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Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Giro d'Italia. Today is stage 8, a mountain stage from Chianciano to Monte Terminillo. The riders face 189 km of racing with the first mountain-top finish of the race.
191 riders rolled out this morning under cloudy skies. News from the top of the Terminillo is that it snowed last night but that the race will still finish there. The team buses will also be allowed to drive to the top, meaning the riders wont have to finish, turn back around and roll down to the bottom of the climb in order get to their team bus. How thoughtful of the race organisers.
Just to remind you we have a special guest joining us for live coverage today. Will Frischkorn from Garmin-Transitions will be co-commentating with yours truly. If you have any questions for Will, fire them over. http://twitter.com/dnlbenson He'll be joining us in around an hour or so.
All together right now. The peloton will be feeling tired after yesterday's 'epic' stage. That word is used a lot in sport but it truly applied to yesterday's racing. We had everything: crashes, dare devil attacks, never say die fight-backs, contenders crumbling and heroic performances. Hats off to all the riders that took part and survived. It's a shame that the camera's always stick with the leaders of the race, I'm sure that there were some amazing stories that unfolded behind the main contenders.
And Lotto are on the front of the bunch. They'll be looking to help form a break this morning, perhaps.
17 kilometers covered so far.
Let's have a look at today's stage in a bit more detail. As race organisers love to tell us, this is a day when the race can't be won but can certainly be lost. The first long and hotly contested climb is sure to see some of the contenders struggling to cope with the change of pace, but gaps between them should be in seconds rather than minutes based on what happened here in 2003. Gilberto Simoni blew the race apart when the gradient kicked up 7km from the finish, but the Terminillo's ramps weren't tough enough for "Gibo" to build a significant advantage.
That day Stefano Garzelli latched onto Simoni's wheel and won the sprint. Both veterans are still racing and either of them could be in the action today. It's Simoni's last Giro so he'll want to go out with a bang. Another rider who was racing the Giro in 2003 was Scarponi. He's still with us and could be a dark horse. "This should be similar to the 2003 stage finish on the Terminillo, when Garzelli won ahead of Simoni, but none of the GC riders lost a huge amount of time. The Terminillo is long but not that hard. You might even see a group of seven or eight guys arrive together and a sprint finish."
Back to the action and one rider that won't be winning today is Francesco Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone who has retired.
Before we welcome Will to live coverage we have another special guest who has popped in for a cup of tea. Daniel Friebe from Procycling magazine.
DB: what do you think of the stage finish today?
DF: "Terminillo is harder than a lot of people think. It's not the typical first-week Giro summit finish, like Monte Sirino. It's much steeper. A GC contender could lose over a minute."
"Evans and Vinokourov apart, Scarponi was probably the strongest rider in the race after his crash yesterday. I expect a good ride from him, and from Acqua e Sapone (Masciarelli and Garzelli). All of the above have strong ties with central Italy, where the race is today."
DB: who has impressed you so far in the race?
DF: "Vinokourov and Evans have been the most alert and, physically, the strongest. Nibali also has great form, though. His carefree attitude seems to contrast with Basso, who has put himself under a lot of pressure."
"For what it's worth, I think that difference in nervous tension affects recovery over three weeks."
DB: Does Basso put himself under more pressure now than he did in 2006 or before that?
DF: "He's always been extremely diligent, which of course always brings pressure. But since his doping ban, he's repeatedly said that he wants to prove his 2006 Giro win was fair, and has struggled to demonstrate that on the road."
Meanwhile, the race is still all together. No breaks, no attacks. They're taking things steady at the moment. They have a climb coming at 46K. We could see a break go clear there, or on the run up to it. Basically, we might have some action between now and 46K. No promises though.
DB: Can Basso win a Grand Tour?
DF: Basso? Hmmm, I think that, if he doesn't improve over the course of the next two weeks, and doesn't finish on the podium here, we'll be forced to make a harsh re-assessment of Ivan Basso as a rider. It'll also be very hard to see how he's over going to win a major tour again, particularly as the cornerstone of his grand tour performances in 2004-2006 was a rapid improvement in time trialing. Since his ban, that's been mirrored by a rapid deterioration against the clock. He is a top five climber in most major tours, on most categories of mountain, but no better than that.
