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The Italians love a good 'Giovani' - Under 23 rider. Today's Edinburgh edition of the Gazzetta deals with Battaglin's fine Stage Four win. The Italian journo's are already thinking about when he's going to buy a Lambo/date a model/move to Monaco and they can say; 'he's not serious!'
There are aspects of the sprinting phenomenon which is ‘Cav’ that don’t rest easy with me. The baby and Paul Smith on the podium, mouthing off about his team, the swearing... But when I see him sprint, I could forgive him just about anything. He has the coolness under fire, the spacial awareness, the grinta and the raw speed – but most of all he wants to win so badly.
There’s a great Spanish movie from 2001 starring Max von Sydow called ‘Intacto.’ The premise of the film is that for some people luck isn’t a matter of sheer chance; it’s a commodity which they possess and which they can trade – or steal. Argos fast man John Degenkolb may be one of them. Granted it wasn’t luck that he was actually in the group of 95 which contested the finish – which is more than can be said for Cav, Gavazzi, Goss and Modolo.
Just when I was about to write that there are few fairy tales in Grand Tours, as ‘re-born’ late escapee and former Baby Giro and Giro winner, Danilo Di Luca succumbed to a group of men desperate to put an end to their pain in the closing metres of the tough 246 kilometres from Policastro to Serra San Bruno, Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia, up popped 23 year-old Enrico Battaglin.
I was the one who said that the Giro d’Italia doesn’t have a great field – but the fact is, ‘so what?’ It’s only stage three but already the ‘Bigs’ are at it, knocking lumps out of each other. I was thinking of an ABC of ‘key words’ for each of today’s protagonists – for big Ryder Hesjedal it was ‘aggressive’ but maybe it should be ‘anxious?’
Sky’s Salvatore Pucccio pulled on the pink jersey at the end of the second stage TTT as specialists Garmin never got to grips with the tricky parcours and Sir Brad got his Giro campaign off to a great start. Pucci is 23 and doesn’t have much of a pro palmares – but he’s a worker for Sky, not a winner.
Goss had a perfect lead out on Stage 1 of the Giro d'Italia; Viviani can beat his ‘bars all he wants - but Cav is King. The QuickStep boys did their job early but it all went mass critical on that last lap. Steegmans was with Cavendish coming into the final, then seemed to have a mechanical - it was all down to Mark.
Italian professional Marco Pinotti's new book, "The Cycling Professor" isn't so much a classic biography as a collection of anecdotes and experiences.
Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal came out of the Giro in shape of his life, with his morale sky high after his historic win. He rested well after Italy, resumed training and was in great shape for the Tour de France. He rode strongly in the prologue and managed to keep out of trouble – until stage six.
Who were the men of the Giro? There was Ryder, certainly – and Rodriguez; but there was also Guardini’s confirmation; Ferrari’s transformation from from villain to hero; Cav and Taylor Phinney’s displays of grinta; Marco Pinotti’s class in winning the last time trial and Basso’s heroic but ultimately doomed bid for the podium. But perhaps the man of the race was Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt, who threatened to turn the Hesjedal/Rodriguez battle into a sideshow...
It was a Saturday night in the summer of 2009 and I was driving ‘up the Town’ to the movies. I pulled the car over, answered the mobile and had my first chat with the man. VeloVeritas's pundit in residence Viktor had spotted this New Zealand laddie who was burning up the Flanders kermis scene in the colours of Anglo/Belgian team, Kingsnorth Wheelers – Jack Bauer.
Giro d’Italia 2012. It’s over, a great race from start to finish. Even the ‘flat boring sprinter stages’ all had terrific finales – and the time trial was a cracker.
"What’s he playing at, riding like that in the valley? He’ll get eaten up on the climb" as the winner De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio climbs... so said our friend Vik. Even Sean Kelly didn’t think it was a good idea. Dave and I weren’t so sure – De Gendt is a hardy pup.
Joaquin Rodriguez sums it all up, neatly. It was an epic stage to Alpe di Pampeago... A courageous but ultimately doomed breakaway (just don’t tell Vik I said that, Sandy Casar is number three on his hate list behind Moncoutie and Dumoulin).
‘Sprinter stage’ - sometimes Vik’s assessments can be correct – ‘watching paint dry,’ let’s hope not. But you can’t have a stage like yesterday then expect fireworks the next day. Sky dug deep after leaving San Vito di Cadore to negate the early breakaway artists and Cav duly grabbed max points at the intermediated sprint to open the gap a little on Rodriguez; who had closed down to within one point of the Manxman with his win at Cortina d’Ampezzo, yesterday.
I wish I could get tomorrow’s Gazzetta, tomorrow – but it’ll be Saturday, at best. It was the first major shoot out, today, to Cortina d'Ampezzo. It’s over for Kreuziger and difficult for Tiralongo – a bad day for Astana. Uran continues to impress – perhaps he’ll get let off ‘train’ duties for Cav, tomorrow?
