Hello and welcome to our live coverage from today's stage of the Giro d'Italia, a 169 km dash from Mola di Bari to Margherita di Savoia.
Today should be another opportunity for the sprinters, with a virtually flat course that once again hugs the coastline before a slight swing inland. The peloton finish on the coast though in Margherita di Savoia.
At the start, riders are approaching the line and they'll move off the line in the next few minutes. Luca Paolini in the maglia rosa is at the front, as you might expect. The Katusha rider should have a relatively easy day in the saddle today.
And once again, it's blue skies and sunny conditions for the riders. They've all signed on, with Mark Cavendish - a certain favourite - one of the last to do so.
The Giro turns for home with a day on the coast. This time we’ll be in Puglia, the ‘bread basket’ of Italy, and will conclude at Margherita di Savoia. There will be breaks – lots of them – but the stakes are quite high today, so it may take a while before the right one sticks. Regardless of these, it will come back together by the seaside. This will be a sure-fire gallop across an area famed for its vast salt flats and thermal springs. Indeed, the finish town of Margherita di Savoia was originally called Saline di Barletta.
Stefano Zanatta says:
Here's where we stand currently on GC:
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha 19:56:39
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:17
3 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:26
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:31
5 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:34
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
7 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha 0:00:36
8 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:37
9 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:00:39
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:42
But today should be all about the sprinters. Yesterday John Degenkolb won in a finish that was marred by a crash on the final corner. The German stayed upright and was able to win just ahead of the pack. Mark Cavendish, who was dropped on the final climb yesterday, will be looking for revenge and his second stage win in this year's race.
Here's how things look in the points classification:
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha 35 pts
2 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 30
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 30
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 28
5 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox 25
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 24
7 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 24
8 Fabio Felline (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 20
9 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha 20
10 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ 17
One rider who didn't make the start this morning was Cheng Ji (Argos Shimano). He did a huge amount of work yesterday on the front of the peloton but he's come down with illness and decided not to start today.
Another rider who has been suffering is Taylor Phinney. The American complained of a fever last night and this morning. He starts today though.
Today is of course an important day within the sport. Two years ago Wouter Weylandt crashed in the race and lost his life. It was a deeply tragic event and one that the sport, his friends, teammates and family will of course never forget. We'd just like to pay our respects to Wouter today.
In today's stage there have been no attacks, a break has yet to form.
@cyclingthealps Thu, 9th May 2013 12:56:23
155km remaining from 169km
Two riders off the front, we're just waiting for confirmation on their race numbers. The peloton seem to have let them go though.
Away from the Giro briefly and the Tour of California starts this weekend. The 'fourth grand tour' why are you laughing?' begins on Sunday and Tejay van Garderen will lead the BMC attack. You can read about that team's roster, right here.
Dave Zabriskie will lead Garmin-Sharp in the US race as well. Tyler Farrar will go head to head in the sprints with Peter Sagan. That could be interesting but judging by Sagan's form this year, Farrar is certainly going to be up against it. Here's the full Garmin roster.
@VeloVeritas1 Thu, 9th May 2013 12:56:27
@daniellloyd1 Thu, 9th May 2013 12:56:11
Wurf has been on the attack already in this race, going off the front on the first stage in Naples last weekend. It's a doomed move today from both Australians but it's team tactics as it means Cannondale and Blanco wont have to work in the chase. Argos and QuickStep are likely to take this one up.
140km remaining from 169km
@giroditalia Thu, 9th May 2013 13:23:25
31km down and the leading duo have a gap of 6'25 over the peloton.
Passing over to Susan.
Susan here, for our tag-team live coverage.
Fortunately, we don't have to worry about rain today. The weather here is showing iteself from its sunny side, a very nice change.
Our two escapees today are no threat to the GC rankings. Bobridge is currently 198th, 55:14 down, while Wurf is 128th, at 30:57.
Let's take a closer look at these two Australians. Bobridge is a tender 23 years old. He turned pro with Garmin in 2010 and transferred over to Orica-GreenEdge last year for one season, before moving to Blanco. He has an extensive track background, with numerous national and world titles.
110km remaining from 169km
There aren't that many sprint stages at the Giro this year, and the sprinters aren't about to give one up to a pair of escapees. Various sprinters' teams have joined forces to pick up the pace and lead the chase, with the result being a reduced gap of only 4:18 with 110 km still to go.
