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Giro d'Italia Cycling News for May 19, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones & Anthony Tan

McEwen at his best

In the throw
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

There was only a tyre width in it, but Robbie McEwen's extremely well-timed jump to get around Alessandro Petacchi to win stage 10 was one of his best victories. Petacchi got an almost perfect lead out in the last four kilometres of the twisty finishing circuit in Rossano Veneto, but when he came off Marco Velo's wheel with 250m to go, he wasn't fast enough to hold off McEwen who had glued himself to the super sprinter's wheel. Third place went to Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), continuing the Aussie vs. Italian battle in this year's Giro. Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) enjoyed a quiet day in the maglia rosa, and will start in it in tomorrow's testing Dolomite stage to Zoldo Alto.

"I'm really happy", explained McEwen after his win. "It was a big win for us today, not just for me but for the whole team. Guys like Gates, Vogels, Vierhouten and Brandt, who were right at the front on the finishing circuit, which was a little dangerous."

Petacchi was clearly disappointed at the finish, losing the mind game to McEwen again: "I made a mistake. I started early because I was afraid that the Australian would anticipate me and ride his own line in the finishing curve," he said. At 250 metres, I was already in the lead and when McEwen came up next to me, I looked at him and lost my composure, losing 30-40 centimetres that cost me the win. I still thought I'd won, but his bike throw was better than mine."

The 10th stage between Ravenna and Rossano Veneto was otherwise uneventful, apart from a 70 km attack by Selle Italia's Rafaele Illiano that started just after the Intergiro with 100 km to go and finished under the 30 km to go banner. The sprinters teams took over from then on, with Fassa winning the battle to provide the final leadout. But once again, it was squandered.

Also see:

Stage 10 Full results & report
Live report
Start list
Stages & results
Stage by Stage
Past winners

Italian drug squad seize altitude device after hotel raid

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Rossano Veneto

Following a request from the Nas (Nucleo Anti-Stupefacente) Carabineri brigade of Firenze, the Nas Carabineri of Padova raided the Hotel Canova in Sandrigo of the Davitamon-Lotto and Saunier Duval-Prodir teams. The search warrants came from the prosecutor of Vicenza, Paolo Pecori, and the raid and hotel search took three hours between 4-7pm. From the Davitamon-Lotto team, an Alti Trainer was seized and the team doctor Daniel De Neve was brought to the Padova Nas Carabineri headquarters for further interrogation.

Although hypoxic devices are not prohibited under UCI or WADA rules, they are illegal under Italian law 376, an arcane rule that prohibits use of any method to increase blood values for sport competition. When asked about the Alti Trainer at the post-race press conference today in Rossano Veneto, McEwen said, "I don't know anything about this...I don't use it, but some of my teammates do. It's a machine that simulates the effect of altitude."

No word yet whether the use of this device will have any further consequences for Davitamon-Lotto, but team director Frison thought that the entire raid was "ridiculous". But RCS Event Director Angelo Zomegnan was not jumping to any conclusion on the affair, explaining that "We've only heard about this raid from the media and the hypobaric tent was seized. Under international rules, this is not illegal, but Italian law, it is illegal."

The Nas room raiders also took two evidence bags of medicine flasks from their search of Saunier Duval-Prodir's rooms. "They took some flasks of sugar's all product that we have declared. However, we are fed up with these kinds of moves (by Nas) and tomorrow morning, team directors and doctors will meet to see how we can stand up to this," explained Saunier Duval-Prodir's team director Pietro Algeri. Their team doctor Maria Sagasti was also taken to the Padova Nas barracks for further interrogation.

A further determination of the situation will undoubtedly evolve as Giro d'Italia management looks deeper into the raid and the conclusions of the Nas investigation.

Problems for Basso

Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

With 20 kilometres to go in today's 10th stage, Team CSC had to work hard when one of the spokes on Ivan Basso's front wheel broke. The mechanical happened when Basso was forced to go cross country at a roundabout after a moto led the peloton slightly off course. Basso was forced to change his wheel and at the same time, he lost radio contact with his teammates.

"It probably looked worse than it actually was," said team manager Bjarne Riis post-stage. "Ivan pushed his mike too hard, so at first his teammates couldn't hear him. However, we quickly got the team organised and escorted him back to the peloton without problems."

Armstrong pays surprise visit to Italy

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Rossano Veneto

Although he has been busy preparing to win his seventh and last Tour de France, Lance Armstrong made a surprise visit to his Discovery Channel teammates yesterday in Cesenatico, Italy, on the rest day at the Giro d'Italia.

Armstrong and Discovery sports manager Johan Bruyneel flew in late Tuesday afternoon for quick visit to send some good vibes and boost the morale of the team. Armstrong has been training in Girona, telling Pier Bergonzi of La Gazzetta dello Sport that "I've been in Europe to do some training in Girona; back in the States, there is just too much going on for me to concentrate 100 percent on my Tour de France preparation."

