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Giro d'Italia Cycling News for May 14, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Di Luca happy in Maglia Rosa

By Shane Stokes in Barumini

Danilo Di Luca
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Danilo Di Luca was a far happier rider at the end of stage two of the Giro d'Italia than he had been 24 hours earlier. The goal on the opening day of the race was for the 31 year-old to lead the team across the finish line, something which would have earned him the Maglia Rosa of race leader as the Liquigas squad were fastest in the team time trial.

However young Liquigas teammate Enrico Gasparotto either got carried away with the emotion of it all or somehow couldn't find his brake levers, crossing the line first instead to earn both the pink jersey plus the angry shouts of the team leader.

Stage two saw the hierarchy restored, with Di Luca finishing 12th on the stage, some 31 places better than Gasparotto who had been caught behind a crash. That saw him take the Maglia Rosa, and so it was a smiling 'Killer' who faced the press in Bosa.

"I am happy to take the jersey," he said. "I was hoping to do so but didn't expect that we would win the team time trial. My aim was to take the jersey a bit later on, perhaps on the Montevergine [stage 4], for example."

"Now we will see how things go. There is a lot of time left in this Giro. It is three weeks long and anything can happen. I am 31 years old and have been a professional for nine years, and so I know you have to gauge your efforts over the 21 stages."

The Liquigas leader
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

That means playing things conservatively if necessary. "If I lose the jersey in the next few days, it is not a problem," he continued. "I am not going to spend a lot of energy defending it. As I said, the race is three weeks long and I am thinking more about the mountain stages [to come], such as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo... that stage should suit me well."

Di Luca had played down his chances somewhat when coming into the race, saying that riders such as Simoni and Cunego were more likely to fight it out for the final honours. Yet it's not difficult to see that he'd love to win the Giro d'Italia; it's possible, but there is a long way to Milan.

"If I am in the same condition as I am in now, I think that I can do something," he said, without specifying exactly what "something" meant. "You never know what can happen in three weeks but we will see."

The journalists at the press conference tried to get Di Luca to comment on the situation with Gasparotto, saying that what happened on day one was peculiar. Smiling, Di Luca played down the situation despite several attempts to get him to comment on it.

In fact, he seemed to be enjoying the media's attempts to get a juicy quote, fending off the questions good-naturedly. He said that Gasparotto had not been asked to allow Di Luca finish ahead of him on stage two, but that things had just worked out that way because his teammate had been held up behind a crash.

As regards the stage result itself, he said it was too soon to make a judgement on Alessandro Petacchi's form. The Italian sprinter was beaten by Robbie McEwen into Bosa, but Di Luca feels that the parcours made it difficult to assess.

"We can't judge Petacchi on today's stage as there were a lot of climbs and they got rid of many sprinters including Hushovd. Only tomorrow we will see how he really is."

If stage three does end in a bunch gallop, Di Luca should hold onto the Maglia Rosa. He will be well supported by Liquigas today and during the rest of the Giro, and expressed his satisfaction with the squad at his disposal.

"We have some strong climbers on the team and they were with me on the climb today. Pellizotti, Wegelius, Noè, Spezialetti, Miholjevic and Nibali. Pellizotti and Nibali were in crashes today but they just had scrapes, so I think everything is fine. Vanotti and Gasparotto are not climbers, more for the flat, but the rest are very good in the mountains."

Wegelius happy with team performance

By Shane Stokes in Barumini

Sunday was another good day for the Liquigas team. The Italian squad rode hard to limit the gains of a breakaway group and held onto the Maglia Rosa, which passed from Enrico Gasparotto to Danilo di Luca. Gasparotto was one of many riders who were held up in a crash in the finale but who were later given the same time, as per UCI rules. However in placing ahead of him on the stage, Di Luca moved to the top of the general classification.

Liquigas' Charly Wegelius gave his assessment afterwards. "It was the kind of day that is simple on paper but is actually not that easy," he said, in between bouts of sneezing caused by the allergies he suffers at this time of the year. "Vanotti and Miholjevic were very strong but unfortunately Pellizotti fell at the end and got a cut on his knee. I think it will be okay, but it was better not to fall off.

"The mood in the team is very good. I think it is what everybody needed to know. Going into the Giro with a team like this means there is a lot of people looking at everything we do. Winning the stage yesterday was good for everybody's confidence," said the Briton, who is riding his fifth Tour of Italy.

