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92nd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 9-31, 2009

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Stage 5 - Wednesday, May 13: San Martino Di Castrozza - Alpe di Siusi, 125 km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Laura Weislo

The profile for this stage is shaped like a massive half pipe (in skating parlance), meaning the old adage of 'what goes down must come up' has never rung more true.

There are effectively 57.2 kilometres of descending after the initial and gentle 8.2km climb up the Passo Rolle. That is countered by 25 brutal kilometres of climbing from Prato all'Isarco to the finish at the Alpe di Siusi. That's an average gradient of 6.1 percent, with the final ramp from Siusi to the finish yielding an unforgiving 8.1 percent grade, enough to split up some likely contenders.

14:12 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Giro d'Italia! We're up for a short and intense stage to Alpe di Suisi today. Only 125km, but the last 25km are straight uphill. Today should be a bit more selective than yesterday's finish.

14:13 CEST   
Speaking of straight up, the riders were on the first climb from the gun today, and of course the attacks started as soon as the commissaire's car pulled away and the flag dropped.

14:16 CEST   
Nothing got away until 5km in when six riders went clear. Once again, Francesco Bellotti (Barloworld) was in the move, perhaps going for points toward the mountains classification, where he is currently fourth.

14:18 CEST   
Eros Capecchi (Fuji-Servetto), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes), Jose Serpa (Diquigiovanni) and Mauro Facci (Quick Step) were also in the move.

14:20 CEST   
Bellotti struggled to hold onto the group, and was eventually dropped and passed by Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) who was on his way across.

14:26 CEST    30km/95km to go
After the mountain top at km 8.2, Giovanni Visconti joined the men up front, replacing Facci who was dropped on the climb to make the breakaway seven men strong.

14:28 CEST   
The pace is rather high at the moment thanks to the fact that after the GPM the course pretty much goes downhill all the way to the base of the final climb. Oh sure, there is a little lump in the valley and a rise here and there to break things up, but these seven will have an easy go of it for a while.

14:29 CEST   
We have a lone chaser behind the lead group who has been trying to get across for quite some time. It's Pavel Brutt of Team Katusha. He's smack dab in the middle of no man's land - 1:05 behind the leaders and 1:15 up on the peloton.

14:33 CEST   
The group of our maglia rosa, Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad), is trailing on the descent 3:00 behind our leaders. Poor ol' Pavel Brutt is trying, but just can't seem to close the gap to the break, but he's pulling out a little time on the field - he's 1:12 behind the lead.

14:35 CEST    38km/87km to go
Along with Lövkvist, we have the LPR duo Alessandro Petacchi in magenta (points leader) and Danilo Di Luca in green for the mountains classification. Our overall leader also is in the position of best young rider, but the white jersey is on the back of second placed John-Lee Augustyn (Barloworld).

14:39 CEST    42km/83km to go
The situation isn't looking good for Brutt who is starting to crack on the false flat that leads to San Lugano. He's lost a few seconds on the seven men up front and now trails by 1:20.

14:44 CEST   
Today's stage is interesting and unique for a modern Grand Tour. It's quite short for a mass-start stage and has just one climb, but it's a doozy - nearly 25km of climbing and an elevation gain of more than 1500m.

As usual, there is just one sprint for the T.V. classification, formerly known as the Intergiro. It comes at Bolzano at km 91.4

14:45 CEST    44km/81km to go
The average speed for the first hour has been 42.6km/h, which is pretty fast considering the long climb that greeted the riders at the start. But then again, they've been bombing downhill for much of the stage after the KOM.

14:49 CEST   
As our intrepid seven pull out a few dozen more seconds on the peloton and poor Mr. Brutt, let's take a moment to examine the possibilities for today's stage finish.

Our young Swede, Lövkvist, stands a very good chance at losing the jersey today, and will likely need to drop Danilo Di Luca in order to hang onto it since the Italian is a mere two seconds behind and there are time bonuses at the line.

