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Live coverage

Giro d'Italia 2012: Stage 11


Welcome to our live coverage of stage 11 of the 2012 Giro d'Italia. At 243km, today's stage is the longest of the entire race, so stay with us for the next six hours or so to see who prevails at the finish at Montecatini-Terme. Also, will Joaquim Rodriguez hang on to the pink jersey?

Today's stage is long and relatively flat, and likely to suit the sprinters. But don't take my word for it - check out this video, where Daniel Lloyd and Dario Cioni offer a fascinating insight.

Bright sunshine and warm temperatures greeted the riders this morning at the start in the town of Assisi - scene of one of the most intense finales of 2012 yesterday, when Joaquim Rodriguez powered up the final climb to take stage 10 and pink.

Before we join the action, here's the top 10 in the general classification this morning. With the top six all within a minute of each other, there's so much still to play for as we reach the halfway point:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 40:27:34
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:17
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:32
4 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team 0:00:52
5 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:57
7 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:02
8 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:03
9 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:09
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:01:10

220km remaining from 243km

We have a group of six who have broken clear in the race's early stages.

Breakaway group: Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol), Adrian Saez (Euskaltel), Simone Ponzi (Astana), Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil-DCM), Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank) and Mickaël Delage (FDJ-BigMat). They have a gap of just over four minutes on the chasing pack.

Rodriguez was smiling broadly yesterday as he pulled on the pink jersey. His win gave him a full house of grand tour stage wins. Can he hang on today?

Today's only categorized climb comes after 156km at Poggio alla Croce. It's a category 3 and peaks at 502m.

Orica-GreenEdge's Matthew Goss is leading the overall points standings and is in possession of the red jersey. He's only three points ahead of his big rival Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) and with today's stage suiting the sprinters all eyes will be on the pair.

Red Jersey Top Five:

1 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 65 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 62pts
3 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 55pts
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox 49 pts
5 Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli 36 pts

200km remaining from 243km

With 200km left the gap is remaining steady at around the 4:30 mark.

This stage is dedicated to the legendary Gino Bartali, who is pictured here leading the 1933 Giro as a teenager. He went on to win the race three times and was born close to the finish of today's stage in Montecatini Terme.

This breakaway group are something of a mixed bunch. Saez, Delage, Boaro and Denifl are all still looking for their first pro wins. Ponzi won twice last year, while Kaisen, who is racing in his fourth consecutive Giro, is arguably the most well known.

I mentioned Matthew Goss earlier, who is leading the points classification. On Monday he suffered a heavy crash in the finale to stage nine, and he spoke to Cyclingnews about it this morning. He also weighed up the potential risks of a spill in today's stage - read what he had to say right here.

Hearing that Tom Leezer (Rabobank) has withdrawn from the race. Means the Dutch team are now down to seven riders following Dennis van Winden's withdrawal last week.

190km remaining from 243km

The gap is creeping up towards the five minute mark.

Did a nice 45km morning ride #assisi

@stevendejongh Wed, 16th May 2012 06:19:51

Sounds like Team Sky's sporting director Steven De Jongh was up early this morning...

There's lots of excitement in the Bath office of Cyclingnews as we hear that the 2012 Olympic torch is heading this way next Tuesday (22 May)...

175km remaining from 243km

The leaders are at the first feeding zone and as a result the gap has closed down to under three minutes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Liquigas rider Peter Sagan is dominating the Amgen Tour of California. Yesterday he made it three stages out of three. Read all about it here

And the leading group is down to five after Ponzi is caught up by the peloton.

Here at Cyclingnews, we couldn't live without Skype as a tool to co-ordinate our journalists all over the world. Our coverage of the world's greatest sport wouldn't be as brilliant as it is without it...

We're pretty sure Saxo Bank's Luke Roberts loves it just as much now. Read how he used Skype to witness the birth of his new baby girl before yesterday's 10th stage. It sure beats Morse code.

160km remaining from 243km

The leading quintet have pushed the gap back up to the three minute mark now as they approach the beautiful Tuscan city of Arrezo.

We're now approaching the first intermediate sprint. With only five on the breakaway, watch out for either Cavendish or Goss, who will no doubt try to power to the front of the peloton to claim the remaining point for sixth spot.

Let's take a minute to remember the last time the Giro visited the site of today's finish, Montecatini Terme. It was 2003, and local hero Mario Cipollini won in the rainbow jersey, making it a record 42 stage wins at his beloved Giro. Despite all his achievements, that day must surely rank as one of the most memorable in the charismatic Italian's glittering career.

