The run from Perwez to Namur should be a good one today, as the Giro contenders attack an April Classics course. The Cote d'Ahin will tire out a few folks at the 50km to go marker, maybe even force a selection, and the final 2km is a cobbled climb to the fortress at Namur. BTW, if you're wondering why they keep referring to the "famous fortress of Namur," go here and read about the citadel built by the Merovingians, occupied by most of the major forces, and the subject of intense battle during WWI.
Anyway, since nobody seems to be able to watch OLN/cycling.tv, feel free to chat here instead. Maybe we can watch the artist's still representations on the teevee news tonight.
BTW, does anybody think Bettini won't win today? DiLuca would be unwise to spend too much on this stage, but it's a nice finish for him too. After all, he is a classics rider, as he's about to find out in two weeks.
[update] Some live comments...
- The weather is C-R-A-P in la Belgie today, and my internet connection is equally suspect. But the race is going on, as anyone from Washington State will appreciate. Speaking of DiLuca, he just flatted and is scrambling back on.
- Petacchi crashed, is back up and chasing. Channeling Alessandro: "Why couldn't they leave me alone to train for the Tour?" Again, this goes back to the bargain he/they made where he consented to ride the Giro in exchange for the organizers not complicating the finish at San Remo so he could win. He didn't, and he's having a bitter Giro so far too.
- Nice to see the Quick Steppers on the front, once more for old time's sake.
- Emanuele Sella has his heart rate pegged at 126, which for the non-riders out there is about what you get from that first sip of coffee in the morning.
- Anthony doesn't like Petacchi's chances after a long chase. I didn't like them before it either. There's a 4-man break with 90 seconds or so on the field, coming up to 30km left.
- Quick Step chasing down the break, under a minute... meanwhile Petacchi has been left for dead. He's had the doctor looking at his knee, which was bloodied in the crash. Tough guys soldier on, and that's exactly what Ale-Jet is doing.
- Getting exciting... CSC is on the front now! They either want the stage or at least want to be on the front under horrendous conditions to keep Basso safe.
- CSC are causing some gaps... Discovery have come up front to avoid trouble. 10 km to go.
- People not to forget: Rebellin, a classics guy; Cunego, a serious sprinter; DiLuca, of course, or Bettini; Basso, or so CSC thinks...
- Small crash, not sure whether any of the favorites got held up. Kessler and a Euskaltel guy went down, seem OK. Apparently DiLuca vowed to win today.
- Getting down to the end... and conveniently the cameras disappear.
- Chechu attacks!! Looking at a win?? Not yet, three riders together, Schumacher and Bettini catch on! 1klm to go!
- Stefan Schumacher wins! Actually a two-man duel, Bettini didn't make it on for the sprint. Rubiera had Schumacher's wheel for the final km, but couldn't get around him, and with 500 meters Schumacher slowly pulled slightly away, winning by a couple lengths. Bettini and a gruppetto came in maybe 2-3 seconds later.
Schu's teammate Rebellin got third (nice day for Gerolsteiner!), and Savoldelli rolled in maybe 7-8 seconds back, but the stage win came with a 20-second time bonus, and Schumacher was only 13 seconds back. This explains why Rubiera ran up for the win, to prevent anyone taking the jersey on bonuses... but that's exactly what happened! Now it's Savoldelli who's 13 seconds down on the overall...
Fun ride today, when we could see it. Ciao!