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Giro d'Italia 2009: Stage 9

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Today's course is basically a criterium through downtown Milan. Some curves, some long straightaways and some very tight corners. A lot of people will be going all out today and we are afraid we will see any number of crashes. Hopefully there won't be any serious injuries.

Things got underway promptly at 13:30 this afternoon, on a hot and sunny day. The sign-in was at the cathedral, right under the Duomo's famous spires.

We are happy to start off our report today with some good news. Rabobank reports that Pedro Horrillo has come out of his induced coma, can be spoken to, and has moved his arms and legs. His wife will be arriving sometime today. He is still in very serious condition, though, and we send him all our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

20km remaining from 163km

The first round of the course is completed, and everyone is all together. We had our first crash of the day, Markus Fothen of Milram and Serafain Martinez (Xacobeo), but they got up and going again.

Our man at the race, Gregor Brown, told us the sun was shining at the start, but it may not stay that way. It is supposed to get quite warm, but the partly-cloudy morning is scheduled to give way to showers and a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. The chance of rain is 60%.

Check out our competition for today – pick today's podium and win a Columbia-Highroad jersey signed by their Giro squad. Sounds easy, right? Well, we've been trying to give this thing away for several days now! Just sign up with
our forum and go for it!

Once again, our apologies for the lack of news. We simply aren't getting the information to pass along to you!

We wish a very Happy Birthday to Columbia-Highroad's Edvald Boasson Hagen, who today reaches the grand old age of 22. Not that he's done anything worth mentioning in the Giro so far ..... All kidding aside, he won the team time trial with the team, has finished second twice and won Friday's seventh stage – and all that only as a 21-year-old.

Milan is Italy's second largest city, the capital of the province of Milan and the regional capital of Lombardy. The city itself has a population of about 1.3 million, but the whole metropolitan area is estimated to be about 7.4 million, making it Italy's largest.

Astana DS Viatcheslav Ekimov sees the week of the Giro as a warm-up for his team's podium candidate, Levi Leipheimer. "I think Levi is in great shape and holds a perfect position. For us, the Giro starts on the day of the TT," he said. "We have been in the race but have not pulled a metre yet."

The guys don't seem to be in much of a hurry today. The first lap went by at a time of 33.370 km/h, which is significantly lower than the slowest planned speed of 42 km/h. Will we still be sitting here at midnight, writing "still no escape attempts"?

What do we think of when we think Milan? Being female, we naturally think of fashion. And shopping! Did you know that Milan has what is reputed to be the world's oldest shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele? Oh dear, our credit card is starting to itch....

Here's another fashion note. The english word "millinery," which refers to women's hats, comes from the name Milan.

43km remaining from 163km

And once more across the finish line for the large group. LPR is in the front of things, as they continue on at their comfortable 33.440 km/h pace.

Today's stage is not one for the climbers. In fact, "flat as a pancake" is the phrase that comes to mind. It is not really totally flat, though, the altitude changes from 117 meters to 126 meters. But we imagine even the sprinters will survive that altitude difference with no problem.

The opera house here is the world-famous La Scala, which opened in 1788. Mozart wrote three operas here, and it premiered operas by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi.

Here is another injury update with some good news: Garmin-Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde is coming along fine. "I’m taking it day by day. The first couple of days were excruciating but the pain is getting more manageable," he said. "I’m going to keep working with the team’s medical staff and let them determine when I can get back on the bike." No word at all as to when that might be, and DS Matt White emphasises that it is important that CVV take all the time he needs to heal properly.

The stage today has been neutralized, by the way. The riders complained that the course was too dangerous. So we can expect a sprint, but we may well see a large bunch hang back and let the sprinters fight it out among themselves. Which is what the sprinters prefer anyway.

Milan was first settled in about 400 BC by the Celts, with the Romans taking over in in 222 BC. The city has been through the Visigoths, the Huns, the Ostrogoths, the Longobards and the Franks. Eventually it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. Other conquerers moved in (and out) over the centuries, with Austria taking over in 1713. Napoleon later took over and was in fact crowned in the Duomo (cathedral), but after him, the city went back to Austria. It became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Today's course is not the traditional closing circuit in Milan. But of course, you will remember that the race did not have that traditional end last year either. The 2007 closing stage was a 28.5 km long individual time trial.

Jean Francois Quenet spoke with Boasson Hagen before the stage today. The young Norwegian said,"Today is my birthday and Norway's national day, but the most important for me is the stage of the Giro. I'm here to help Mark Cavendish to win. This is the priority, not the cyclamen jersey that I'm wearing now."

Hm, we think we have figured out the rationale for the slow pace today. Are they thinking, "You can make us ride this dangerous course, but you can't make us ride it fast"?

The riders have said this is a dangerous stage, and there have certainly been complaints about other stages, too. How about yesterday's finish? That had the potential for some ugly situations, which fortunately didn't happen.