DB: Thanks Dan. Before you leave, let's have your top three for the race.
DF: That's really tough. I've been saying all along that Evans can't win without a team, but yesterday's stage has made me wonder...
Thanks, Dan. Here's a list of riders who've won on the Terminillo
1936 Giuseppe Olmo
1937 Gino Bartali
1938 Giovanni Valetti
1939 Giovanni Valetti
1987 Jean Claude Bagot
1992 Luis Herrera
1997 Pavel Tonkov
2003 Stefano Garzelli
That's it for Alessandro Petacchi. He's pulled out of race. He's suffered in this Giro. Off the pace in the sprints, crashing and illness. Is that the last we've seen from the Italian on the GT stage?
A few attacks from the bunch. Russ and Mauricio Ardila Cano try and break free but both are reeled in by the bunch.
Two kilometers until the first climb of the day. The first hour of racing was covered at an average speed of 41.8 kmh
Monte Nibbio is a third category climb. Matt Lloyd, already a stage winner in the race is leading the bunch as they begin to crank things up.
Lloyd is winding things up as he's currently leading the mountains competition. Hence why his team were making sure that things were all together at the start of today's action. Lloyd takes the points.
1 Matthew Lloyd 3 points
2 Yuriy Krivtsov 2 points
3 Carlos Ochoa 1 point
Jackson Rodriguez (Ven) Androni Giocattoli is the next rider to try his hand at breaking away from the bunch. Can he succeed?
With those points Lloyd extends his lead in the mountains competition. Here's how things now stand:
1 Matthew Lloyd 16
2 Paul Voss 10
3 Rubens Bertogliati 8
4 Alexandre Vinokourov 5
5 Stefano Pirazzi 5
The bunch are starting to break up already today. We've got two riders off the front now. Steve Cumming (Sky) and Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank).
We're on a fairly flat section of the course right now but things will change in around 10 kilometers as the race starts to climb again. The main favourites and those climbing specialists hoping to win today will be sitting in the field, conserving energy and preparing for the stage finish.
Those two are caught but the bunch is in two big groups with about 100 riders in each. The gap is roughly a minute. Names to come.
The gap between the two main groups is now out to 1:45. The pink jersey is in the lead group along with all the GC favourites.
Tyler Farrar is one rider caught in that second group. He'll be taking things as easy as possible today. The big question for him is whether he'll pull out before the final week. He's been racing since Qatar in January, competed in the Classics, and has the Tour de France to come in July. That final week in the Giro is very tough, and there aren't many chances for the sprinters.
Just to remind you, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) have pulled out of the race. Lampre have had horrible luck so far in the race. The one bright point being Cunego's second place yesterday. No stage wins for the team so far and losing Petacchi is a blg blow for the team.
The lead group consists of 17 riders now as the situation continues to change. Behind the lead 17 we have two larger groups, trailing at 30 seconds and then 60 seconds.
While everyone has been talking about the performance of Porte, and rightfully so, his teammate Laurent Didier also deserves a mention. Sitting 16th overall, he too is riding his first grand tour. We caught up with him in January at the team's training camp.
Don't forget that the Amgen Tour of California kicks off today/tonight with a road stage ideally suited to the sprinters. Bookmark this page for the next eight days. http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/5th-amgen-tour-of-california-2-hc
Back to the Giro and here are the names of our 17 leaders.
Ochoa, Rodriguez, Tschopp, Uran, Moncoutie, Brandle, Krujiswijk, Froome, Petrov, Chris Sorensen, Stortoni, Sarmiento, Ravard, Voeckler, Engels, Cummings
Vino and co are around 30 seconds down on the 17 riders in the lead. That's a good play from someone like Scarponi, who doesn't have to do any work and still has a rider like Serpa with him.
Our 17 leaders are pushing along nicely. Their lead nearly up to two minutes. There are some good climbers here. Moncoutie has been winning mountain stages since time began. He signed with Cofidis in 1997 - when the team began - and has raced for them ever since. Froome can climb a bit too, so can Tschoop and the Androni riders.
