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The Giro continues -- and starts climbing today!
Tuscany, four ranked climbs and a finish in beautiful downtown Florence. What more could one ask? The fun and games start in a few minutes!
On the whole, today looks custom-made for a breakaway group, possibly to stay away until the end. The favourites can all huddle together in the peloton, eying one another, trying to figure out the new pecking order after yesterday's time trial, and looking forward to tomorrow's rest day.
A Tuscan odyssey, stage 9 is effectively a dress rehearsal for the 2013 World Championship Road Race. Rolling northwest from Sansepolcro, it will finish in one of Italy’s most spectacular locations, in the heart of Florence. Notwithstanding its cultural importance, it promises action on the road too. Hostilities will begin early, the big climb up the Passo della Consuma beginning the sorting-out process.
You can read the rest of our stage preview here, including a quote from Stefano Zanatta, and a video preview.
Today is Mother's Day in much of the world, so let me wish a Happy Mother's Day to all my sisters in motherhood – and of course especially to the mothers and partners of all cyclists!
We have had the sharp start, and as far as we know, all remaining 200 riders are on their way.
What's it like out there? Check this out: Explore the route of stage 9 in high detail with Google Maps, Earth and Street View.
We are sorry to repeat that it is apparently pouring down rain again. Which may be why Giairo Ermetti of Androni Giacattole crashed shortly after the start.
We only have 199 riders today. Francesco Chicchi of Vini Fantini did not start.
This is another stage which features roughly one flattish section, after a few hills near the start. But starting at about km60, it is all up and down.
Four climbs, today, one of each category. Things start out with the category 2 Passo della Consum, at km 81.8. Next up is Vallombrosa, at km. 106.7, followed by Cat. 3 Montetrini and the cat 4 Pian di Mugnone.
The category one climb Vallombrosa starts at km. 97.7 and runs 8.95 kilometers. The gradient starts out at a gentle 2.6%, hits a stretch of 12% and then finishes up with 7.3%. Montetrini may be category 3, but it won't be any easy one. It is only 4 km to ride, but with an average gradient of 9.1&, and a maximum of 12%.
We have our first attempt to form a break group. Getting away at 6km, and now with a gap of 23 seconds are: Rosa, Bongiorno, Quintero, Capecchi, Brambilla, Keukeleire and Marcato
That is: Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), Diego Rosa (Androni Giacattoli), Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani Valvole), Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Eros Cappechi (Movistar), Gianluca Brambilla (OPQS) and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge).
Vini Fantini is leading the chase and doesn't want to let this group go.
Nope, that was not meant to be the group of the day. They have now been caught.
We already have an abandon: Tomas Gil Martinez of Androni Giocattoli.
Two more riders are trying their luck at getting away: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole) and Robinson Chalapud (Colombia).
Suddenly we have a group of 12 in the lead! A group this large may well be successful. Let us try and catch the names....
Whoever they are, they have 38 seconds already.
And now we have the names: Und das sind sie:
Pirazzi, Visconti, Garate, Felline, Chalapud, Pantano, Mestre, Belkov, Golas, Ludvigsson, Proni, Petrov.
They have 1:30, so it looks like this group is it!
The gap is holding steady for: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Juan Manuel Garate (Blanco), Fabio Felline (Androni Giacattoli), Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Michel Golas (OPQS), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos-Shimano), AlessandronProni (Vini Fantini) and Evgeni Petrov (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Yesterday's time trial gave the overall GC a good shake-up. Let's take a look at the top ten:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 29:46:57
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:29
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:01:15
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:01:24
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 0:02:05
7 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:11
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:02:43
9 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:02:44
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:49
The gap has jumped to 2:30, and it is 20° and raining.
Astana, with the overall leader in its ranks, is at the head of the field controlling things.