The peloton just dawdled over the finish line, and they are going slower than ever! NO NO NO! Come on, guys...... The previous lap was 33,440 km/h, but the most recent one was 33.081 km/h.

In Italy you always eat well. Here in Lombardy you will find more rice than pasta and virtually no tomatoes. But you will find the "cotoletta alla milanese", a fried, breaded veal cutlet, and other main dishes like cassoeula (stewed pork rib chops and sausage with Savoy cabbage), ossobuco (stewed veal shank with a sauce called gremolata), risotto alla milanese (with saffron and beef marrow), busecca (stewed tripe with beans), and brasato (stewed beef or pork with wine and potatoes).

Things have been going well for Team Columbia-Highroad lately – how about four wins in two days? Yes, that's right, the men in yellow aren't the only ones with winning ways.

Now what???? Six laps to go, and the peloton comes to a stop before it crosses the finish line! Di Luca is making a statement over a microphone....

Di Lucas is now talking to the race organizer, but we are still waiting for a translation of his remarks. Nothing is happening.

There they go, finally!

The Giro and Milan are nearly inseparable. The first Giro started out from here in 1909, at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m or so. Some 397 kms and 14 hours later, Dario Beni won, believe it or not, a sprint in Bologna to take the win. The Giro has been back here 81 times since then.

Well, they're riding again but at a very leisurely pace -- even I could keep up them!

Cyclingnews can report that Dario Cioni was inside the Astana bus for around 10 minutes this morning, maybe talking to Armstrong about the annulment of the stage? Armstrong seemed to be involved in the action. Cioni, of course, is one of the rider reps at the ProTour Council.

We now have a translation of Di Luca's remarks. He said "We are going on. We wanted to stop and say thanks for your presence, but we don't feel the need to risk it anymore. The circuit is not adapted to our security."

Damiano Cunego is exhausted from the day's strenuous activities and calls for his team car. Well, now it looks like he is having a long chat rather than getting something to eat or drink.

No surprise as to who has won here in Milan the most often: the great Mario Cipollini, five times. Behind him are Alfredo Binda and Alessandro Petacchi, both of whom have three wins. Will "Ale-Jet“ win today to move into second place alone?

The Duomo, Milan's cathedral, is the third largest cathedral in the world. It was built between 1386 and 1577, and has the world's largest collection marble statues.

LPR is sharing the honours today. Lampre is now leading the way.

Once more across the finish line, with Columbia moving in to help Lampre tow the bunch across the line.

Giro organiser Angelo Zomengnan has said, "I don't agree with the riders on this decision. If this circuit is dangerous, then races like Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège should be canceled."

To recap where we are:

Katusha has moved into the lead and things seem to be moving a bit more quickly -- or is that just wishful thinking?

Team Columbia-Highroad is not doing at all badly here in the Giro. How's that for an understatement? Three stage wins, three days in the maglia rosa, and second and third overall at the moment. That's not enough? Then let's add the young rider's jersey and the fastest team leads, too.

The peloton now heads up the Corso Bueneos Aires. No, don't worry, they haven't jumped across the ocean to Brazil!

Wow, things are moving faster now! They are up to a whopping 33.980 km/h now!

Hm, Edvald Boasson Hagen won on Friday, and Kanstantsin Siutsou won Saturday. So which Columbia rider will take today's victory? You have to think of Mark Cavendish, who still has something to prove – he hasn't yet won a sprint in this year's Giro.

"I don't agree with the riders on this decision," said race director Angelo Zomegnan. "I think that this decision is taken on the back of yesterday's dramatic crash. Yesterday, we scaled back the jersey and stage presentations due to the incident and out of respect [for Pedro Horrillo (Rabobank)]."

Brown sends us an update on Horrillo: "The situation is stable," said the doctor at the Bergamo hospital. "If all goes well, after seven or eight days, he can return home.

Manuele Mori of Lampre just got some repairs on his bike. We always wince when we see the mechanics hanging out the car window and over a bike like that.

108km remaining from 163km

Mori is back for more repairs, but now he heads back to the peloton. Don't think he has to worry about catching up!

My goodness, things have really picked up -- 37 km/h! Will we actually see some sort of a race today after all?

An Acqua & Sapone is at the head of the peloton. The speed has picked up, but no one team is particularly doing anything.

A Milram rider moves up to the front now.

But Lampre has things under control, with a Katusha rider in there, too.

Barloworld jumps to the front now.

That is Barloworld is lined up behind a Garmin rider. They are approaching the day's intermediate sprint, so the speed has jumped all the way to 51 km/h.

Or perhaps not? The Garmin rider has disappeared.

Three laps to go!

121km remaining from 163km

We don't know what happened with the intermediate sprint. It seems to have not taken place. Again, our apologies for the confusing situation.

