What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro05 Stg1: Il Grillo Turns Up The Heat

The Giro d’Italia got off to its true start on today’s double holiday, Mother’s day in the USA, and the Anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe. Under sunny skies on what would normally be a sprinter’s stage, an Italian champion surprised the favorites.

Stage 1 ran along the coast for a while, then climbed a bit, but was definitely classed as one of the 10 flat stages. OK, an early flat stage in a grand tour, that normally means a breakaway that lasts most of the day and contains no one important. In the last 40 km or so, the sprinters teams will pull the break back, and then the Fassa train will line up Petacchi for his sprint which, he will probably take unless McEwen, Zabel, or Steels is feeling real frisky.

Gotta Take A Break
With 65 km to go, the situation was falling into place, with the break having 3:45 on the peloton. This meant they were virtual leaders, by virtue of the short length of the prologue, but that wasn’t really serious. Interestingly, Sven Krauss of Gerolsteiner was in the breakaway, and he had actually placed 10th in the prologue. Gerolsteiner’s new GC hope perhaps? He was joined by Leonardo Scarselli (Selle Italia-Colombia), Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step), and Thorwald Veneberg (Rabobank).

Under the sunny Italian skies, the break was on it’s way to demise. With 55 km to go, they had 2:40, and the peloton was increasing speed. As the break hit the climb of the day, which wasn’t too bad except for a short steep section between 12 and 14 percent grade which was about a half a kilometer long, they had lost a few more seconds. Thorwald Veneberg decided to give it a shot for the climber’s jersey and took off leaving his breakaway companions as if they were standing still. He crossed the summit securing his jersey for the night and for at least tomorrow. He had 22 seconds on Scarselli, who had tried to chase him when he attacked, and had about a minute and a half lead on the other two. The Peloton crossed the summit at 2:25, and it seemed certain there would be a sprint finish.

With 40 km to go, Veneberg must have said to himself, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, or whatever the equivalent of that in Dutch is. He decided to try and time trial himself in solo. Scarselli was still in purgatory in between Veneberg and the peloton, which had reabsorbed Zanini and Krauss. A few minutes later, Scarselli was found by the hunting peloton. Veneberg’s lead was down to just under 2:00 with just over 30 km to go. 10 km later, He still had over a minute and a half. Would his tenacious nature bring him a win as it did for his teammate in last years Paris-Tours? Liquigas, Davitamon, and Fassa were all taking their turns on chase duty as Veneberg’s assistant D.S., the famous Joop Zoetemelk, encouraged him from the car.

Impending Doom For the Opportunist
As Veneberg passed under the 20 km to go banner, he was feeling the pain, and his lead had dropped to 36 seconds. The sprinters knew it was only a matter of time now, as the Rabobank team car was pulled out of the gap between them and the lone homme en tкte. Moments later, the super tired Veneberg was sucked up by the peloton, and within seconds found himself at the back, hustling to keep up with the pace.

The last 15 km of the course were ridden as a peloton, except for the brief attack by Walter Beneteau which was neutralized in less than a minute. The finish had a slight uphill grade, meaning that some felt that perhaps Petacchi was not the guaranteed winner. Regardless, the Fassa train was there to set him up. McEwen was right on their wheels, as well as Kirsipuu, Zabel, Cooke, and the Maglia Rosa. In the last kilometer, it was Bettini who attacked first, flying up the slight uphill with his gold helmet shining in the sun. Within seconds he had a huge gap, and he was smiling the last 200 meters as he was sure he had it. Bravo Il Grillo! McEwen took second barely nudging out Petacchi. And Bettini will be Pretty in Pink tomorrow…

Riders’ CommentsCompiled by Michele Tomasi
• Paolo Bettini (Quick Step): “I came here with the idea to win a stage and… if possible try to wear the Pink Jersey. Well,…I got both of them at the same time! It couldn’t be better! Now I will try to keep it, but without getting mad of it. If I lose it…I’ll try to get it again later”.

• Francesco Moser: “Yesterday I rode 20kms with Bettini, and he explained to me the finale, and so I got the feeling that he was seriously going to try hard in this stage. And he got it! He made the difference and the ones who were ahead of the peleton couldn’t follow. We thought that guys like Cunego and Di Luca could do well, but maybe they were too far behind for stay with BettinI.”

• Ivan Basso (CSC): “Of course I’m annoyed at losing time – especially because I felt, I had terrific legs today. Several of the riders in front of me simply stopped pedaling altogether after the climb, and I had to close a few gaps on my own in order to get to the front. The jury decided, that there was a gap between me and the group in front when we crossed the finish line, which is why I lost the five seconds. It’s nothing serious though, and I’ll catch up to them at a later stage.”

• Bjarne Riis: “It was a very dangerous finish, but luckily there were no accidents. Ivan lost some time, and this is what happens during this type of stage. The Giro is not decided on mere seconds, and I’m sure, he’ll catch up again.”

• Michele Scarponi (Liberty Seguros): ” The end was very dangerous and I could not have placed well “, said the Italian. ” There were many nerves in the bunch, but I believe that the stage has been good and I have felt very well, I wait to continue improving on next days, where also it will be necessary to be very attentive on the finish.”

• Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros): “I had a good stage, but I was not playing myself at all in the end and I preferred not risking anything. My aim at Giro is very clear, to take the form for the Tour de France and to help Scarponi.”

• Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo): “It was a stage that suited Bettini well and he didn’t fail it. I tried to win also – not only for the stage win but also for the Pink Jersey. Unluckily it went very well to him and he earned it. To tell the truth I hesitated a little bit, and if I was following him, maybe I could be closer and the finish of the short step to have a smaller gap. Instead I waited for Velo and so the gap was bigger. I lost concentration and then McEwen got the 2nd place. Anyway I’m glad because it was a difficult finish and I feel maybe stronger than last year”.

Giro Stage 1 – May 8: Reggio Calabria – Tropea, 208 km

1. Bettini
2. McEwen – 3
3. Petacchi – 4
4. Cooke – 4
5. Mori – 4
6. Zabel – 4
7. Di Luca – 4
8. Celestino – 4

1. Bettini
2. Mc Ewen
3. Petacchi
4. Savoldelli
5. Velo
6. Cunego

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