Armstrong has been basing his days around training in the morning and watching the Giro d'Italia every afternoon, and had many positive words about his teammate Paolo Savoldelli's Giro performance so far. "Paolo is looking really good; he's an all-around rider with a lot of experience," said Armstrong. "I see him on the Giro podium in Milano. It's too bad he lost some time early on, otherwise he would already have the maglia rosa. We'll see how [Savoldelli] does in the mountains, but I liked what I saw on the Sammommé climb."

Last fall, Armstrong tried hard to bring Ivan Basso to his new Discovery Channel squad, but the talented Italian decided to stay with Bjarne Riis and CSC in the end. Naturally, Armstrong has good things to say about Basso in this year's Giro, saying: "Basso is still the favorite. I have to admit that in the Firenze TT, he amazed me. I knew he had improved in the TT, but he did better than I expected. If he goes as well on the climbs as he did during the last Tour, he will be really difficult to beat. Ivan is really well prepared, but the Giro isn't finished yet. I'm sure Simoni will go on the attack in the mountains. He can still do a lot of damage and so can Cunego, a young rider with enormous talent."

Armstrong also praised current maglia rosa Di Luca and Petacchi to Bergonzi: "I like [Di Luca] a lot as a rider. He could be a big surprise at this Giro. He's saying that he's thinking of next year's Giro, but he's always there now. He has great form, class, style and a really good team. If he improves his time trialling, he could be one of the guys to beat in the Grand Tours in the next few years. I also have to say good things about Petacchi, a great rider and a guy I really like a lot."

After his quick trip to Italy to rally the Discovery troops, Lance Armstrong flies back to Texas later this week until he returns for the Dauphiné Libéré in early June. "I'm heading back to the States and I'll follow the Giro via Internet," said the avowed bike geek and Internet surfer.

Saiz expectant

Liberty Seguros-Würth team manager Manolo Saiz has high hopes for Michele Scarponi in tomorrow's 11th stage between Marostica and Zoldo Alto, the first real mountain stage of this year's Giro. Saiz predicted a tough battle tomorrow: "It will be the first contact, but already they talk of snow on the Stelvio and the probability of dropping that climb. That can impact the race, but tomorrow the first climb before Zoldo Alto is hard enough to start the struggle.

"If Scarponi goes well, as I expect, we will have a lot to say in these stages, because he is our only man for the general. The others are for support, but if we race for Scarponi, we will also look for the breakaways to take the pressure off, and in that way, another stage win might come."

In Saiz's opinion, Simoni and Cunego will be the ones to watch. "They are behind Basso and they will try to attack to recover the time lost in the time trial. This stage will serve as a guide as to what will happen in the next days, because those who are ahead tomorrow will be those who fight for the victory. It is very difficult that anyone who fails tomorrow could do it later."

Saiz believes Gilberto Simoni is the top favourite for the overall Giro win. "If all the stages are done as foreseen, a lot of maturity will be needed to win the race, because there are very long climbs and stages. Age counts a lot and because of it I bet on Simoni, though I cannot forget that Cunego won last year. His youth and his class make him also a favourite, but the two have to ride as a team if they want to win."

Finally, Saiz admitted that it will be difficult to support the green mountains jersey. "Koldo Gil has only 21 points and the jersey will be won with more than 100. All the big climbs are still to come, and if the race goes fast, the logical thing is that it will be won by those who fight for the general classification. His possibilities lie in a breakaway, depending on Scarponi's interests."

Liberty's Joseba Beloki finished in the peloton today, and is steadily building his condition for the Tour de France. "Since we started the race, I have improved enough, I do not know how much, but we are already halfway through the Giro and I believe that I will be in good condition in time for the Tour. Because of that, I am satisfied, because for the present time, the Giro is very positive for me," said Beloki.

Tomorrow, Beloki expects, "...the first differences between the favourites, who are going to show some cards, though Zoldo Alto is going to start it off, because the battle will be done over the weekend. On my part, I will try to be as near to Scarponi as possible. That's my job here."

Selle Italia-Colombia sempre (always) attacca

Italian registered Pro Continental Team Selle Italia-Colombia saw today's tenth stage of the Giro d'Italia as another chance to launch an escape. This time, it was Rafaele Illiano's turn, who went clear 113 kilometres into the 201,6 km stage and stayed away until roughly 30 kilometres to go. And while the breakaway proved fruitless, it was a valuable hour and a half in front of television cameras for the team.

Said directtore sportivo Gianni Savio about the team's strategy: "We are always ready to attack. Today, we decided to do it again because the stage finished in the area of our co-sponsor, Selle Italia (Rossano Veneto). Unfortunately, against the teams of the velocisti (sprinters), we weren't able to take the stage, but we will keep trying in the next few days."

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