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Giro d'Italia 2009: Stage 6


The sixth stage has the look and length of a Classic, and will cause some problems for anyone who doesn't take enough sustenance on board or is slightly off form. The Gerlospass is hard enough to break plenty of legs, although some riders will get back up to the front on the long run-in.

Welcome back to the Tour of Austria -- oops, the Giro d'Italia! The Giro is paying a visit to its northern neighbour today and tomorrow, and has been in Austria since km 71.2. Today's stage features the expected ups-and-downs, with two ranked climbs in the last half of the race.

105km remaining from 248km

We have a break group today, but for a change, not one that formed immediately. Things stayed more or less together until km 55. Guillame Bonnafond (AG2R La Mondiale), Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne), Oscar Gatto (ISD), Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) and Kasper Klostergaard (Saxo Bank) have now built up a lead of 6:52 minutes.

That means that Scarponi is now the "virtual" Giro leader. He was only 6:19 down going into today's stage.

Will the break group make it to the end today? Will Scarponi be not only the virtual leader but the real leader as well? Or will they get caught? We sure don't know, but we bet you do! We're so sure of that that we are offering you a super prize if you can name the three top finishers today.

Today's stage is the second-longest of the Giro, at 248 km. It is also almost twice as long as yesterday's stage, which was a mere 125 km.

As so often happens, we are having a little trouble finding out exactly what is going on out there... But we will do our best and keep you informed!

If, like us, you can't pick a winner, you can still talk about the stage, the race or just about anything cycling related at the Cyclingnews forum

194 riders took off this morning at 10:48. Now that's an early start! So far four riders have had to drop out: Matthias Russ (Milram), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin), Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) and David Garcia Da Pena (Xacobeo).

135km remaining from 248km

The gap is holding steady at 6:42. The leaders are now on their way up the Felbertauern.

There is only one Austrian in the Giro this year, and it is Milram's Thomas Rohregger. "Tommy" is thrilled to be team captain and coming into his homeland in his first even Grand Tour. Not only that, but this is his home region and the finish in Mayrhofen is not that far from his home.

137km remaining from 248km

The gap is growing, it is up to exactly seven minutes now!

Let's take a look at our leaders today. Danilo Di Luca of LPR is the overall leader, but Thomas Lövkvist of Columbia is only five seconds back. Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) is wearing the points jersey, leading by two points over Di Luca. And whose name pops up atop the mountains classification list, but Di Luca! Hmm, we think we see a pattern here....

Continuing on with the jerseys, Lövkvist gave up the leader's jersey but can console himself with the young rider's jersey, where he has a 2:44 lead over Quick Step's Kevin Seeldrayers. And the TV Classification is most properly led by TV – Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues Telecom.

Most combative is the aforementioned Petacchi, only one point ahead of Di Luca and Garmin's Tyler Farrar. He also heads up the Azzurri d'Italia classification, and Mauro Facci of Quick Step is at the head of the Trofeo Fuga Cervelo ranking.

145km remaining from 248km

With still two km to go to the top of the Felbertauern, the gap has grown to 7:42.

Two teams have the titles in the three team rankings. LPR leads in Trofeo Super Team and Fair Play, while Astana is ahead as Fast Team.

The rumour was that Astana was going to appear in newly-designed jerseys either today or tomorrow. Well, looks like we will have to wait until tomorrow for the fashion show.

Where are these five riders in the break group ranked in the overall, you ask? We just happen to know. Scarponi is the best-placed of the group, 38th, and 6:19 down, giving him the virtual leader's jersey. The rest are pretty far down: Bonnafond 82nd, 22:19; Kiryienka 99th, 27:37; Gatto, 118th, 37:28, and Klostergaard is 176th, at 46:41.

147km remaining from 248km

The gap has grown again! It is now up to eight minutes. Do you think the group will come through?

Some people were surprised when Lance Armstrong dropped off yesterday and ended up finishing nearly three minutes down. But Astana teammate Chris Horner isn't worried. "He looks fantastic and he's coming into good form considering his future objectives. He has to stay steady, smooth and not kill himself. He has to keep an eye out for the Tour."

