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Photo ©: Bettini

92nd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 9-31, 2009

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Stage 4 - Tuesday, May 12: Padova - San Martino di Castrozza, 162km

Complete live report

Live report by Laura Weislo

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 92nd Giro d'Italia! Today should not be a frenetic bunch sprint like we've seen for the past two stages because there's a small obstacle at the finish: the 13.75km ascent to San Martino di Castrozza.

While the relatively gentle gradients averaging just over 6% should allow a small group to sprint for the stage win, the more difficult 8.5km climb to Croce d'Aune should ensure that the lead group will have all the main contenders present.

It might not be the stage where the Giro d'Italia will be won, but today certainly can be where the Giro could be lost.

13:03 CEST   
The riders will be hoping for a safe and crash-free stage today after the past two days. While only two riders have DNF'd so far, many more have hit the ground. The early days of a Grand Tour are always nervous and dangerous, but today's stage should put an end to some of the race jitters.

13:06 CEST   
Today's stage is only 162km long, but it has a couple little bumps which will send the sprinters packing for the gruppetto. The organisers haven't even included an intermediate sprint in the first half of the stage which will mean two things: attacks from kilometre zero and absolute certainty that a break will get away and get many minutes before being chased down by the favourites on the day's first big climb, the Croce d'Aune.

13:09 CEST   
Yesterday's stage had a big pile-up on the closing circuit which caused an interesting situation: most of the favourites were held up except for Levi Leipheimer (Astana). He made a small group which avoided the carnage, but being the good gentleman he is, he did not work to try and use the crash to take time on his opponents.

13:12 CEST   
The day was up and down for the Garmin team who lost Christian Vande Velde in a crash early in the stage. But then, the team's young sprinter Tyler Farrar took second in the bunch sprint behind Alessandro Petacchi. Interesting note: he broke his rear derailleur in the crash and had to sprint stuck in one gear! Not bad!

13:19 CEST   
Today's stage marks an unusually early entry into the mountains of the Giro d'Italia. After a flat first 100km or so, the roads will kick up rather quickly on the first climb, the Croce d'Aune. First, however, the sprinters get their last hurrah before heading for the laughing group with an intermediate sprint at km 111.

Once the sprinters have dropped anchor, it's game on for the GC contenders as the very difficult 8.5km climb begins right after the sprint. The attacks will fly on the lower slopes where the gradient goes up to 12%, and averages 10% for the first 1.5km.

13:21 CEST   
The riders have been seen off from Padova by big crowds of enthusiastic tifosi. It's sunny and a lovely 24 degrees - a perfect day for the task ahead.

13:25 CEST   
The prize money for today's intermediate sprint in Pedavana is going to be donated to Livestrong, according to the Astana team.

13:27 CEST   
Milram's Björn Schröder has been doing a diary for the German Radsport-news website. He was in yesterday's long escape group, which he called "a lot of fun". He was just rolling along talking to teammate Ronny Scholz, when two riders took off, "and I went after them." Looking back, he said it was fun to be so long in the front in a Grand Tour.

He had an extra bonus along the way. Two friends from Berlin appeared on the ranked climb and cheered him on, which helped him up the mountain.

13:30 CEST   
As predicted, the attacks have been numerous and frequent at the beginning of the stage. Ricardo Serrano (Fuji-Servetto) was the first one to launch right at kilometre zero. He was joined by Evegeny Sokolov (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Gonzolo Rabunal (Xacobeo-Galicia).

13:33 CEST    15km/147km to go
The group of Serrano did not last long out front, and after Mikhail Ignatiev countered, he got away with Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and everyone's favourite hard man, Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank).

13:40 CEST   
Rather, Ignatiev attacked to try to reach the leading group of 6, but has not made the juncture. Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed and has abandoned the race.

13:43 CEST   
Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia) bridged up to the five riders at kilometre 9. His team has been quite aggressive in this Giro, perhaps to counteract criticism by certain not-invited Italian teams who have questioned the validity of their invitation.