Di Luca finished fourth overall two years ago and said prior to this Giro that equalling that is his goal for the race. However, few doubt that in his own mind, he is hoping for more.

When asked if the Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner could take a place in the top three, Wegelius was optimistic but also cautious. "I think so, but it is a long race and anything can happen. You can see from today – it was 200 kilometres and one of our riders fell off. So we will just take it one stage at a time, one kilometre at a time, and see how it goes."

Pinotti aiming for stage victory

By Shane Stokes in Barumini

Pino with his team
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

A long, hot day in the saddle meant that T-Mobile rider Marco Pinotti crossed the finish line covered in sweat, but he said that he didn't feel under serious pressure during the ride to Bosa. "The stage was easy," stated the friendly Italian from Bergamo. "The last 20 kilometres were pretty nervous, though."

2005 Italian TT champ Pinotti finished third on the stage 11 time trial in last year's Giro and more recently was third on stage four of the Tour of Romandie. He's coming into decent form and wants to make the most of it.

"I have a lot of ambition here. As I stated earlier this year, I want to win a stage in this Giro. My condition is good and I hope that many good things come to me here!"

Andrea Tonti KO'ed, Mori continues

Andrea Tonti (Quickstep-Innergetic) ended his 2007 Giro d'Italia with a fractured nose. "In the first stage everyone wants to win because afterwards you will be good for the next twenty days," said World Champion Paolo Bettini to La Gazzetta dello Sport in regards to the Giro's first road stage.

In the rush to the line in Bosa his teammate Tonti hit the deck at 1300 metres to go, a crashed that also involved Manuele Mori (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and Tim Klinger (Gerolsteiner).

Tonti was talking to the hospital in Bosa and then transferred to Nuoro so that a CAT scan could be performed.

"I was on the roadside. The barriers slightly came into the road and I could not avoid them," summarized the 31 year-old Italian.

This morning he will travel back to his home in Osimo (Le Marche).

The crash also took out Saunier Duval's Manuele Mori. Although it looked quite dramatic, Mori received only minor injuries to his face and hand, and was able to finish the stage, according to his team. He is expected to be at the start again today.

Roche settling into Giro

By Shane Stokes in Barumini

Nicolas Roche
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

Young Irish rider Nicolas Roche has said he is relatively content after two stages of the Giro d'Italia. The 22 year-old made his Grand Tour debut in Saturday's opening team time trial, where his Crédit Agricole squad was a good eighth out of 22 teams. The riders finished one minute and 13 seconds behind the victors Liquigas.

Roche placed 113th on yesterday's second stage in Sardinia, a tough 205-kilometre road race to Bosa. He said that he was feeling strong but lost some time on the final climb before the finish, crossing the line in a group one minute and 37 seconds behind the stage winner Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto).

"I am pleased with things so far," he said on Sunday evening. "It is great riding with the top teams and riders in a race like this. The team was good in the time trial yesterday [they were eighth] and I was feeling pretty strong there as well. I was happy with that.

"I was feeling pretty good today too, until that last climb! I pushed it too hard on the descent before the final hill, riding too hard, and then cramped on the climb as a result. But that happens. The heat may have got to me a bit, too.

"I am happy enough with things. Losing a minute today isn't the end of the Giro. There is still a long way and hopefully I will be able to pace myself well on the steadier climbs. That will be more interesting to see."

Roche has said that if he feels good, he will ride aggressively on selected stages in the race. His main goal is to finish the three week Tour, knowing that it will help his development in the pro ranks, but going clear on the attack on one or more days is also a target.

Van Bon enjoys Italian life

Leon van Bon enjoys riding in Italy. There is usually a quiet start-up phase at the beginning of a stage, giving the riders a chance to, among other things, enjoy the scenery.

"Sardinia is quite a beautiful island by the way. More beautiful than I had expected it to be," he wrote on rabobank.nl. "I can see that from the bus but in the last part of the course I did not have time to even think about that. I had time in the first hours of the course, though."

The Giro d'Italia's second stage started out with an example of typical Italian organization, he said. "We had been shot away at the start when it was found out that there were some 30 cyclists still in the sponsor tent. As a group we then decided to wait for them for a minute.

"I think something like that can only happen in Italy. Everything usually works out in the end and there is also lots of hilarity at such a moment. But still."

It has its negative side, too though. "Now we will have to take a 160 kilometre bus ride which will probably take us about three hours. And that on an island like Sardinia."

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