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Giro d’Italia Stage 12 UPDATES

1:15 p.m. Good morning to our U.S. audience. Obviously it has been a busy morning at the Giro d'Italia today, with bicycle racing again taking a back seat to events of a more pharmacological nature. As you can see from the headlines, Saeco's Gilberto Simoni -- winner of yesterday's stage -- has pulled out of the Giro as a result of the cocaine positive registered in an out-of-competition test on April 24. We'll try to keep tabs on that story as well as keep you up-to-date on today's stage -- a 200km race between Campobasso to Chieti -- though, to be honest, this seems less and less like a

Stage 12: Campobasso – Chieti 200km

1:15 p.m. Good morning to our U.S. audience. Obviously it has been a busy morning at the Giro d’Italia today, with bicycle racing again taking a back seat to events of a more pharmacological nature.

As you can see from the headlines, Saeco’s Gilberto Simoni — winner of yesterday’s stage — has pulled out of the Giro as a result of the cocaine positive registered in an out-of-competition test on April 24.

We’ll try to keep tabs on that story as well as keep you up-to-date on today’s stage — a 200km race between Campobasso to Chieti — though, to be honest, this seems less and less like a bicycle race every day.

1:23 p.m. The events of this morning have further trimmed the peloton. Just 167 riders started today’s stage, which began about two hours ago.

Ivan Quaranta, who has struggled at the back of the field since the Giro began has finally called it quits and pulled out about 2km before the day’s first climb.

1:27 p.m. This is a long stage today, taking the Giro north to Chieti just inland from the Adriatic Sea.

We have just passed over the day’s first major climb – the Category II Valicio del Macerone at 55 km — and coming up right after that, the category-one Valicio di Rionero Sannitico at 68 km.

The course continues to rise to Roccaraso at 87 km for the Intergiro sprint. The course descends and there are three short but difficult climbs over the final 30 km.

1:40 p.m. The peloton is together and just 4km from the day’s second ranked climb, the Category I Valicio di Rionero Sannitico at 68 km.

1:33 p.m. Ruggero MARZOLI (Formaggi-Trentini) took the climber’s points atop the Valico of the Macerone, He was followed by Joaquim CASTELBLANCO (Colombia-Selle Italia) and Francisco CEREZO PERALES Francisco (SC-Tiscali).

1:50 p.m. Castelblanco takes the points at the top of the Valicio di Rionero. The main group — which included all of the major players — crossed 15 seconds later.

1:48 p.m. One kilometer from the top of the Valicio di Rionero, Joaquim Castelblanco (Colombia-Selle Italia) has a 12 second advantage on the main group.

2:03p.m. Race radio reports that the average speed for the first two hours of racing was right at 31 kph.

2:10 p.m. Lotto’s Stefan van Dijck has pulled out of the race at the 79km mark.

On another front, yesterday’s Rumor of the Day was that Marco Pantani was going to withdraw today.

Well, he’s racing today, despite a reported case of bronchitis. Pantani vowed to carry on until Milan saying he was in the race “for my fans.”

2:23 p.m. VeloNews’s Andrew Hood reports that the 10km finishing circuit in Chieti is soaked and with its treacherous descent through winding streets could be quite dangerous.

2:38 p.m.Rabobank’s Michael Boogerd wins the Intergiro at Roccaraso. Dario Frigo was four seconds back and Khalilov third.

These aren’t your usual Intergiro contenders. They look to be trying a break.

2:43 p.m. Today’s average speed up to and including the Intergiro has been 31.876 kph.

2:43 p.m. The peloton has reached the 109 km mark and is cruising through the streets of Palena. There are no attacks off the front.

3:00 p.m. The speed has picked up and the peloton has fractured into several groups. The lead group of 65 riders contains most of the big players including Jens Heppner, the man in the leader’s jersey.

3:08 p.m. Six riders have escaped from that elite group at the front. The riders are (with time back on GC)132. Alessandro BERTOLINI (I), Alessio, 1:03:47
109. Peter WROLICH (A), Gerolsteiner, 53:10
90. Lorenzo BERNUCCI (I), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, 41:58
93. Bert GRABSCH (G), Phonak, 42:55
51. Denis LUNGHI (I), Team Colpack-Astro, 17:38 and
55. Matthias BUXHOFER (A), Phonak, 19:36

At last report, they had 45 seconds on the next group.

3:18 p.m. The six men off the front have upped their advantage to 1:55.

3:18 p.m. The six leaders are passing through the town of Casoli. The last time check gave them an advantage of 2:22.

3:31 p.m. The six leaders have a four-minute advantage. There are now 58km remaining.

3:38 p.m. With 55km remaining, the six leaders have an advantage of 4:55.

Race radio reports that Gerolsteiner’s Davide Rebellin has pulled out of the race. We don’t know why right now. Rebellin was sitting in 19th at 4:52.