Julien Belgey of BBox Bouygues is now at the head of the parade. Oops, as we type that, he is replaced. Things seem to be starting to happen!

Two Garmin riders are now near the front, with the tempo at 51 km/h.

Team Saxo Bank is looking for its first stage win today, DS Torsten Schmidt said "we have a good chance of being in the front and JJ Haedo and Matthew Goss will hopefully show their sprinting skills."

Another reason for the riders' protest is the cars parked on the course.

How did yesterday's stage go for Astana's Levi Leipheimer? "Gave it a go in today's stage with Mick Rogers and Chris Horner, it didn't work out but it was a lot of fun," he twittered yesterday.

A mechanical for a Cervelo rider. The speed has picked up, but he ought to catch the bunch easily enough.

Danilo Di Luca and his all pink outfit are very visible at the front now.

Carlos Sastre of Cervelo, looking very skinny, moves his way up through the peloton.

Speaking of Cervelo and Sastre: According to Jean-Paul van Poppel, DS at Cervelo TestTeam, today's stage is “is more like a crit. But for us, we hope that the sprinters teams control the race, and that we don’t have any trouble. The main aim is to keep Carlos in the best position so that he doesn’t lose any time."

The riders are heading back towards the Corso Buenos Aires. Yes, we know it is in Argentina, and not in Brazil -- we were just testing you to see if you were still awake.

Aha, now we know what happened to the intermediate sprint which we lost before! It hasn't taken place yet! We couldn't read our documents properly and promise to go to the doctor for new reading glasses. The sprint is to happen the next time the peloton crosses the finish line, that is, with two laps to go.

They are now into the second to last lap. Obviously they crossed the finish line and hit the intermediate sprint, but the Giro doesn't seem to be inclined to let us know who won it.

This is starting to look like a bike race today! The field is really moving now.

Ronny Scholz of Milram has a flat rear tire and calls for help.

You know who Scholz' father-in-law is: Hans-Micheal Holczer, former manager of Team Gerolsteiner.

None other than Alessando Petacchi took the intermediate sprint.

At least the good weather has held today. If the expected showers or thunderstorms had occurred, who knows what might have happened to the race.

ISD has moved to the front of the finally-fast-moving peloton.

Eight riders have dropped out of the race so far. from seven teams. Ag2r is the only team who has lost two riders. Those teams one down are Caisse d'Epargne, Fuji-Servetto, Garmin-Slipstream, ISD, Milram and Xacobeo.

The riders are finally swinging around the corners at speed, with numerous teams represented near the front. At 53 km/h, they are no longer fooling around!

1000 metres to the finish line -- for the start of the bell round.

147km remaining from 163km

Now the race will really start! Which team will be able to bring its sprinter best into position on this difficult course?

Columbia's Mick Rogers finished fourth yesterday, losing some valuable bonus seconds to Danilo Di Luca. It doesn't seem to have bothered him, though, as he wrote on Twitter, "Another great day for the team. Costa took the win solo with a perfectly timed attack. I'm so happy for him. Hard working guy."

Milan and Lombardy are candidates to hold the Summer Olympics in 2020. What do you think are the chances of having the gold medal in road racing decided on this city circuit?

Will the whole peloton stay together until the end? Or will the sprinters take off and leave the others back to come in at their leisure? We suspect the "other" riders will dawdle so they don't have to be at all involved or take any risks. Armstrong and Astana have decided to go that route and are at the back.

153km remaining from 163km

Lots of eying back and forth. Voeckler takes off as the first attack of the day!

The French rider has a lead of maybe 20 metres or so.

Saxo Bank leads the way, with a bunch of Columbias in there. Cavendish has glued himself to Petacchi's rear wheel (so to speak).

Garmin moves to the front, riding for Farrar.

The sprinters's teams didn't want Voeckler to steal their thunder and have gobbled him up.

Many Garmins are at the front but one is at the tail end of the peloton: David Zabriskie.

The GC favourites have gathered at the rear: Basso, Di Luca, and so on.

160km remaining from 163km

There is now a 15 second gap between the sprinters' group and the favourites' group. Doesn't make any difference, though.

Two Columbia riders now lead, followed by a Garmin. Lövkvist is the leader at the moment, which is surprising, as he is number two in GC.

161km remaining from 163km

They go around the last two curves and head into the long straight run-in.

162km remaining from 163km

Nothing organised yet.

Boasson Hagen goes into the lead, followed closely by Mark Cavendish.

The sprint opens!

Cav takes it clearly!

That is three stage wins in a row for Team Columbia-Highroad!

Cavendish opens his arms and hugs two teammates simultaneously, with a huge smile on his face.

The favourites' group is now hitting the finish line, about two minutes back.

Well -- that was an, um, interesting stage! It's a good thing that tomorrow is a rest day, probably everybody needs a day off at this point. Come back and join us again on Tuesday, when we head back to the mountains.

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