What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di PEZ: Nowhere To Go But Up

Another day in the Trentino region of northern Italy and we’re getting used to the views and car service – it’s the endless up & down of traversing the Dolomiti that makes life on a schedule more challenging. We’re at the northern most point of this year’s Giro for today’s uber-steep and graveled TT up the Plan de Corones climb…

It’s the little things about Trentino that make all the difference, like the fact that they pump the gas for you, then clean your windscreen after they’ve filled the tank – that stopped in Scotland when I was a kid.

Our hotel may be a chore to get to, but the views are worth it….

We had to say ‘goodbye’ to our host today, we’ve named him ‘Hank’ after his idol Hank Marvin of the Shadows (Google it- !) he’s entertained us with his Fender Stratocaster the last two nights; we’ll miss his versions of “Wonderful Land” and “Apache” tonight.

And the view from our balcony.

It’s the Plan de Corones time trial today and we’ve just driven over the Pordoi again en route to the start. With all the Giro paraphernalia gone, it’s even more beautiful up here.

The roadies were still pulling apart yesterday’s start village in Arabba.

In the Dolomites it always looks like the place you are going to isn’t far away – until you try to get there. It took us two hours to get to the start at San Vigilio, not even 50 K.

On the way in to park the car, we spotted our new hero, ‘Bruz’ aka ‘Bruss’ – Marzio Bruseghin of Lampre, out for his warm up – we’re looking for a result from him today.

First stop was the High Road bus for a chat with Adam, but he was out on the mountain along with Brad Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. My old buddy from the sixes, Aldis explained that they’ve briefed ‘Cav’ to pretend that his bike has broken – “that way he’ll get the same time as the last rider!”

The logistics for the stage are complex; journos can’t take their cars up to the press room at the top, unless they do so at crack of dawn and then they’re stuck up there all day until after the last rider is off the mountain.

Burgers in the Italian mountains? Seems our Scottish journo is missing the home cooking…

Riders are followed by motorbikes because the road is too narrow and steep for cars at the top. They go in ‘waves’ – fifty at a time, we’ve been told. At the top they get the cable car back down to the 5km to go point where they wait on the wave finishing before free wheeling back down.

. . or something like that, nobody seems certain . .

The 5km to go point also marks the start of the dirt section. Whilst it’s a spectacle for the TV cameras, it’s all a bit of a circus – stage racing is complex enough without making it worse.

We chatted to the High Road mechanics about what the guys would be riding; “just their standard road bikes, we’re wearing on for being illegally light as it is, so apart from the Lightweight wheels it’s the guys’ usual bikes. You have to be careful, the UCI weigh them at the start and again at the finish!”

Next door to High Road were Liquigas; ‘Benna’ was warming up on the rollers – he IS the coolest guy in the world, now that Cipo has gone (again).

Over at Francaise des Jeux, the guys were warming up on turbos too, but there was little enthusiasm about it.

Phillip Deignan had a smile for us at the AG2R bus though, we did an interview with him, which will appear on Pez soon.

Ryder Hesjedahl warms up beside Slipstream mech Damien Shanks – who long time readers will recognize as one of our original PEZ-Crew.

Slipstream had Dave Millar’s bike on the turbo and we asked mechanic, Damien Shanks about the chainset on the Scotsman’s Felt. “It’s a compact 34/50, running 11 to 27 on the cassette; it’s actually a prototype mountain bike chainset because Shimano don’t do road compacts in 180 mm crank length.”

David Millar’s proto crankset.

And what about that broken chain? “In three years we’ve never had a broken chain before and we’ve had two in this race – Christian Vandevelde broke one the other day. We think maybe it’s just been a bad batch, so we’ve got 50 new ones coming from Japan. We change chains every seven days or so, or after one race, if it’s something like Flanders.”

Steve Cumming and Geraint Thomas had just finished their ride and were about to get in the team car to head back to the hotel. We’ll have an interview with Steve up within the next few days, but we thought you’d like to hear this gem – Dave, to Steve; “what gears did you ride today, Steve?”