14:52 CEST   
However, our maglia rosa could pass onto the shoulders of Columbia's Mick Rogers, who is just six seconds behind his young teammate. Yet considering the length and steepness of the climb in the last half, and Rogers' climbing pedigree, that seems unlikely.

14:53 CEST   
We have a couple of dangerous riders lurking a bit lower down the overall classification. Levi Leipheimer has won two major races so far this season: Tour of California and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. He's in fifth place and stands a very good chance of wearing pink tonight.

14:55 CEST   
We cannot discount the double-trouble Liquigas duo, Franco Pellizotti and Ivan Basso. Both are climbing well as evidenced in yesterday's finish. Then, it's the Lampre pair Damiano Cunego and Marzio Bruseghin. We should seem some keen team tactics at the finish of today's stage.

14:56 CEST   
In the shadows, barely visible with his black and white jersey, is the silent but daunting figure of Carlos Sastre. Could he pull off another Alpe d'Huez stunt today? He is certainly the strongest pure climber in our top 10 on GC.

15:01 CEST   
The weather has been quite nice for the riders in this Tour of Italy so far. The skies are a bit hazy as they were yesterday, but the roads are dry and temperatures mild. It's fortunate since this descent has quite a few twists and tunnels which could be messy when wet.

15:04 CEST    60km/65km to go
The seven breakaway riders are bombing down the mountain at top speed, being led by Serpa. They've gotten past the false flat and are now plunging into the valley below. 4:32 to the peloton, while Brutt persists at 2:38.

15:05 CEST   
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) is leading the peloton on the descent, but Astana's Yaroslav Popovych gets ahead of him, perhaps scared that Soler hasn't used up all his pavement surfing points.

15:06 CEST   
Up in our lead group, the young Giovanni Visconti is our virtual race leader. He was 2:49 down on Lövsvist this morning.

15:08 CEST   
The average speed is up over 45km/h thanks to all this descending. The leaders are now being towed along by Voeckler, who is his usual feisty self this Giro. Capecchi follows through, then Serpa and Ochoa, Gavazzi and Pietropolli. They're cooperating nicely.

15:10 CEST   
The Team Columbia riders all have pink trim on the arms of their jerseys in honour of Lövkvist. Mark Cavendish is up with his team still, perhaps feeling pressure to replicate Petacchi's performance yesterday.

15:13 CEST   
Perhaps we should take a look further down the GC rankings to see who else might be a factor in today's finish. We've got a couple former Giro winners in Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone). Let's not forget about Denis Menchov (Rabobank) who is always a threat.

15:15 CEST   
Team Garmin-Slipstream lost its GC hopeful Christian Vande Velde, and its other GC rider Tom Danielson lost over 10 minutes yesterday. Their top rider is Brad Wiggins, who might have an advantage in the long time trial, but doesn't have a history of excelling on major mountains.

15:17 CEST    75km/50km to go
Pavel Brutt has finally given up and been caught by the peloton as the course takes a trend toward elevation gain. Barloworld and Columbia are doing much of the work to keep the breakaway at 4:32.

15:19 CEST   
Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) goes back to the team car to take on a big load of bottles for his two team leaders, Pellizotti and Basso. Felix Cardenas is sent back to do the same for Barloworld. The slower pace on this climb is the perfect opportunity to head back for drinks, and all the teams' domestiques are taking advantage.

15:21 CEST   
Oh, alright. I'll say it. Lance Armstrong. A favourite for today? Who can say? He was climbing well enough yesterday and only a late-race mechanical kept him from contesting the sprint. But if he were anyone else, just coming back from a surgery in late March, we wouldn't tip him as a contender... but it's Lance!

15:23 CEST    76km/49km to go
The leaders are almost to the top of this little bump, which is hard enough to make the sprinters in the peloton to breathe heavy, but not enough to get them dropped. The break managed to pull out a few more seconds on the ascent as the bunch slowed to feed - it's out to 4:43 now.

