By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians







CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective

Tappa 3, May 8th, Perwez to Namur, 202 km

Giro Classico

Namur Citadel Guarding the River Meuse Valley

Grand Tour meets the Classics. Today the route followed roads familiar to Fleche Wallone fans and included the Cote d'Ahin climb from that race. The city of Namur has seen just about every nation occupy its city walls. Governed by the Spaniards, the Dutch, the Austrians, the French and ultimately the Belgians (1830), the armed fortress (the Citadel) has always been at the center of life of the city, regardless of the conquering nation. Perched above the city, the Citadel was originally built by the Romans to defend the River Meuse valley. Over the centuries it grew to be one of the largest fortifications in Europe. Today's stage finished at the Citadel which is reached after a 2km climb on small cobblestones and rising 400 feet.

Paolo Bettini has always done well in this region and many considered him the favorite for the stage. Covering classic rolling Ardennes countryside, the terrain was perfect for a solid break to form. As if it was possible, the weather was even more depressing than yesterday with continuous rain, fog and cold. Remember that this was the region that saw the “Battle of the Bulge” in WWII with the weather making conditions deplorable for both sides. Anyone thinking of going for the stage win must have been harboring second thoughts considering that the final cobbled climb would be like riding on ice.

At 18 km a four man group escaped the bunch. These hardy souls hoped to hang on to the finish and that the soggy and depressed bunch behind them would be far enough back so that whoever won the sprint would also take over the race leadership.

The breakaway [ Image ©: ]

With about 50km to go, and while the bunch was upping the tempo, Alessandro Petacchi crashed hard. This looks like “Ale Jet” will be departing the Giro sooner than expected.

Bad crash eliminates Petacchi [ Images ©: ]

Up front a nervous bunch headed for Namur. Di Luca and Rebellin in particular were not supportive of Bettini's stage win objective. Consequently Liquigas (for Di Luca) and Gerolsteiner (for Rebellin) started laying it on heavy to keep Bettini's Quick.Step boys under control. CSC and Discovery then joined in the fun but more to keep their team leaders (Basso, CSC and Savoldelli, Disco) up front and out of trouble.

Jose “Chechu” Rubiera (Disco) attacked hard as they hit the climb up to the Citadel. All hell broke loose behind him.

Rubiera attacks [ Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti ]

At 800m to go Gerolsteiners Stefan Schumacher powered past Chechu and in an impressive display held it to the finish.

Schumacher powered past Chechu for the stage win [ Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti ]

Savoldelli finished 9th just 6 seconds behind Schumacher but with the 20 second stage winners time bonus the big German sprinter now holds the Pink Jersey of race leader. This will be of little concern to Discovery who will no longer be obliged to spend long stints at the front defending the leadership. They, along with all of the other favorites, will bide their time until the big mountains come.

About 15 minutes after the stage winner, Petacchi rolled in with a few teammates and the race ambulance on his back wheel. Luckily pre-race hype is usually just that. Bettini's forecasted big day did not happen (he was 4th ) and in spite of the miserable weather the race for the line sparkled. You just have to admire the pros that at times seem impervious to weather and terrain. An interesting day of racing in the Ardennes when the Giro met the Classics.

Tomorrow: hopefully a much drier ride on the last stage in Belgium; Wanze – Hotton, 182km. Come back to read our report.


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