Current situation

  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia), Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Peloton at 2.48

13:47 CEST   
Ian Stannard, 21, is the British rider in this breakaway, riding for the ISD team. He began his career in the pro ranks as a trainee for T-Mobile in 2007, but settled for joining Landbouwkrediet for his first year as a pro. Like many Brits, he had his best results on the track before switching to the road full time. He took third overall last year in the Tour of Britain.

13:49 CEST   
Looking at the rest of the break, Francesco Bellotti rode for Credit Agricole for the last three seasons until that team folded. This is his fifth time in the Giro d'Italia.

13:52 CEST   
Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto) is pursuing his first career victory. 24 years old, he is doing his first Giro d'Italia, but not his first Grand Tour. He's done the Vuelta a Espana three times so far while riding for Quick Step.

13:55 CEST   
Martinez is also winless as a pro and like Vigano, has only the Vuelta a Espana for Grand Tour experience.

27-year-old Francesco De Bonis may be one of the older riders in the break, but he's only in his 2nd year as a professional. He joined Gerolsteiner last year only to have the team fold on him. He won the mountains classification at the Tour of Romandie last year, which caught Gianni Savio's attention.

13:57 CEST    30km/132km to go
Finally, Jens Voigt. What can we say about the man which hasn't already been said? He comes to Grand Tours "so he can rest" - which may seem counter-intuitive, but he's got 5 kids at home...

The Voigt machine has helped to pull the break out to 4:50 at the moment.

14:00 CEST   
The pink jersey is currently on the very broad shoulders of Italian sensation, Alessandro Petacchi. Sitting comfortably in the peloton on this lovely day, he'll likely be waving arrivederci to that pink tunic on today's stage.

14:04 CEST   
Petacchi also leads the points classification, but as he's in the overall lead, the maglia ciclamino is on the back of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream). Farrar also leads the best young rider competition by ten seconds on Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad). Considering today's course profile, that lead might not last very long.

14:06 CEST   
The breakaway indeed has gained many minutes. Up to six now! How's that for the predictive powers of Cyclingnews? They could easily get their lead into the double digits before the day is over.

14:13 CEST   
De Bonis was with Gerolsteiner last year, but... He did well in the tour of Romandie, winning a stage and taking the mountain jersey. But the final stage on May 4 was his last race for the season. Nobody ever said what happened. Manager Hans-Michael Holczer decided that the Italian "just didn't fit well to the team". De Bonis told Cyclingnews that he had problems with Holczer, "we did not understand each other," but it was "nothing particular." He specifically denied that there were any problems caused by testing for the bio-passport.

14:15 CEST   
The first hour has been raced at an incredibly fast pace - 46.5km! We must have a little bit of a tailwind. There's a small bump in the road at 47km today which might slow things a little bit.

Current situation

  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia), Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Peloton at 6.00

14:22 CEST   
We have another prediction: when television coverage begins at 15:00, the pace in the peloton will suddenly increase and the gap will come down significantly.

Right now, the lead group of six are working smoothly together and have a solid 6:25 lead on the peloton. Most of these riders are in their first Grand Tour breakaway, but Voigt has loads of experience in this situation and will be giving them all sorts of advice on how to keep things rolling.

14:26 CEST   
One of the wonderful things about Italy is not just the Prosecco which this region is famous for, but also the country's affinity for making excellent coffee products. Not limited to espresso or cappuccino, the Italians also make cappuccino breakfast cereal! We weren't aware of this marvelous breakfast concoction until we heard about it on Cervelo rider Ted King's Twitter. This is a must find item!

14:27 CEST   
Speaking of Twitter, we're glad to report that Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Slipstream is well enough to update his Twitter feed. He said "thanks everyone for your support. I body slammed myself something awful, but as always, I could've been worse."

14:40 CEST   
Speaking of Vande Velde, he gave his impressions of the Giro d'Italia vs. the Tour de France in a recent feature for CN.

"There are days where you go through a town and you might be going easy or you might be going hard and than all of a sudden you have random people like Bettini sprint to the front. You wonder, 'What's going on?' and then everybody slams on their brakes.

"Suddenly you have people passing out pastries, cookies and ice cream and everyone grabs as much as they can and start stuffing their faces. Then they jump back on the bike and keep on riding. That's just weird and crazy to me [laughs]. We get back on the bike and everyone acts like that's a normal thing and you go on with the rest of the race."

