Skip to main content

Schumacher comes of age

Image 1 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 2 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 3 of 94

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step)

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 4 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 5 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel)

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 6 of 94

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 7 of 94

Slava Ekimov

Slava Ekimov
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 8 of 94

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery)

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery)
(Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 9 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in search of an espresso

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in search of an espresso
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 10 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) grabs a pre-race coffee

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) grabs a pre-race coffee
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 11 of 94

Ivan Basso (CSC) grins at the start

Ivan Basso (CSC) grins at the start
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 12 of 94

Italy meets Belgium in the Giro

Italy meets Belgium in the Giro
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 13 of 94

Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros) and a fan

Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros) and a fan
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 14 of 94

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is wired for sound

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) is wired for sound
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 15 of 94

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) at the start

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) at the start
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 16 of 94

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) is half a head taller than Jose Rujano

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) is half a head taller than Jose Rujano
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 17 of 94

Rubiera and Savoldelli at the start

Rubiera and Savoldelli at the start
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 18 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) is a happy maglia rosa

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) is a happy maglia rosa
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 19 of 94

Crowds of fans ready to greet the Giro

Crowds of fans ready to greet the Giro
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 20 of 94

Rolling out for the start

Rolling out for the start
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 21 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) a little nervous at the start

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) a little nervous at the start
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 22 of 94

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) performs his usual pre-race check

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) performs his usual pre-race check
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 23 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a quick wheel change

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a quick wheel change
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 24 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a push from Johan Bruyneel

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a push from Johan Bruyneel
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 25 of 94

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) cruises at the back

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) cruises at the back
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 26 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) starts to chase after a puncture

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) starts to chase after a puncture
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 27 of 94

Slava Ekimov has the task in hand

Slava Ekimov has the task in hand
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 28 of 94

Regaining the peloton

Regaining the peloton
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 29 of 94

Better now

Better now
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 30 of 94

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) leading

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) leading
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 31 of 94

The front part of the bunch makes its way up the Citadel of Namur

The front part of the bunch makes its way up the Citadel of Namur
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 32 of 94

The front part of the bunch makes its way up the Citadel of Namur

The front part of the bunch makes its way up the Citadel of Namur
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 33 of 94

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) makes a break for it

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) makes a break for it
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 34 of 94

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) with a gap

Chechu Rubiera (Discovery) with a gap
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 35 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) on the Citadel of Namur

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) on the Citadel of Namur
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 36 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) leads the charge behind the front riders

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) leads the charge behind the front riders
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 37 of 94

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) with Jens Voigt on his wheel

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) with Jens Voigt on his wheel
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 38 of 94

Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank) with Pellizotti on his wheel

Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank) with Pellizotti on his wheel
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 39 of 94

Di Luca and Gonchar hurting

Di Luca and Gonchar hurting
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 40 of 94

Ivan Basso (CSC) navigating the wet cobbles

Ivan Basso (CSC) navigating the wet cobbles
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 41 of 94

Merckx and McGee shoulder to shoulder

Merckx and McGee shoulder to shoulder
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 42 of 94

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) cruises up, a minute down

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) cruises up, a minute down
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 43 of 94

The peloton snakes up the Citadel

The peloton snakes up the Citadel
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 44 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) drives the pace behind Rubiera

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) drives the pace behind Rubiera
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 45 of 94

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) follows Schumacher

Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) follows Schumacher
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 46 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) wins the stage ahead of Rubiera

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) wins the stage ahead of Rubiera
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 47 of 94

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) takes third place

Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) takes third place
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 48 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) at the finish

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) at the finish
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 49 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) salutes from the podium

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) salutes from the podium
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 50 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) prepares the cork

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) prepares the cork
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 51 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on the podium in pink

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on the podium in pink
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 52 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) now in pink

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) now in pink
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 53 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) smiles in pink

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) smiles in pink
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 54 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) gets a kiss

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) gets a kiss
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 55 of 94

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) signs some autograps

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) signs some autograps
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 56 of 94

Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval) and son

Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval) and son
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 57 of 94

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) looking better

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) looking better
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 58 of 94

Who is that Merckx'd man?