Mark Cavendish of Sky is still in the red jersey of the points leader. It would be a surprise to see him in at the finish today, though.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 58 pts
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 52
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 49
4 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 45
5 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol 39
6 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha 35
7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ 31
8 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 30
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 30
10 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 29
With 125 km to go, and all the climbing still to come, the gap is at 2.58.
Our best young rider going into today's stage is Wilco Kelderman of Blanco – 22 years old!
1 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 29:50:23
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:43
3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:05
4 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:42
5 Diego Rosa (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:05:13
6 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 0:05:27
7 Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) Colombia 0:06:26
8 Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 0:11:53
9 Stefano Locatelli (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 0:12:38
10 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia 0:13:06
Belkov takes the first intermediate sprint. The gap is now 3:05.
And the best team ranking is led by the maglia rosa's team......
1 Astana Pro Team 88:40:51
2 Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:00:34
3 Sky Procycling 0:02:06
4 Lampre-Merida 0:04:55
5 Movistar Team 0:08:05
No one knew quite what to expect from Bradley Wiggins (Sky) yesterday in the time trial. He ended up second and might have won if he had not punctured early on, losing time. But would he have been able to make up enough time to move atop the GC? As it now stands, he is fourth, at 1:16 down.
Wiggins didn't talk to reporters after the time trial, butlater shared his thoughts on the team's website.
Like so many others, he noted that there are still two weeks to go, and with three Sky riders in the top ten, “We’ve got a few cards to play.”
With a reduced gap of 2:48, the leaders have started up the first ranked climb of the day, the category 2 Passo della Consuma.
Vincenzo Nibali of Astana put in a strong performance yesterday, finishing fourth on the day, and only 11 seconds behind Wiggins. That was more than enough to put him at the head of the field, leadng the GC by 29 seconds over BMC's Cadel Evans. But the Italian knows that there is still a very long way to go in this race.
The gap has dropped to 2:44 as they all head up the climb.
And we see that it is pouring down rain at the finish line. Let's hope the weather doesn't interfere with tv sending us lovely pictures!
Cadel Evans (BMC) has been quiet and unobtrusively riding a good Giro, and moved himself up to second place yesterday. He was pleased with his time triall ride, but noted that “the real Giro is just starting.”
With 96 km to go, it looks like the gap has jumped back to 3:40.
Fortunately it looks like it not raining on the peloton -- at least at the moment.
Just a reminder, this is our group: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Juan Manuel Garate (Blanco), Fabio Felline (Androni Giacattoli), Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel), Maxim Belkov (Katusha), Michel Golas (OPQS), Tobias Ludvigsson (Argos-Shimano), Alessandro Proni (Vini Fantini) and Evgeni Petrov (Saxo-Tinkoff).
Turning things over to Dan for a spell.
Astana are on the front still, controlling the race.
93 km remaining and Chalapud has put in an attack on the climb. he's second in the KOM competition so picking up 9 points at the top of the climb will see him take the lead.
But Pirazzi has attacked too and is about to catch the Colombia rider.
The two riders have linked up with Pirazzi setting the pace.
The pair are taking it in turns to attack each other.
Pirazzi squeezes Chalapud into the barriers at the top of the climb. The Colombia rider isn't too happy about that that move but I don't think he can have too many complaints.
Visconti was fourth over the line.
The peloton are rolling up the climb in fairly relaxed fashion. The gap to the break has gone out to 4'53. The roads are a little wet so the peloton may take the descent a little slower than usual. It's unlikely that Nibali will try anything today, or at least this far from the stage finish.
Astana lead the peloton on the descent, the two leaders have pushed on ahead of the rest of the break.
Pirazzi is pushing on but Chalapud is simply following on the descent. Pirazzi clearly wants to take advantage but the summit of the next climb is still a long way off.
The rain is coming down fairly steadily now as Visconti leads the chase from the second group. Astana have moved to the front of the peloton, controlling the field with a steady but unspectacular pace.