14:43 CEST   
Vande Velde is one of two riders to have abandoned the race so far. He and Matthias Russ of Milram are out of the Giro. Russ was the first rider to leave the race after crashing late in Sunday's second stage. A broken collarbone was diagnosed at a local hospital, and he returned to the team hotel. The team gathered in his room that evening to wish him well and boost his morale.

The 25-year-old flew home yesterday's and was scheduled for surgery today in Germany.

14:47 CEST   
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14:50 CEST    62km/100km to go
100kms left to go and the breakaway of six still is holding steady at 6:20. They're not pulling out their lead as they did in the first 30km. Guess the teams of the GC contenders don't want to have to work too hard to pull the break back before the climb.

14:55 CEST    70km/92km to go
The leaders have seven minutes even, but the all important television coverage begins in five minutes - let's see if the pace in the peloton picks up when the cameras come on!

15:03 CEST   
There was a little mystery sprint in the town of Corunuda, which was won by Voigt. The official intermediate sprint isn't for another 40kms, but these "prime" sprints are extra prizes that don't count toward the "TV" (Traguardo Volante) classification.

15:12 CEST   
Seems the aggression in the Giro d'Italia isn't limited to the actual racing. Often times crashes which are caused by a rider making a mistake can result in some pretty serious anger - especially when it means your goal for the day is messed up because of it.

Revista Mundo Ciclìstico reports that Mark Cavendish (Columbia) was pretty peeved and Barloworld's climber Mauricio Soler. The paper appears to imply that Cavendish assaulted Soler for supposedly causing the crash, but Cyclingnews wonders if there is much truth to that. If it happened, you can be sure Robbie Hunter would have Twittered about it! Hunter did say "Soler will be fine ... Couple grazes, nothing major looks like!

15:15 CEST    86km/76km to go
The lead group had extended their advantage to 7:20, but that has come down by 15 seconds now that the televisions have turned on the cameras. Will it continue to drop?

The front six must be getting fatigued as they've been hammering along at a fast 45km/h for two hours.

Current situation

  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia), Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Peloton at 7.20

15:17 CEST   
So far the LPR team of maglia rosa Alessandro Petacchi has been doing much of the pace making, but it's largely ceremonial. They certainly have no illusions of seeing him still in pink after today's mountain top finish.

15:19 CEST   
The team are keeping the team's leader Danilo Di Luca in a good position to contest the stage finish, however, and today's stage is a good one for him. The climb isn't so steep that it favours a pure climber like Simoni or Basso, and Di Luca has a punchy sprint matched only by Stefano Garzelli - that is, when it comes to sprinting at the tops of mountains.

15:24 CEST    87km/75km to go
With 75kms to go, the road is actually already going up. The official climb of the Croce d'Aune doesn't start for 20k or so, but already Petacchi has left the front of the peloton and let the team do its work for Di Luca.

There was another ceremonial sprint in Quero which was won by De Bonis over Voigt and Vigano.

15:26 CEST   
The Lampre team is also well represented in the front, amassing behind LPR Brakes in hopes that Damiano Cunego will be the man to explode up the climb in search of a stage win.

15:29 CEST   
The leading sextet are still working well, holding their advantage at 7:18 or so. De Bonis received a fresh bottle from his team car, but used the water to clean his hand off - perhaps from a tragic energy gel incident. They have passed through the feed zone where Voigt received two tiny Mars bars which have made him quite happy.

15:31 CEST   
Back in the peloton, Lance Armstrong is on the familiar wheel of Jose Luis Rubiera. It's like a blast from the past for the Astana riders, who last climbed a major mountain in a Grand Tour with Armstrong in 2005. It will be interesting to see how the American handles this. If the Tour of the Gila is any indication, he's climbing fairly well right now.

15:34 CEST   
6:58 for our leaders as the peloton passes through the feed zone at km 99.6. We see Lampre's sprinter Francesco Gavazzi in the magenta points jersey and are simply shocked that nobody has written in to correct our previous comment that Farrar was wearing that top! Farrar is in white for best young rider. Readers, you're slipping!

