We belled Viktor from Verbania last night…

We were feeling quite mellow; words and pics sent, a nice plate of pasta, a glass of beer and a stroll by Maggiore in the warm air.

The only reason I watch the race is because there’s nothing else on TV, those photos you take are holiday snaps, Sella looks like a schoolboy, ‘certain of the GB rider’s’ aren’t proper pros, the scenery is terrible…

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Climber Domenico Pozzovivo looks like a schoolboy – or is that Graeme McGarrity!? Some amazing performances from his team……..

You have to hand it to him – he is the Eddy Merckx of ranters.

The view from our verandah is stunning – again! – out across Maggiore to the mountains, albeit the rain and low cloud is obscuring the vista this morning.

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Lago Maggiore from Verbania.

We’ve availed ourselves of the Verbania to Lavena ferry, straight across Maggiore.

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Thank goodness for the ferry.

This saves us the drive round the bottom of the lake; the traffic down there is horrific. I experienced it at Lombardy last year and it really has to be experienced to be believed – two hours to do 30 miles is normal.

The Gazzetta has a tiny 40 mm x 40 mm panel on the front cover recording Greipel’s win – not that the Italians have anything against a German winning a Giro stage…

Part one of the plan for today is to complete our photography for our ‘bikes of the Giro” piece.

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The everyday bikes are fantastic, and often the only way to make them “special” is with the finishing kit.

There was a day when “specials” would be wheeled out for selected stages in the Grand Tours. Riders like Switzerland’s Beat Breu (now a comedian!) would ride bikes in the 80’s with no handlebar tape and fragile resin gear levers to save on those precious grammes for the big climbs.

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Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 rear mech with Wolfgang Berner adaptation, the top 13t and bottom 15t pulleys minimise losses in efficiency.

More recently, ONCE supremo Manolo Saiz would have riders like Alex Zulle and Laurent Jalabert on superlight aluminium Kleins running 650 wheels for mountain time trials.

The UCI weight restrictions have changed everything, virtually every bike in the peloton is nudging down towards the minimum permissable weight.

Bearing this in mind, the bikes ridden for even the most mountainous stages are the same bikes ridden in all stages except time trials.

The one area where there may be “specials” is for the sprinters; riders like Cipollini and Boonen who generate huge wattages and have to have specially strengthened frames. The down tube on Tom’s Specialized is like a section of the Alaskan gas pipeline.

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Bruss’ Wilier.

We started at Lampre and got Bruz’s bike; a carbon Wilier with integrated seat post and curved seat stays. An ISP is lighter and stiffer than a normal seat post, but some maintain it gives a very rough ride. Maybe the curved seat stays are there to ‘dial out’ that roughness?

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Bert’s Trek.

Astana next, where we had to ask politely to get snaps of Bert’s Trek; last year at the Tour, Alan Buttler handed us Contador’s bike; “Here. Do what you like with it!”

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Bert’s headset. Actually, we reckon that is pretty special.

At Liquigas we had already arranged a skek at the Cannondales via Rory Mason, who we met at Paris-Roubaix last year and he keeps us well informed of what is happening within the company.

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Benna’s Cannondale.
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Cav’s Giant.

Up at High Road, the guys were very helpful as we snapped away at Cav’s double stage winning 2009 prototype Giant – all 6.85 kilos of it.

We ambled up to the village after that to see what we could see, again it’s on Pez; but to get close to two of your heroes in one day: Bruz and Cipo – that’s a result!

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Dave keeps on meeting the class acts. Cipo is actually shouting at Ed: “It’s raining – hurry up man!”.

With the rain, it wasn’t the best day to talk to riders, they were hiding in the team cars or in the start village.

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Brad gives Ed the ‘evil eye’ whilst Dave and Cav chill.

Brad, Dave Millar and Cav were hanging out together in one of the hospitality cabins at the start village, a pretty hostess standing guard, to keep pains in the neck like me at bay.

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Vladimir Karpets. Cool personified.

Two of the coolest looking dudes on the circuit (next to Benna and Bruz, naturally!) are big Russian, Vladimir Karpets, and German sprinter (albeit with some ‘previous’) Danilo Hondo – his Guerciotti is cool too.

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Danilo Hondo almost smiles.

We saw the race go by, had a jaw with Luca Scinto, and then hit the press room where we sorted out A LOT of pictures for a couple of forthcoming features.

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Luca Scinto – Cipo’s mate and fearless ex-leadout man.
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Steve Cummings cruised through today, behind the Astana led bunch.
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Bruss gives us a moment, and chats about his chances of finishing on the podium on Sunday.

The Citu Hotel in Varese is where we are now, best get to sleep before Dave’s snoring starts!

Back in the montagna tomorrow, ciao!

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Stop-Press… Spanish-based VeloVeritas correspondant Al Hamilton eludes the immigration authorities to meet up for pizza with thebicycleworks.co.uk’s John Anderson, Alex Coutts, Mickey Mallen and (this is a rare sight) a smiling Viktor!