What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di PEZ: Into The Mountains!

Roadside St. 14: YMCA blasts, the girls dance, the Haribo alligator smiles and the old clock tower looks out over the noise, colour and an organisation which seems always to teeter on the edge of chaos. The Giro hits Cherasco.

The roll out can’t be much more crazy than yesterday’s at Savona.

We were able to stroll through the peloton, there were no barriers and the start director was close to a nervous breakdown.

You have to love it !

As the Giro heads north into the mountains, the chronos, sprints and suicide breaks become a memory.

It’s the long grinds up the Alpine and Dolomite passes where this race will be decided.

The ‘bigs’ have been keeping their heads down thus far and we don’t think that the likes of Scarponi, Kreuziger or Basso will do anything rash today, but they’ll have to keep their wits about them.

And on the subject of crowd favourite Ivan Basso, we caught up with Liquigas press officer, Paolo Barbiere.

The first question was the obvious one; ‘Is Ivan going to win the Giro ?’

Paolo responded; ‘He’s ready to fight for the win! We’re happy with how the first part of the race has gone. It may seem as if it’s been an easy first two weeks, but it’s been really nervous. And now we approach the mountains – where the difference is made. The Italian media takes a very optimistic view of Ivan’s chances but he has some difficult opponents – Rodriguez has an advantage of one minute, Scarponi is going well and we don’t yet know about Kreuziger. Everything is open, we have a really strong team which we think can make the difference in the mountains – but cycling is not mathematics !

On today’s stage, the media want to see a big fight for the summit finish; but I don’t think today will make the difference – tomorrow is a harder day. Today is a day to fight, sure – but also to save energy for the last week. The race has been very tactical up until now – and all of the teams have different approaches. Ivan, for example, doesn’t really attack, he just doesn’t lose time.’

We asked about the remarkable work rate of Basso’s lieutenant, Sylvester Szmyd; ‘There are two things to remember about Sylvester; he is a great climber in his own right – not at Contador level but very strong, nonetheless. But the other factor is that he and Ivan have a very close relationship. It’s that sort of bond which generate the motivation which gives you that extra 10 or 20% when it’s needed.’

We asked about Damiano Caruso’s tenure in the white jersey of best young rider; ‘It’s a good prize for Damiano but it’s not our goal – he’s here to help Ivan. And we must be realistic, Uran (Sky) was a contender for the best young rider in the Tour de France, last year. Although his time in the jersey is a good sign for the future, he must also learn in this Giro from Ivan about how to handle the role of team captain.’

No confusion at Liquigas, then.

‘All for Ivan.’

But not all teams have a leader like Basso and can gamble all on wearing the final maglia rosa in Milano.

Pro Continental team Androni Giocattoli – Venezuela have to grab what they can, when they can. And this year, their attacking riding has delivered two stage wins. One thanks to Columbian climber Miguel Angel Rubiano and another courtesy of sprinter, Roberto Ferrari.
DS Gianni Savio’s policy is ‘to honour the pink race’ – and his team has certainly achieved that.

He too had time for PEZ before the Cherasco roll out; ‘Rubiano’s win took strength and intelligence. He was in the breakaway and with 50 kilometres to go he came back to the car and said; “I want to attack!” I told him to wait until the last GPM with 34 kilometres to go – it’s not easy to go alone like that to win a Giro stage.

Ferrari’s was another wonderful win, the peloton was complete in Montecatini and it’s not easy to beat the big sprinters. But he showed real intelligence by carefully studying the finish percorso the first time the peloton went through the line on the finishing circuit. He read it very well and was able to give us our second win.

Can we win a third stage ? I hope so, we still have our determination and our philosophy is to provide spectacle – but we must be happy with two stages against the World Tour teams.’

We concluded by asking Gianni who his choice for the overall win is; ‘I think it’s too early to say who will be in pink in Milano, but today will provide a photo. That photo will not show who will win in Milano; but it will show who will not!’

Our final sound bite of the morning came from a man who was worn the maglia rosa – albeit, a decade ago.

Formerly a strong man with Telekom, Jens Heppner is now DS with Pro Continental team Netapp.

The German squad have more than justified their wild card, with Pole, Bartosz Huzarski taking a fine second to Rodriguez in the mad uphill charge into Assisi on stage 10.

We asked if he was pleased with his squad’s Giro thus far;

‘Yesterday was a bad day for us, we lost Holenstein in a crash. Huzarski is best man on GC at 17th, but he’s had stomach problems, the last two days. I think the next two days in the mountains will be very hard for us. Not so much has changed in the race since I rode; the break fights to go early and is then controlled – it was similar, back then. I think the big riders will hide today, a break will go 20 minutes to fight for the win.’

The view from bed and breakfast in Dogliani last night was stunning.

Which is more than can be said for the first 130 K of the stage – which were unremarkable, urban, flat, long straights, little to photograph, but we did our best.

But when the Col de Joux starts at Verres with 68.5 K, it isn’t messing.

Ramps, hairpins, this will be the first major test of climbing legs – a climb of some 22 kilometres.

Al updated us earlier as to race status;

‘An eight man break of Jan Barta (NetApp), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Nelson
Oliveira (Radio Shack-Nissan), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Nikolas
Maes (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Alessandro De Marchi (Androni Giocattoli),
Pier Paolo De Negri (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) have built up a lead of 6:22 with 120 kilometres to go.’

We’ve decided to go native for the day and have a picnic on the Col de Joux.

The sun has decided not to play ball – but hey !

Sometimes picnics are like that.

It’s cold, wet and cloudy as we have our cheese and ham sandwiches and watch the motorbikes swish past.

There ain’t many tifosi up here.

The helicopter is above us.

Barta is first of the eight to come up, but with a scant 30 seconds over Montaguti, De Negri, Amador and De Marchi.

But it’s three minutes and more back to the other break survivors, Maes, Kaisen and Oliveira.

It’s more than nine minutes before Rujano, with Cunego in hot pursuit dances past us.

The Liquigas paced peloton is grim faced and silent as it grinds past.

Ventoso is just behind, so too is Kennaugh.

Mathias Frank gets a little encouragement from one of the marshals.

Jack Bauer manages a wink – it’s more than we could do.

The gruppettos are way, way back, the main one has 30/40 and Alex Rasmussen, but no Cav.

There are ones, twos and then the Cav group; Eisel is there – as usual.

Ian Stannard looks pale and tired, just off the back.

We didn’t check the gap, but it’s huge, with another cat 1 GPM to go.

Graeme Brown is behind the Cav group – he’s wasted, swerving across the road.

Stone last on the road is 135, Lotto’s Gaetan Bille.

It takes us while to get off the hill and find a bar; the owner is a Napalm Death fan – always a good sign.

Three of the break have survived, behind, only the best are left.

Movistar take it, the young Costa Rican, Amador, from NetApp’s Barta and Androni’s De Marchi.

Behind, Ryder jumps the group and takes back the maglia rosa – stunning !

Rodriguez casts a wistful eye up to the timing gantry as he crosses the line.

Paolo was right about it being a day to fight – and right about Uran, who takes the white jersey for best ‘Giovani’ – young rider.

Gianni almost did get his third stage win and Jens’ boy came close to causing the upset of the race.

Another great stage in a great Giro.

And there are more mountains tomorrow . . . . .

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