'Mission accomplished' with Ryder: Dave rattled us through dire weather up to the Garmin Hotel, just over 100 miles away. The Liquigas guys were on their turbos when we arrived - lean, cut looking men. Before the start, I wasn't sure Basso could win, but his policy of loss limiting has taken him to third on GC @ 1:22 on Rodriguez and 52 seconds behind Hesjedal.
It's the Scottish Road Championships today - damn this Giro and it's climbs around Busto Arsizio in beautiful Lombardy! But Martin was telling me that the sun was out in Balfron and the jackets were off, so Scotland certainly had the last laugh - the weather here in Italy was grim.
Today we're in Cervinia, looking back at yesterday's stage... we thought it was the end for Cav. The gruppetto was way down on the first of the two big climbs of the day - but Cav was even further back.
Cav, like him or loathe him, what a sprinter. His train is by no means HTC - the GreenEdge boys were much better organised, yesterday - but all that does is to underline his quality. Today, in the stage from Savona to Cervere, he was isolated and boxed - he was free-wheeling at one stage - the gap opened and he was through it in a blink.
We're in Seravezza. 'Sad news, Donna Summer has passed away' said the text from Martyn Frank. That news cast a shadow over a day of bright sunshine and hills. The start was down on the coast - it's not quite beach season, so it's not heaving yet.
A man who's been working hard in defence of Garmin's pink jerseys - first on the shoulders of Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas and then Canada's Ryder Hesjedal - is Danish fast man, Alex Rasmussen. Alex took time to chat to his six day runner before the roll out at Assisi on Wednesday en route Montecatini Terme.
Giorgio Moroder's 'The Chase' from Midnight Express pumps out across the Civitavecchia sea front. A huge fibre glass sculpture of a nurse succumbing to the charms of a sailor - 'Unconditional Surrender' it's titled - towers over us. The whole scene is surreal, topped off by Pippo ambling past in shorts and T-shirt. He broke his hand yesterday and is out - but he still looks cool.
It looked to us like Cav and Goss were out of it anyway. There were a lot of riders round that wild bend in Frosinone before we saw Matt on the deck and Pippo looking a tad sheepish as he stood in the road checking to see how that nice Cipollini had stood up to being dropped.
'Lago Laceno, May 13, 2012 – Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) won stage eight of the Giro d’Italia with a lone attack on the steep climb to Lake Laceno, near Naples. Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) retained the overall race lead. Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez is second at just nine seconds.'
I didn't manage to see stage seven to Rocca di Cambio - it fell on 'D minus one' for the VeloVeritas annual excursion to Italia. The loose ends were many and instead of having plenty of time to pack my bag and watch the Giro, I was 'running aboot daft' in the van. And Saturday evening rituals still had to be observed - a wee bite to eat and a movie. It's not as if you can say; 'I'm off to Italy the morn love, so we're no' going out tonight - I have a bag to pack and a Giro stage to skek !'
It was a tough one to Porto Porto Sant-Elpidio - Farrar, Feillu and Hushovd all go home. The dream is over for Navardauskas - he lost 15 minutes. But his Garmin team mates Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde move up to third and fifth on GC. Garmin will burn up the watts in search of more pink - they know it'll be harder to come by when the Gazzetta stage ranking is a 5* and not a 3*, as yesterday's was.
I have to be careful with this one. Cav: I think I might be turning in to a fan here in Modena! There! - I've said it. To take his first stage, he had to display coolness, decisiveness and pure speed...
A sore one for Phinney at the Verona TTT - he's conducted himself well, but once those cycling Gods single you out, they don't let go, easily. He struggled on the climb and then overcooked it on a left-hand bend, there'll be pics everywhere tomorrow of that grass sprouting from his rear mech.
Giro d'Italia 2012 - First Rest Day, but now there's a misnomer; 'rest day.' But 'day to facilitate huge transfer which we have to carry out after our money spinning exercise in Denmark' doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily. Let's go back to the reason the UCI introduced two rest days into Grant Tours, along with regulations to govern stage and total race lengths. There's a clue in the name, 'rest' - it was part of a raft of measures designed to lessen the stresses and strains on the riders. Read; 'stop them having to kit up.' But rest days have now become a vehicle for crazy transfers.
My club mate Davie Gardiner, in the Kirkcaldy and District CC, back in 1971 used to say that when he meant things were going swimmingly well; 'it was aw ice cream an' fairies !' Cav had one of those days, yesterday. Not so, today for the Giro d'Italia 2012 - Stage 3 into Horsens.
I bought most of the 'quality' Sundays, yesterday - to see what they had to say about the Giro d'Italia 2012. The Observer and Times ? nada. The Independent at least had the result. The Herald had a micro mug shot of Phinney and told us that he also won the opening stage of the Giro in 2010? However, the Times did have the 'Sports Rich List.' At number one in the UK is Becks with a fortune worth £160 million. On the world stage it's Tiger Woods, worth £538 mil.
