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Giro d'Italia Cycling News for May 7, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, assisted by Susan Westemeyer

Stage 1 wrap-up: Savoldelli with a great start

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) has started his 2006 Giro campaign in the best possible way, winning the first stage in Seraing by a very healthy 11 seconds from Bradley McGee (Française des Jeux). The Italian two-time Giro winner averaged 47.49 km/h over the testing 6.2 km parcours, and was the only ride to go under eight minutes. In third place was José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak), who was 13 seconds down.

There were no real surprises among the other general classification riders, except for Ivan Basso, whose 13th place at 23 seconds was a little slower than expected. But Gonchar (5th at 16 seconds), Di Luca (10th at 19 seconds), Cunego (15th at 25 seconds) and Simoni (16th at 26 seconds) are still all within striking distance of each other.

Also see: Full results, report & photos, Live report, and Photos

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Giro Stage 1 post-race quotes

By Brecht Decaluwé in Seraing

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner, 4th)

Stefan Schumacher surprised many people with a solid fourth place. "Normally, I'm more of an all-round rider, a classics rider; but today it looked that I can do a good time trial as well," the young German rider told Cyclingnews. "The wind played an important role today, especially with that headwind on the climb making it all very hard." The descent of the time trial looked very 'special', and Schumacher confirmed that fact, saying, "It was very dangerous with those bumps right before the corners."

Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone, 20th)

Belgian Rik Verbrugghe
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
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Rik Verbrugghe had promised before the stage that he'd try and win the time trial, just like he did in 2001. As he crossed the line he was fourth, but ended up in 20th position. Living close to Seraing, Verbrugghe hoping for a big day, but didn't look happy at the finish. "I'm disappointed with my performance; I gave everything I had, but the climb was 200 metres too long for me," he said. "So on top of that climb, I couldn't accelerate anymore."

The Belgian explained the reasons for his perceived poor performance thus; "The home crowd was fantastic for me but it made me feel very nervous - when I was getting ready on the starting podium, it was a crazy atmosphere with all those people supporting me. Maybe that's why I started off too quickly and blew."

Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile Team, 28th)

Olaf Pollack had some top ten placings in the Giro time trial in the past, today he was under performing with a 28th place: "My legs didn't feel great at all but near the end I started to feel better; still, there are a lot of other riders coming in, so I'm not counting on a great result."

Bert Roesems (Davitamon-Lotto, 35th)

Belgian Bert Roesems is known to be a good time trialist, but finished a disappointing 35th today. "I'm not disappointed with my performance because for me, the climb was too long and the other parts were too short; so I'm losing time on the climb and I can't make up that time on the flat sections. The time trial later in this Giro suits me more, so I'm expecting a better result within ten days," he said.

Axel Merckx (Phonak Hearing Systems, 63rd)

Axel Merckx certainly isn't a a chrono specialist, but in front of a home crowd he dug deep; at the finish line, the Belgian rider didn't have much left in the tank. "It was quite hard; especially that last step of the climb was killing me," he said "When I arrived at the top of the climb, the lactic acid in my legs had really built up," he explained.

A new gig for Museeuw?

By Brecht Decaluwé in Seraing

Belgian legend Johan Museeuw
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
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"The job I have on the Quick.Step team is like a dream to me; I can do whatever I want. Because the Giro is here in Belgium, I got an invitation to visit the race. Later on, I was asked to ride with some important people, but I can't say who they are, sorry," the former world champion said. Cyclingnews asked Museeuw about the offer he received to lead a new team, to which he replied, "I'm always willing to listen when people are offering me something; but I can say that this thing will not be decided upon in a short time."

Time trial tidbits

By Les Clarke in Seraing

Cyclingnews spoke to Phonak's other American, Jon McCarty, at the start in Seraing, who was pleased to be at his first Grand Tour. "It's my first grand tour and I'm just happy to be here," he said. "I think in a few days we'll be able to go for stage win."

With names such as Axel Merckx and Victor Hugo Pena in the Phonak lineup, McCarty added that "we've got a good experienced team here and the teamwork is good." The American competed on home turf at the Tour of California in February, where compatriot Floyd Landis won the overall title, and he believes that the foundations laid during that race will serve the team well in terms of team work at the Giro.