15:37 CEST   
The skies above our lead group of six riders are growing increasingly hazy as we head toward the Dolomites. It's a bit overcast, but so far no rain. The six men are looking refreshed after their lunch, with Voigt urging them along. He's practically smiling since he's in his favourite place in the world - the breakaway at a Grand Tour.

15:39 CEST    108km/54km to go
3kms to go until the intermediate sprint, and the road is beginning to go uphill more vigorously now. The leaders are still in the big ring, but the rear derailleur cage is getting closer to the spokes now.

15:40 CEST   
The battle for position in the peloton is beginning now. We see the Liquigas team moving Basso to the front.

15:42 CEST   
The intermediate sprint is not being hotly contested today. The six men continue to pull through smoothly with 500m to go.

15:43 CEST    111km/51km to go
As the line draws near, Davide Vigano decides that he'd like to get a bit of fame and writes his name into the history books with the T.V. prize ahead of Bellotti.

15:44 CEST    112km/50km to go
After two and a half hours of standard Grand Tour stage fare, we're about to get treated to some real fireworks. The lead group is on the base of the climb now and the peloton is single file behind the Lampre train. We see Garmin up there, too with Milram.

15:45 CEST   
De Bonis leads the breakaway as they head up the climb and there's a crash in the peloton!

15:45 CEST   
Mauro Da Dalto (Lampre) and a Barloworld rider have hit the deck. We see a few Barloworld riders waiting, and wonder if Soler hasn't fallen again.

15:47 CEST   
Oh dear, poor Ian Stannard isn't enjoying the climb and is getting tailed off from the breakaway. He may be hurting from yesterday's crash.

15:48 CEST   
The leaders aren't even on the steepest part of the climb yet and they're suffering - definitely not a happy face on Martinez. He's surely feeling the burn.

15:50 CEST   
Game over for Martinez as he lets go of the lead group. It's just Voigt, De Bonis and Bellotti now.

Behind them, the LPR team has - what??! Petacchi in tow as they head through some very narrow roads. Guess he was just heading out for a natural break earlier. Basso is up there, too, looking concentrated. Leipheimer is up there, too, staying out of trouble.

Current situation

  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia)
  • Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD)
  • Peloton at 5.48

15:51 CEST   
At the back of the peloton the autobus is getting together and throwing out the welcome mat for Petacchi. Mauro Facci (Quick Step) in the green jersey is saying goodbye to the mountains classification today as he's already out the back.

15:53 CEST   
Voigt is still looking strong as Bellotti suffers in his wake. Back in the bunch, Mark Cavendish has dropped anchor, but Petacchi is still riding strong on the climb, working for Di Luca!

15:54 CEST   
Fabian Cancellara is heading for the gruppetto, but Soler is moving forward from the back. We suspect he was caught up in that crash.

15:56 CEST   
Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream) finds his fellow sprinters at the back of the peloton, and now Petacchi is in his rightful place, having forsaken the front for the much more reasonable pace of the gruppetto.

15:58 CEST   
Setting the pace is Alessandro Spezialetti (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini), and right behind him we see a Columbia-Highroad rider. Can we forget ol' Mick Rogers? He's one of the favourites for this Giro...

16:01 CEST    113km/49km to go
The leading trio still have 3kms to go until the top, and behind them this mountain has yet to break up a very sizeable peloton. Massimo Codol (Acqua e Sapone) is riding next to Armstrong and we still see plenty of domestiques up front.

16:04 CEST   
The pace in the peloton is a mere 21km/h - we are certainly not seeing fireworks today. With two and a half weeks of racing still to go, the favourites aren't burning their matches yet. Voigt's group has a 5:40 lead still.

16:05 CEST   
A familiar sight at the front of the peloton is Chris Horner's bony chest. He's got his jersey zipped wide open, and is unafraid to bare his pasty Irish skin for the world to see.

16:07 CEST   
Can we see a more perfect example of dropping anchor? Petacchi has finally cried "uncle" to the mountain and after riding valiantly in the maglia rosa in service of his team leader has completely let go of the peloton after dangling at the back. Forward... progress... difficult...

16:08 CEST   
As if to make things even more painful, the peloton rounds a sharp switchback and the riders on the inside come to a near standstill on the steepest part of the road.

