What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro Stg 11: The Falcon Soars!

Today’s 11th stage of the Giro, from Marostica to Zoldo Alto, was 150km in the Dolomites. It was the first real test of the climbers, and man was the action hot!

Benoit Joachim, the former national Champ of Luxembourg, riding for Discovery, was off by himself for the first action of the day. He took the 1st place in the Intergiro points, second was taken by Bettini, and third by the Blue jersey wearer, Sven Krauss. Joachim was still off the front as the peloton hit the first ascension of the day. He was followed by Leonardo Scarselli of Selle Italia who found himself in purgatory between the two. As the peloton chased up the hill, the leaders gap was dropping steadily as the chasers put in a serious ride. The Lampre boys were on the head, and were setting a solid pace, dropping sprinters off the back like bad habits. About halfway up the hill, Jose Rujano took off like a rocket in pursuit of the mountains jersey. He passed Scarselli who was spent, and moved on toward Joachim. He didn’t quite make it, but still took the points for second place, helping to move him towards his goal of the day. The two of them started the downhill together with just under a minute advance.

On the downhill, they were caught by the peloton. Not bad for Rujano, who could still attack again closer to the upcoming summits. Lampre stayed on the head as the peloton passed the incredible scenery in the Dolomites. Ascending the Forcella Aurine, Rujano once again attacked and was followed by the Credit Agricole rider Halgand who took 1st on this small climb with Rujano second. This put Rujano tied for the green jersey, worn by Koldo Gil, with 21 points. Gil looked to be dropped, meaning if Rujano could get another point on the upcoming hills, he would succeed.

On the downhill, Rujano once again waited for the peloton and Halgand kept on by himself. Next up was the Paso Duran, a beast of a hill, with a section at 14% and an average of almost 8% over its 13 km of ascension. Halgand was unlikely to keep his 13 second lead as Lampre put the heat on during this second to last hill of the day. Then, the race really started! Halgand was caught, Bettini and Celestino fell off the back, and almost on that cue, Simoni attacked. He was followed by DiLuca, Basso, Savoldelli, Rujano, Scarponi and several others. This lasted a bit, but others followed forming a front group of about 15. Cunego was leading the second group behind.

Basso put in several attacks, and was able to shake several off this group. Within a few km, it was Basso with only Simoni on his wheel. Following behind were Savoldelli, DiLuca and Rujano, and Cunego was waaaayyyy back! There would definitely be some jerseys changing hands tonight! Di Luca started to falter and was unable to follow Rujano and Savoldelli during the last 2 km to the summit. However, in the last km, the grade slacked up and the five came together. Cunego was over 3 minutes back at this point and Rujano took the summit to confirm his GPM jersey for the day.

On the downhill it was of course Savoldelli who took the lead. How much time could he make up before the last hill of the day? Basso, Di Luca, and Simoni followed together, knowing that the last ascension was less difficult (8.7 km at 6.9% average grade) than what they had already done, and that it was probably best to limit Savoldelli’s gap as much as possible. Savoldelli got himself almost a minute, however Basso took care of that within the first kilometers of the last climb. His pace was leaving Simoni behind, but when he caught Savoldelli he didn’t take the front and Simoni was able to catch back up.

Tonight would be the night that Basso wore his first ever classification jersey in a grand tour, and it would be pink. The only question now was how much time would he have, and who would win the stage although Basso was clearly very strong. Interestingly, when he flicked his elbow to get someone else to lead, Simoni never would but Savoldelli did from time to time. In the last 3 km of the stage, Simoni fell off. It was Basso and Savoldelli all the way. With a 20 second time bonus on the line the for the stage win, it was certain that it would be disputed. Basso led it out, but in a hard sprint, Savoldelli took it. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Giro d’Italia has now truly begun!

Rider Comments
Once again provided by our man in Italia – Michele Tomasi.

Ivan Basso (CSC):
“Already at the start of the Giro, Savoldelli was a man to watch. I think I controlled everybody today and never thought that it would be easy, and I will keep thinking like this until the end of this race. It has been many months that I have been thinking about this stage. I also did a training camp here and rode the finale twice. On the Duran I did my race without caring of my opponents. My major opponents? I think the guys who were with me today. But I will keep an eye on everybody, this was only the first stage. Cunego? I don’t want to talk about a bad day of one of my mates. It will change his race a bit, but it could happen to anybody.”

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel):
“I got the maximum! At the end I didn’t collaborate with Basso because after 2 years where I haven’t done well, I couldn’t lose a chance like this. I did the smart thing, and I say sorry to Basso, because I sat on his wheel, but I really wanted to win it!”

Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffitta):
“At the end I was really hurting. I got some cramps too..couldn’t do anything better today”.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffitta):
“It has been a bad day…no, I think you’ve seen it. I have had a lot of pressure over the first bit of the Giro, so once I saw that I wasn’t going well, I let up without forcing it. Now I’m free and I will go on without any pressure. Simoni was up ahead and he did well. Our opponents this year are stronger than we thought.”

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi):
“I was fine, but Basso did a strong ride. Anyway I’m glad, I didn’t lose too much. I started to feel tired at the end, otherwise I might have been with the first group.”

Bjarne Riis (DS CSC):
“I was expecting this performance from Cunego, because this is a Giro at a very high level. He is still very young, and today it was a difficult stage. His bad performance could make him feel bad, for his morale, but he’s a great rider anyway.”

Seguey Gonchar (Domina Vacanze):
“Today it was a hard stage. Basso and Savoldelli were too strong! I will try to do something better in the next stages”.

There was some funny post-race banter today… Basso joked and said that he would go next winter to Savoldelli’s house to improve his downhill skills and Savoldelli replied “I would teach him how to make pizza, because he’s fast enough at climbing and he doesn’t need to improve his downhill skills as well!”

Stage 11

1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team 4.13.43
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita @ 0.21
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi @ 1.01
5 Daniel Atienza Urendez (Spa) Cofidis-Le Credit Par Telephone @ 1.50

Overall after stage 11
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC – 49.05.20
2 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel-Pro Cycling Team @ 0.18
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi @ 1.04
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita @ 2.27
5 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze @ 3.45

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