Steve replies; “I don’t know, I just rode what the mechanics put on the bike, I didn’t use the bottom gear though.”
At which point, Geraint interjected; “I f***ing did!”

The man in pink sets off with nowhere to go but up.

I asked Alan Buttler, ace spanner man at Astana; “who’s going to beat ‘Bert’? – as Alan calls Contador. “Himself! He was lying on the beach for a week before this, he didn’t know he was riding! The dental problems he had were serious, the poison in his gum was dragging his whole system down, they had to cut his gum tissue to deal with it.”

The once great Claudio Chiappucci is riding parts of each stage for Italian radio.

Up at the start village we bumped into Claudio Chiappucci and we showed him the pics of him we’ve taken from the car, when we’ve passed him on the road the last couple of days. He rides the final 60 to 100 kilometres of each stage as a pundit for Radio 105 and still looks in great shape; the times we’ve passed him, he’s been blasting.

Riders were rolling down the ramp so we headed over to take a few shots, then headed off on foot up the climb to recce the first few K – but not before we grabbed a burger and a beer.

The climb starts easily enough but when it gets steep – it gets steep!
Gavazzi of Lampre passed us freewheeling down after his ride – no hands, arms folded, kit bag on his back; but don’t try that at home, folks!

The man in pink sets off with nowhere to go but up.

Former pink jersey holder, LPR’s hero, Bosisio had stopped to chat to fans; “hey! Gabriele, photo?” he looks in great shape despite his rough day yesterday.

The last ‘wave’ of riders started soon after and we got clicking, most riders started pretty conservatively – they were thinking of that five K of dirt road at the top!

Exceptions were tall Belgian revelation, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and ‘Bert’ Contador who blasted off like kilometre riders.

Kloden heads up with his support moto in hot pursuit. The road was too steep for cars.

It was strange to see Paolo Bettini in QuickStep colours – we’re so used to his rainbow jersey, but he’s not world time trial champion, so it’s ‘civvie’ dress for him against the watch.

Once we’d seen the field ‘in the flesh,’ it was big screen time. Sella was the first rider we saw, charging up the dirt like a cyclo cross rider. We’d have liked to be up there, but you ‘d be reading this tomorrow if we were – most fans on the dirt section had cycled up.

For a while it looked like Sella was going to make it three stage wins in a row.

But Pellizotti was the big surprise for Liquigas, he’d ridden past us pretty conservatively and when he came up on the big screen, he looked wasted, but he’d obviously gauged his ride to perfection.

The crowd applauded ‘Pello’s’ ride loudly, but not as loudly as the noise which came over the PA when ‘Bruss’ appeared on screen. For a big man he puts up a good struggle against gravity.

There were other great rides too, Jurgen Van Den Broeck gave another classy demonstration of climbing, as his dad anxiously watched the screen.

A Simoni win would have been popular, but it wasn’t to be, although he did move to third spot on GC. His problem will be that if he doesn’t put more time into Bruss before the Milan TT, then the big Lampre power house will steal that final podium spot with his 55 x 11.

Ricco had the crowd shifting on their feet and shaking their heads as he appeared to slip a gear and struggled on the steep track – but he rode to a solid top six place.

I thought maybe Contador could steal it at the end, but the day belonged to the man with the hair.

On the way back to the car we snapped Marco Pantani’s old Bianchi, it’s part of a marketing package to promote a DVD of his life – let’s hope God has rested his soul.

The drive to the digs was the usual nightmare – the hotel was listed as San Lorenzo, trouble is it’s in the hills about 10 K from San Lorenzo.
If we hadn’t bought a decent map, we’d be searching still.

OK, gotta go, the hotel owner’s dog wants his basket back – I’m keeping him out of it by sitting here at the computer in the kitchen office!

The view from our room across the mountains makes all the hassle worthwhile though —

Tomorrow it’s transfer time as we head cross country to Wednesday’s stage start in Sondrio, and given the traffic in the mountains, we might just get started tonight…

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