Baldato: “It would be difficult for Cipo too”
– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –
REIMS, 9 July 2002 – Three road stages and already the Italian alarms are sounding. Winners, an opportunistic Swiss, a two-time world champion Spaniard, and an Australian from the track. To the Italians, the Tricolor flag has been lowered and they wait for better times. Without the great absent Mario Cipollini and his team, but above all the absence of a sprinter of the quality of SuperMario, the Italians for now are racing defensively. In Reims the Vincentino Fabio Baldato tried to raise his head, one who has the physical abilities and courage to ride with the best, despite his 34 years. But the veteran from Fassa Bortolo was lacking the right path to follow and a bit of luck. “At 250 meters to go I was in an ideal position, behind Freire who was following McEwen and Zabel. Then, however, the Spaniard suddenly lost his position and I lost 10 meters to the other two. I was left in the open and was passed by Cooke and Hauptman as well, the right time has passed”.
On the shoulders of Baldato, fifth, was placed the young Bossoni, who two years ago was the center of a stage in the Vuelta and is in a period of great form. But against the sprint specialists (Kirsipuu, Svorada, and O’Grady were luckily behind) there is little one can do. The memory of the last edition, when the Italians came home without a single stage win, haunts the Italians like a spectre. Complicated even further by the attitude of the first stages in which the sprinters teams have prevented any escape from succeeding. “We’ve tried to go for long ones as well – recounts Baldato, who at the Tour has won in Lannion, in 1995, and on the Champs Elysee the following year – But the wind and the speed of the chasers has left it impossible to make a selection. At the the Tour there isn’t a dominant team, so all of the teams want to bring their sprinters forward. For now, there’s no room to attack”.
Basso has given the allusion to being in great shape, after his finish in Luxembourg. To see an Italian at the front will we need to wait for the mountains? “We will redeem ourselves tommorow, we’re going to give it all in the team time trial. We have the hope to give success to those who are passionate to this sport”, responds Baldato. How much weight is the missing invite to Cipollini, by this time two years ignored by the French organisers, someone who has had 12 victories in the Tour? (ed.- Cipo and Armstrong share the title of the most successfull stage winner who is currently racing) “With the personality and the ‘train’ that he brings with him, Mario certainly could have said this was his race. But it’s also true that here when one arrives at the finish after spending so much energy, that the sprints are the tightest and the adversaries and their teams are very strong. In as much, it’s not easy for anyone”.