DARIO’S Diario: Las Montagnes
Speaking to Pez must be a good omen for those Liquigas boys – last time we spoke to Magnus Backstedt, team leader, Danilo Di Luca had just grabbed the stage and the leader’s jersey at Bejar.
Just before we spoke to Dario on Saturday evening, Luca Paolini had narrowly failed with a late victory-bid, over-hauled by a resurgent Alexandre Vinokourov on the drag to the finish at Lugo; Luca does, however win the award for the biggest gear ever ridden in an uphill sprint.
Pez: A bit of a roller-coaster for Liquigas, Dario – taking the jersey then losing it.
Dario: Yes, but the jersey was not a goal for the team in this race so we are happy just to have had it for two days. Danilo may well not finish this race – he is using it as preparation for the world championships. A stage win was the goal; we have done that already and had some good stage placings, look at today – Luca was only caught at 100 metres to go. Even after one week we are happy how the race has gone.
Like everyone, Dario struggled with the heat on stage 3.
Pez: Danilo had a bad day on the stage to Ponferrada and lost the jersey, does he discuss this with you after the stage?
Dario: Yes, we talk on the team bus after the stage. He said that he did not feel good on the early part of the climb and was on his own for the descent which came half way up, the group in front took time from him there but he felt good again towards the top. It is not a goal, but if the opportunity to get the jersey back arises he will take it. If you look at the way he rode when he won that stage then you can see his form is good and another win is a possibility.
Pez: Luca Paolini is going well do you think he will go to the worlds for Italy?
Dario: He has had good placings and was very close today and I think he has a very good chance of going to the worlds, yes.
Pez: Of the opposition, who has impressed you so far?
Dario: For the GC I think Valverde, Vinokourov and Sastre are all good. In the sprints Bettini has been surprising.
Pez: What about Brajkovic (Discovery’s Slovenian 22 year-old race-leader) has he surprised you?
Dario: It will surprise me if he still lead in Madrid, I know him from other races so I know he has ability, but he is young and in a three week stage race it is the last week where you need experience to get through.
Pez: Those stages where Danilo had the jersey, did you have to work hard?
Dario: In the beginning of both stages we had to work hard to choose the right break to let go, later in the stages we received help from the teams who had an interest in the finish, so it wasn’t too bad for us.
Pez: Magnus worked very hard for Paolini today.
Dario: Yes, he did an incredible job today – his form is improving day after day.
Pez: Has the heat been affecting you?
Dario: It was very bad at the beginning of the week but it is cooler now that we are further north.
Pez: Are you happy with your own form?
Dario: I was disappointed in the way I rode in the first day in the mountains, the indications I had from training were good and I expected to do better. I was happier with the way I was riding on the stage where Danilo lost the jersey, I stayed with him as long as I could. I have to remember though that by the finish of the Vuelta I will have raced nearly 100 days so maybe I am tired.
Pez: Are you looking forward to the end of the season?
Dario: As October approaches you always look forward to a rest I have only four or so races after the Vuelta.
Pez: Sunday’s stage is a hard-one isn’t it?
Dario: Yes, it’s very hard with six climbs and more than 200 kilometres, so there is plenty to do. I think a big break may go early so I will be trying to go with it.
[Ed Note: Dario finished Sunday’s mountain madness in 47th, 13;35 down on the stage winner Vinokourov.]
Pez will be following Dario throughout this Vuelta.