15:25 CEST   
It's a beautiful view in the valley - vineyards, historic towns, a church steeple, rolling green hills and a lake to complete the scene. It makes us want to stop and sip a cappuccino and enjoy the view!

15:26 CEST   
We'll be sipping our coffee soon enough, as the riders are less than 50km from the finish. However, that last 25km will take them more than an hour. We fear our 45km/h average will be seriously impacted by that bit of difficulty.

15:28 CEST   
Our leaders are descending this bump and they should enjoy it while they can because this will be the last piece of easy road they'll see today. Once they get to the bottom it's 15km of false flat before the final climb. Can these seven stay away?

15:29 CEST    80km/45km to go
The leaders are gobbling up the kilometres, speeding along at 67km/h. Only 45kms to go! At this pace they'll beat the evening rush hour!

15:30 CEST   
In 11km there will be the intergiro sprint in Bolzano, and it looks clear these seven riders will get to battle it out for the cash and points.

15:32 CEST   
Not to be outdone by Cavendish, who is helping out with the work at the front of the peloton, Petacchi in the magenta jersey is getting bottles for his team leader Di Luca at the LPR Brakes car. He gets a monster slingshot from the director and sprints back to the bunch.

15:32 CEST   
The competition amongst our sprinters is not limited to the stage finishes!

15:34 CEST    91.4km/33.6km to go
The leaders have reached the sprint and Voeckler attacks to take the points.

15:36 CEST    90km/35km to go
The leaders get straight back to cooperating after the intergiro sprint, and they'll need every minute they can get, which at the present time is just over four. Already their pace has slowed with the gradient.

15:37 CEST   
We see Lance Armstrong back in the cars with Rubiera by his side. We're not sure what is going on but he appears to be fiddling with something on his bars. Perhaps a loose stem. Let's hope it stays put!

15:39 CEST   
Often times a rider can hit a pothole or a bump and the bars can slip and rotate down. It looks as if Armstrong went back for a wrench and adjusted them on the fly. He's still upright, which is a testament to his skills.

15:40 CEST   
The race leaders are still holding on to four minutes and change, and looking quite fresh as they hurtle through the valley toward the Alpe di Suisi. They're exiting the lovely town of Bolzano which has quite a nice plaza.

15:42 CEST    95km/30km to go
Once the riders hit the climb a few things will likely happen. Voeckler may attack, as is his habit, but Visconti could be one of the one who stays clear. Jose Serpa, winner of the Tour de Langkawi, is also good on climbs, although he favours the shorter ones.

15:44 CEST   
Francesco Gavazzi is getting a bottle from the team car and instructions of some sort - he is nodding in agreement. Perhaps the plan is for him to launch up the road on the climb in hopes Cunego can bridge across? It's a move we've seen a few times before in Grand Tours.

15:46 CEST   
Clearly the Columbia team have faith in their leader and have pulled back the break to 3:38. Visconti is still virtual pink, but for how long? It's nearly time to go up, up and away to Alpe di Suise!

15:48 CEST   
The leaders are following the river road at the moment, but soon enough they'll see a sharp right turn which signals the start of the climb. In the peloton behind we see the teams already moving their men into position. Columbia has lost control of the peloton!

15:49 CEST   
It's all Barloworld and their celeste Bianchis, clearly believing that Soler can do something special today. They'll need to keep him out of trouble so that he can live up to his promise.

15:49 CEST    100km/25km to go
The leaders have made the turn and are on the final climb! Let the fun begin!

15:51 CEST   
The mountain is one that favours a climber who can deal with constant changes in grade, one who can withstand steep pitches and power over the gentler grades. Some riders simply cannot handle these constant changes in pace.

Liquigas has Basso and Pellizotti in position at the front, while Simoni, Scarponi, a Garmin rider and of course all of Columbia are visible near the front.