Up front, Bellotti attacks!

16:09 CEST   
De Bonis works to close the gap, and he's baring his teeth now with the effort. The crowds are growing much deeper here as we approach the KOM of the Croce d'Aune. Voigt is getting dropped.

16:10 CEST   
Bellotti is certainly putting in a violent effort, but De Bonis is gritting his teeth. But when he sees the KOM line after a bend he gives up and knows he can't get the maximum points. Bellotti takes it ahead of De Bonis and Voigt. Now - downhilling time!

Current situation

  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti)
  • Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) at 0.25
  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia) at 2.42
  • Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD) at 3.35
  • Peloton at 4.41

16:11 CEST    120km/42km to go
Back in the peloton it's time for another switchback, this time negotiated much more smoothly. Armstrong is shadowing Di Luca, while Basso and Leipheimer seem to have paired up. Basso has a tranquillio expression.

16:13 CEST   
Birillo's teammate Valerio Agnoli is setting the pace, followed by Yaroslav Popovych, who is back in the service of Armstrong (and Leipheimer) on Astana.

16:14 CEST   
The peloton is now within sight of the KOM, and Agnoli leads them up next to the barriers 4:39 behind Bellotti.

16:15 CEST   
We missed seeing Martinez, and Stannard and Vigano, but they're still up ahead of the peloton in no man's land. De Bonis and Bellotti are on the descent, still leading Voigt by a few meters, but he's coming back!

16:17 CEST    121km/41km to go
It's a twisty descent, and Voigt rode like a madman to close the gap, but now we're three in front as the road levels a bit. Bellotti calls for his team car to get a drink.

Looks like Danilo Di Luca might have snuck across the line first for the KOM points.

Current situation

  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo-Galicia)
  • Davide Vigano (Fuji-Servetto), Ian Stannard (ISD)
  • Peloton at 4.41

16:21 CEST    127km/35km to go
Liquigas has taken firm control on the descent with Agnoli actually pulling ahead on the descent. The leaders are on a flatter part of the decent in Servo, and will actually go uphill a bit in Ponte d'Oltra before plunging to the base of the final climb.

16:25 CEST   
The peloton now passes under the 35km to go banner, and we still have quite a large group. The three chasers have come together behind Voigt, De Bonis and Bellotti. They'll get swallowed up by the peloton soon, but not too soon. It seems to be break time as Di Luca has a sandwich.

16:27 CEST    132km/30km to go
Voigt leads the break under the 30km to go banner and the peloton is lagging behind still about four minutes. They're off the descent now and climbing a gentle grade. The final climb doesn't officially start for 17km, but they'll be going uphill all the way to the line from here.

16:29 CEST   
The peloton is on the lower part of the descent, which is quite sinuous, and Liquigas is still leading. But do we see ol' Gibo up there? Things are heating up in the battle for position in the bunch.

16:31 CEST   
The favourites are vying for position as they hit the lower slopes, but the domestiques are all heading back to the team cars to take on food and water before the climb - and before the feeding ceases with 20km to go. LPR is at the front now with Liquigas taking a back seat. Peloton under 30km to go!

16:33 CEST   
The trio up front are still giving it a go. The final climb isn't so very steep that they stand no chance, but they've been away hammering along since km 5, and will be quite a bit more tired than the likes of Leipheimer, Di Luca and Rogers who have been drafting all day, doing little or no work.

16:35 CEST    137km/25km to go
The peloton has passed through a long, dark tunnel which passes through the mountain. 25km to go and only 4 minutes and change for the leaders. They're not looking so fresh anymore, but all are in the drops and giving it their best effort.

16:38 CEST   
Just a side note since a reader's comment reminded us of why Croce d'Aune may be familiar to you. It was on this very climb that Tullio Campagnolo came up with the idea of the quick release. He named a groupset after the climb, too.

16:39 CEST   
The fight is over for the group of Stannard, Martinez and Vigano as the LPR Brakes team sets a brisk pace.

Current situation

  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Peloton at 3.31

16:41 CEST   
De Bonis is right now the virtual leader of the Giro, being highest placed rider in the break at 2.28 down on Petacchi. The stage 3 leader is trailing well behind the peloton, which is over 3 minutes behind De Bonis' group.