Let's take a look at those in today's escape group. Michele Scarponi is 29 years old, and won the Tirreno-Adriatico this year. Since turning pro in 2002, he has ridden for Acqua & Sapone, Domina Vacanze, Liberty Seguros, Acqua & Sapone again, and now Serramementi PVC Diquigiovanni. He sat out a year on suspension for his involvement in Operación Puerto.

It will no doubt not surprise you to learn that the break continues to pull away, and their lead is now 8:24.

Guillaume Bonnafond is a 21-year-old first year pro. The young Frenchman rides for AG2R. He has put in a lot of races so far this season most recently finishing 32nd overall in the Tour de Romandie.

Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne), 27 years old, from Belarus. He turned pro in 2006 and rode for Tinkoff in 2007-2008. He likes the Giro, having won the 19th stage here last year.

177km remaining from 248km

We've got Oscar the Cat in the break today. Oscar Gatto, 24, came from Team Gerolsteiner to ISD this season. He first rode the Giro in 2007 had the dubious honour of being the last rider on GC. He improved to 112th last year.

180km remaining from 248km

You may recall Kiryienka featuring in a breakaway in last year's Giro on stage seven. He was part of a huge breakaway, and was only beaten to the line by Gabriele Bosisio of LPR Brakes.

Before he went pro on the road, Kiryienka was quite a good track rider. Many of the Eastern European riders get their start on the track. Kiryienka has nabbed three World Cup gold medals and a bronze in the points race world championships in 2006.

Want to know what a really happy Vasil Kiryienka looks like? How about this smiling mug after he won stage 19 of last year's Giro?

To recap, we have five riders in a break with now 5:45 and losing time on the peloton. Guillame Bonnafond (AG2R La Mondiale), Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne), Oscar Gatto (ISD), Michele Scarponi (Diquigiovanni) and Kasper Klostergaard (Saxo Bank) make up this group.

Will they stay away? Who will win? Take a guess and win - a signed jersey from Team Columbia-Highroad! Do it on our forum! All you have to do is give us the top three on today's stage in the proper order of course, right here in
our forum.

Ever wonder why the Giro d'Italia has so many classifications and what exactly they all mean? Check out this explanation from last year.

It's a beautiful day in Austria and the peloton is still easing along taking in the bright sunshine. They're not chasing hard at all and are in fact a big block spread across the road.

Our breakaway is still working well together, and we see Kasper Klostergaard taking a pull. The Saxo Bank rider will have his 26th birthday during this Giro d'Italia, so he'll be looking for an early present today!

We can confirm that the Astana team is still wearing the same old kits, but we should be seeing the new look soon - and can we say, "thank the lord"?? Not that they aren't easy to spot, but turquoise and yellow are just not too great colours that go great together.

Scarponi takes a monster pull on the front of the break that leaves Gatto suffering at the back shaking his head. They're starting to show a few cracks in the armor now.

The Acqua e Sapone team has taking up the work and have brought the gap down to 4:40 now. We expect this will fall rather quickly as our five escapees start up the final classified climb of the day.

Bah! Scarponi is at it again and Gatto, Klostergaard and Bonnafond are getting dropped. Only Kiryienka can hang onto his wheel!

Scarponi's efforts are really distancing the three chasers now, but Kiryienka is sitting on calmly. Behind in the group of our pink jersey the pace has really started to heat up as the snow-capped alps loom.

Scarponi has been doing all of the work and now finally waggles his elbow to ask Kiryienka to pull through. They've put 18 seconds into the chasing trio, while the peloton continues to close the gap to both groups.

198km remaining from 248km

By the looks of the effort in our break, we're guessing that they're on the climb to Hochkrimml. The peloton is back in the town of Krimml at kilometre 195... let's do some quick math and guess with 4:23 they're 3km up the road.

The time time time is ticking ticking ticking for you to enter to win our contest to guess the top three finishers on the stage!

Anthrax anyone? "Time! Got the time tick, tick, tickin' in my head. Time Ticking in my head. Ticking in my head. Ticking in my head...."

