First Edition Cycling News, May 20, 2009
Edited by Greg Johnson and Les Clarke
Di Luca's Pinerolo win a blow to overall hopefuls
By Gregor Brown in Pinerolo, Italy
Danilo Di Luca delivered a strong punch to his rivals' general classification hopes Tuesday in the Giro d'Italia's marathon stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo. The LPR Brakes rider took another 30 seconds over those who will threaten his lead in Thursday's time trial, on his way to the stage 10 victory.
"This morning I had only 13 seconds, but now the gaps are bigger," Di Luca said after the 262-kilometre Alpine stage. "Maybe now I can hold onto the jersey after the time trial."
The 10th day of the Giro d'Italia included the climbs of Moncenisio, Sestrière and Pramartino, but Di Luca made his move on the unclassified climb up to Pinerolo's cemetery.
Di Luca attacked on the decent of San Maurizio, 2.8 kilometres remaining in the 10th stage. He finished 10 seconds ahead of Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and claimed the additional 20 second time bonus. Di Luca took even more time on Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana), who finished in a group a further 19 seconds behind.
Di Luca now leads the race by 1:20 minutes from Menchov while Rogers is third at 1:33 minutes, Leipheimer fourth at 1:40 minutes, Sastre sixth at 1:54 minutes and Basso seventh at 2:03 minutes.
"It gives me a bit of satisfaction to have the gap ahead of the time trial," said Di Luca. "It will be a good fight on Thursday with Leipheimer, Rogers, Lövkvist and Menchov. Don't forget Lance Armstrong, he is on the rise and pulled for the majority of the [Sestrière] climb today."
Di Luca's rise is even more impressive given his status as a Classics rider only two years ago. Pundits were forced to re-think his capabilities following his win in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, when he wore the leader's maglia rosa for 13 days and won two stages.
"I am two years older with two more years of experience, and this allows me to better manage my race," he said. "Don't forget, this year works in my favour because there are not the high mountains in the last week, like the ones I faced in 2007: Zoncolan and Tre Cime di Lavaredo."
Di Luca's challenge will be the 60.6-kilometre time trial on Thursday. Working in his favour is the stage's twisty roads and two climbs. In the third week, there are three stages - Petrano, Blockhaus and Vesuvio - that will suit his climbing abilities and give him a chance to maintain or retake the overall lead by the final day in Rome, May 31.
Garzelli's solo attack, 50 years after Coppi
By Gregor Brown in Pinerolo, Italy
Acqua e Sapone's Stefano Garzelli made a solo attack in Tuesday's stage of the Giro d'Italia from Cuneo to Pinerolo, 50 years after Fausto Coppi's magical day that earned him the stage and locked in his third overall race win. The Italian failed to win the stage, but showed some of the same grit that won Coppi millions of fans.
"He did not even cross my mind today, that was another moment in time," said Garzelli. "I did not even think I was going to attack today, but I did."
Coppi rode 192 kilometres solo to achieve his stage win and take the race leader's maglia rosa. Garzelli was only looking for a stage win as he is already out of the general classification contenders.
Garzelli attacked before the top of Moncenisio, riding solo for 100 kilometres. The Italian was by himself over the race's highest climb, the Sestriere.
"There were times when I thought I would crack, but my legs responded well," he said. "I thought I would try."
His effort saw him top the 2035-metre-high Sestriere with four minutes on the chase of ISD's Andriy Grivko and Giovanni Visconti. The main group with race leader Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) was 6:25 back.
"I hit a big headwind on the descent and that is what killed me," said Garzelli.
Garzelli continued to fight after the favourites joined up with him. He first followed the move of Visconti and then Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). He finished the stage with some of the race favourites, 29 seconds behind winner Di Luca.
Garzelli has seven Giro stage wins to his name and the overall victory in 2000.
Basso's Giro hopes still alive
By Gregor Brown in Pinerolo, Italy
Liquigas-Doimo's Ivan Basso believes he can still win the Giro d'Italia despite losing more time to Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) on Tuesday's mountain stage to Pinerolo. The 2006 winner, who is 2:03 minutes behind his compatriot, wants to take the race lead in the final mountain stages.