Could the Tour de France be heading back to Britain? It's been confirmed today that Scotland is bidding to host the start for the first time, in 2017. Read more about it here

Could the Tour de France be heading back to Britain? It's been confirmed today that Scotland is bidding to host the start for the first time, in 2017. Read more about it here

Could the Tour de France be heading back to Britain? It's been confirmed today that Scotland is bidding to host the start for the first time, in 2017. Read more about it here

140km remaining from 243km

Kaisen takes the first immediate sprint for Lotto Belisol. Waiting on confirmation of the minor placings.

Still waiting for exact confirmation of the sprint placings. Gap is up to 4:06.

We're now past the halfway mark of the Giro. But what have we learned from it up to now? Cyclingnews editor Daniel Benson lists his 10 conclusions from the race so far here.

We're still not quite at the halfway point of the stage and the riders have been going for over three hours. They're obviously preserving their energies with plenty of road still in front of them as the average speed for the third hour was just under 37km/h.

There was some big news from France this morning, with L'Equipe reporting that Sebastien Turgot could be facing a two-year ban for missing whereabouts tests. Europcar team manger Jean-Rene Bernaudeau has branded him an "idiot". Read more here.

130km remaining from 243km

Main peloton seems to have woken up again. The gap has come back down to 2:45.

Not too much change at the moment as the riders edge towards the Poggio alla Croce  climb. Whether it is tough enough to break things up significantly and lastingly is doubtful. Katusha are attempting, fairly successfully at this point, to control things at the front of the chasing peloton for race leader Rodriguez.

110km remaining from 243km

With a lead of 3:25, the five leaders have started the climb. Let's see where the gap is when the main peloton sorts itself out

The fast final kilometre of today's stage contains three corners, including the last one at 400m. With the race drawing a few negative headlines so far for some finale crashes, the race organisers will be hoping the finish passes without incident.

Before we get to that point there's an 8% climb from the 10km mark. The sprinters and their teams will need to keep themselves in a good position here and ensure they don't get dropped too far back.

I'm signing off for a few minutes now. Leaving you in the capable hands of Susan for the next few kms...

Susan here.  We decided to release Mark from his chains to go get some food and fresh air...

The sun is shining on the race today and it looks like a lovely day. 

103km remaining from 243km

The gap is currently at 2:17. The peloton is not letting this group get too far away. At the head of the chasing field we see a Rabobank and a Sky rider.

Everyone is starting up the first climb of the day, the Poggio alla Croce, which is ranked category 3.

Kaisen leads the break group up.

The gap is under two minutes as the leaders pass under the banner at the top of the climb. Kaisen took the points ahead of Delage and Denifl.

Lots of florescent green at the head of the peloton now, who else but Liguigas?

Denifl gets a drink bottle from the team car.

Mark Cavendish is still safety tucked in the peloton, rather near the front actually.  So that climb wasn't enough to dump him.

92km remaining from 243km

Boaro and Denifl have a snack.  92.6km to go.

90km remaining from 243km

The gap has now gone up slightly, to 2:15.  It hovered right around two minutes for a long time.

Tom Jette Slagter put on a good show in yesterday's stage. He looks to have a good future. Might he really be the next Joaquim Rodriguez?

83km remaining from 243km

And the gap continues to creep up, and is now at three minutes again. No worry, though, there is still a long way to go.

The riders are really not in a hurry today. Ok, it's nice to be able to take it a little easier, but they are making a long day even longer.

Ah, Mark has decided to come back after all. Here's handing off to him, to bring everyone safe and sound to the finish line.

Thanks Susan. 79km to go and we've just passed through the 5 hour mark. As Susan said, the riders are taking things steadily but it's been over a week since they had a rest day and let's not forget they spent a chunk of that travelling.

Lampre-ISD's Daniele Righi takes some time to acknowledge some of his adoring fans. Plenty of high fives on offer there.

The likes of Scarponi and Basso will be choming at the bit to get this stage over and move closer to the final week in the mountains where pain and glory will be decided. In their eyes, we're still on the hors d'oeuvre.

The likes of Scarponi and Basso will be chomping at the bit to get this stage over and move closer to the final week in the mountains where pain and glory will be decided. In their eyes, we're still on the hors d'oeuvre.

But Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago) won stage eight and can't be discounted as the going gets steeper if the wind stays down. Team Sky's Bernhard Eisel certainly agrees with that, as he told Cyclingnews in this exclusive video yesterday.

70km remaining from 243km

70km to go and the peloton are 1:50 down.

The peloton are now entering Chianti country. I wonder if Hannibal Lecter is watching? He was always partial to a drop of that.

63km remaining from 243km

And the gap falls below one minute for the first time. Peloton starting to really move as they approach the next feed zone. A few fans getting a bit too close for comfort.

