1:06 p.m. Good morning to our American audience. It’s now about two hours into the fourth stage of the 2002 Giro d’Italia.
The weather today is pleasant, with clear skies and very little wind. The pace for the opening hour was right around 33kph. There have been a few minor moves off the front, but for now the peloton has been staying together for the most part. It’s a long day in the saddle, covering 232km to Strasbourg, the last non-Italian day of this Giro.
Tomorrow is a rest and transfer day and the race resumes in Italy on Friday.
1:26 p.m. We are now just about 80km into today’s stage. The average speed has been in the neighborhood of 34 to 35kph.
The peloton remains intact, though the speed is picking up and we can expect to see a few attacks coming up soon.
1:37 The group is still together and the weather is still quite nice. It won’t be a factor today.
By the way, if you get a chance, take a look at the text of Andy Hood’srecent conversationwith Cadel Evans. We just posted it a few minutes ago. Mountain biking’sloss is certainly the road side’s gain. He’s been spectacular this Giro.
1:50 p.m. The pace is continuing to be fairly brsk. The peloton is stretched out in single file.
Mauro Zanetti (Alessio) has crashed, but has recovered and is back in the field.
1:53 p.m. The field has passed through today’s Intergiro, cruising at speeds approaching 40kph.
We’ll have results quickly.
2:00 p.m. Massimo Strazzer (Phonak) took first in the Intergiro, earning a six-second time bonus. Fabrizio Guidi (Coast) took second Zoran Klemencic (Tacconi Sport) took third.
The field has hit the 105km mark, there are 127km remaining.
2:08 p.m. Fassa Bortolo’s Dmitri Konyshev and Daniele Contrini (Gerolsteiner) are trying their luck off the front.
They now have a 30-second lead on the rest of the field.
2:20 p.m. Konyshev and Contrini now have an advantage of 1:42 on the field.
2:28 p.m. The men off the front are now more than 2:00 up on the field.
The Giro, by the way, has crossed into France, the fifth country the race has hit so far this year.
2:45 p.m. The two escapees are now close to having a three-minute advantage over the field.
Their effort has finally piqued the interest of the big boys in the main field and the Mapei squad of race leader Stefano Garzelli has joined forces with the Acqua e Sapone team of the man intent upon adding to his collection of stage wins, Mario Cipollini. Cipo’ of course, won his 36th yesterday, now just five short of matching Alfredo Binda’s all-time record of 41.
2:55 p.m. The two leaders have a 2:24 advantage over the field and are now approaching the day’s first rated climb, the Cat. III climb at La Petite-Pierre.
3:05 p.m. Fassa Bortolo’s Dmitri Konyshev and Daniele Contrini (Gerolsteiner)are still about 2:15 up on the field.
After fours in the saddle, today’s average speed has been right around 39.6kph, which means that the pace for the past two hours has been well above 40kph (about 25 mph).
3:15 p.m. It looks as though our two leaders may at least earn some climber’s points for their effort.
Their lead is being trimmed by the Mapei-led peloton and is now down to 1:50, though they are close enough to the climb to make that before being reeled back in.
3:31 p.m. Contrini took the climber’s points, edging Konyshev at the top of the Cat. III climb.
The two men remain about 1:30 ahead of the field.
3:37 p.m. Contrini and Konyshev are sliding back. Their advantage over the field is now less than half-a-minute.
The two men have been off the front for about 65km. There are 48km remaining in today’s stage.
3:44 p.m. Konyshev and Contrini are still around 40 seconds ahead of the field.
We are now 39km from the finish.
3:49 p.m. The two leaders have stretched their lead to more than a minute again. Still, with 39km to go, the sprinters’ squads are not going to be letting them stay out there for too long.
3:58 p.m. Konyshev and Contrini are back in the field.
The big sprinters’ teams are moving to the front, including Ivan Quaranta’s Index squad. If he makes it to the finish, he might be a factor in the charge to the line.
Of course, Mario Cipollini is up there, too. He’s in the hunt for another win…especially one on French soil. It could help him make a point to Jean-Marie Leblanc, who might be watching on TV today.
4:08 p.m. We are now less than 30km from the finish. The average speed for the first five hours of this stage has been a brisk 40.2kph.
4:15 p.m. There has been a crash.
As the peloton crossed a narrow bridge, there was a mishap near the end of the field. There are several riders down, including Dmitri Konyshev, at least two Acqua e Sapone riders.
4:18 p.m. Of the men in the crash, it looks like Francesco Secchiari (Mercatone Uno) was the worst hurt of the bunch, but he is up and riding again.
It looks actually as if Cipollini has lost three of his teammates in the crash. He still has Lombardi with him, but the loss of three riders might cost him. The three are chasing hard to regain the group.
4:25 The chasers are making progress and some have managed to rejoin the group. We are now within 12km of the finish, though, and the speed up front is high.
Race radio announces that in addition to today’s stage winner and overall race leader, Garcia, Quaranta, Mazzanti and Urban will be called in for post-race drug tests.
4:33 p.m. We are five km from the finish. Telekom, Lotto and Acqua e Sapone are battling for position at the front. Cipo’s down to just five teammates, and their all fighting for position at the front.
4:35 p.m. We are 3km from the finish.
Telekom is still in a commanding position at the front. Cipo’s boys are working to get up there, too.
4:37 p.m. Two km from the finish, Acqua e Sapone his up front. Cipollini is up there, as is Telekom’s Hondo and Quaranta is on his way to the front.
4:38 p.m. Now Lotto is up there…
300 meters to go.
Cipollini, Cipollini and Robbie McEwen are neck and neck.
It looks as though McEwen may have pipped Super Mario at the line.
4:40 p.m. Yup. It’s official. McEwen has beat Mario Cipollini to the line by little more than the width of a tire.