Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 100th year of the Giro d'Italia! In honour of today's classic stage, we've dragged the Hindenburg V out of storage and patched up the moth holes to bring you the live call for the 262km stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo.
The blimp hasn't seen the light of day since its somewhat tragic demise after the Spring Classics of 2007, but we're confident our patch job will hold up. However, just in case it doesn't, we've got parachutes on board!
155km remaining from 262km
We'll recap all the action from today's stage in a moment, but let's see what the situation is on the road right now.
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) has attacked on the first major climb of the day, the Moncenisio, and has gained two minutes on the group of our maglia rosa, Danilo Di Luca.
157km remaining from 262km
Garzelli had a chaser behind him in Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), but the Colombian couldn't shake the group and was brought back into the fold.
Correction - Soler is still out in front of the group of the pink jersey, but only has a minute on them. Garzelli is further ahead bombing down the descent of this mountain. He'll encounter one of those nasty little tunnels on the way down.
OK, now Soler has been caught and Garzelli has reached the bottom of this descent and is heading back uphill on the long, undulating roads to SestriÃ¨re.
Now that Garzelli has pulled the gap out to nearly five minutes, let's rewind the stage and see what was going on while we were busily inflating the blimp with hydrogen...
190 riders took to the start in Cuneo under clear skies. It's been quite pleasant weather today - light winds and no rain.
As has been the rule for most of the stages in this Giro, the attacks started at kilometre zero. Today it was Olivier Kaisen (Silence-Lotto) who put in the first dig.
Joining Kaisen on the attack was Oscar Gatto (ISD), and the pair were brought back but Kaisen immediately countered his own move. Unfortunately for the Belgian, that move was not successful, and indeed no breakaway could go clear for some 40km.
At kilometre 42, Kaisen, who apparently had eaten his Wheaties this morning, attacked yet again. This time he managed to get a gap of about 18 seconds but then quickly boomeranged (is that a verb?) back to the group.
Shortly after Kaisen's demise, Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre - N.G.C.) went on the attack. He was joined by Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R La Mondiale) for a time, but so many riders felt the need to be in the breakaway today that the rapid pace actually began to form splits in the peloton. 23 riders joined the two men off the front.
The riders covered plenty of ground in the first hour of racing thanks to the incessant attacks. More than 50km! Even 23 men couldn't get it together to put time into the bunch, and the peloton was all back together at kilometre 58 as the passed through Pinerolo for the first time.
The Garmin and Xacobeo-Galicia teams set a brisk tempo as the peloton headed out for its enormous circuit of 200km. A small, uncategorized climb, the colletta di Cumiana, caused some pain for the riders and allowed a group to finally get away.
The group included Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo), Alexander Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Matthieu Sprick (BBox Bouygues Telecom), David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) and Serge Pauwels (Cervélo Test Team).
This group of five came back together on the descent, and there was an unfortunate crash involving Riccardo Chiarini (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini), Blaise Sonnery (AG2R La Mondiale), Jos Van Emden (Rabobank) and Thomas Fothen (Team Milram).
The crash caused the peloton to fracture, with a second peloton losing 1'35 over the next 10km.
Shortly thereafter, there was another attack from the first peloton. This included Hector Gonzalez (Fuji Servetto), Bartosz Huzarski (ISD) Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Francesco De Bonis (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni), Ben Swift (Katusha), and Lars Bak (Saxo Bank).
They were chased by Alexander Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), David Lopez Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Giovanni Visconti (ISD) and Ted King (Cervélo Test Team). The two groups eventually came together.
The group began to gain ground, but the Acqua e Sapone team was setting a harsh tempo. The fight to stay away was too much for Swift, who was dropped after 30km as the group headed up the climb of Moncenisio.
Also in the lead group was Johann Tschopp (BBox Bouygues Telecom), and the Swiss rider was indeed the only one who could stay clear on the ascent. He was joined by Garzelli, who attacked from the group of the maglia rosa. The two came together before the 2km mark for the KOM.