"We have faith going into the last stages, where I will try to attack on the mountaintop arrivals," Basso told Cyclingnews.
Basso lost ground to a group with Di Luca, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) on the descent of Pramartino, 10.5 kilometres from the finish. He finished 29 seconds behind Di Luca in a group that included overall contenders Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad).
"It was very a very technical descent," said Basso. "It is difficult for me to stay with the front runners on that type of descent."
Basso did stay with the front-runners over the race's highest climb, Sestrière (2035m). Team-mate Sylvester Szmyd worked to thin out the competition in the group and prepare for the attack of Franco Pellizotti on the short Pramartino climb.
"We tried to make something happen on the last climb," he said. "It is too bad Franco did not win the stage, but Di Luca just showed he is better. It was a stage adapted to him and Di Luca, with a climb that is relatively short."
Basso showed he has the strength for the climbs in the final week of racing, providing he avoids major time losses in Thursday's 60.6-kilometre time trial in Liguria's Cinque Terre. He will have to limit losses to specialists Menchov, Leipheimer and Rogers, but his familiarity with the technical nature of the stage should help him eat into Di Luca's lead.
"It is clear that the Giro is becoming a race where Danilo has to defend himself and we have to attack," he said.
Basso hopes to attack and gain most of his time advantages in the final week, when the race travels into southern Italy. His best chances to gain time are on the stages to Monte Petrano, Blockhaus and Vesuvio.
Sastre sitting pretty after Sestrière
Spain's Carlos Sastre kept himself in the general classification mix with a strong performance in the Giro's 10th stage to Pinerolo. The Cervélo TestTeam rider finished in the first chase group, 10 seconds behind stage winner and overall leader Danilo Di Luca.
"This stage of the Giro was really hard and fast," he said. "There wasn't a minute of rest throughout the day and we did the first hundred kilometres at an average of over 50km/h."
Cervélo directeur sportif Jean-Paul Van Poppel echoed Sastre's sentiments. "Today was the longest stage of the Giro, the Queen stage. It was also very hot (about 28ºC) when we started," he said. "This stage had big climbs and very technical downhills; it was very active for everybody."
Van Poppel was pleased with the teamwork on display during the stage, and Sastre recognised the difference it made to his chances in the finale. "The team spent itself a little more in the battle to stay in the race," said Sastre. "Today all of my colleagues did a sensational job. Indeed, six Cervélo riders were ahead of me up Sestrière which allowed me to ride the last climb of the day strongly amongst the leaders."
"We knew that we needed to save some energy for the final climb and that's what we did," explained Van Poppel. "We had most of the guys up there and Carlos did a great job in the final part, gaining some time and also a position in the general classification."
Van Poppel said that Sastre's performance had allowed the team to look ahead - particularly to the time trial - with a little more confidence. "We have said from the beginning that Carlos would get better every day and he proved that again today," he said. "Stage 11 is a decent stage, and I don't expect to see any changes in the general classification tomorrow. After that, it's the day everyone is waiting for - the time trial. I think Carlos is ready for it; he feels confident about what he can do."
Sastre concurred with Van Poppel's assessment of the situation. "I felt better today," he said. "Frankly, everything was fine during the rest day yesterday. Today was a day that I had to risk a bit more than usual because we had a very fast and technical downhill before the finale," he explained. "I took the wheel of Di Luca, who I think is the strongest rider at the moment, and this has allowed me to be in the front group and take some very important time, especially [over] Ivan Basso, who I think is an important rider to beat in the Giro."
Valverde takes the lead in Catalunya
After a fortnight of controversy and a war of words, Alejandro Valverde finally has something to smile about after taking the overall lead in the Volta a Catalunya. Despite not contesting the sprint, the Caisse d'Epargne rider still found himself in the leader's jersey following the stage, which was won by Saxo Bank's Matti Breschel.
"Because I didn't take part in the sprint and consequently took no time bonuses I didn't think I was the new leader," said Valverde. "It was a nice surprise when they called me to the podium. Now we will try to defend that jersey. It will not be easy because the next two stages are very difficult but I'm feeling good and we will fight to try to get a good result."