16:42 CEST    142km/20km to go
The final climb to San Martino di Castrozza is 13.5km long and not quite as steep as the previous climb. Still, 6% is going to feel like 10% for Voigt and co. Just over three minutes lead and it might not be enough for our brave trio.

16:43 CEST   
In fact, their lead is 2:53 now as Lampre comes to the fore with Gavazzi still present in his magenta points jersey. He's actually third in that competition behind pink jersey Petacchi and best young rider Farrar.

16:44 CEST   
To give an indication as to how much trouble our leaders are in, despite obvious suffering, they are managing 41km/h while the peloton is hitting 47km/h.

16:45 CEST   
Jure Golcer (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini) leads the bunch under the 20km to go banner exactly 3 minutes behind our leaders.

16:48 CEST   
Evgeny Sokolov (BBox Bouygues Telecom) attacks! He gets a slight lead on the peloton, but it's a bit early to be going as the climb has yet to start in earnest.

16:50 CEST    147km/15km to go
15kms to go for Voigt and co and they still have three minutes - but the climb begins in 1.5km... let the suffering begin! Or, more appropriately, increase!

16:52 CEST   
The group of the maglia rosa is more than eight minutes behind the leaders and has grown to a very large number. Well over half the peloton is back here, including quite a startling number of Cervelo riders. We hope Carlos Sastre has some protection up ahead!

16:54 CEST   
Acqua e Sapone has moved its men up front to keep Stefano Garzelli into position. The leaders are tasting the appetizer of the San Martino di Castrozza. How's a little 8% going down? Very painfully, thanks!

16:56 CEST   
Bellotti is looking quite pink in the cheeks, but his expression is calm. Voigt is impassive as ever, while De Bonis is fully focused on his 'virtual' pink jersey. It's slipping away, however, as they have 1:55 now.

16:57 CEST   
The max grade is 10%, and it looks like they've just gone past it as De Bonis cannot quite hold the pace of Voigt and Bellotti. The neutral support car comes around him, so we don't think he's coming back.

16:58 CEST   
Voigt attacks! Bellotti is not letting him go, and that just puts the nail in De Bonis' coffin.

Current situation

  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) and Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti)
  • Peloton at 1.55

16:59 CEST   
Just one Francesco at the front now as the still very large peloton begins to bear down on the breakaway. Under two minutes and coming down as Spezialetti continues his work.

17:00 CEST    152km/10km to go
Garzelli is keeping Di Luca close, while the Columbia team begins to coalesce with four riders including Rogers near the front. We see Edvald Boasson Hagen there.

17:01 CEST   
10km to go for the leaders and De Bonis is hanging tough. It's less steep here, and he's holding a 10 second gap to Voigt and Bellotti. The peloton behind is an arrowhead behind Spezialetti.

17:03 CEST    153km/9km to go
10km to go for the peloton now, and Popovych is pulling a face, clearly not enjoying the first foray into the mountains.

17:04 CEST   
Codol (Acqua e Sapone) takes over from LPR in the chase, while up ahead Voigt and Bellotti have a conversation. It appears to be a friendly one - perhaps the German is encouraging his young companion, who gets a much more determined expression after the chat.

17:05 CEST   
Lance watch: Armstrong is still sitting comfortably in this main chasing group, tucked in with his teammate Leipheimer and two others.

17:06 CEST   
Armstrong has a rejuvenated Brajkovic and Jose Luis Rubiera with him... up front Voigt attacks! Meany!

17:07 CEST   
Voigt heartlessly jettisons his companion as the peloton closes in to 1'22. Guess he felt he could go harder and wanted a chance at the stage.

Current situation

  • Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank)
  • Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld)
  • Peloton at 1.22

17:09 CEST    155.4km/6.6km to go
Voigt is pounding the gears, flying up these gentler grades. He's going to face a nasty little section of 10% in a kilometre or so. He gets a bit of encouragement from his fellow German, "the devil".

17:11 CEST   
Sastre is still present in the peloton, he has at least one teammate by his side. He's sitting about 20 riders from the front of this group, not positioning himself to attack.