Cummings on the front now. Gel in mouth as he gets some much-needed energy into his body.
Back in the bunch and Lampre and Astana are working on the front right now. Lampre must feel that Cunego is finally in form now.
Will Frischkorn is now with us for live coverage. The fomer Garmin rider is still with the team, working behind the scenes. send me your questions for Will twitter.com/dnlbenson
The leaders are strung out now as they hit a fairly flat section of road. They're still working hard together.
Engels drops back for a drink, throwing his empty bottle to one side of the road. He should talk to Froome about whether or not that's a good idea. The Sky rider got in some hot water after doing something similar earlier in the season.
DB: Will welcome to live coverage on CN. We promise to be gentle. Let's talk about yesteday's stage. Did you ever have a day like that on the bike when you raced?
WF: First, Thanks for inviting me to join you here today. It's been great watching these from the couch and not out there on 2 wheels. Yesterday looked like one of those days that anybody in the peloton will never forget. The guys said it was just silly - but those are the days you climb off and there's a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction - wherever in the classment you cross the line.
WF: Not there, it's hard to tell - lots of crazy days looking back over the years, but that looked like absolute torture!
Entire Lampre team (what's left of it) are on the front now. Astana lined up behind them with Vino tucked in and looking comfortable in pink. Sign of a real man is whether he feels comfortable in pink. No?
DB: Will, how would you assess Garmin-Transitions' performance in the race so far?
WF: It's been a bit of a roller coaster giro, once again. Going from Tyler's stage win to Christian on the deck, once again, is a hard pill to swallow. With David and Tyler both up in the action and a good solid crew behind them right now there's a lot of racing left and lots of opportunities.
DB: And how is Vande Velde?
WF: Christian's in good spirits, already on the trainer, and focused forward. Not optimal preperation, for the second year in a row now, but hopefully not nearly the setback of 2009.
The leaders now have over 2 minutes on the bunch.
DB: Will Vande Velde change his race schedule now in the lead up the Tour?
WF: He's hoping to keep things stable and on plan. Surgery went well, he's home and with his family recuperating, but you never know how long the body is going to take and have to be flexible.
Lampre, dont just have Cunego. As we said earlier in the morning Simoni is riding his final Giro and he tore the race apart on the Terminillo in 2003. Could they be working for him today? One last hurrah for the veteran, perhaps?
DB: What do you think about today's stage?
WF: Watching the guys out there today it looks like it'll be a hard one for all. After an epic like yesterday it's hard to tell which way things will go in the bunch, and at the start nobody really knows. Sometimes there is that perfect floater attack right off the gun and everybody else can just settle in, but when a group of this size rolls off the gas has to stay on from start to finish. For the guys in that 2nd split it's brutal - you were hoping to have a day down a bit, but end up in a massive paceline for 200k. Ouch.
The finish today will be interesting - it's the first real test of this sort in the race and will confirm who in the top 10 is really going to be there for the long haul. After yesterday everybody is going to show some fatigue, but Cadel looks solid right now and of the guys near the top in the GC I'd be surprised if anybody puts time into him.
DB: Is Cadel your favoutire for the race? Everyone has criticised his team at the race but do you think it's as weak as everyone says?
WF: Looking at the teams across the board, there isn't one super-dominant crew this year. I think he clearly shows that this far he's the man to beat, but we haven't hit the big mountains and he's also a very complete rider suited to the stages thus far. He rode yesterday with some real class. As far as the team behind, I don't think they have the strength of a Liquigas for example, but when the jersey is in the team everybody steps up a notch.
WF: For a race favorite, it's a hard one to call. The mountains will obviously change things, but I see a lot of jersey changes. Vino is obviously on a ripper as well, but he isn't backed by the Astana of years past either...
The lead up to three minutes now, Lampre still on the front of the bunch.
Voeckler, who rode the Giro last year too, is now on the front, leading the break.
News in that Wegmann (Milram) has pulled out of the race. The team have confirmed that he's injured, 'either his back or leg'. That's right, back or leg.