15:52 CEST   
So far the leading seven have stayed together. They only have 2:33 on the bunch now!

15:53 CEST   
David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) is tucked in at the back of the peloton and it is elbow to elbow back there. There is no moving up for the men back here. Basso is up front looking solid, as is Arroyo.

15:54 CEST   
And we have our first victim in the breakaway. Looks like Gavazzi has lost the plot.

15:55 CEST   
Capecchi is leading the break, ahead of the two Diquigiovanni riders, with Voeckler and Visconti still hanging touch. Peitropolli, too.

15:57 CEST   
Armstrong is tucked in safely in the front part of the bunch - not too far up. Simon Gerrans (Cervelo Test Team) is up there for Sastre. The sprinters are starting to suffer, and Cavendish has left his teammates at the front.

15:59 CEST   
Di Luca, looking mean in green, has a very serious expression.

Our six leaders are still working together as they hold 2:32 on the main bunch. The maglia rosa group isn't putting too much effort into the lower part of this climb.

16:00 CEST    105km/20km to go
20km to go for the leaders and another 3km or so before they'll get some respite from the steep stuff. They're losing ground - 2:18 now on the peloton.

16:01 CEST   
If you're just joining us, we have a break which used to be seven until Francesco Gavazzi of Lampre was dropped on the start of the final climb. Remaining up front are Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Eros Capecchi (Fuji-Servetto), Daniele Pietropolli (LPR Brakes), Jose Serpa and Carlos José Ochoa (Diquigiovanni) and Giovanni Visconti (ISD).

Visconti has lost his "virtual" pink jersey, and Lövkvist is still our leader on the road.

16:02 CEST   
There have been no attacks from the peloton yet, but the brisk and steady pace from Liquigas has now pulled the sextet back to two minutes.

16:04 CEST    105km/20km to go
Whoops - we were premature. It's now 20km to go for our leaders. The peloton is not too far behind and closing thanks to Liquigas' Valerio Agnoli.

16:05 CEST   
Up front, Pietropolli takes over, but the gap is falling fast - 1:13 now as the main chase group heads under 20kms to go.

16:07 CEST   
Carlos Sastre sitting up at the tail end of the single-file chasers and in front of a large group of favourites. He has Volodymir Gustov by his side.

Up front, Voeckler has defied our prediction by attacking in reverse. Oh, but he notices the little red light on the TV camera and digs deep to get back up to the break.

16:09 CEST   
The leaders have a couple nasty little pitches of over 9% to tackle before they get some relief in the form of a long stretch of 2.1% average. Almost 7kms of easier roads until the hill kicks back up with 10km to go.

16:10 CEST    107km/18km to go
Voeckler is making the most of his time on television, pulling all sorts of agonized expressions. He breathes a sigh of relief as the road levels off. Visconti heads back for a bottle from the ISD car.

16:14 CEST   
The chasing peloton is a vision in spring green and blue as Liquigas has a firm grip on this chase. Pellizotti and his curly blonde locks sit at the back of this train in front of the deep green jersey of mountains leader Danilo Di Luca.

16:15 CEST    110km/15km to go
15km to go for the leaders and Ochoa hits the front to try and hold off the peloton. There still haven't been any attacks - our contenders are reserving the fireworks for the very difficult final 10km.

16:16 CEST   
Just under a minute for the leaders as the peloton comes through the 15km to go mark! The Alpe is looming up ahead, and the riders can see the steep rocky ridge up ahead. Fortunately, they don't have to climb up there as they'd need some different gear to get on top of that!

16:17 CEST   
We see just about everyone in this main group that you'd expect to be there: Di Luca, Basso, Pellizotti, Garzelli, Simoni, Menchov, Armstrong, Sastre... Leipheimer is probably in there but he's so good at hiding.

16:18 CEST   
Caisse d'Epargne has three men near the front as the gap comes down to 48". Our pink jersey and his 'mates are still up front, as are the Lampre boys.

