15/05/11 - 11:10
Messina - Etna
Giro d'Italia • Stage9

Messina - Etna

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The chasing group, including Nibali, crosses the line 50 seconds down and Contador takes the maglia rosa into the rest day.


Contador rounds the final corner with gritted teeth and takes the win! What a superb ride by the Spaniard - we got the fireworks we were looking for!


Contador's under the 1km banner...


Nibali attacks from the front of the chasing group, desperate not to lose too much time to Contador. But that's inevitable now!


Contador goes again and disposes of Rujano in an instant! Contador drives out of the saddle for what seems like an age and Rujano just can't match him - not close.


Contador, who with Rujano has 40 seconds on the chasing group, is looking supreme with 3.6km remaining, riding a super-aggressive climb. In and out of the saddle to keep the pace up.


Another attack - typical Contador, upping the pace once again! And Scarponi can't match him! Contador rides away with Rujano on his wheel. Bakelants can't be far away.


THERE GOES ALBERTO CONTADOR! The Spaniard attacks in the big ring and rides away with Scarponi the only rider to follow! 2008 Giro winner Contador drops down into the small ring while Lampre man Scarponi grinds away on his wheel.


Lampre are doing the work now and Bakelants' advantage is just 50 seconds with 7km remaining.


Bakelants tries his luck on his own, attacking Frank and Visconti with no response - but with 9km still remaining! Too early, surely?


Overall leader Weening has been dropped! He waves the Rabobank team car past - the pace and temperature is too much for the Dutchman.


Lastras is beginning to struggle, dropping away from the lead group as Frank, Bakelants and Visconti push on. Lastras has the most to gain today so, rather than match the leaders' acceleration, he may prefer to tick along at his own tempo and gradually try and claw his way back.


Visconti, Lastras, Frank and Bakelants now lead the race, with the other remaning break members - Cherel, Vanotti, Savini and Popovych - 15 seconds back and the peloton two minutes, 30 seconds adrift.


Frank attacks off the front of the break and is soon followed by a succession of riders. Savini isn't up to the pace, however, and continues to ride the climb at his own tempo.


Di Luca has been dropped by the break! He lost time yesterday and clearly hasn't got super form. 15km remaining and the peloton have reduced the deficit to two minutes, 30 seconds. After a few kilometres just tootling along, the break are beginning to push the pace along.


The peloton has begun the chase, reducing the gap by more than a minute to three minutes, 15 seconds as the break rides under the 20km banner.


Don't forget, Pablo Lastras, one of the breakaway riders, is seventh in the general classification, 22 seconds behind leader Pieter Weening. We're onto the final climb!


There's not a great deal of racing going on at the moment, with the peloton still drifting along and the gap reducing a touch to three minutes, forty seconds. We're just about heading onto the climb proper now.


The gap continues to stay around four minutes. That's a fair old advantage at this stage so, as we said earlier, it doesn't look like too many of the big climbing favourites will go head-to-head today.


Our live television coverage is about to kick off, so flick on to British Eurosport to watch the stage finale.


Belkov's attempt to cross over the to break is over, with the Russian slipping back to the peloton who, with less than 40km to go, have three minutes, 58 seconds to make up.


Ok, the super-quick descent is all but done and it briefly split the peloton by 20 seconds but they're all back together now. We almost immediately head back onto the footslopes of Etna before the climb itself.


We're into the final 50km and, with that, Astana, Lampre and Liquigas are working on the front - an indiciation of what's in story for today's finale. The gap between the break and peloton dips under four minutes.


Vincenzo Nibali's take prior to today's stage: "I know the route well, which is naturally an advantage, as is having the support of local fans. It suits me well, but it's a hard Giro and there's a need to conserve energy for the decisive, hardest stages in the final week."


Belkov grabs a much-needed musette - his attempt to bridge across to the break looks like it will be fruitless, but there's plenty of exposure for his team, Vacansoleil-DCM.


Here are the vital statistics: the break is two minutes ahead of peloton-jumper Belkov, with the bunch a further two minutes, 20 seconds adrift.


They're hooning down the descent, which heads out towards the coast before the roads turns back inland ready for the final, and decisive, ascent of Etna.