DB: After a stage like yesterday how tired will the riders be? They've had roughly a week of hard racing and some hard transfers to deal with.
WF:This is the point in the race where the guys will start to feel that fatigue. They've had some seriously stressful days up north, a bit of travel down to Italy, cold and rain, and they're now hitting the critical week-10 day point where most people have their one real "bad day" of the race. For the contenders, today would be an unfortunate one...
WF: For most, the 7-10 day point is the hardest in the race. Your body comes down to it's bottom, and after that most generally plateau off and remain pretty stable for the reaminder. Some get stronger - generally those are the contenders - and some slide onto the DNF list.
Sprint at the top of the climb between the break. That looked like Rodriguez took them.
All 17 have made it over the top together and have roughly 50 kilometers of racing still to come. They'll split to pieces on the final climb today and it could be a case of the strongest rider staying clear. They'll probably need more than the 2:55 they currently have on the bunch.
WF: Lampre is showing some serious confidence in taking charge today. Cunego must have picked up some real confidence from yesterday's ride. He did a good one to come across there at the end.
DB: via Gareth on Twitter: Can we expect to see Bobridge or Meyer in breakaways during the Giro? also will they complete the whole race?
WF: For both Cam and Jack it's their first big one of the year and a hard Transition coming over from the track so recently. They'll both be out for some aggressive days, and see how the race plays out in the later stages
DB: Nice pun, Will.
More news on Wegmann. He has in fact had problems since the TTT with his back and he'll fly back home this evening.
News from the finish is that John Murphy (BMC) has quit too according to race radio. He finished last in Montalcino. It means Cadel Evans now only has six teammates. Murphy has been racing since Feb, Mar and was part of BMC's Classics team.
Not long now until the Terminillo. It's been worth the wait, we've seen a fairly interesting stage play out so far with riders quitting the race and a large group nip off the front. The two BBox riders are leading the break at the moment.
DB: Will, who do you think will be the first GC contender to try his luck today?
WF: I wouldn't be surprised to see Garzelli toss in a dig early on. He might be far enough down that the top few will hesitate and give him some room.
Pressure from Bbox has forced a split within the lead group. Not a huge one but someone will need to close that right now. Roughly 40Ks of racing left and one big climb to come.
Sorensen and the AG2R have forged off the front now.
The gap is coming down now they this group looked doomed, hence why they've started to attack each other.
DB: And what of Carlos Sastre?
WF: Sastre is a long way down and it would be hard for him to get back in the GC game at this point - he'd be a great bet for the stage as well. With Xavier Tondo, Cervelo, also riding really agressively this year they have a good one-two punch for stages like this.
Lampre continue to lead the bunch here but the Liquigas team are moving closer to the front of the bunch now.
Lampre, Astana, Liguigas, and then the rest. That's the general make up of the peloton right now. As Voeckler tries to break free.
The gap stretches out again to just under 3 minutes.
DB: Assuming Liquigas and Astana will come to the front pretty soon?
WF: A pretty sweet situation for both of them right now - Cunego showing early that he'll put his guys on the front gives both Liquigas and Astana a bit of rest. With the break not a huge threat right now they don't have to worry about the gap at the bottom too much, and Cunego showing his intentions early puts that responsibility on them. Right before the road tilts up I bet we'll see some other colors on the front.
BMC near the front of the bunch now too. They'll be trying to keep Evans out of trouble before the climb and keep him near the front. Once they start going uphill he could be all on his own though. Less than thirty kilometers of racing left. The quiet before the storm.
DB: Do you think any of these leaders could stay away today or are they all doomed?
WF: With the peloton holding them pretty close and all the hitters sitting pretty it would be hard, but Sorensen perhaps if he's on a good one and they don't lose much more. Looks like the gap is still ticking up now, so you never know.
Well that lead is now up to 3:20 so something is going right for the 17 riders in the break today. The bunch have to be careful here.
Voeckler still on the front. He's probably trying to give Tschopp the best possible chance of winning the stage by sacrificing his own chances. Tschopp being the better climber.