Giro d'Italia 2012 - Stage 2 and Cav is King. If these were Medieval times I'd have to throw myself on his mercy. Prostrate myself at the foot of the steps to the Sky bus, next Monday in Frosinone. Trust that in the joy of his re-confirmation as king of Denmark he'd be merciful.
When Taylor Phinney crossed the finish line at the end of the Giro prologue, a big sigh went up here at VeloVeritas – ‘there goes our Giro prologue winner exclusive!’ Sky's Geraint Thomas had been top of the leader board until Phinney used those amazing genes of his to great effect and the Weshman had to make do with second place.
'My heart says Alex, but my head says Phinney,' my statement as I walked out the door of our rented cottage in search of a stable wi-fi connection. I would have loved Alex Rasmussen to win, but something told me that he wasn't 'sparkling' for the Giro d'Italia 2012 - Stage 1.
'Tutti per Vincenzo' said the Gazzetta, on Sunday. 'All for Vincenzo' - but that little blighter from Madrid put paid to that. We got the benefit from the mad breenge after Saturday's stage - the Messina start was just five minutes from the hotel and it gave us time to have a wee skek at the porto, before we headed to Etna.
Just one stage to go - I'll miss the race, the coffee, the weather, the Gazzetta - but not the time spent sitting in the car, before, during and after stages. Saturday was a monstro - Salerno was where we spent the night; we had a two hour drive to the start, then a 217 kilometre stage followed by a mad breenge to the Sicily ferry, on the very toe of the Italian boot. At least the ferry was very straightforward, no dramas; and we did get a chat with Paolo Bettini - a nice guy.
We're on the percorso early, today. Montevergine is the destination - the first real mountain top finish of the Giro. At the top it's 1,260 metres above sea level, it's 17.1 K long with a total altitude gain of 856 metres, average gradient 5% and maximum gradient 10%. It's always good to 'work the start' - get some pictures and quotes in the 90 minutes or so between the team buses arriving and the roll out but today we just don't have time.
Viktor wouldn't like it here, the cobbles are big flat things and the locals all dress trendily - not a pair of Belgian basket weave shoes or a tank top in sight. And the fans don't come straight up to you and ask you a string of questions, once they realise you're not a local. And wine? What the hell is that? But it has it's compensations - hill top towns, nice weather, pretty girls, pizza... and grappa.
We slept like logs last night - maybe it was the fact that we were emotionally drained or maybe it was the grappa we had for a nightcap? We stayed in Cecina, on the Ligurian Sea, roughly half way between the Stage 4 finish in Ligorno and the stage 5 start today in Piombino. The season hasn't started yet on the Ligurian, it kicks off in June; over on the east coast the Adriatic season has already begun and they'll be out there on their sun loungers as I write this.
It's Giro time again! Getting to Venaria Reale wasn't too bad - Edinburgh to Malpensa Airport in Milan on Easyjet; pick up the hire car and head west towards Torino. We decided that rather than brave Friday night rush hour traffic, we'd stay in Chivasso, around 20 K from Torino. A wise decision, Torino was overflowing with 'Alpini' - Italian mountain troops, past and present - for their annual 'beano.' The day after the TTT the Gazzetta reckoned that there were one million people on the streets of the city - we believe it.
Apologies for not updating the site for a little while folks - we've both been very busy with our day jobs. Ed has been clearing the decks before heading over to Italy to cover the Giro d'Italia shortly, and so to get us in the mood we thought you'd enjoy revisiting one of our diary articles from Stage 11 of last year's race, a 262km haul from Lucera to L'Aquila, when a break of over 50 riders threatened to overturn the race completely...
The Final Efforts. We’re on the downhill slope for this race now, and the fatigue is starting to show. It’s getting tougher and tougher to chisel our heads off the pillow each morning, and the coffees are having smaller and smaller effects.
Big Race: Small Race. Mid June has been and gone, and I find myself up in the northeast of Italy once again (Arona to be precise), this time at a couple of tiny one day races. We came through the same area for the finale of the Giro, where Ivan Basso turned the screws over the final few days to win the overall.
United Nations of Awesome. Boombah! Or, as we like to pretend that the Italians say, Opahhh! So the last post I put through (earlier today) was 16km from the finish, and included a series of “hopefullys” all of which came to pass, meaning we won today! A great result for the team, and a super performance by the team.
We're into double figures. We’re now deep into the Giro, Day 10 in fact, and the cracks are starting to show! Firstly, there was a horrific incident of five of the team’s staff getting on the wrong side of some VERY raw, yet delicious steak, which fortunately didn’t lead to a team-wide outbreak of GIT problems. Thank goodness for Universal Precautions! Secondly (and as ever, less importantly) the riders are now in the hurt basket pretty much permanently.
Yesterday was the Giro d'Italia Team Time Trial (TTT) a 33km shot through northern Italy where teams departed five minutes apart and raced the clock up the road. The order of starting was based on the overall standing of the best three riders from each team, with the slowest team going first, and the team of the race leader going last (regardless of how their team was faring).