If you knew the song, it'd be firmly embedded in your consciousness by now.... OK, back to bike racing and off the punk metal bands! The peloton is on the climb now.

The situation remains the same for now: Scarponi and Kiryienka are leading the race, with Zapatero... erm... Scarponi (we must stop calling him that!) leading and pulling out 38 seconds on the remainder of the break - Klostergaard, Bonnafond and Gatto.

Oh hooray! We have an attack from Stefano Garzelli!

Garzelli lost time on yesterday's stage and is going away in hopes of recapturing some of those lost minutes. He's 6:41 down in the overall now - so the LPR Brakes team won't be too eager to chase. But he's also a dangerous rider and can't be given too much leash.

To be fair to Scarponi, he's not the only one who's served a doping suspension and returned. We have 'Birillo' Basso and even Garzelli, who tested positive a few years ago for a masking agent, returning to the peloton. Why, even our maglia rosa has served his time... and our ciclamino jersey, too.

We've heard from some of our readers that the Persistence of Time song was not an Anthrax original, but actually a cover of a Joe Jackson song. Well, we like the Anthrax version way better, sorry!

Garzelli is wearing bib number 1 in the Giro. That's not because he's defending champ - Alberto Contador is, but he's not racing. The organisers decided to put the team in alphabetical order. He's opened up 40" on the peloton.

To recap: we're on the big climb of the day the Hochkrimml. We have two leaders: Scarponi and Kiryienka. Behind them, three chasers at 50 seconds: Klostergaard, Bonnafond and Gatto. Garzelli is chasing a few minutes later ahead of the group of our maglia rosa.

202km remaining from 248km

Scarponi is closing in on the top of this climb and distancing Kiryienka, who we now are reminded, is the 2008 points race world champ. Still a factor on both the boards and the road!

203km remaining from 248km

Just a few hundred metres to the top and it's clear Scarponi is going to take the points here. He's not getting any grief from Kiryienka who is going to be happy to catch back on during the descent.

Meanwhile, Garzelli is motoring along this beautiful mountain road not taking even a brief moment to enjoy the lovely scenery of majestic snow covered mountains and plunging valleys.

Don't forget! The kilometres are ticking down, and our contest ends with 20km to go! Take a guess and win - a signed jersey from Team Columbia-Highroad! Do it on our forum! All you have to do is give us the top three on today's stage in the proper order of course, right here in
our forum.

At the top of the climb Garzelli has a fading Klostergaard in his sights. The Saxo Bank rider will be caught by the Italian on the descent, but Gatto and Bonnafond are more than a minute up the road. The leaders are 2:31 in front of Garzelli.

The peloton is now behind led by Rabobank at the top - 4:10 behind our leader. They go through the toll booth on the other side - tossing spare change into the bins? Nope - they get free passage courtesy of RCS Sport.

The descent isn't a straight plunge down to the valley, rather there is a slight flat part and a little rise even before the main part of the descent. It's not too steep, so we're not seeing break-neck speeds.

Luckily we've got sunny skies and dry roads, although the Austrian highways are quite wide and well groomed unlike some of the tiny paths that you might find in some Grand Tour mountain stages. The leaders have plenty of room to negotiate the gentle twists and bends on the way down.

213km remaining from 248km

Our leaders are through the 35km to go mark, and this means only 15kms to go before our contest ends! Make your guesses now!

Kiryienka and Scarponi are on a flatter part of the descent. Bonnafond is chasing solo just under a minute behind while Gatto is alone behind him. Garzelli and Klostergaard are 3:15 behind, not far ahead of the peloton.

218km remaining from 248km

3:52 now for Garzelli, who is not going to be given any leeway by the peloton today. Klostergaard has rallied and is working with the Italian.

I highly recommend guessing your top three now, as the next 10km will go quite quickly.

Baaaah - the peloton is in sight of Garzelli, and he finally gives up. The officials order his team car out the gap and they're caught with 30km to go.

Oh no! Kiryienka has a flat!

Not good timing as this part of the descent is not very steep, and indeed he is almost climbing at the moment to get back on terms with Scarponi.

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