WF: This could change things a bit. It's always dangerous when a group that big gets rolling and there isn't good cooperation behind from multiple teams. Looks like Lampre are trying to figure out what to do here - they must be hoping for some help soon. A long climb ahead though.
For those of you who have just joined us. We've got 17 riders of the road but the final and hardest climb still to come. The Terminillo. We've also got a special guest with us today, Garmin Transititions' Will Frischkorn.
Uran ups the pace and is trying to move free. Meanwhile Milram have moved to the front of the bunch to help Lampre with the chase.
Via Bikeraising on Twitter: Will, how is Millar feeling? What are his thoughts for the stage?
WF: Today will be a real test for David. He's a big guy and this would be a long climb for him to stay up there with the leaders. He's been having some fun this week and has to hope for some special legs today to stay in the top few.
Voeckler versus Lampre pretty much sums up the last thirty minutes of racing. The Frenchman is burying himself on the front of this lead group.
WF: Once they hit the climb it'll be riders everywhere.
Rodriguez has some bad luck. Puncture. He'll wait for the bunch now. He wont get back on.
WF: They just showed images of the finish area - a bit of a contrast from scenes down below. Hopefully TV images stay with us.
DB: what are they like?
WF: You could barely see 20 meters...pea soup
WF: Looks like a bit of a shift on the front with the climb not far now.
DB: That's right Garmin and Katusha are moving up, along with Liquigas. The gap is starting to come down again now.
Sapone and BMC also at the front now.
Evans is roughly three riders back now and keeping well out of trouble.
Almost a crash at the front as Astana and Androni riders bounce off each other.
And Bbox still driving the break with you-know-who at the front. Vino meanwhile is sitting with his teammates and being patient. Gap is 2:37
Watch out for Mouncoutie on the climb. He has form, he can climb and he's due a big performance.
WF: Scarponi seems keen up there with his guys. Sky as well. I wonder if Wiggo is feeling like a little test. He's been quiet since his early bad luck.
Hesitation from the break and Sorensen sees an opportunity. He's off.
He's caught but Krujiswijk attacks.
WF: Looks like the break has realized their day is nearly over. The pauses between each attack don't help.
Basso sits on Vino's wheel. Tense moments these are with all the favourites hoping to stay out of trouble and not lose any time.
All the leaders back to together but a few have been dropped. The Colnago rider makes a move but he's marked. Nice token attack there.
Astana now on the front and Wegelius is off the front for Lotto. He has about 100 meters. The lead group is down to around ten riders now. Moncoutie is there. So is Sorensen and Cummings.
WF: you can see some heavy legs in the breakaway group - they've been full gas all day up there.
The gap is coming down rapidly and Moncoutie takes over and sets the pace. Voeckler dropped and passed by the solo Lotto rider. Krujiswijk attacks, and then Sorensen goes again.
Moncoutie moves to the front and is trying to bridge to Sorensen, who has possibly one of the ugliest styles of riding. Ugly but effective.
WF: interesting looking at the front of the already thinning peloton - nobody has great numbers. Could come to the advantage of the guys up frount - Mouncoutie does look good, Sorensen too.
WF: Petrov put in a good dig there to come across to the lead of the break. I wonder if Wegelius' dig will pay off. The peloton seems content sticking to a good hard tempo right now.
The lead group have now come back together. Behind, no team wants or is able to take up the chase. It's so misty at the finish.
WF: Looking at finish area footage now - the guys are going to be happy that their buses are at the top and they don't have to turn around and ride back down today.
Astana leading the bunch now but the pink jersey group isn't that small yet. At the front Stortoni has a huge dig and takes off. He over-took the entire lead group and danced away. He's out of the saddle now on a right hand bend. Looks good, actually.
WF: Some action up front! Impressive dig by the colnago rider at 10k to go.
DB: Sorensen is trying to chase and the Italian is looking back. Can he keep this up?
Sorensen is joined by Sarmiento.
WF: Vino is looking a bit isolated there at the front of the peloton right now with only one teammate left
The peloton are starting to real in a few riders from the earlier break and Sorensen looks like he's in a world of pain right now. Jaw clenched, back swinging all over the place and eyes almost totally shut. He's giving it everything. He's on his own now and is going to pass Stortoni.