17:12 CEST   
More than 3km behind, Cancellara leads the laughing pack, erm, pink jersey group. Voigt is maintaining a 1:15 lead as he hits the steep stuff.

17:14 CEST    157km/5km to go
De Bonis is caught and Bellotti is losing more ground to Voigt - Mauricio Soler seems to want to end his agony as he comes to the front of the chasing group and puts in a big effort, but gets nowhere.

17:15 CEST   
Lökvist is up front for Columbia but not setting a furious pace. Liquigas seems to think they can do better and get ahead of the Swede as a Katusha rider attacks.

17:16 CEST    157.5km/4.5km to go
Bellotti is now with the main chase group which caught Evgeni Petrov of Katusha. There is one man standing between the favourites group and the finish line, and that is Jens Voigt.

17:17 CEST    158.3km/3.7km to go
30 seconds for Voigt inside 4km to go! It is going to be a tight one - can the tough man do it?

17:20 CEST    159km/3km to go
Oh Jens. The long, hard effort is proving too much. He's no match for the pace of Liquigas and will surely be caught.

17:21 CEST   
Basso is near the front Garzelli, Rogers, Cunego, Leipheimer, Di Luca are all here. Arroyo of Caisse d'Epargne, too.

17:22 CEST    160.1km/1.9km to go
Voigt is caught and this group is getting a little bit smaller with just 2km to go.

17:22 CEST   
Soler goes again!

17:23 CEST    160.5km/1.5km to go
Soler only gets about 10m and looks to be working a whole lot harder than Basso's henchmen.

17:23 CEST    161km/1km to go
Soler is opening up space now with 1km to go!

17:23 CEST   
All of Colombia is going wild (the country, not Columbia the team) for Soler!

17:24 CEST   
Oh, but Acqua e Sapone doesn't want their fellow reds to win and are chasing hard!

17:24 CEST   
Armstrong is getting dropped as Soler is inside 500m!

17:24 CEST   
Armstrong is done, but Soler isn't! He's going to do it!

17:25 CEST   
Di Luca attacks to get up to him...

17:25 CEST   
Oh!! Di Luca passes him!

17:25 CEST   
Garzelli is on his wheel!

17:25 CEST   
And Di Luca timed it perfectly!!! The LPR Brakes rider will thank his teammate Petacchi with this stage win.

17:27 CEST   
Soler may have hung on for a top five - poor guy. He could taste the podium champagne until Di Luca dumped vinegar in it. Well, the don't call him the "killer" for nothing.

17:28 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer was right up there in the top ten, as was Basso, Lökvist, Menchov and just outside the top 10, Cunego.

17:29 CEST   
As expected, Di Luca and Garzelli, great uphill sprinters, were the ones vying for this stage... But who will be in pink?

17:30 CEST   
It could well be Lövkvist who dons the maglia rosa tonight, as he was 18 seconds back.. or Rogers, depending on where he was.

17:32 CEST   
It will be Lövkvist in pink with Di Luca just two seconds back. Rogers in third with the Astana boys Popovych, Leipheimer and Armstrong rounding out the top of the list.

17:34 CEST   
The riders from the front group are on their way down as the remnants of the peloton still suffer up the final climb to collect their stage finish. Our experts predicted the time gaps would be minimal today, and all the top boys stayed with the stage winner, Di Luca. The GC is still separated by just seconds so we will look forward to more excitement tomorrow and another big mountain finish!

17:35 CEST   
Join us again tomorrow at 2PM Central Europe time for the next stage to Alpe di Suisi. It's a short but sweet 125 km stage that ends on a 25km climb

Provisional results

1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                           
2 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo                    
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                         
4 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld                                          
5 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli    
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                             
7 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad                           
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas                                                
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                             
10 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                                     
11 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana                                          
12 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                                         
13 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale                                   
14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.                                    
General classification after stage 3
1 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad                           
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini                           
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad                            
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana                                           
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                                             
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana                                             
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                                         
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.                                     
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - N.G.C.                                   
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                                   
11 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas                                               
12 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Columbia - Highroad                      
13 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                                         
14 Félix Cardenas (Col) Barloworld                                         
15 Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team Milram                                      

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