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Giro di PEZ: The Ed Has Landed
Italy: A nation since 1861; 116,346 square miles; population 58,842,800 (23rd largest in the world); capital Rome, with 2,700,000 souls. If you're a man, you can expect to live to 78, but your woman will outlive you by six years. Favourite sports are football, Formula One, Moto GP and - cycling - and we’ve landed for the final week!

Main industries are tourism, machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals and clothing, and of course wine making…

The national tour is The Giro D'Italia: First held in 1909, the 2009 race marks 100 years of the Giro, albeit that this is edition 92 (damned inconvenient those world wars)

Most wins fall to the home nation, with 65, Belgium trails way behind on seven; but Eddy Merckx took five of those - he's joint 'record man' with Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi.

This year the Giro covers 3,396 kilometres over 21 stages.

As we parachute into Bergamo and 34 degree heat, on Sunday afternoon, the 15th stage is under way; 161 kilometres, with four gran premio montagna climbs; La Gazzetta Sportiva classifies it 'difficolta.'

Yesterday, Simon Gerrans (Cervelo) became the eighth 'canguri' (kangaroo) to win a stage, giving Australia a total of 19 - Robbie McEwen has won 12 - since Michael Wilson back in 1982.

There have been five men in the maglia rosa thus far - Cavendish (Columbia and GB) has gone home with three individual and a ttt trophy; Petacchi (LPR and Italy) has dropped down the classifica to 113rd, but is looking forward to stage 18 and it's fast finish into Benevento now that it's "arrivederci Cav;' Lovkvist (Columbia & Sweden) has slid to 11th; Di Luca (LPR & Italy) lurks in second spot at 34 seconds but looks ice cool in the ciclamino jersey of points leader.

Today’s Gazzetta says it in Italian.

The $64,000 question is; "can Denis Menchov (Rabobank & Russia) become the third Cossack - after Tonkov and Berzin - to win the Giro?"

He's a man who has won two Vueltas already, he knows what it's all about and has a team around him that may not be the strongest, but which is fully behind him.

Di Luca has been 'man of the race' so far with two stage wins to his credit - there's only one spot on the podium which interests him.

The only other rider within two minutes of Menchov, and only nine seconds behind Di Luca, is Levi Leipheimer, low key, but with the world's most famous rider as his domestic, he'd be happy enough to start the final chrono in Rome with the same margins.

Today’s stage 15: Ale is on the Casale climb, and Ed is enroute to the finish as we post this…

Stage races are won and lost in the last week as fatigue and stress take their toll - it could be said that the Giro really starts tomorrow.

It's our job to transport you here for what promises to be some memorable bike racing - six hours to Monte Petrano, tomorrow; the savage Blockhaus on Wednesday; Vesuvio on Friday and 'the glory that was Rome' to finish with, seven days from today.

We'll do our very best to do justice to this epic race; match the excellent coverage our Pez colleagues have provided on the race so far and justify Richard's faith in us by allowing us to report on the finale of this magical event.

Ciao, ciao.


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