3:56 p.m. The six leaders have an advantage of 3:50.

There are 45 km remaining. We have covered 155 km thus far today.

4:02 p.m.The six leaders have had their advantage trimmed to 3:25.

Meanwhile the Saeco team has issued a pressrelease on the Simoni case.

4:10 We are now 35km from the finish. The six leaders up front are Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) Bert Grabsch (Telekom) Denis Lunghi (Colpack-Astro) and the best-placed of the group, Matthias Buxhofer (Phonak) who is in 55th at 19:36

They have a lead of 2:50 on a strong group of 40 riders.

The attacks after the day’s second climb blew the field apart. The “laughing group” of 70 riders is now 11:40 back.

4:15 With the chasers closing in, Denis Lunghi (Colpack-Astro) has attacked off the front of the breakaway group.

The chase group is 3:05 behind Lunghi.

4:23 Lunghi is still about 40 seconds ahead of his five former companions.

The chase group — now down to about 40 riders — is about 3:00 back. A much larger group is about 12:00 back.

It is raining quite hard as the leaders approach the finishing circuit, a technical course through the streets of Chieti. The riders have to cover this 10km circuit twice.

4:29 Lunghi is holding on to a 45-second lead over the other men who were in the break with him.

He may have a good advantage on the technical finishing circuit, since he won’t have other riders to look out for on the twisting descents.

4:34 The rain continues as Lunghi ups his lead to 50 seconds over four chasers. Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) has lost contact with that group.

The peloton — what’s left of it — is about 3:00 back.

4:37 With 18km remaining, Lunghi continues on his own.

On the doping front: Mercatone Uno’s director Ranchi explained the decision to pull his rider from the race before today’s start.

“Giro director Castellano asked us to pull out Sgambelluri and we did,” he said.

Sgambelluri’s B-Sample for his earlier positive for Nesp is expected today.

4:40 Lunghi has 15km remaining.

The main field has eased off and it appears that they are willing to let Lunghi go and avoid the risk of chasing on these slick roads.

The four men who were in the original break remain in “no-man’s land” between Lunghi and the field.

4:49 Lunghi is now 10km from the field.

The chase is pretty much over. The men in the main field are riding conservatively on these wet roads.

He is 56 seconds ahead of the four men he left behind when he attacked on the approach to Chieti.

4:52 On his final lap of the Chieti circuit, Lunghi has upped his lead to 1:24.

4:54 Lunghi is on the final climb, a tough 4km climb on this circuit. After that, he has to work his way through the descent for 5km and he’ll have a stage win to his credit.

The main field — with Casagrande, Heppner, Hamilton — is 5:00 back.

4:58 Lunghi is approaching the summit of the climb and still hanging on to his advantage.

5:01 p.m. Lunghi is hitting the top of the climb and now has only to work his way down this descent.

The men in the first chase are now 1:04 back. Wrolich is holding his own and the main field is just cruising through town at 6:40.

5:06 p.m. Lunghi has 1km to go. It looks like he has a lock on this one.

5:07 p.m. Lunghi wins.

5:09 p.m. Bert Grabsch (Phonak) takes second and Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) takes third.

5:16 p.m. The main field has crossed the line 7:47 behind today’s stage winner, Denis Lunghi.

That main group included several of the Giro’s favorites, including Tyler Hamilton and Francesco Casagrande.

Cipollini and a large number of other riders are still out on the course.

THE WIRE SERCVICE REPORTDenis Lunghi (Colpack – Astro) came home alone to win the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia, a 200 km run from Campobasso to Chieti, Friday.

Telekom’s 37-year-old veteran Jens Heppner retained the overall leader’s maglia rosa on a day when racing was once again overshadowed by scandal related news as defending Giro champion Gilberto Simoni was withdrawn from the race by his Saeco team after testing positive for cocaine.

Lunghi, 26, broke away from five other riders around 30km from the finish and held onto his advantage to record only his third career win, coming home 37 seconds clear of Phonak’s Bert Grabsch and Lorenzo Bernucci (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago).

The rain-soaked and bedraggled peloton, including Heppner, struggled in nearly eight minutes in arrears.

However 1998 champion Marco Pantani, who had earlier lost a team-mate after Roberto Sgambelluri failed a drugs test for NESP, a substance similar to the banned blood-boosting drug erythropoetin or EPO, was still to finish.

The toughness of the stage took its toll on the riders with among the casualties two Italian stars, Davide Rebellin and Ivan Quaranta.

Simoni’s was the second high-profile withdrawal this week following Mapei rider Stefano Garzelli, who was thrown out on Tuesday after testing positive for the banned diuretic Probenecid, a banned substance because it has been used as a masking agent for other drugs.

Copyright AFP2000