Giro d’Italia: Rest Day Review

The second and final Rest Day of the 2005 Giro d’Italia will be welcomed by all of the riders. There will be a collective sigh of relief as they look back at what they have covered, but a sigh of trepidation as they are reminded of what is still to come. PEZ takes a look back at Stages 10-15, and then previews the coming fireworks over this final week of 2005’s first Grand Tour.

Stage 10: Ravenna-Rossano Veneto, 212 km
Alessandro Petacchi went eight stages before getting his first win the stage before the first Rest Day. Following the Rest Day, Stage 10 looked perfect for Petacchi to really get the Silver stage eating Train a’chuggin. Instead, Petacchi jumped early and was narrowly pipped by Robbie McEwen who robbed the mighty Ale-Jet with a perfectly executed bike throw – bringing McEwen’s tab to three stage wins, and limiting Petacchi to just one.

Stage 11: Marostica-Zoldo Alto, 150 km
The 11th Stage was not to be a sprinter’s affair. Stage 11 was the first real entry into the mighty Dolomites, and a critical stage it was. Ivan Basso personally busted the race wide open on the Passo Duran and then again on the finishing climb of Zoldo Alto. The only challenger able to hang with Basso’s onslaught was the surprising Paolo Savoldelli. Savoldelli took the stage win ahead of Basso as Basso moved into the Maglia Rosa.

Gilberto Simoni limited his losses and was the only other contender really able to keep the two raging climbers in his sights – he lost only 21 seconds. Danilo Di Luca dug deeper than the Marianas Trench to lose only 1.01. Apart from the top 4, it was a slaughter – defending champion, Damiano Cunego lost over SIX minutes, the same for pre-Giro contender Stefano Garzelli. Last year’s runner-up, Sergei Gonchar lost over 2 minutes as well.

After Stage 11, it appeared that the Giro would be fought between Paolo Savoldelli and Ivan Basso, with Gilberto Simoni and Danilo Di Luca fighting for the scraps behind. Oh, how it would change over the next few stages.

Stage 12: Alleghe-Rovereto, 178 km
Stage 12 was a welcome respite for the field as the race temporarily left the Dolomiti, allowing the sprinters another shot at glory. This time, there was no pippage: Alessandro Petacchi pounded to victory by a solid few bike lengths after a perfect lead out by his famed Silver Train. Robbie McEwen was notably absent from the sprint, and so ended McEwen’s successful Giro run. McEwen, as well as a host of other sprinters would not be starting the next stage heading back into the mountains.

Stage 13: Mezzocorona-Ortisei/St. Ulrich, 218 km
The 13th Stage of the 2005 Giro will most likely go down as one of the most epic in recent history – 5 major climbs and almost seven hours of pure hell for all but a select few.

As predicted, a breakaway determined the stage outcome – a colossal 19 man break got to business just 35 km into the race – eight of the 19 would stay away for the whole stage – of these, it was Ivan Parra (Selle Italia), who took the biggest win of his career in impressive solo fashion by 23 seconds over Garate (Saunier Duval) and Rujano – Parra’s teammate.

Behind the break, CSC controlled the race effectively throughout the stage until the final climb into Ortisei. Simoni put in a violent attack with about 6 km to go, which only Savoldelli was able to follow. Savoldelli not only followed, he countered and rode away from Simoni, but eventually only gained 7 seconds by stage’s end. Di Luca held on and finished on the same time as Simoni.

Ivan Basso was the notable absentee from the festivities on the final climb – he ended up losing 1.08 to Savoldelli and looked terrible – vomiting at the finish and declining to talk to the media. It was reported that Basso had come down with a stomach bug, but would hopefully be ready for Stage 14, which was set to climb the mighty Stelvio.

Stage 14: Egna/Neumarkt-Livigno, 210 km
Stage 14 belonged to this year’s pleasant surprise: Ivan Parra. Parra took his second stage win in succession, and had this to say about it: “If someone had said to me at the start of the Giro that I would win two stages, I would have responded that they were either mad or drunk. Nobody did say that, but here I am with two stage wins. What is happening is like a dream, but I’m keeping my feet on the floor even if they are starting to compare me with my brother Fabio and Lucho Herrera. I know that I am a long way from matching their achievements.”

In a stage that saw the first ascent of the epic Passo dello Stelvio in ELEVEN years, it was all Parra, all the time. Parra was once again a part of a break and used it to launch himself to a second stage in two days. Behind him, the race for the GC was unfolding, and falling out of it, was the very ill Ivan Basso. Basso’s whole CSC team dropped back to help their fallen leader to the stage finish – over 45 minutes in arrears of the mountain goat, Parra.

Meanwhile, Savoldelli was having a hard time of it, as each one of his Discovery teammates got their packing orders, until it was only Savoldelli over the final part of the stage. In this isolated state, it was only a matter of time before Il Falco would get nailed, and sure enough, whilst suffering through cramps, Di Luca and Simoni left Savoldelli behind on the Passo Eira. Savoldelli ultimately lost only 28 seconds, but those 28 seconds moved ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca to within 25 seconds of Pink, and Simoni only 1.48 in arrears of Savoldelli.

Stage 15: Livigno-Lissone, 205 km
The big question at the start of the day was whether Ivan Basso would begin the stage. Thankfully, Basso did start, and did finish, and will survive to fight again over the final week. Other than the newsworthy Basso, the stage was a cold, wet slog out of the mountains to Lissone, where Alessandro Petacchi once again stamped his authority in the absence of Robbie McEwen to take his third stage win of this year’s Giro. Petacchi will most likely make it to Milano where he will take his 4th stage win. Not a bad showing for Ale-Jet, and proving just how incredible last year’s feat of NINE was.

On The Menu
The big question now is how well Discovery will be able to protect their leader, Paolo Savoldelli. The early exit of Tom Danielson will definitely be noted often by Savoldelli over the last few big days in the Italian Alps. If Savoldelli is continually left isolated, it won’t take much for either Di Luca or more likely, Simoni to deliver a killer blow.

With that said, watch for Basso. After the 11th Stage, it was very obvious that Ivan Basso was the strongest rider in the race. The stomach bug that has cost him nearly an hour in GC has eliminated all hopes of overall victory, but if he can recover over the next few days, the tifosi could be in for a real treat, as Basso will probably be allowed free rein by the leaders – he’s no threat to them anymore.

The Giro will ultimately come down to the 18th and 19th stages. The 17th stage is by no means a slouch, but it lacks the lustre of the following two stages. The finish of Stage 17 is the long, gradual climb to Limone Piemonte, it will surely hurt a few, but more than likely, the favorites will stay very close together, unless one of them is either on fire, or very very off.

The 18th Stage will be the final race of truth in the 2005 Giro – the TT is only 34 km, but 7 of the 34 will be the ascent of the Colle della Superga. Valuable time will be won and lost on this stage, but more than likely, it will be the penultimate stage of this year’s Giro that will decide the overall.

The final day in the mountains will cover three main climbs – Sestriere, the site of Lance Armstrong’s first victory in the mountains in the 1999 Tour de France, will be the first and last climb of the stage. Nestled in the middle is the just waiting to be epic-est of all epic climbs – the Colle delle Finestre. At 18.5 km in length and boasting an average gradient of 9.2% – the climb alone is impressive. There’s just one small thing – the final 8 km just happens to be gravel road. PEZ has been waiting a very long time for this stage – make sure to tune in Saturday for what will most likely be one of the best day’s of racing in all of 2005.

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