What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di Pez: The Direct(or) Approach!

Roadside Stage 17: Today’s 17th stage from Brunico to Peio Terme is one of three big climbing days remaining in this year’s Giro d’Italia. After a few changes and some time gains in yesterday’s TT, it was into the start village to see what those in the know, thought it all meant.

The Giro is heading off down the valley to Bolzano today and from there, the 154 remaining riders will be tackling the 18km climb of the Passo delle Palade followed by a 9.5km drag to the finish at Peio Terme.

The one man PEZ crew had taken a vote and the decision was made to drive the first part of the race route, to see what the riders would see, then up the climb to catch up with Bolzano based PEZ-man Corey Sar Fox, and then continue on to my hotel and watch the last climb on the TV.

Getting Started
After glorious sunshine (and not so glorious sun burn) the last few days, this morning’s weather had a slightly more comfortable feel to it. As I made the turn to drive the 10km to the stage start in Brunico, I was thinking how lucky we were that the race wasn’t going to be on the Plan de Corones today.

Up there in that cloud is a gravel road to nowhere.

At the stage start this morning, I decided to grab a copy of La Gazzetta and relax with a coffee. The Pink Paper, as always, had a great wrap of the action from yesterday’s mountain time trial, and had stiched together this picture of Basso and Evans riding across the finish line to give the impression of the two of them side by side.

There has been a bit of chat in recent days about Ivan Basso’s hat that he has been wearing post stage, and when I saw Elena, another Liquigas supporter, wearing an oversized head piece, I figured you might like to see that too.

While I was gathering information from La Gazzetta dello Sport, the familiar Australian accent drifted over from the table beside me, so I said a quick “Hi” to a group from Melbourne that I realised I had just driven past on the road, while coming to the start.

Tom, Scott, Jeff and Rowena discussing the chances of the Red, Green and White jersey holders, Evans, Lloyd and Porte.

Chatting To The Bosses
After seeing what the journalists had to say about things, I headed to the team buses to chat to the sports directors and ask them what they thought about their riders’ chances in the tough final week of the Giro.

The Maglia Rosa
David Arroyo’s sports director, Neil Stephens told PEZ this morning that their objective on yesterday’s climb to the Plan de Corones was simple to maintain the team leader’s GC position.

“We wanted to minimise the time loss which is what we are trying to do every day. We want to make sure we don’t lose the time in big chunks, we just want to lose it a little bit at a time as see how we go. We’re keen to do the best GC that we can. Whether that GC is winning the Giro of doing as good a position as we can, I don’t really know. We’re just going at it day by day.”

Arroyo’s pink bike arrived at the team hotel on the rest day and was built up ready to go for yesterday’s mountain time trial.

Stephens said that morale was good in the team and that it was a big bonus that they have moved up into the lead of the race but he is also trying to keep the current situation in perspective.

“Look, I say that we came here to do a good GC. Originally it was a top 10, but with the break that went into L’Aquila it’s a little bit better than that at the moment. We’re not changing the way we work, the boys are great, they get on really well amongst themselves. They’re a great bunch of guys who are really dedicated to trying to do the best they can for David.”

Neil Stephens showing the picture in La Gazzetta this morning, of him off the motor bike and running with a pair of wheels, up the Plan de Corones behind Arroyo.

With a fairly complicated week coming up, particularly Friday’s stage to Aprica and Saturday’s stage going over the Gavia, Stephens says that they will keep following their plan for the resty of the race.

“We’re just going to keep to our plan, try not to get too excited, try to ride with your head and not with your heart, maintain a bit of peace and quiet and go at it day by day!”

Maglia Verde
BMC sports director John Lelange said that the team were happy with the result of yesterday’s time trial.

“We took time on all the contenders, so it was a good time trial. We know that Garzelli was not making the Monte Zoncolan at full speed and then when I saw him training before the time trial stage I knew that he could make a good end of the week because it was a good time trial for him. But taking time of Basso, over Sastre, over Vinokourov and over all the contenders was a big deal.”

Lelange checking his mail in between directing his riders to and from the sign on at this morning’s stage start.

Race leader Arroyo, and before him Porte, still has a good time buffer over the people considered contenders before the start in Amsterdam. PEZ asked Lelangue if he was confident that the hard mountain stages to come would give the team enough opportunities to make their move on the race lead.