We just had the first intermediate sprint of the day. Wurf was first across the line, followed by Bobridge. A few minutes later, Cannondale charged to take the last points, with Viviani being the winner.
None other than Omega Pharma-QuickStep is leading the field now. They are absolutely determined to bring Mark Cavendish as first to the line today, since it didn't workout yesterday.
96km remaining from 169km
With 96km to go, the gap has dropped to three minutes. Surely they don't really want to catch the escapees so soon....
The second intermediate sprint follows almost immediately and once again it was Wurf ahead of Bobridge. Behind them, Cannondale works hard to grab the points.
Cavendish has challenged for the third-place points, but not really, so to speak. He didn't really ride that hard and and seemed willing to put in an appearnce and let someone else have the honours.
93km remaining from 169km
The gap at the second sprint had dropped to 2:07, by the way.
Wurf is the elder of the two escapees, at 29 years old. He turned pro in 2008 with Volksbank, and served time with Fuji-Servetto and Androni Giacattoli before moving to Liquigas-Cannondale in 2011. That only lasted one year, though, and in 2012 he rode for Champion System. This year he moved back up to the big leagues with Cannondale again. In 2012 he was second overall at the Tour of Qinghai Lake.
He now leads the sprint competition in the Giro.
The field is now riding on a divided highway, and sevral riders have gotten on the wrong side. There is in fact a barrier in the way, and they must be wondering about getting back. No doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time....
The two leaders are approaching the feed zone. So is the peloton, which is only 2:22 behind.
Looks like the three riders who got on the wrong side have taken advantage of the feed zone (and slower pace) to scramble over the barrier and get back to the flock.
Check out our most recent edition of Giro Shorts: remebering Wouter Weylandt and other short news.
Former maglia rose Puccio punctures. But he gets a quick change and is on his way again.
Apparently OPQS has suggested that it would be nice if someone helped with the chase work. FdJ has accepted that invitation.
79km remaining from 169km
The gap has crept back up to nearly three minutes.
BMC's Daniel Oss drops back to the team car for a short chat.
Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal took it a bit more quietly yesterday, but is still in the mix of things. He is looking forward to showing what he can do at the long time trial this weekend.
Wiggins rides along, looking rather grim, actually.
Was John Degenkolb happy to have won yesterday? Okay, that was a dumb question. The German sprinter for Argos-Shimano was naturally beside himself.
Taylor Phinney is riding amongst the team cars, and hides his face from the TV cameras. Come now, don't be shy.....
Eek! A group of gladiators are waiting alongside the road. Let's hope they are friendly!
Lots of fans here, cheering on the riders. Who can blame them -- great weather and a great race!
Oops. An officail race motorbike, leading the peloton, just missed a corner.... no harm done, fortunately.
56km remaining from 169km
With 56 km left to go, the gap has dropped to 2:14. OPQS is again at the head of the field and is pushing the pace.
Dan is taking over again, back over to you, big guy!
Just under two minutes for the two leaders now. With 53km to go the bunch are in complete control.
Omega Pharma Quick Step and FDJ both set the tempo as the peloton rolls along the coastline. The gap continues to come down, it's now at 1'45.
Luca Paolini sits comfortably in the peloton with a few of his teammates around him.
There's a crash in the peloton Bulgac and Tuft both come down in the peloton. Both are up, although the Lotto rider is waiting for a new bike.
Phinney was near the back and narrowly avoided the fall.
Sky have moved to the front, just behind the sprint trains, as they keep Bradley Wiggins out of trouble.
46km remaining from 169km
46km to go and the gap is at 1'24
Bole has to stop, he needs a new bike from the team car, and he's up and running again.
Pan-flat roads continue to mark the profile of the stage, with the break continuing to lose time. Wurf has dropped back to the Cannondale team car to pick up some food and a new set of bottles but with just one minute, the catch is inevitable.
Millar is back with his team car, also loading his jersey with bottles for his Garmin-Sharp teammates.
At the start of the stage we talked to Taylor Phinney about his Giro so far and his apparent shoe fetish. You can watch the video here.
But there's been another crash. Cobo is down once again Capecchi and Garzelli too.
They're all up and chasing again.