Eurosport's cycling commentator David Harmon on Twitter: "Not sure this race today is going to be fireworks. The climb is too shallow and steady."


The nine escapees crest the top of the climb, with Belkov, still slogging away on his own, one, minute 50 seconds behind. The volcano continues to bubble away in the distance, ash clouds rising from the crater. Meanwhile, Venezuelan Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli) has abandoned.


Maxim Belkov has sprung out of the front of the peloton, looking to bridge across to the break. The Vacansoleil man is making a good bash of it, too, and is currently one minute, 39 seconds ahead of the peloton and three minutes, 18seconds behind the break.


The snow-capped summit of Mt Etna is looking mighty fine under today's hazy blue sky. The escapees are tackling the toughest section of the climb, while Lampre are doing the work on the front of the bunch. Katush rider Di Luca drops back to the team car with a mechanical problem before working back up to the peloton.


Richard in the comments section again: "Popovych must think theres bigger musettes for the 1st­ to the feed station... he's determined to be in­ every break!" You're not wrong there! The Radioshack man has been particularly active today.


This 18km northern ascent of Etna, a category one climb, rises to a shade over 1,600m. The relatively wide, well-paved road passes through a succession of typically Sicilian villages at a consistent gradient, averaging somewhere around six per cent and maxing out at a little more than 11 per cent.


The nine-strong break quickly opens up a five minute advantage as they prepare for the first ascent of Mt Etna.


Bang! There goes the break and this one's stuck - Popovych (Radioshack), Visconti (Farnese Vini), Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Vanotti (Liquigas), Lastras Garcia (Movistar), Savini (Colnago-CSF), Frank (BMC) and Cherel (AG2R) are the men away.


I'm inclined to agree - today's stage, while a toughy, is too early to prove decisive - no-one wants to protect the magilia rosa for nearly two weeks. That's not to say it won't be explosive - Liquigas and Vincenzo Nibali will be keen to make their mark - & we'll see who's carrying form in the mountains, but this year's Giro is savage, namely when we head up to the Alps and the ascent of Monte Zoncolan is one of the most demanding climbs in cycling.


There's some interesting comments from you, the readers, below. Here's a flavour from Richard: "Today's all about the stage­ & one of the big boys will win it, but if they have­ to take the maglia rosa they won't want to try­ & hold it or control the race from here on in...­ too much still to happen."


There's plenty of movement on the front of the bunch, with riders looking to get away, or pick the right group to escape with. Nothing decisive yet, but it won't be long.


Ah, that didn't last too long, did it? Di Luca, Kennaugh, Pasamonted and Stortoni are soon reeled back in.


The break is struggling to gain any significant time on the peloton, who look keen to drive the pace along. The first rise of today's stage is approaching, a stiff climb to 261m at Taormina.


You can take a look at all the latest pics from the Giro d'Italia


Much of the Giro talk surrounds L'Equipe's publishing of the UCI's Suspicion of Index. Eurosport blogger Blazin' Saddles, however, has its own unique take on the situtation.


Spaniard Luis Pasamontes is the best placed of those riders, sitting in 47th on GC.


There goes the break! Four riders are away: Kennaugh (Sky), Di Luca (Katusha), Pasamontes (Movistar) and Stortoni (Colnago).


Rabobank's Pieter Weening continues to lead the general classification, two second ahead of HTC-Highroad duo Kanstantsin Sivtsov and Marco Pinotti. Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo) is five seconds back in fourth, while Alberto Contador (SaxoBank) is a further eight seconds adrift.


Etna is the highest active volcano in Europa, standing at 3,329m, with today's stage rising to 1,892m.


Right then, we're underway! The peloton is rolling out of Messina, ready to face two ascents of Mt Etna...


Oscar Gatto attacked inside the final two kilometres and held off a late charge from Alberto Contador to win stage eight yesterday.


Vincenzo Nibali's home town of Messina is the start for today's stage. There's a climb to Taormina early on before the first ascent of Etna, nearly 30km of climbing up 1600m. A short descent down to Acireale follows before the riders tackle the southern side of Etna


Hello and welcome to LIVE comments from stage nine of the Giro d'Italia, as the peloton tackle a 169km route from Messina to Etna