“We are still confident. We can do a lot of good things and we can see what is the strategy of the other ones. We know that we have – even today there is the difficulty in the final – two have the really strong days of big mountains and then the final time trial. So yeah. Everything is possible in the Giro.”

Lelangue said he wasn’t too concerned with the fact Basso rode away from Evans on the Zoncolan, agreeing that the finish there was on a different style of climb that what was coming up.

“Every day is different and when we look at what is coming up in the next days, we can have a really nice race. That’s the most important for cycling. I think this Giro is really nice to follow on TV for the guys along the streets, there is nothing decided. We are at Wednesday and everything can happen.

BMC mechanic Ted Wood checks the world champion’s bike to make sure that everything is in order before the start.

The White Jersey
When Saxo Bank planned their Giro d’Italia team, they had Chris Sцrensen slated as their GC man. A broken collarbone in the middle of his key preparation phase put paid to that, so they came to the Italian race with a solid team, but little in the way of expectations.

“We have a nice team here. Young riders and experienced riders together. It’s a fine mix and it worked out really well. The result is what they have worked for,” sports director Torsten Schmidt told PEZ:

Schmidt goes over the day’s stage route while MTV plays on the in-car TV system.

With some really tough days of climbing to go, PEZ asked what the expectations from the team were for Porte, who was third overall on the GC this morning.

“We will try. All the team worked for him and also supported him and until now he has had a fantastic Giro. I think we can try. Between four and eight [on GC] is realistic, it’s his first big Grand Tour, and then also the white shirt will be our goal.”

Schmidt said that the GC is the goal for the team and that even if Porte drops down off the podium, they tactics for the team, will not be to ignore the overall and just race the other young riders for that classification.

“You get the white jersey because of where you are in the GC classification. There are so many good young guys in the peloton, so you have to be in a good place to get the white jersey. You cannot put focus on a white jersey, you have to be in a good GC and it comes from that.”

Schmidt said to PEZ that whatever happens now, they would be very pleased with what they have achieved so far.

“It’s much more than we expected. We have the white jersey, we had the leader’s jersey for a few days, we are still there, we had a stage win. You cannot expect more. They did more, more, more than we every expected and we are happy with the Giro.

Richie Porte started the day third overall in the GC behind Arroyo and Basso.

The man wearing white was happy to have the Plan de Corones time trial behind him, saying that he wasn’t necessarily “worried” going into the 12.9km test as he knew it was a stress for everybody.

“I’m happy with how I went up there, it’s not really my forte, so I guess the big goal for me is maintaining a good position on GC and the white jersey. I have a little more time there and I’m happy with how the Giro has gone so far.”

Porte said that he also appreciated the support he was getting along the roadside.

“Yeah, it’s been really good. I guess its better than what we’re subjected to at home and some of the things bike riders have called out at them. No, the support is incredible.”

Basso’s time trial up the Plan de Corones moved him ahead of Porte in the overall standings. With his performance so far and big mountains still to come, why wouldn’t he be smiling?

The Italian’s are also very interested in the novelty factor of the “Tasmanian Devil”.

“That’s nice, and [the Italians] are supportive, and really it’s nice to be getting a little bit of credit for all the effort I have been putting in over the past years.”

Porte has said a number of times that he has “flown under the radar” for the past few years, and finds it strange that some members of the press and public think he has just come from nowhere. After some outstanding results in his last two seasons as an amateur in both Italy and Australia, he has also turned heads, prior to the Giro, with his results in his debut year as a professional.

“It’s funny, even at home, I don’t even have a profile page on my local Federation’s web site!”

With all of the international attention Porte has gathered over the past three weeks, there is a fair chance that will situation will be rectified soon.

Let’s Hit The Road
Today’s plan was to see what the riders were in for by driving the actual stage route and then stopping at the top of the GPM. After the initial drag race along the first few kilometres, the “big boys (and girls)” of the press took the deviation route directly to Bolzano and then onto the finish, while I turned off and took the low road through the valley, following the pink and black direction signs that mark the race route.

Magnus and Siggi, from Ulm in Germany, are following the race this week. Up above you can see the main highway while we were down below on the quieter road through the valley.

On through Bolzano and its massive glass fronted shopping centres I went. There was still a lot of traffic in the city centre as the race was still 45 minutes away, but either side off the town, I was continually amazed by the number of people standing roadside with their cameras at the ready. I guess it isn’t every day that the Giro comes to town.

