Live updates:1:23 p.m. Good Morning to our American readers. We are just aboutan hour into today’s race, 206km from Verviers in Belgium to Esch sur Alzettein Luxembourg. There were 193 starters this morning after the ColumbianCarlos Contreras (Colombia-Selle Italia) withdrew because of the flu. Theweather should not be much of a factor today since the wind is light andthere is no rain.1:28 p.m.Thus far today, the peloton has stayed relatively intact.There was one Category III climb at kilometer 20. Mariano Piccoli (Lampre-Daikin)took the points on that climb. Just a few minutes ago, at km 30, Marc Streel(Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) broke off the front and remains about 1:00 aheadof the field.1:35 p.m. Wow. That first hour was slooow — just 30.1kph. ButMarc Streels is now doing a little better than that, since he has builthis advantage over the peloton to 2:52.2:20 p.m. The peloton may not be moving, but Streel certainlyis. He now has a lead of 14:35 on the peloton, making him leader on theroad. Of course, there are 138km remaining and it’s pretty clear the chasewill pick up when Streel’s solo break begins to look like it might last.2:40 p.m.Despite the effort by Streel, the pace has remaineda fairly moderate 34.25kph for the opening two hours. The Mapei squad ofrace leader Stefano Garzelli has moved to the front of the field and begunthe long process of reeling in the escapee.2:46 p.m. The Mapei men can’t be working too hard, because Streel’slead has grown by another four minutes — to 18:47 — since they took overthe chase.3:00 p.m.Streel has crossed the border into Luxembourg and ismaintaining a solid lead between 18:30 and 19:00. We are around the halfwaypoint of today’s stage. 3:09 p.m. Streel’s still-substantial lead is beginning to shrink.He is now 16:04 ahead of the peloton.3:26 p.m. Streel is near the top of the day’s second rated climb– the Category III Um Knupp. With his solid 14-minute lead on the peloton,we can be pretty sure the old boy is a lock for those climber’s points.3:41 p.m. Streel has passed through the feedzone (at 121km of206) and is maintaining his 14:00 lead.3:46 p.m. The peloton is coming toward the top of the Um Knupp.Streels is well ahead, with a lead of 13:12.3:56 p.m. Streel is still out there, but beginning to fade. Hislead is down to around 10:00. By the way, here is a mapof the stage if you would like to take a look.4:05 p.m. Streel continues to fade. His lead is down to 8:45.67km to go. 4:02 p.m. Streel’s lead is now down around 8:50. Weare about 70km from the finish.4:12 p.m. Streel is now just 7:10 ahead of the peloton. Mapeiand Acqua e Sapone are in the front of the peloton, keeping the pace brisk.4:20 p.m. Faaaaaade… Streel is just taking it easy, restingand waiting for the inevitable. His lead is now down around 6 minutes.The average speed for the opening four hours has been 34.8kph.4:22 p.m. The rain has kicked in. Streel is now down to 5:30.4:25 p.m. Streel is coming up on the Intergiro sprint at km 166.4:30 p.m. The rain is picking up. Streel is moving along at aslow-but-steady pace. His advantage is down to around 5:00.4:35 p.m. The last time check gives Streel an advantage of 3:42.The pace in the peloton is increasing and Streel may even be caught evenbefore the Intergiro, which is coming up in 8km.4:39 p.m. The rain is getting stronger. Streel is just a kilometerfrom the Intergiro and it looks like he’ll slide through there and graba few bonus seconds before being caught.4:40 p.m. It looks like race radio mis-estimated the distanceto the Intergiro. Streelactually has about 5km to go. Meanwhile, his leadis down to about 2:00.4:46 p.m. Marc Streel is coming up on the Intergiro. It lookslike he’ll get that six-second bonus before he gets swallowed up by thepeloton. The pace of the chase has slowed a bit as the riders are takingtime to put on their rain jackets. There are about 40km remaining intotoday’s stage.4:54 p.m. The rain has stopped. The sun is out. Streel has takenthe Intergiro. Behind him, Massimo Strazzer (Phonak Hearing Systems) takessecond. With 35km to go, Streel remains 1:35 ahead of the field.5:03 p.m. Streel is still out there, hovering around 2:00 inthe lead. We’re pretty sure, he would be content with beng swallowed up,because his pace is quite moderate at this point. However, the field seemshappy to let the escapee just hang off the front.5:06 p.m. Streel is 1:48 up on the field.5:16 p.m. Streel is now 30km from the finish. He remains 1:30ahead of the field.5:26 p.m. With 25km to go, Streel is at 1:12.
5:28 p.m. Streel is on the final 17km finishing circuit. Heremains 0:53 ahead of the field. That will most certainly disappear asthe sprinters’ teams line up to put their men in position for the finish.
5:33 p.m. There are 18km remaining. Streel is still out there,22 seconds ahead of the field, which is led by Mario Cipollini’s Aqua eSapone team.5:34 p.m. Here they come. Streel is within sight.5:35 p.m. Off the front since kilometer 30, Marc Streel is finallycaught. We are now in the final 15km.5:43 p.m. Stefano Garzelli’s Mapei squad is driving the paceat the front of the field, keeping the sprinters’ teams at bay and keepingthe man in the pink jersey near the front, where it’s safe. 5:39 p.m.The attacks have started, though the sprinters’ teams are keeping thingsunder control.5:45 p.m. We are now within 10km of the end. Lotto and Acquae Sapone are moving up toward the front. Mapei and Garzelli are still atthe front of the field. Robbie Hunter is putting in a good effort and maynot be out there for the sprint.5:49 p.m. With about 5km to go, Acqua e Sapone are moving tothe front to set up Cipollini as he tries for his 36th stage win at theGiro d’Italia.5:51 p.m. With 3.5km to go, Lampre’s Max Sciandri has slippedoff the front and has a small — 10 second — lead. Acqua e Sapone is chasing.
5:55 p.m. Lots of jostling for position in the final kilometer.5:53 p.m. With 2km to go, Sciandri is back in the fold and the Acquae Sapone team is driving the pace, setting up Cipo.5:56 p.m. All that fighting for position must have been for secondplace, because Cipollini had in the bag. Win number 36 for the ‘Lion King.’5:59 p.m. Cipollini takes another stage win, moving in on AlfredoBinda’s all-time record of 41. Meanwhile Stefano Garzelli still holds theoverall lead and there has been no change in the top 10.