First Edition Cycling News for May 18, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones
Rest day 2 wrap up
Halfway, but the battle has just begun
By Jeff Jones
The Giro d'Italia reached its halfway point on Wednesday, the second and final rest day of the three week tour. After yesterday's finish in the south of Italy, the riders transferred north up to Pisa, ready for the final 11 days of racing and the real nitty gritty of this year's corsa rosa. On Thursday, the race will resume with a flat and fast 50 km time trial in Pontedera, the last chance for the power men to gain time on the climbers before the mountains really begin.
At this stage of the race, Ivan Basso (CSC) is in the leader's jersey by 1'34 over José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) and 1'48 on Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital). Most of the other top favourites are in the top 10, all within three and a half minutes of the leader. The exception is Jose Rujano (Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni), who is 5'32 down in 20th place after not enjoying the smoothest of starts to the Giro. His time will come, and he is already showing signs of the climbing form that netted him third overall in last year's Giro.
Stage 5 - Thursday, May 11: Piacenza - Cremona TTT, 35 km
The Giro left Belgian soil with Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) in pink, and kicked off with a medium length team time trial between Piacenza and Cremona, in the north of Italy. It was a very fast day out, and pre-race favourites Team CSC finished the 35 km in a time of 36'56 (56.859 km/h) to win the stage by just one second from T-Mobile. The magenta lads, driven home by Serguei Gonchar, Jan Ullrich, Michael Rogers, Olaf Pollack, and Matthias Kessler. The latter dropped off with 300m to go and that probably cost the German team the win, but they got a very nice consolation prize with Serguei Gonchar taking the pink jersey. And very happy he was too.
A surprise was Discovery Channel, who finished third at 39 seconds behind CSC, costing Paolo Savoldelli all of his advantage over Ivan Basso. Discovery has always been one of the top teams in the team time trial, and has even won them without Lance Armstrong. Lance was in the team car following today, but that wasn't sufficient to propel them to victory. The boys in blue lost a little time in choosing "safety over speed", with only the front three riders in their train using the aerodynamic bars, while the rest sat on the cow horns. By contrast, the CSC and T-Mobile riders were in their bars almost the whole time.
All of the teams finished within two minutes of each other in this race against the clock, proving that it is possible to include a team time trial in a grand tour without disadvantaging the weaker teams too much.
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Ivan Basso: Domani sera in Pontedera
By Anthony Tan in Lido di Camaiore, Italy
One can only guess what will happen in one of the most important stages of the 2006 Giro d'Italia this Thursday, but there's more than a few willing to bet that Team CSC's Ivan Basso will be holding onto his maglia rosa tomorrow evening in Pontedera.
So what does the maglia rosa do on his last rest day before the finish in Milano, an entire eleven days from now?
"I woke up at nine o'clock, went two hours on the bike, where I went to Pisa to do one lap of the time trial and I came back. Nothing special. Soon, massage and eat," he says with all the reserved calm we've come to expect.
On a bustling beachside Wednesday afternoon, CSC leader Ivan Basso chose to hold a short press conference at the team's hotel in Lido di Camaiore, a half-hour's drive away from where the race of truth will start and finish tomorrow in Pontedera. And despite his tranquillo nature, the 28 year-old admitted that wearing the weight of expectation that goes with the maglia rosa has been far from the slight breeze that one currently felt, gently whipping across the Méditerranéen.
"No, I think it's all learning - it's not easy to ride with the leader's jersey. But it's good for my improvement to ride with the leader's jersey for as many days as possible, and I feel day by day more comfortable [wearing it]. But honestly, I feel more comfortable because I have eight teammates always around me, and who are all really strong; whenever I turn my head, I see two on the right, two in the front, three in the back... and I'm easy, because I'm always around my teammates, and you feel... safe."
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Liberty recons the TT
On the Giro's second rest day, Liberty Seguros took the opportunity to reconnoitre the course of Thursday's 50 km time trial in Pontedra. The team trained for a total of three hours while checking out the course.
Team director Marino Lejarreta commented that it wasn't the easiest of days. "In this zone of Italy there is too much traffic," he said."And we could not see the parcours calmly, but it was sufficient."
Liberty's Giampaolo Caruso (9th on GC), is not a time trial specialist, but is looking forward to the mountain stages coming up. "I am calm," he said. "My aim is to go out and do it well and, especially, I have to think that in the last week, anything can happen. It's so hard that it almost doesn't matter about the time that you have lost before."
Caruso was also happy because he was visited by his brother, as well as former Juventus player Fabrizio Ravanelli, who wanted to wish him the best.
Horrach aiming at final week
Caisse d'Epargne's Joan Horrach spent the rest day training and recovering from his efforts in stage 10, where he made the breakaway and finished 10th. He currently sits 37th overall, 10'27 behind the leader.
Was the first part of the Giro an easy one as everybody expected it to be? "I am sure many people will say the Giro will really begin after the second rest day, but I don't agree with that as we already had to go through some very hard stages," he said. "Moreover the way the race has been planned is a little bit strange too. After an easy start in Belgium with flat stages - except the third one that ended with a short climb - the first rest day came immediately. Not even one rider needed a rest day at that time! After that came the team time trial and two first stages in the mountains. The next ones didn't seem to be so hard when you looked at the programme but because of the heat, many riders really suffered there. So I can tell you the first part of the race was not easy at all!"
Does the second part of the Giro frighten you? "I am not afraid, no, but the Giro will be harder than the previous ones, that's a fact. I participated last year and when I compare both the editions, it seems that this year all the difficulties are at least two times harder than they were last year. We shall have to take it easy during the first mountain stages, otherwise too many riders will not arrive within the time limits or will even give up the race.