16:20 CEST    111.5km/13.5km to go
13.5km to go and Liquigas is still stringing out the chase group. Diquigiovanni is up front with four men. They've got their fifth up the road.

Speaking of our break, they only have 28 seconds now and it looks like their time may be over soon.

16:21 CEST   
Ohhhhh... Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) pulls over and comes to a near stop. Job done! Legs fried!

16:21 CEST   
Bad news for our leaders as they can now see the lead motorcycles of the peloton. It's not over yet, but soon.

16:22 CEST   
Gibo Simoni has positioned himself near the front and is looking confident. 13 seconds to the leaders and soon we will see the groups come together.

16:23 CEST    115km/10km to go
Visconti looks back and sees that his time is over. All together!!! 10km to go and it's time for the fun to begin!

16:24 CEST   
Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) attacks!

16:25 CEST   
Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) attacks to go across to Chuela and he's got a nice gap.

16:26 CEST   
Devenyns is setting a pace that Chuela isn't too happy with, he's not quite hanging onto the wheel of the Belgian.

16:26 CEST    116.4km/8.6km to go
8.6km to go and Chuela is dropped. We have one rider off the front, and it's the young Belgian Dries Devenyns (Quick Step).

16:28 CEST   
There is carnage at the back of the bunch as more riders are dropped on these steep slopes. It's levelled off for a bit, which could help them out.

16:28 CEST   
The leader is caught, peloton together.

16:29 CEST   
Armstrong is up front with Rubiera, Navarro and Leipheimer. Brajkovic looks to be up here, too - Astana has some cards to play. Acqua e Sapone has men for Garzelli, too, but Liquigas has burned through a lot of their matches.

16:31 CEST   
Leipheimer is on the wheel of the pink jersey, while Basso and Pellizotti still have just one rider to set the pace. Once he goes, will we see them attack?

16:31 CEST    118.2km/6.8km to go
Chris Horner is once again baring his chest for the world to see up front. 6.8km to go!

16:32 CEST   
Looks like Brad Wiggins is hanging on at the back of this bunch, while Sastre isn't in any hurry to get to the business end of things. He's back with Armstrong.

16:33 CEST   
Bruseghin is still in this group, too. Cunego might want him a little farther forward... and as if he read our minds he accelerates.

16:34 CEST   
Astana has four riders at the back of this main group with Armstrong, while up ahead Leipheimer has two.

16:34 CEST   
Oh, the Armstrong group is coming detached! As is Garzelli!

16:35 CEST   
Basso, Pellizotti, Lövkvist and Di Luca are at the front. Poor Garzelli has been solidly dropped.

16:36 CEST   
Sasatre and Menchov have made their way around the dropped riders, and we see Cunego fighting alongside Wiggins to get back on terms!

16:37 CEST   
Still no fireworks at the front, just a long, slow and steady burn thanks to Liquigas. They've torched Cunego, Garzelli, Armstrong and more. But who is still here? Leipheimer. Sastre and now - Soler! He's moving forward.

16:37 CEST   
Rabobank also has Ten Dam up front - he's looking quite good while Menchov is further back.

16:38 CEST    120.1km/4.9km to go
Seeldrayers is back with Menchov, in this now much reduced peloton.

16:39 CEST   
Wiggins has fought his way onto the tail of this group, has Cunego? Bruseghin hasn't and we're missing the pink and blue up front!

16:40 CEST   
There are only about 25 men left in the front group with less than 5km to go. Still Liquigas setting the pace as they hit a switchback with a steep pitch on the inside.

16:41 CEST   
Armstrong is long gone now. Our axe man up front? Sylvester Szmyd of Liquigas. He's been pulling for a long time, putting many big names into difficulty. Cunego is pushing through, still not giving up but not making up much ground.

Sastre is in trouble now - he's having to go around dropped riders.

16:42 CEST   
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is on Sastre's wheel - they go around an Acqua e Sapone rider who is losing touch.