Who is that Merckx'd man?
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 59 of 94

Moises Aldape Chavez (Panaria) on the attack

Moises Aldape Chavez (Panaria) on the attack
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 60 of 94

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a push from Johan Bruyneel

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) gets a push from Johan Bruyneel
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 61 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) rolls across the line, knee bleeding

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) rolls across the line, knee bleeding
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 62 of 94

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) surrounded by teammates after his crash

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) surrounded by teammates after his crash
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 63 of 94

The Giro in Wallonia

The Giro in Wallonia
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 64 of 94

On the bike stretching

On the bike stretching
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 65 of 94

The Giro in all its colour

The Giro in all its colour
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 66 of 94

The breakaway led by Moises Aldape Chavez

The breakaway led by Moises Aldape Chavez
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 67 of 94

Bettini makes it look easy but it's not

Bettini makes it look easy but it's not
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 68 of 94

Alberto Loddo (Selle Italia) and Paolo Bettini duke it out on the Citadel

Alberto Loddo (Selle Italia) and Paolo Bettini duke it out on the Citadel
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 69 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) with Rubiera on his wheel

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) with Rubiera on his wheel
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 70 of 94

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at the Giro

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) at the Giro
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 71 of 94

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) on a wet day

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) on a wet day
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 72 of 94

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) in the maglia rosa

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) in the maglia rosa
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
Image 73 of 94

Ivan Basso (CSC) exudes his typically quiet confidence.

Ivan Basso (CSC) exudes his typically quiet confidence.
(Image credit: Anthony Tan/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 74 of 94

Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) in a pensive mood before the start in Perwez.

Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) in a pensive mood before the start in Perwez.
(Image credit: Anthony Tan/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 75 of 94

Riders gather at the start line in the sleepy village of Perwez.

Riders gather at the start line in the sleepy village of Perwez.
(Image credit: Anthony Tan/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 76 of 94

Garden gnomes are dear to the hearts of Cyclingnews staff, and were in abundance at today's start in Perwez.

Garden gnomes are dear to the hearts of Cyclingnews staff, and were in abundance at today's start in Perwez.
(Image credit: Les Clarke/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 77 of 94

Jussi Veikkanen's final adjustments

Jussi Veikkanen's final adjustments
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 78 of 94

Popular guy Alessandro Petacchi

Popular guy Alessandro Petacchi
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 79 of 94

Damiano Cunego

Damiano Cunego
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 80 of 94

Cool: Sandy Casar

Cool: Sandy Casar
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 81 of 94

Maglia rosa Paolo Savoldelli

Maglia rosa Paolo Savoldelli
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 82 of 94

Mr Discovery's Ekimov

Mr Discovery's Ekimov
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 83 of 94

Maglia blu Brad McGee

Maglia blu Brad McGee
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 84 of 94

Arnaud Gerard grabs the bag

Arnaud Gerard grabs the bag
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 85 of 94

Gustav Larsson is hungry

Gustav Larsson is hungry
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 86 of 94

At home at last!

At home at last!
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 87 of 94

Faces of pain 1: Jussi Veikkanen

Faces of pain 1: Jussi Veikkanen
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 88 of 94

Faces of pain 2: Arnaud Gerard

Faces of pain 2: Arnaud Gerard
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 89 of 94

Faces of pain 3: Gustav Larsson

Faces of pain 3: Gustav Larsson
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 90 of 94

Faces of pain 4: Cyrille Monnerais

Faces of pain 4: Cyrille Monnerais
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 91 of 94

Faces of pain 5: Robbie McEwen

Faces of pain 5: Robbie McEwen
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 92 of 94

Faces of pain 6: Nicholas Vogondy

Faces of pain 6: Nicholas Vogondy
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 93 of 94

Faces of pain 7: Serge Baguet

Faces of pain 7: Serge Baguet
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)
Image 94 of 94

How did I do that?

How did I do that?
(Image credit: Giorgio Masnikosa/members.chello.se/giorgio.masnikosa)

Disaster for Petacchi as he breaks kneecap

As speedy on two wheels as his namesake on four, Gerolsteiner's young gun Stefan Schumacher came of age atop the Citadel of Namur and made a mockery of his more fancied rivals. On a wet, windswept and cobbled ascent, the 24 year-old bridged to the lone figure of José Luis Rubiera inside the final kilometre, then with 350 metres to go, attacked and immediately distanced himself from the Discovery Channel rider to earn the best win of his career and become the new maglia rosa.

"I wasn't only following my instinct," explained Schumacher, "I knew the climb was good for me at two kilometres [long] on the pavé. I knew I could do a good result. Everybody knew Paolo Bettini was the man for today - Quick.Step was riding [on the front] all day, which was their tactic - so when he attacked two kilometres from the finish, I followed him and that was the key.

"I had a really, really, really good day - I wanted to go to Rubiera and then I was alone... I went to Rubiera and 400 metres from the finish I started the sprint because I was afraid of the others coming from the back. I knew when I won the stage that I had the jersey, so I said to myself that the best tactic was to do the race like a one-day race; I just tried to win the stage," he said.