"Personally I prefer the mountain stages rather than the flat ones because on the flat you most of all need strength and you also have to be attentive all the time while being in the middle of the bunch. In the mountain stages, once you know how you feel, you immediately know where your place is and you can just stay there. If you are in great shape you will be in front, of course! Otherwise you can quietly remain in the middle of the bunch or...a little bit behind! Moreover, you are not under pressure the same way in the mountains than you are in the flat stages, where it is sometimes so difficult to avoid the crashes. But on the other hand, even if I liked the mountain stages, what the organizers propose in the current edition is really exaggerated and I think that considering the fact that many riders are not climbers at all, not many of us will arrive in Milan.
How is your condition at this stage. "I feel very good. Also, I always feel better during the third week than in the first two. I hope to keep the same shape for a few more days to be 100 percent in the final week."
Together with Mikel Pradera you are one of the most experienced riders of the team. What is your role with the younger riders? "It is true than I am almost the oldest, but this is only my second participation in the Giro. I don't have a special role to play with the young riders, but I always do my best to encourage them before a difficult stage, so that all of them can finish the race and celebrate in Milan. Of course, if we win a stage before reaching Milan, it will be perfect. I don't think I am the right person to advise the other ones but there is something I explained to them: the fact that the Giro is a very long race, that it lasts 21 days and that the final part will be a very hard one. As a consequence when you have no longer an interest to do well in the overall ranking, you'd batter take it easy during some more difficult stages if you want to reach Milan."
How do you consider their future? "I think that Erviti and Carrasco has a great future. But we have to give them time."
Is the team time trial no more than a bad souvenir or are you still thinking about that? "Personally I don't think we got such a bad result! I know some other riders of the team and the team manager himself don't agree with that, but I think our result was not bad at all. We finished only thirteen seconds behind the fifth team! It is not so much time! Especially if you consider the fact that we started rather slowly in order that all the riders could stay on the wheels. What happened is that we were almost sure to realize something big, and as we failed the disappointment was out of proportion. But that already belongs to the past. We have to look at what is expected of us in the remaining stages!"
Yesterday the stage win was very close. "Yes, and it is really a pity because the team was so strong, but that's the way races are. Of course, we will keep on attacking in the following stages. Iván Gutiérrez is the only one who is still between the first twenty in the overall ranking, but all the others will have to go with all the breaks and try and try again. But it will not be easy because the number of remaining stages is not so many, and we are not the only ones who desire to win one of them."
Michaelsen crashes in Spain
Team CSC's luck changed in the Volta a Catalunya on Wednesday, when Fabian Cancellara lost the leader's jersey by one second and Lars Michaelsen was involved in a crash.
"Lars crashed 25 kilometres before finish and was in pretty bad shape, but he's just returned from the doctor's and luckily there are no broken bones," said Kim Andersen to team-csc.com. "We'll have to wait and see if he's able to get back out there tomorrow.
"Things didn't go well today. We started out fine and managed to reel in the four man break with help from the other teams and by using only two of our guys, but it just wasn't enough to hang on to the jersey.
"These two days in the leader's jersey were pure bonus prior to the race kicking off for real with the steep climbs on Thursday. Now we'll have to work hard to help Andrea Peron, Christian Vande Velde and Andy Schleck in the overall standings, because it's a whole new race from tomorrow."
Gerolsteiner joys and woes and rumours
Gerolsteiner had yet another "good news, bad news" sort of day on Wednesday. The good news was René Haselbacher's second place finish in the Volta a Catalunya. "Too bad, it was really close," said the Austrian, and directeur sportif Reimund Dietzen said, "If it had been another few meters, then René would have passed Hushovd." The bad news was Markus Fothen's crash about 10 km before the finish, just as the breakaway group was overtaken by the peloton. Fothen made it to the finish not quite two minutes behind the speedy sprinters.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, rumours spread that Gerolsteiner was looking to sign T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden. "If Ullrich rides again next year and Klöden wants to be captain, then we would have to have a serious discussion," Team manager Hans-Micheal Holczer was quoted as saying in Sport Bild. "He's not getting any younger, so it's normal that he would look around. And to say that I wouldn't have any interest, would be a lie."
Team Spokesman Mathias Weiland denied that a signature was imminent. "Whenever the contract of a German rider expires, our name is automatically mentioned," he said. Holczer was asked in an interview with Sport Bild about Klöden "and he answered truthfully - and absolutely theoretically. There's nothing to it."
Rochelle Gilmore guest for Advil-ChapStick
The Advil-ChapStick Women's Cycling Team has announced that it will be joined by Australian sprinter Rochelle Gilmore for the PCT Liberty Classic in Philadelphia on June 11, and for the Nature Valley Grand Prix from June 14-18. Gilmore, who is coming off a recent win of the Trofeo Guareschi in Parma, Italy, is a three-time World Cup race winner, as well as two stages of the Giro d'Italia Femminile and a two-time silver medalist at the World Track Cycling Championships.
"Everyone involved with the Advil-ChapStick Cycling Team, from the riders to the sponsors, is really excited to have Rochelle riding with us," said Advil-Chapstick team manager Bill Labance.
Rochelle will be joining Advil-ChapStick riders Heather Labance, Emma Nelson, Elisa Gagnon, Mara Miller, Anna Drakulich, Reem Jishi and Anna Milkowski. Directing the team in Philadelphia will be Michael Engleman.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)