16:42 CEST   
Simoni and Arroyo are now in trouble as Basso takes up the pace!

16:42 CEST   
Sastre sprints around Simoni, dragging Menchov along.

16:44 CEST   
Basso is working for our blonde Adonis, Pellizotti. Armstrong has lost more than a minute on the man who he used to school in the mountains.

Sastre and Arroyo are with the pink jersey group which is led by Basso. Horner and Leipheimer are here too!

16:45 CEST    122km/3km to go
3km to go and we're down to eight up front!

16:45 CEST   
Basso, Di Luca, Lovkvist, Horner, Leipheimer, Sastre, Menchov and Arroyo are here, Basso still leading!

16:46 CEST   
Basso, Di Luca and now Menchov are the first three. Leipheimer tucked in behind as Lovkvist and Sastre struggle at the back.

16:46 CEST   
Pellizotti has been dropped!

16:46 CEST   
We missed our blonde Adonis going out the back - a sad day for the coiffed one.

16:47 CEST   
Oh, the pain! Lovkvist is pushing hard, digging deep to stay on this group. He HAS to stay with Di Luca. In fact, with time bonuses he'd better drop Di Luca or he will lose this pink jersey.

16:48 CEST    123.4km/1.6km to go
Basso takes back over with 1.6km to go!

16:49 CEST   
It's steep. It's painful. Basso's name is written all over the road. Silly boys are running alongside the riders, one with a sombrero - a sombrero??

16:49 CEST   
Oh, poor Cunego is still at 2km to go. Armstrong further back. The front seven are still together and our maglia rosa is fighting hard. Sastre seems to be sitting back to help him.

16:50 CEST   
The pain is evident on the faces of the front seven men as they still have 1200m.

16:51 CEST    124km/1km to go
1km to go and Di Luca is in the lead, sweating but still looking good. Horner still up here with Leipheimer, but Sastre is getting tailed off. He fights it.

16:51 CEST   
It's a slow speed approach for sure! Horner takes the lead!

16:51 CEST    124.4km/0.59km to go
600m to go!

16:51 CEST   
Di Luca hits the front with Menchov to his right.

16:51 CEST   
It's almost like a scratch race and Sastre attacks!!!

16:52 CEST   
Menchov sees him and gets on his wheel with Di Luca.

16:52 CEST   
Menchov goes, Di Luca is the only one who can hold the wheel!

16:52 CEST   
100m to go and Menchov pulls away, Di Luca has second on the stage and enough of a gap to take the pink jersey!

16:52 CEST   
Lovkvist gave it a solid try to take third on the stage... and here comes Rogers!

16:53 CEST   
Menchov gets the stage, but Rogers is 19 seconds back!

16:53 CEST   
Here comes Simoni and Soler, 45 seconds late.

16:53 CEST   
What a finish! Nice attack by Menchov, who countered the move by the cagey Sastre.

16:55 CEST   
Armstrong is still on the road, more than two minutes back. Cunego comes across the line losing 2:36 or so.

16:55 CEST   
Armstrong said coming into the stage he wanted to stay within 2 minutes of the winner, but he's lost 3.

16:56 CEST   
Leipheimer was right up there in the finish - we'll get the results up in a bit.

17:01 CEST   
What a comeback by Rogers! And Lovkvist dug deep to hold onto second place overall by 5 seconds to Di Luca.

17:06 CEST   
Thanks for following the Giro on Cyclingnews live once more. We've got an exciting situation in these early days of the Giro - many top names within a minute of each other and some big names minutes behind. But there are still more than two weeks to go!

Provisional results

1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                    3.15.23
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini     0.02
3 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad     0.05
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas                              
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                       0.09
6 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                        
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                  
8 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                    
9 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad          

General classification after stage 5
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini         
2 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad         
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad          
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana                           
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                           
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas                              
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team                  
8 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana                        
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                       
10 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                   

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