It was a gloomy day in the Ardennes with rainshowers throughout the entire stage, but for the true Classics rider, it's exactly how they wanted it. Although nowhere near as tough, the Citadel finale was reminiscent La Flèche Wallonne's infamous Mur de Huy, and as expected, it created a natural selection as only the strongest finished up front.

"I think for any rider it's a big feeling to wear the pink jersey and win a stage of the Giro," Schumacher said. "The last year was heavy; it wasn't easy for me because I wasn't guilty at all and it was a strange situation. But now it's over and I've had a good season - and now it's a great day for me."

The names of Davide Rebellin, Paolo Bettini and Philippe Gilbert were considered favourites before the stage, and while they may not have won, their respective third, fourth and fifth placings showed they deserved their status. Today was also an interesting test for those vying high on general classification, where José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and defending champion Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) finished three seconds in front of the next pack of six, and seven seconds ahead of a larger group of 50. No big upsets, but interesting nonetheless.

Said Savoldelli: "It was a good stage for me despite the rain... we didn't want to crash or lose time and I even gained some time at the finish. So it went well."

"It was a hard stage today with the rain," said Rebellin. "We rode great and my team-mate Schumacher made just the right move and deserved to win today."

"I wanted to win today and even checked out the finish before," Bettini said, looking more than a little despondent. "It's too bad since my teammates worked hard all day on the front in the rain and the wind. When Rubiera went, I hesitated a second and then it was too late because I was blocked by a scooter from the race organisation and that's when Schumacher went."

One rider who definitely hasn't had Lady Luck by his side is Alessandro Petacchi, whose woes were compounded today after a rider crashed into him. "When a Euskaltel rider crashed about four or five riders ahead of me, I braked hard but stayed up until Cioni slid into me and hooked my handlebars," Petacchi explained. "I fell over on my left side and hit my knee hard. It hurt a lot at first, but felt better at the end of the stage. I'll go back to the hotel and have it checked out... I hope it's okay."

Unfortunately for Petacchi, it wasn't okay. Further examinations at a hospital post-stage revealed that he had broken his kneecap. Petacchi will return to Italy tomorrow, where he will get surgery. It is not known yet whether he will recover in time for the Tour de France.

With the win comes a change of shoulders for that lovely pink tunic, and Savoldelli's team was most likely happy to let it go for a day or two. But whoever wears the maglia rosa after tomorrow's fourth and final stage in Belgium may have trouble holding onto it, for what lies ahead in Italy is an 38 kilometre team time trial on Stage 5. With such a hard final week, the strength of one's team is likely to be a determining factor, and what better way to judge a team's worth than seeing all nine riders racing as one.

"I can't even predict at all how long I will keep the maglia rosa as I've never done a three week race before," said the still shocked though exuberant Schumacher. "Today both Rebellin and I were keen to do well in the final and our team-mate [Andrea] Moletta did a great job for us. So I'm just really happy with today's result."

How it unfolded

Monday's stage was a twisting, nervous affair starting in Perwez, a city in Brabant Province noted for it's extensive wind farms that concluded with a tough 2.5km cobblestone ascent to the famous Citadelle de Namur, a crenellated fortress overlooking the Meuse River. It was a windy and partly overcast midday when 198 riders headed northwest for 18km into a headwind to Wavre.

Then the percorso headed south into the Meuse River valley towards the first GPM at Evrehailles after 101km. Stage 3 was following the traces of the Flèche Wallonne, through the Intergiro 110 at Andenne after 132.5km, then due east along the Meuse River to the second GPM Cote d'Ahin, a 4km ascent. But instead of taking the steep ascent up the Mur de Huy as in La Flèche, the percorso crossed to the north bank of the Meuse and looped back to Namur for the finish.

198 riders left Perwez at 12.16 and the average speed for the first two hours was 38.7km/h. While on the outskirts of Perwez, maglia rosa Savoldelli had a puncture and his entire team waited and easily escorted him back to the gruppo. Just as on Stage 1, Mexican rider Aldape (Panaria) was active in the first phases and on the streets of Wavre, a group of three joined the Panaria rider to make a front quartet; Moinard (Cofidis), Irizar (Euskaltel) and Illiano (Selle Italia) extricated themselves from the gruppo, which was no longer tutto compatto.

This was the right combination for the break to work and within 10km, the front quartet had gained almost three minutes. At first, Discovery Channel was riding the tempo on the front of the gruppo, but eventually Quick.Step hit the front with Scarselli and Bramati keeping the break close in favour of their team captain Bettini, who was looking for a win atop the climb to the Citadelle di Namur. The gap had stabilized at about four minutes but with big Brama humping on the front, the gap was down to 3'45 approaching Sosoye after 85km.