Belkov has made it up to the two leaders so we now have three riders clear of the chase group. The peloton trail by 5'09
Confirmation that Pirazzi leads the KOM by 5 points. Visconti bumped down into second place as a result of that last climb.
As Belkov is now pushing on with Chalapud.
The peloton isn't taking any risks as they head through a tight road section.
Pirazzi moves back up to the leads. If he can get a couple more minutes on the GC he'll be the virtual leader on the road. Smart from Astana if they let this one go.
The bunch head through the feedzone at a very gentle pace. The gap could go out by another minute right now.
The rain has started to come down a lot heavier now. The ideal situation for Nibali might be that Pirazzi moves into pink at the end of the stage but the Astana leader is able to put more pressure ,and perhaps time, into Wiggins on the final run into the finish. Sky will have to be wary of such a move today.
The three leaders are onto the climb of Vallombrosa.
Some confusion at the head of the race as Chalapud and Pirazzi come to a standstill on the climb and Belkov comes back up to them.
There's no cohesion between the three riders. Belkov now has a small gap on the other two in the break.
Susan back in the saddle again.
Cavendish is to be seen where we expect to see him today: at the back of things.
PIrazzi jumps to take the mountain points, followed by Chalapud who nearly caught him at the last minute. We don't see Belkov at the moment.
Belkov crosses over some 50 seconds later. The rest of the group is falling apart and dribbles over the line about 1.17 later. What will the gap be to the peloton?
BMC has moved up to the front of the field, and now a Cannondale rider jumps out to be the first of the group under the banner. Were there still points available?
The gap, by the way, was 6:23, and Belkov has once again caught the two leaders. That yo-yoing around can't be good for him.
Not only has Belkov caught the other two, he has gone on in front alone!
Very bad weather right now for the peloton. Heavy driving rain and fog -- not really what one wants on a descent.
We now have one leader, Belkov, chased by Chalapud and Pirazzi. They are followed by a group of four: Garate, Pantano, Mestre and Petrov.
The rest of the earlier break group are somewhere out there, too.
50 km to go. Will the field catch the leaders? Anything might still happen today, with this bad weather and the climbs.
Belkov is not at all afraid on this rainy day and is tackling the climbs with great confidence and high speed.
One of the Astana riders apparently crashed, or at least didn't quite make the curve....
Yes, he crashed. And slid along the wet road a loooong way....... Ouch!
Belkov now hat 1:35 on his two closest chasers, with the field at 6:52.
Well, with 42km left to go, and the field nearly seven minutes back, we think it likely the break won't be caught....
Bobby Julich is back in pro cycling! He will consult for BMC Racing Team. Read about it here.
Now here is a surprise: Wiggins has dropped back! He is at some 30-40 seconds behind the field. Can it be that the thoughts of crashing on a rainy descent are holding him back?
Lots of water on the road, and we mean LOTS. The car following Belkov just drove through a huge puddle and splashed up a small tidal wave.
Wiggins falls even further back. The field is at 7:29, and the Sky rider at 8:24.
Wiggins' difficulties means that Team Sky has pretty much disappeared out of the peloton. They have all gone back to help their captain.
Belkov now has 2:21 over his closest chasers.
Wiggins' teammates are slowly bringing him back to the peloton, the gap between them is now only 20 seconds.
A Garmin rider has moved to the head of the peloton. They don't want Wiggins to catch up again, of course. BMC is doing its share, as well.
There are, of course, two more ranked climbs to come. And the back to the Sky train has increased, over 40 seconds again.
The good news is that Belkov is no longer riding in rain. The road is of course still wet, but at least the moment nothing is coming down.
Two Garmin riders now driving the field, ahead of Astana. The gap is jumping around the 30-40 second mark, but Sky so far has been unable to get much closer.
The gaps now are: Belkov 3:10 ahead of the former break group, with the peloton at 6:42 and Wiggins at 7:19.
The former break group has by now caught Chalapud and Pirazzi.