This breakaway group have been clear for the best part of 150km now. On a flat stage like this with no wind, there's little respite. They must be starting to feel the pinch but the gap is remaining constant. How much do they have left?

Let's go back to the USA for a minute. 2012's big story so far has been the resurgence of Tom Boonen. He's currently racing at the Tour of California, where he told us about where he'll be preparing for the Olympics. It might not be where you expect - find out by watching our exclusive video interview here

Just heard an interview with Lampre-ISD sporting director Maurizio Piovani. He was critical of both yesterday's stage 10 course, which he described as "dangerous", and of the form there of team co-leader Damiano Cunego (above), who he said "should have done better". The 2004 Giro winner finished 22nd and lies 15th overall, 97 seconds behind Rodriguez. Harsh?

47km remaining from 243km

Gap stands at 53 seconds. NetApp have moved to the front of the peloton.

An interesting quote in this month's Esquire magazine from Mark Cavendish. "There's a tier of sprinters and I'm ahead of them. They can all fight among each other, but I'll still continue to dominate them." Will he be forced to eat his words, at least temporarily, this afternoon?

40km remaining from 243km

Gap closing down fast now. Around 20 seconds now. Jeremy Hunt (Sky) to contuing to work hard at the front of the chasing pack for Cavendish.

Just passed the six hour mark. The sheer size of the peloton could be a big factor in the finale here. Positioning will be crucial to cover both eventualities - a potentially decisive attack or the more likely sprint finish. And we shouldn't forget the three bends in the final kilometre.

30km remaining from 243km

Peloton are now in sight of the leaders. Just ten seconds behind them and this finale could be quite hair-raising.

And Boaro attacks. Saez sets off after him but the other three leaders have been dropped.

Boaro using his time trial skills here. Saez unable to match him. Impressive burst from the Italian after such a long ride so far.

Boaro already has 29 seconds on Saez and over a minute on the peloton. He's been a regular podium finisher in the Italian national time trial championships at junior, U23 and senior levels.

20km remaining from 243km

Boaro is being pegged back now, and it's hardly a surprise. Saez has been swallowed up by the peloton as the final hill and exciting finale approaches.

17km remaining from 243km

The final loop starts at the 14.4km point, in the next few minutes. The final climb is hugely steep, but lasts 3km so its difficulty can't be discounted especially after 230km raced. Ominously Cavendish knows the hill well, as he has a house close by.

Boaro passes the finish line for the first time, heading out on the final circuit. He is nine seconds ahead

Pretty tight for a few moments there. Going to be a tricky finish here. Movistar leading the pack through and onto the final circuit.

And we're about to start the final climb. This is the most crucial section of the race. Will the peloton be fragmented? Boaro has come back to the pack and his brave time at the front is over.

Dennis Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) makes the first move up the climb. Back in the pack, Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) briefly hits the deck.

His move doesn't last long and he is swallowed up. Five Liquigas riders briefly move to the front before Visconti attacks for Movistar.

Three riders have gone with Visconti as they go over the top of the climb. But in their slipstreams are Kreuziger and Scarponi. Liquigas are frantically trying to close the gap for Basso.

7km remaining from 243km

The pack close up on the front six. We're in for a topsy-turvy couple few kilometres until the likely bunch sprint. Cavendish and Renshaw are well positioned with 7km to go, but Goss is much further behind.

5km remaining from 243km

Sky really controlling things here as we enter the last 5km. Goss is definitely nowhere to be seen at the front end.

And once again a final corner crash with 400m to go causes mayhem

Roberto Ferrari emerges unscathed and wins the stage

1 Ferrari 2 Cicchi 3 Vaitkus 4 Cavendish

Cavendish was definitely impeded slightly but Ferrari produced a great burst of speed and pulled away from the Briton in the final 200m.

Redmeption of sorts for Ferrari, who caused a horrific pile up at the end of stage three and has been portrayed as a villain in the eyes of some of the media and the peloton.

Joaquim Rodriguez will easily hang on to his overall lead. Full top tens for stage and GC to follow soon...

The race organisers are sure to be fielding plenty of questions about safety after yet another crash-marred finale.

Still waiting on complete confirmed top tens, but here's the top five for stage and also GC:

Stage 11

1 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 6:49:05
2 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
3 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling
5 Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale

GC after stage 11

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:17
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:32
4 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana Pro Team 0:00:52
5 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team

Full results, report, reaction and photos will filter through right here, and we'll have all the big post-race stories and interviews over the next few hours from our dedicated team in Italy. Drama again - is it ever any different at the Giro?

And that's it for our live coverage today. I'll be returning tomorrow for more, so join us for stage 12. It's 100km shorter than today but relentlessly undulating. With still four stages to go until the next rest day, the riders are being pushed to their limits. Bye for now.

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