A combination of the negative publicity surrounding a two-year sanction imposed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and recent ill health meant Valverde went into this latest round of the ProTour with lower expectations. His performances thus far have been encouraging, however.
"I knew that I was not feeling too bad but nevertheless I still had some doubts about my condition, most of all because the flu I had meant I couldn't train the way I wished," he explained.
"Today I immediately understood, on the first category 1 hill - the Alt de Els Angels - that I was even better than what I thought, and I felt excellent," added Valverde. "At the finish, I knew that Thor Hushovd had been dropped on the final climb and that he was not able to come back on the descent; but after crossing the line I wasn't sure if I was the new leader of the race. Today was very pleasing for me and a source of motivation for the future."
He's under no illusions as to the task ahead, knowing that some tough terrain awaits. Holding on to his lead won't be easy. "Considering how difficult the next two stages are, I believe that today the favourites wanted first of all to look at their adversaries to see how good they are," he said. "Tomorrow we can expect many attacks and it will not be easy to control the situation. Many riders are able to win the race and I hope I am one of them."
Click here for full coverage of Volta a Catalunya's stage two.
Vos claims l'Aude win as Cervelo takes control
Dutch rider Marianne Vos (DSB Bank) outpaced British Olympic Champion Nicole Cooke (Vision 1 Racing) in a two up sprint to claim the 25th Tour de l'Aude's stage four victory. The pair managed to put a small gap on Cervelo TestTeam riders Claudia Hausler and Regina Bruins over the final kilometres, as the general classification race starts to take shape.
"Regina and me went full power today because we were not interested in the stage win," said Hausler. "The situation was perfect for us to capture the yellow Jersey for the team."
The quartet managed to put over two minutes on the next group of riders, placing them at the top of the general classification standings. Bruins now leads the race from team-mate Hausler, with Vos trailing the leader by 20 seconds while Cooke is a further 59 seconds behind.
"The next days will be very hard in the mountains but our goal is clear, we want to keep the jersey for the team," said Hausler.
Cervelo TestTeam sports director Manel Lacambra was cautious about the team's prospects of winning the women's Tour de France.
"We are really happy about today," said Lacambra. "But we know that it is not over yet. We are realistic, this is a long Tour and there are a lot of good riders and teams who will make it difficult for us. We have four girls who can win this race and we shall see in the coming days how it will all work out."
Click here for full coverage of Tour de l'Aude's fourth stage.
What's hot on the forum
With the first week of the Giro d'Italia run and won (mostly by Team Columbia-Highroad) the forum has been buzzing with chatter following on from the events in Italy.
In recent days, Pedro Horillo's horrific crash - in which he suffered a long list of injuries - has been one of the main talking points for Cyclingnews readers.
There's also plenty of talk about Andreas Klöden - the Astana rider was one of the big names in the Freiburg report into doping practices at the former T-Mobile squad released last week. The response from our readers has been huge.
Worst crashes you've had or seen first hand
Keeping with Bro deal's non doping threads.
1. Tore my patella tendon when by bike slipped on an oil slick.
I was 15 and it was the second day of summer vacation. Nice weather for a little training and using the time to think of all the great things I would do that summer. Until some p**** decides to throw his car door open just as I was passing.
I landed some eight meters further. Minor concussion, eight stitches in the face, left collarbone broken in two places, left shoulder torn, three ribs broken and one bruised... and obviously a lot of skin missing.
I still have dreams of killing that guy. - ak-zaaf
Klöden named in Freiburg report
Is anybody surprised? No. The only surprise is that he got away with it for so long, given that most of his peer group has since been uncovered one way or another. Great publicity at a time when Lance and Johan are seeking new sponsors. - rolfrae
No surprises here. Who were the first 2 riders to jump ship when Bob Stapelton decided to introduce stricter anti doping controls at T-Mobile? That’s right, Kloedi and Kessler.
Where did they go, that’s right Astana, team of Vinokourov, Kaschekin... ‘nuff said. - pmcg76
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