As a weather front rolled across Belgium west from the English Channel, rain began to fall and temps drop for yet another typical day of lousy weather. At the first GPM at Evrehailles after 101km, it was Irizar who took the climbing points ahead of Aldape, with big Brama and Scarselli of Quick.Step riding tempo on the front of the gruppo 3'45 behind.

At the Intergiro 110 in Andenne, it was Irizar gaining the points with the peloton 3'15 behind. On a slippery roundabout entering Huy, the Basque rider crashed but the rest of the break waited for him and he rejoined as the second GPM of the Cote d'Ahin began. The front quartet rode steadily until the last kilometre, when the tactics began and they began to lost time. Aldape won the KOM from Moinard and had gained enough points to take the maglia verde from Savoldelli. The lead for the escapees had fallen under two minutes and as they dropped into Huy, the wind blowing up the Meuse River valley.

With 50km to go, Illiano dropped off the pace of the break as the Quick.Step train continued to pound away on the front of the gruppo, 1'05 behind, but on the long descent to Huy, he came back to the front group. Di Luca punctured on the bumpy descent and got back on after a short chase, while Petacchi then crashed with Cioni at 60km/hr on the wet road and then had to make a hard chase back with his entire team for 10km across Huy to get back into the main gruppo . Petacchi was clearly in pain as he gritted his teeth, struggling to hold the wheels of his Milram team-mates.

With all the drama at the back, the breakaway had gained some time as the peloton and were now 1'45 ahead as they crossed the bridge over the Meuse River and began the gentle climb back towards the finish in Namur 45km ahead along the twisty Burdinneal road. Quick.Step was on the front, keeping the pace strong and steady behind the break while the escapees maintained a lead of 1'30. The rain had tapered off somewhat with 35km to go as the weather front moved further west. Garrido had taken over on the front for Scarselli, as big Brama rode third wheel with Bettini tucked in right behind. Petacchi was hanging on at the back of the gruppo as he continued to hang tough, occasionally touching his painful left knee.

With 30km to go, the break was still leading by 1'30, but it looked like Quick.Step was just letting the escapees hang out front. Suddenly Petacchi and two teammates stopped with 27km to go outside Burdinne and race doctor Tredieci stopped to check Petacchi's bruised left knee. After a quick application of ice, Petacchi took off again, but continued to ride next to the race doctors car to get his knee examined. Five kilometres later, the gap was down to 1'05, while the peloton was just cruising along at 35km/h. Petacchi, who had put on his rain jacket, and his three team-mates were already one minute behind the gruppo and were certain to lose more time as the break was absorbed and the pace cranked up.

Just after they passed over the A15 Motorway, the break was caught after 160km of freedom and it was once again gruppo compatto with 20km to go. The rain and pace had picked up again as Namur approached, but no team in particular was taking the initiative on the front. As the 10km to mark approached, CSC was on the front led by Gustov to keep Basso out of any trouble. Brad McGee (Francaise de Jeux) was up there too, as he was looking to have his chance of taking the maglia rosa if possible. Down, down through Namur under the pouring rain the gruppo was flying as CSC and now Gerolsteiner were up front. Schumacher was lurking near the front as there was a crash by a Euskaltel rider that brought down T-Mobile's Kessler and split the gruppo in half. CSC was riding hard on the front for Basso, but right up front with 3km to go was Paolo Bettini, Cunego and Rebellin.

As the suspense mounted, Selle Italia's Loddo got a gap at the beginning of the ascent to the Citadelle with 2km to go, but Chechu Rubiera (Discovery Channel) made a great counter with 1700m to go. Suddenly a light blue Gerolsteiner jersey blasted off the front of the chase group to bridge up to Rubiera with 1300m to go. It was Stefan Schumacher, who went right to the front and was never bested. Rubiera was a superb second, while Schumacher's Gerolsteiner teammate Rebellin was third. With his 20 second time bonus, Schumacher took over the maglia rosa by 13 seconds over Savoldelli, with Rebellin third overall. A grim faced, hurting Petacchi came in with his teammates 14'36 behind the winner and headed straight to his team car without any comment.

Stage 4 - Tuesday, May 9: Wanze-Hotton, 182 km

A hilly stage south of Liege with two climbs from the Ardennes classics, Cote de Wanne and Stavelot-La Haute Levèè in the first half, but things could come back together in the rolling last half for Robbie McEwen to take his second stage win at the 2006 Giro.

Latest on Cyclingnews