Mathew Hayman
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
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Australian Mathew Hayman is currently recovering from a stack in last Monday's Rund um den Henninger Turm, didn't seem to be suffering any effects before today's prologue. However, he was still being cautious: "I'm a little worried about my knee, but hopefully in a couple of days I'll feel good and have a go," he said.

With the climbers set to dominate this year's Giro, Hayman knows the chances for a stage win are limited. "It's an increasing thing that a lot of the stages are controlled by the leading teams, so we have limited stages to have a go."

In terms of favourites for the three weeks, Hayman said "CSC and Discovery are pretty big favourites - Discovery have brought a different team and it looks pretty strong." But the 'Aussie diesel' also added: "I think you'll see a few surprises."

Like his countryman, Saunier Duval-Prodir's Aaron Olson is another American who is riding his first Grand Tour, and the rookie was genuinely excited to be starting the Giro on Saturday: "It's definitely great to be here," he said with enthusiasm to Cyclingnews. "It's a big organisation; being at the Giro is amazing - it's a dream come true!"

Riding on the team of pre-race favourite Gilberto Simoni puts Olson in the special position of riding for one the Giro's strongest riders, saying that "everyone is very motivated. We checked out the team time trial course the other day and it looks good. Gilberto's looking fit and we're sure he'll do well."

Ullrich cuts his hair

Der Jan
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Jan Ullrich has made the ultimate sacrifice in his preparations for the Giro d'Italia: he has cut the long locks that so thrilled his female fans this spring. The new 'do "is shorter and lighter, so I will sweat less in the mountains," he quipped. He might need every bit of help he can get. "It will be a real struggle, a battle all the way. The mountain stages are very hard, but I will get through them without digging deep into the red zone and riding myself into the ground."

In an interview on www.team-t-mobile.com, he noted that, "For me the Giro is about form-building and getting into shape for the tour. I am not here to target the GC. I don't want to lose sight of my goal to be in top form for 'Le Tour'."

In an interview with the dpa German press agency, he said, "I will try to win the Tour - I'm not saying that I will do it. There is no better preparation than riding the complete Giro. The difficult mountain stages at the end are just what I need after my late start in the season."

Former pro Marcel Wüst told sid that Ullrich has a difficult task ahead of him. "To go to the start with so few race kilometres is pretty dangerous. It's a high-wire act." Even T-Mobile's sports director and Ullrich mentor Rudy Pevenage says it will be "damned hard."

Caisse d'Epargne places two in top 10

Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

After the Giro d'Italia's first stage, the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears team found itself with two riders in the top 10 of the general classification: Francisco Pérez (6th) José Iván Gutiérrez (7th). Gutiérrez was one of the favourites before the race, but he described himself as not too disappointed with his final placing.

"I was feeling very good but I knew Savoldelli was very strong, most of all after he won the prologue in the Tour of Romandy. Maybe I could do a little better in the climb, but anyway Savoldelli did so well today that it was just impossible to beat him. Many riders could be on the podium today, but only one could go for the win."

Pérez's performance was a good result for the team, while Vladimir Efimkin crashed in the last corner and finished 1'15 behind the winner.

Giro diary watch: Vampires and ice cream

Ronny Scholz' day started with vampires and ended with ice cream he reports on www.ronnyscholz.de. "The day began early, as the vampires from the UCI came in the early morning to take our blood." After breakfast and a two-and half hour training ride, the Gerolsteiners "sat in a cafe and enjoyed the sun." Late that afternoon was the team presentation. "On the way back to the hotel, we all went together to eat an ice cream and the café owner turned out to be a big cycling fan, who invited us all for an espresso."

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann also enjoyed the "quiet before the storm," spending time with his girlfriend, son and mother. He has a special goal for the Giro: "It will be my ninth participation in a three-week tour, so it's about time I had a stage win. I just hope that my rivals and especially my legs think so too!" (grischa-niermann.de)

Olaf Pollack of T-Mobile wore the Giro leader's jersey for a day two years ago. He knows it will be more difficult this year. "The Giro is super difficult this year. It goes constantly up and down and there are two hard time trials." But he is looking forward to it, "especially because there are so many fans out on the road. I'm ready." (olafpollack.de)

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