What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lee’s Lowdown: Barroom Brawl!

Who invited the Hell’s Angles to the Giro d’Italia? Whoever it was, give that man a line of methamphetamine! Just joking, of course, drugs in sport, terrible, but was that stage yesterday a proper bar room fight or what?!

Contributed By Lee Rodgers

Pool cues cracked over heads, beer glasses flying and a barmaid too at one point if I remember rightly, and I’m sure I saw Burt Reynolds’ moustache pop up in the melee there, just after Lampre threw that uppercut to Santambrogio, just before Gesink’s mechanic got a rollicking bollocking .

Yeehaw! That was real wham, bam, thank you ma’am stuff.

Rock n’ roll on two wheels, a Chinese fireworks depot and a boozed up smoker, a crucible re-enacting the Big Bang. It was labeled a ‘shoot-out’ by one commentator and he was pretty spot on with that – all that was missing were overtight Wranglers and horse crap, though the aforementioned Vini Fantini rider supplied a similar smell as he stunk up his chances of a podium finish.

Santambrogio off the back and chasing hard 1km from the summit of the climb

It was, until yesterday, a brilliant Giro for the 28 year old who hails from Erba. After 3 relatively underwhelming years with BMC it all seemed to be coming together for him this season, and in particular, this May.

He won Stage 14 and was just 1 calorie-free second away from Rigoberto Uran and third place on the GC going into yesterday’s stage. Today though, after one bad day, he is now in 6th, over 2 minutes down on the Colombian from Sky. (Well, he’s from Colombia, but you get me).

“Oh, I was kind of stupid today,” his manager did not say but should have.

Actually, he said this:

“Maybe today I made an error today, I could have ordered everyone to stay with Mauro today,” said Vini Fantini-Selle Italia directeur sportif Luca Scinto as he played with his kipper tie a la Laurel Hardy. “But the recovery by [Oscar] Gatto in the descent has helped limited the damage.”

Limit the damage? Was he previously employed as a White House spin doctor?

“A day of crisis is normal, it normally comes to everyone,” he continued in 1920s monochrome. “Maybe we should have understood it before, but the last mountain was harder than we expected. Unfortunately, we paid for the rest day today, the long period of form and perhaps – as it should be – a bit of relaxation after the victory.”


Rue the day, my word, rue the day. Your man is in 4th, one second off Uran, one place off the podium in the Giro Goshdarn d’Italia, there’s a 20km ITT up a hill coming – which your man can definitely manage – and you leave him isolated in the belief that the last hill yesterday wouldn’t be so hard? Either way you look at that, that’s a dereliction of duty.

Riders have bad days. We all know that. He needed his team all around him, yet instead we had to watch him pulling almost the entire Sky team to the line. That was almost as painful to watch as it must have been to personally experience for Santambrogio.

Getting dropped on a small hill is sometimes the worst place to get dropped, as the guys ahead thrash it over the top with the scent of blood in their nostrils, and the rider dropped is alone, waiting for others to come along. Getting dropped up a big hill, a few km from the top is a little different. The guys ahead still have to gauge their effort and there is a certain caution that must be heeded. Their descent is generally not as hectic, not as dynamic, as they know they have a gap. The dropped rider can often regroup and recover.

But what we saw yesterday was merciless. And beautiful, as sporting violence somehow, in its sickening, magnificent way, tends to be. Scarponi said later that he didn’t know his countryman had been dropped but that is almost impossible to believe, and the sight of the boys in gnarly pink and green, pushing the leaders along in the closing kilometers, confirmed that.

There is no mercy in this sport, not really, not when it truly matters. And isn’t that why we love it so?

So, poor Santambrogio. Let’s hope he gets another crack at the podium. He certainly has shown the talent for that.


Some other things that interested me: first up, Nibali’s riding. He’s impressing more and more and showing quite a champion’s steel in this Giro. The Italian press may be moaning about him not having a stage win but I am sure Vincenzo knows how to say ‘Kiss my ass’ in Italian. He may well win the ITT in any case, but his descending yesterday and his attack the other day on the climb, now that’s how you ride in the Maglia Rosa.


Cadel Evans is showing, as if we didn’t know it, just what a class act he really is. Zero help from teammates, by and large, he rode anonymously yesterday (if you watch Eurosport in any case, they didn’t mention him until the last 300m), yet it was another quietly brilliant ride. He wasted nothing, tried nothing, just kept his cards close to his chest and nodded along.

Who knows? A very solid TT and a puncture for Vincenzo and all could change for the Aussie.

Pirazzi. Brilliant.

Lee described Stefano Pirazzi with just one word, brilliant. Riders in the Giro may have some other one word descriptions for him though after his constant accelerations and incessant attacks….

And finally, Gesink. A very good rider, his hopes were scuppered like a creaky vessel on a hidden reef by an immensely untimely mechanical, just as he was making his way to the line and looking very strong.

That had to hurt

A tale of two riders really: Nibali has gone from strength to strength since leaving Liquigas, whereas Gesink is still on the periphery, despite a Tour of California win and the odd decent result here and there.

But then not many believed in Nibali’s star, just a short few years ago, and yet here he is, on the verge of Pink, halfway up that stairway to heaven…

Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, https://crankpunk.com/

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