Belkov heads up the penultimate climb. The peloton has gotten slightly closer, at 6:26, but with Wiggins still 30 seconds behind them.
It looks as if Sky has been successful and caught the peloton. But what will happen on the next two descents?
With Wiggins back in the peloton, Garmin moves out of the lead work. A BMC rider is still up there though, ahead of Astana.
Pantano of Team Colombia has jumped from the chase group and is moving up to Belkov very quickly. And the field is now only 4:30 behind.
Wiggins is at the end of the peloton, third from last actually. It will be very interesting to see how he reacts on the two descents -- both wet.
It no longer looks so easy for Belkov. He went off solo very early....
Belkov has definitely slowed but he is appraoching the top of the third climb, surrounded by lots of fans.
And here comes Pantano, what will his gap be?
Pantano makes his way through the crowded road and comes across at only 1.47 back.
The peloton has gotten smaller and faster. They are now only 3:26 behind at the mountain top.
Belkov looks much happier now that he is not climbing.
Ludvigsson has now joined Pantano in the chase.
Belkov heads up the day's final climb, with difficulty. Tired legs!
Behind him, the peloton is led by Tanel Kangert giving full gas. The gap is 3:30.
Lampre and BMC are now right behind Astana at the head of the peloton. We see Sky jerseys in the field, so we assume Wiggins is in there as well.
And another favourite is having difficulties. Ryder Hesjedal has fallen back from the field. He is accompanied by Tom Danielson.
Will the field pick up the pac again, in an attempt to dump Hesjedal, and possibly Wiggins?
Yes, it looks like it.
Belkov has achieved another goal, taking the final mountain. Only 10 km to go, and the stage win is his!
Ludvigsson and Pantano are still climbing.
They are 1:19 behind.
But the field is catching up! It is only 2 minutes plus behind!
AG2R's Carlos Betancur has jumped from the field and is giving serious chase to the leaders.
With 6 km to go, Pantano and Ludviggson are 1:20 behindd. We donÄt have a time for Betancur.
Hesjedal defintely out of the favourite's group.
The two chasers are at 1:30, with Betancur at 1:57, and the peloton at 2:05.
3km still for Belkov. It looks to be not raining in Florence, but the streets are indeed wet.
Belkov looks to have this one. He is moving along smoothly again.
Belkov has over a minute on his two chasers, 1:14, with Betancur at 1:35.
The field is at 1:55. No word on Hesjedal.
Hesjedal is at 2:40. Is the Giro basically over for him?
Only 700 metres to go for Belkov.
This is his second grand tour, with the first one also being the Giro. And of course this is his first grand tour stage win.
One last look back, to make sure, pull the jersey into order and then raise the arms as he crosses the line!
Betancur has caught the otehr two in the last km, they drop Ludvigsson, and Betancur outsprints his countryman Pantano for second place.
And only 1:05 after Belkov, the greatly reduced field crosses the finish line.
Danielson and Luca Paolini accompany Hesjedal across the finish line, at 1:08, or roughly a mlinute behind this rivals.
We assume that Wiggins was in the favourites' gropu, but are not sure.
Betancur celebrated as he crossed the finish line. Did he think he had won?
Congratulations to Belkov, who took a big chance by taking off on such a long solo flight in such bad weather conditions.
As expected, Hesjedal drops out of the top ten, and is now in fact 11th, at 3:11.
The top ten on today's stage:
1 Maxim Belkov (Rus) Katusha 4:31:31
2 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:44
3 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Colombia 0:00:46
4 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Argos-Shimano 0:00:54
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:03
6 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:03
7 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:01:03
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:01:03
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:01:03
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:03
And the new GC top ten:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 34:19:31
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:29
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:01:15
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
5 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:01:24
6 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:11
7 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:02:43
8 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:02:44
9 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:49
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:03:02
Thanks for reading along on another wet stage. Tomorrow is rest day, so join us again on Tuesday, as the adventures continue!