WF: Looks like sorensen is going to make the bridge, but showing the pain of the day on his face
There's so much fog on the climb now. We have two leaders, then the remnants of the break and then the pink jersey group. We're on one of the steeper sections now. Wegelius is still out in front of the bunch.
Serpa is now on the front working for Scarponi. The gap is coming down, but is it coming down quick enough. Sorensen still on the front, trying to get some help from his breakaway companion.
Images of Sastre coming to us. He's at the back of the pink jersey group. Maybe 50 riders with him.
WF: Interesting the restraint in the group. Nobody's really shown anything yet. If they keep waiting the leaders have a pretty good shot at staying away
Vino is with the rest of the favourites. We see Nibali and Evans. Meanwhile Petrov is chasing alone and trying to get to the two leaders now. The gap is around 200 meters. But Sorensen has gone alone.
It looked liked Sorensen was totally on the limit but he just upped the pace and moved away. Perhaps he knew that Petrov was coming over to him. He still looks uncomfortable though.
DB: Can he make it?
Cunego is with the pink jersey group along with what looks like a dozen Liquigas riders. They're dominating in terms of number. Wiggins from Sky is there but is Evans blowing a little bit?
Evans is on Cunego's wheels here. He's out of the saddle now.
WF: You have to hope so - he's laying it all out there and has fought the fight today. nobody looks super fresh behind either...
WF: Looks like the first real accelleration is coming from behind, but there isn't a lot of punch. Vino looks strained
Basso and Nibali are joined at the hip, like they have been all race long. Now Scarponi moves!
Basso goes with him and so does Cunego and Evans and the rest of the leaders. Scarponi didnt catch anyone napping there. Basso looks back to see what damage has been done.
Cunego goes! Scarponi on his wheel. He's causing some damage.
Cunego's attack didn't look that strong but perfect timing on his part. Sastre isn't here. Basso, Nibali, Scarponi, Garzelli, Tondo, are all here. Evans and Vino too.
WF: Liquigas shows their strength here. 3 of 10...
Millar and Pinotti aren't here either. It's so foggy here. Androni on the front and Scarponi is looks good. Sorensen still leading now.
A slight slow down and the pink jersey group is getting bigger. Sorensen has ten second on the Colgano rider. And Tondo takes off. he's looking strong today but he's being chased by Basso.
Can Sorensen hang on?
WF: Hopefully this little pause for the leaders helps Sorensen on his day out - but you san see the lights in the distance, he's not far. And Tondo gives it a go!
Cunego goes again!
WF: It looks like the leaders might be taking today a bit on the defensive.
Scarponi closes the door on Cunego.
Cunego's attack dropped about ten riders. Basso sets the pace now. Tondo is somewhere between Sorenson and the pink jersey.
Sorensen continues ahead. He's got 1.7 kilometers to go. Tondo is climbing faster but is around one minute to make up.
Garzelli now winds things up and this group is becoming very selective. Gadret attacks and he has a gap. He's well down on GC so the favourites wont be too worried about him. Meanwhile Tondo has overtaken Petrov.
1K to go for Sorensen. It looks like Tondo has left it too late. Gadret is caught but goes again. Tondo having his own private battle but time and road is running out for him. Sorensen, I dont think he can grimace any more is heading for a stage win in the Giro.
WF: Looks like the pressure is finally on from behind, but they're late... Go Sorensen! Tondo looks like he's flying behind, hopefully he hangs on.
He's got it now. What a ride!
200 meters to go. It's going to be his. Out of the fog, arms up and he's won the stage.
WF: Brutal conditions at the finish today. It's going to be a long one for the guys behind.
Stortoni comes over the line and so does Tondo, Petrov, Gadret and Cunego leads home the favourites. Evans, Vino, Basso, Nibali and Scarponi were all there. Wiggins comes over a few seconds later, Pinotti too. Still no Sastre
So Sorensen takes the win for Saxo Bank. Here's the top seven.
DB: Thanks for joining us today, Will.
That's it for today. Please join us tomorrow for stage nine of the Giro. Thanks for joining us.