Garzelli left the fading Swiss man behind, and Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) attacked to try to reach the raging Italian on the climb, but was unable to do so.
So that brings us to our current situation. Garzelli crested the climb with Soler chasing, but the Colombian was unable to stay away on the descent. Garzelli managed to pull out his advantage to 5'15 at the maximum, but now with about 80km to go, his lead has fallen to four minutes on the group of Danilo Di Luca.
We're not on the "official" climb to Sestrière yet, but that hasn't stopped riders from attacking! Giovanni Visconti and Andriy Grivko (ISD) have waged two-man warfare on the first chase group.
Garzelli is today in the green jersey of our mountains classification. He does not lead this competition - Di Luca does - but he gets to wear the jersey since 'the Killer' is in pink.
Ah-ha! Visconti has attacked for the T.V. sprint in Oulx. He's leading that classification but is actually tied on points with Mauro Facci (Quick Step).
180km remaining from 262km
Once the peloton passes the intermediate sprint, they've got 10km to go to the base of the big climb of the day. They'll still face a long road to the finish after the 2035m high peak - some 61km! And we hear the finish of today's stage has quite a nasty little surprise for the riders.
With 9.7km to go, they'll crest the Pramartino, which rises about 400m from base to top. But that's not all the riders will face. Inside the final few kilometres there is a wall of a climb on a cobbled road followed by a technical little descent.
We should mention that today's stage was meant to mirror that epic day in which the legendary Fausto Coppi won in 1949. But for several reasons, the organisers moved the climbs from across the French border to the Italian side.
The riders were to have a brute of a day - nearly as long but with five gigantic climbs including the Colle della Maddalena, Col de Vars and Col d'Izoard. They still have a very long day in the saddle, and perhaps a more difficult finish to the day.
187km remaining from 262km
Grivko and Visconti have not simply gone for the T.V. points and gone back to the peloton. They are continuing to fight to stay clear as they approach the climb to Sestrière, but only have 10 seconds on the peloton. Garzelli is still 4'40 ahead of the pink jersey group.
Garzelli is soldiering on, but has not even touched the "virtual" pink jersey today. He started the day 6'49 down on Di Luca, but is hoping to pull himself back into contention with this long effort. We must admit the finish suits him quite well.
191km remaining from 262km
Garzelli is ticking over the pedals and looking still quite smooth on the bike. He hasn't yet had to face a concerted chase from the LPR Brakes-led peloton. They are on the climb proper now.
The ISD car has been allowed to go up to the two riders Grivko and Visconti - they must have pulled out their gap.
Yes indeed, the ISD pair have pulled out 2'25 on the bunch. Garzelli is really starting to feel the effort now - he's getting in and out of the saddle as he rounds a switchback.
We've got a group of three riders trying to get away from the bunch. Looks like Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) with a Diquigiovanni rider and another.
With the blimp tethered to the grandstand atop the climb, we're having a tough time making out just who is in the main peloton, but we're certain the main favourites are still present.
Looking down the road we see the Acqua e Sapone director come alongside Garzelli to offer some encouragement. Perhaps letting him know the ISD pair are coming across to help.
Looks like the group chasing behind Grivko and Visconti contains Dario David Cioni (ISD), Jose Serpa (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) and Charlie Wegelius (Silence-Lotto) with FÃ©lix Cardenas (Barloworld).
Our pink jersey group certainly isn't feeling too eager to chase and now Garzelli has pulled out a whopping 6:23! He's nearly in the virtual lead, but it may not be for long... the peloton is nearly single file now behind the LPR Brakes team.
195km remaining from 262km
The riders are heading toward the snow capped peaks and the temperatures will feel pleasantly cool for the hard effort they'll be giving on this 11.25km climb.
For the benefit of our Blackberry users, we give you the current situation...