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Pontedera ITT -- LIVE!

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Catching up here in the suburbs... Ullrich leads! Charly Wegelius talks to Anthony on how life is good at Liquigas, as Pellizotti heads out of the gate. Savoldelli is on the course with all eyes on him... at least until Basso hits the road.

Under an hour is the goal, roughly, with Ullrich putting up 58:48 as the standard so far. Cunego takes off...

Update [2006-5-18 17:54:47 by chris]: As we do late in the day, the full transcript has been moved to the flip:

  • Rujano is tanking, apparently. Simoni approaches the first time check and has already lost 2:09!! At this rate he's looking at six-plus minutes' loss today. It's hard to believe a top rider can perform so horribly on a flat course...
  • Speaking of horrible, good thing Ullrich had a good day, so T-Mobile can change the subject from the horrible performance of the world time trial champion... Mick Rogers comes in at 1:02:08, over three minutes' down on a course that should have suited him.
  • Savoldelli comes through the first check almost a minute behind Ullrich, though more than a minute ahead of Simoni. So did Ullrich have an incredible ride? or just an incredible first 15km? Or is Savoldelli leaking oil? Cunego and Basso aren't far behind so we'll find out soon. RAI is showing a replay of Ullrich, and while there's little to be said for time trial replays, he does look awfully strong...
  • Basso and Cunego are riding right on the point of the saddle. Maybe they're just punching it momentarily, but since they're on their TT bikes, you'd expect them to be in their most comfortable position. Could it be that Landis' hunched-forward praying-mantis position is this year's time trial positioning fad?
  • Anthony and Brian were in the process of giving me shit on the air when Damiano Cunego stomped on my moment by losing about three minutes at the first time check. Ouch!
  • Basso at the first check, and in great shape! Time of 18:11, 24 seconds up on Savoldelli, two minutes up on Cunego, and so forth. But that's 14km of 50, so there's a lot of racing left, at least as far as the stage win is concerned.
  • Petacchi in the house! Is he a foot taller than I remember?
  • Simoni has actually taken a little time out of DiLuca, and a minute on Cunego. So in a relative sense, his wind tunnel worked. Of course, compared to Ullrich, he's riding as if he were still in the tunnel. Savoldelli makes the race's first great postcard as he zips past the leaning tower of Pisa.
  • I'm having a moment out of Groundhog Day where my browser keeps reliving the same 15 seconds. Wait!!! Now it's telling me they're off the air??
  • I've been doing my best MArlon Brando-Stanley Kowalski impression yelling "ANTHONY!!!" at the computer over and over. Somehow we have offended the Cycling Gods and caused them to pull the plug on Cycling.tv. I blame Drew.
  • Back on!!!
  • Basso through the next time check -- the headwinds have picked up, so Ullrich will most likely win with some rare luck. Basso at 34:24; Gutierrrez 34:46; Savoldelli, 34:58; Cunego 37:25; DiLuca 37:04; Simoni 36:38...
  • Danielson arriving, and looking strong! He's just over an hour, racing for third... make that seventh, at 1:01:23. With the headwinds picking up, it's possible that 1:00. to 1:01 will be where the protagonists land. Danielson is just outside that, not bad for a guy who can make up chunks in the mountains. Luca Mazzanti crawls over in 1:05:47. Similar ride for Andrea "just say" Noe.
  • Savoldelli tipping 57 kph as he streaks home. Now to Cunego, who I swear is riding about half that speed.
  • Simoni coming in now, should be about 1:03? Yep, 1:03:09, not great, but considering how much he lost out of the gate, his last 35 km weren't horrible. He might only lose 3 minutes today. Podium placing still there for him.
  • Honchar storming home now, looking for second! Nope, Marco Pinotti's early time has gone by, but 59:57 is a terrific time, only the third rider under an hour.
  • DiLuca coming in... we've hardly seen him, probably because his Giro is just about over. He'll approach 1:04... 1:04:01, with Basso probably coming in at about an hour.
  • Savoldelli streaking home, hits the line at 1:00:07! A fine time, disregarding Ullrich and Pinotti, il Falco just missed out on Honchar. Waiting for Basso to see if he's kept on his brilliant early pace.
  • Basso is coming up on Cunego!! That's a five minute gap on the road. Holy sheit! Dunno who that says more about.
  • Pellizotti comes home, looking OK for a Liquigas rider. 1:03-ish? Closer to 1:04. Cunego hears Basso breathing down his neck, trying to hold him off at the finish. Very exciting!
  • Cunego swings right, and Basso catches him, then eases back through some tight turns, then punches it. Gutierrez in at 1:00:30, fifth. Basso won't win but will probably get a minute on Savoldelli, who should slide into second on GC.
  • Basso comes in at 59:16! Second on the day, 28 seconds back, followed by Pinotti and Honchar just over a minute behind Ullrich. Savoldelli is the only contender losing less than a minute any meaningful chunks of time (51 seconds), though he's still in deep trouble.
  • OK, my mind is a bit slow... Gutierrez rode exceptionally well, holding on to his second place at 2:48 on GC, followed by Honchar at 3:24 and Savoldelli at 3:26. Nice gaps for Basso, though not especially comfortable yet.

Well, today's result confirms Basso's overall strength in pink versus his challengers. It also ramps up the intrigue massively for the Tour, as an out-of-form Jan Ullrich clearly still knows how to put the smack down in the time trials. His power numbers must be relatively close to normal, and if his weight still hampers him in the climbs, well, Ullrich has a long time before the Tour to hollow out that frame. Basso is in command, though Savoldelli still has one last chance to take the initiative in Saturday's climbing stage with its long downhill finish. After that, it'll be up to the mountain goats, or the intestinal viruses, to stop him... if they can.