36km remaining from 169km
Up ahead Wurf and Bobridge have a brief discussion and with 36km to go they're caught.
Garzelli is back with the team car, looking over his injuries. It looks like a few cuts and bruises for the former Giro winner but nothing more.
Cavendish has his team around him, near the front of the peloton.
34km remaining from 169km
34km to go and the bunch all together.
it looks like Wiggins, Pippo both caught up.
Katusha on the front at the moment but the pace is stable.
It looks like they're slowing down the peloton. Oss is chasing on his own at the moment.
Hesjedal is at the back but I think Wiggins is still chasing.
There are around 70 riders in the lead group. I dont think Wiggins hit the deck but was just held up.
pretty much the whole peloton stopped. Wiggins had changed his bike and was chasing back on when the crash happened so he rolled up to the back with some teammates.
It doesn't look like the peloton has slowed that much in fact.
Sky are leading the chase with Wiggins pitching in too.
28km to go and I think Sky will make it back.
There are groups all over the road.
Another 20 riders are about to make contact with the bunch but Sky still aren't there yet.
The Wiggins group is 53 seconds down.
And FDJ and Omega are setting the pace on the front of the peloton. Sky aren't getting any favours here.
Now it's down to 45 seconds.
Wiggins has four men on the front working for him.
The gap is now at 32 seconds and coming down.
Now the gap is 23 seconds. Sky are doing a good job at bringing their leader back into the action.
22km remaining from 169km
The catch is about to be made.
Sky need to bring Wiggins to the front of the group now. They can't keep riding at the back of the peloton.
And Wiggins and his teammates move to the very front of the peloton and set the pace along with Omega Pharma QuickStep.
Hesjedal on his own, sits on the wheel of Wiggins.
Cavendish has his complete quota of teammates with him. Today's a huge test of their leadout credentials on a course that has really suited there sprinter. No excuses today.
No sign of Goss yet.
Viviani has moved up though with his Cannondale team.
17km remaining from 169km
The peloton begin their final lap of the finishing circuit.
Astana now lead the peloton, trying to keep Nibali out of trouble. The road narrow and then widen, and that's what caused the last crash. The roads are dry but the pace is so, so high.
Leigh Howard is still coming back from the crash. Pippo too.
12km remaining from 169km
12km to go as omega come back to the front of the front.
Wiggins has Evans on his wheel as he moves to the very head of the field.
Sky are essentially doing the job they rarely did for Cavendish last year.
Inside the final 10km
Fellini needs a bike change as Garmin head the peloton.
The field has strung out and a number of riders have been dropped.
Here come Argos Shimano.
Omega need to watch out that they don't become swamped.
Paolini drifts near the front as well.
Cavendish is on the left hand side, fourth in line for Omege as Argos continue on the front.
Movistar are in the mix
6km to go
Dowsett leading Ventoso
Cannondale take up the pace setting but with just one man they'll struggle to keep this up
FDJ hit the front again
Wiggins comes to the front himself.
Bouhanni is in third wheel
2.8km to go
It's a straight line to the finish from here.
GreenEdge make their first appearance on the front
Viviani has his men organised too
Cavendish is about 10 back
Steegmans leads Cavendish
The sprint opens up
Steegmans pulls off
Cavendish takes it.
Smoothest lead out yet from Omega Pharma Quick Step
This time Steegmans was there when it mattered and delivered Cavendish to the line with around 100 to go.
Once Cavendish moved around Steegmans there was only one result.
Argos went a bit early and Viviani was squeezed out. Blythe and Goss started too far back.
Bouhanni was too far back too but came through the wheels to take fourth. Viviani was second, Goss third.
Cavendish dedicates his win to Wouter Weylandt.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 3:56:03
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
5 Mattia Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
6 Manuel Belletti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard
9 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
10 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
We can at least give you the top three in GC:
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:17
3 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:26
Of course we will wait around until we have the whole top ten.
There don't seem to be any changes in the top ten overall.
And here is the top ten:
1 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha 23:52:42
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 23:52:59
3 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 23:53:08
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 23:53:13
5 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 23:53:16
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 23:53:16
7 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha 23:53:18
8 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 23:53:19
9 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 23:53:21
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 23:53:24
Thanks for reading along today and join us again tomorrow for a "medium mountain" stage - four climbs in the final 50 kilometers.
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