After cutting through some incredibly narrow (and steep) streets, it was onto the GPM climb of Passo delle Palade to try and find Mr Fox, who told me he was up the top and that I should “look out for the Pez Kit”.

Corey’s preview of the stage and in particular thee climb has a million more details that I could ever include, so take the time to check out what the riders had to do as part of today’s 17th stage.

All the way up the climb there were small pockets of fans. I stopped to chat to the lady from Belgium in the camper, who exclaimed, “There are no Belgians, there’s nothing to see here, there’s no people along the climb, nothing. This is not the Tour de France!”. No madam, it sure isn’t.

Next there was a group who were busy ducking in and out of the souvenir selling white vans to complete their own road decorations for the stage.

And then there was this gentleman, who hopefully was wearing factor 40 suncream. I’m not sure If hea was inspired by my Kazakh tribute yesterday, but I think “The Love” will be the last thing Vino is feeling when he cops eyes on this today!

And so, at the top of the hill, I dropped the windows down and started looking carefully for my Pez clad colleage. He spotted me before I spotted him and after jumping the barriers in his bike shoes we completed our mid-road introductions.

Corey had ridden up the opposite side of the climb to the one the riders would do and also informed me that my hotel was just down the road a little bit and I would easily make it there to see the stage finish.

Corey had set up camp in the middle of the Nibali fan club and after a few pictures and a quick chat, I headed down the hill to catch the riders on the last part of the climb.

After Pedro Horillo’s trip over the railing on last year’s eighth stage, there were mountain rescue teams on standby at the top, for a quick response in case anything similar happened in 2010.

Here Come The Riders
Not long after the direct telecast started on RAI sport, the commentators announced the riders were on the climb, the bar at the top of the hill emptied and the helicopters arrived overhead.

The break, consisting of Wyss, Efimkin, Ochoa, Kireyev, Arashiro, Amador, Konovalovas, Duque, Monier, Stortoni, Hondo, Marzano, Moreno, Kruijswijk, Cummings, Reynes, Ignatiev, Fothen and Nicki Sorensen, came over the top with a slight split between them. They had over eight minutes lead on the peloton at the top, which would give Cummings, Arashiro, Wyss and Hondo plenty of room to chase back the small gap to their breakaway companions on the descent.

With no one chasing between the groups, the peloton rolled into view as a group, grabbing feed bags from their team support staff as they approached the top. Across the front of the bunch, Scarponi was having no trouble riding no-hands organising his lunch, while the Caisse d’Epargne squad set tempo for Arroyo.

Having driven the climb, I had nothing but respect for those that had to ride it and there were a few who were finding it more difficult than others. Towards the back of the main peloton, Androni’s Rodriguez was adjusting his feed bag as he closed the gap

While a little bit further behind, the chase was on to close the gap and get back into the cars on the descent.

The last four riders on the road included Saxo Bank’s Haedo and Rabobank’s Brown, but by the time the race reached the flatter roads of the valley, they had regained the safety of the bunch.

So that was it. The passage of the Giro d’Italia over the Passo della Palade and the final time I would be seeing the riders in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

All that was left to do was walk back up the hill, grab a coffee with Corey and then send him on his way to ride home while I dropped the 3km down the hill to the comfort of my TV and hotel bed.

Just before I arrived at the summit of the climb, I did one of those double takes that you may have experienced when you live away from home for a long time and you constantly think you see people you know when you don’t at all. Well, chances are when they speak to you by name, it is the person you think it is. So, to help him back up his “you’ll never believe who I saw” story when he gets back to Launceston in Tasmania, I’m sending a big PEZ shout-out to Steve Martini!

The Giro continued on west as I stayed still and tomorrow morning I will be heading back to Bolzano and then settling in for the long drive home.

It’s been a great few days on the race, especially as an avid follower of Australian cycling. I have my fingers crossed that there will be four jersey’s with (AUS) written next to the winner’s names on Sunday and very confident that it will definitely be the case for three of them.

The Pez takes over duties tomorrow for what will be a fantastic finale to this year’s race and before I go I’d like to thank him for sending me along this past week and also thank all of those people who have been reading the roadise reports and following the Giro action on PEZ.

Ciao Ciao!

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