but first he must come out of the tunnel.

17:11 CEST   
Sastre is 8th at the moment, with a time of 1:36:46. But that is still eight seconds faster than Armstrong.

17:12 CEST   
Only five riders left now.

17:13 CEST   
Pellizotti and his blond curls come in with a good time, 1:35:56, which makes him third.

17:13 CEST   
Four to go. Leipheimer should be next.

17:14 CEST   
The American has his arms stretched out in front of him and he is highly concentrated.

17:15 CEST   
He crosses the line with the best time so far, 1:34:49 which is 43 seconds faster than Garzelli. But he shouldn't count on the stage win.

17:16 CEST   
Rogers ought to be next, but we haven't heard of him in ages. It wouldn't surprise us to see Menchov come in before him.

17:16 CEST   
3 km to go for Menchov.

17:17 CEST   
Menchov is still fresh enough to sprint out of the turns. He's really going well today.

17:17 CEST   
Menchov has 19 career wins, and we suspect he will add another one today.

17:17 CEST   
Two kms for the Rabo rider.

17:19 CEST   
The final km for Menchov. Can it be that he is willing to let the stage win go because he knows he has the pink jersey?

17:20 CEST   
Rogers misses out on the top ten.

17:21 CEST   
Menchov takes it! 1:34:29, which is 20 seconds faster than Leipheimer.

17:21 CEST   
Now to see what his advantage over Di Luca is.

17:22 CEST   
Di Luca still has more than 2 km to go.

17:24 CEST   
It's official! Menchov is the stage winner and the new GC leader!

17:26 CEST   
Di Luca finally makes it to the finish line in a time of 1:36:21, which means he was 1:54 behind Menchov and in 6th place on the day.

17:27 CEST   
Menchov and Di Luca swap places in the GC, with the Russian moving up and the Italian moving down. Third is now Leipheimer.

17:28 CEST   
Congratulations to one and all, and thanks for joining us again today. We will be back tomorrow, and hope you will be too!

Provisional results

Riomaggiore, km. 60.6
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                            1.34.29
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                               0.20
3 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                      1.03
4 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                               1.14
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                           1.27
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                             1.57
7 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                                  1.59
8 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                           2.04
9 Jose Serpa (Col) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli           2.13
10 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.                                    2.17

Passo del Bracco, km. 18.6
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                             32.36
2 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                          0.17
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                              0.18
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli        
5 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                     0.20
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                            0.43
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                          0.44
8 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                                 0.46
9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                              0.55
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                                    0.58
Levanto, km. 34.5
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                             52.38
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                     0.12
3 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                          0.13
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                              0.15
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                          0.30
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                                 0.35
7 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                              0.40
8 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana                                              0.41
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli    0.45
10 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                           0.46
Passo del Termine, km. 44.5
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                            1.13.53
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                               0.34
3 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                      1.04
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                           1.36
5 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana                                               1.41
6 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                             1.46
7 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                           1.53
8 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                                  1.57
9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                                      2.02
10 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli    2.05

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