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Stage 5 - May 18: Matera to Peschici, 232 km
Di Luca's revenge
By Gabriella Ekström, cyclingnews.com correspondent
The peloton is streched out since the speed is very high, but today those who are clinging on to the back for dear life are the lucky ones. Someone hooks up the rider beside him, and the daily crash is a fact. Many riders go down, and all but one get up. It is Yvon Ledanois, the little climber from La Francaise de Jeux who cannot get up, and it looks like he, most of all, would like to pass out. No helmet! Not surprisingly, Savoldelli was involved in this crash too, and he throws his bike away in anger, which means his team will have to chase the peloton even longer today, after 'Falco' has found himself a new ride.
Fassa Bortolo is the chasing team, since Matteo Tossato, after finishing second at the intergiro sprint is the virtual leader. If the break is caught that is. The gap is 45 seconds.
Pantani and his old team mate Roberto Conti, now riding with Vini Caldirola are in the middle of a fierce dispute, and they look typically Italian, both of them. Lets call it even, although I think Conti could had won it. Chann McRae leads the break through the thin forest, they are just about to start the descent. Paolo Valoti is gone, but the others hang in. The road leading them down from the mountain is long, but not very technical. They reach flat ground just ahead of the peloton, but the situation is nervous and the pace high. The break is caught with 20 kilometers to go.
Lampre are driving the peloton together with Vini Caldirola and Fassa Bortolo. I gotta get myself one of those hats that Tosatto wore at the podium yesterday. An attack comes from a tiny Aguardiente rider, it is Chepe Gonzales. With him comes Eddy Mazzoleni from Polti, Axel Merckx from Mapei. He likes this, it is obvious. Also Wladimir Belli from Fassa Bortolo, without hat though, and Massimo Codol from Lampre bridges across. Back in the peloton Christian Moreni realizes that he might have just missed the train, so also he jumps away. He wants to keep the maglia rosa for another day, but then he must do all the work in this little group. He is aware of that. Moreni goes to the front immediately, and he sure looks good on a bike. He is standing up, climbing with brisky strokes. No-one has any intention of helping him.
Riders keep bridging up from behind. Paolo Lanfranchi from Mapei, together with Filippo Casagrande from Vini Caldirola. Moreni is riding like a mad man, and Fassa Bortolo has slowed the pace down in the peloton. They have choosed to go for Belli instead of Tosatto. It could be wise, since Belli is a GC contender while Tosatto could only get a day or two in the sun. Still, it's a pity for Tosatto, he deserves it. Mirko Gualdi from Mobilvetta, Jose Enrique Gutierrez and Oscar Sevilla from Kelme, Oscar Pozzi from Amica Chips, and Ivan Ramino Parra Pinto from Vitalicio Seguros join the leading riders. From here on the road goes up, up, up!
Saeco and Vini Caldirola are the chasing teams. Chepe Gonzales attacks from the left side of the group, and gets a gap but look at what he is doing! He cuts into a sharp turn, his backwheel loses its grip, and he hits the ground and slides to the other side of the road. The others pass him without mercy. A new attack, this time from Massimo Codol with just one kilometer to go. Oscar Sevilla follows him, and so does Axel Merckx, he might not look like a climber but he sure is climbing! The peloton is just six seconds in arrears. If someone had been helping Moreni they could have stayed clear, but now the peloton is right behind them.
Danilo Di Luca attacks from the peloton. He wants to reach them before everyone else does. The little handsome rider from Mobilvetta has been trying for days. He tries to move up to the top, but Belli effectively closes the way in a sharp turn. Di Luca stays on third wheel, behind Lanfranchi and Belli. Belli starts the sprint with 500 meters to go, the road is very technical with lots of turns. Di Luca is thinking of passing Belli on his left side but changes his mind and chooses to sprint along the right barrier instead. Belli totally forgets about Di Luca, instead he is just watching Paolo Lanfranchi who is going nowhere. Suddenly Di Luca is alongside Belli, what a surprise for him. He tries to answer Di Luca's furious sprint, and he almost does it. They are equally strong, it's just that Di Luca is a little, little bit better.
What a victory and what a revenge on Chepe Gonzales for Di Luca. Remember the stage to Monte Serino in last year's Giro where Chepe stayed on Di Luca's wheel for kilometer after kilometer? Then he had a nerve to steal the stage away from the rider whose wheel he had been following for the last thirty kilometers.
Does Tosatto have any final words to say about Belli's failure? After all, they sacrificed him, for the sake of Belli. In fact, Tosatto couldnt care less, 'cause he is the new owner of the maglia rosa.