Sunday, December 5, 2021
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Saunier Duval Team Launch – Day 2

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¡Hola! When Matxin, the DS at Saunier Duval says; “six hours today“, that’s what he means. In fact it was six-and-a-quarter hours after we left the hotel when we returned to Granada.

Saunier Duval
Team Managers Sabino Angoitia (L) and Joxean Fernandez Matxin, Ed’s pals for the day.

The day showed what’s involved in being a pro and also what it means to be a top pro.

The first part of the ride was steady-enough and the early climbs wide and fast, but when the climbing ‘got serious’, that’s when it became apparent that even at this level, there are yawning gaps in ability.

Saunier Duval
The riders stop to fuel up and put more clothes on. It’s very cold!

Viktor might not like him, and whilst Leonardo Piepoli is a tiny guy and may have trouble staying with ‘kermesse King’ Guy Smet on a flat road, stick him in terrain like this and he’s special. He makes it look easy, and even when the road flattens-out, he’s there hammering away at the front.

In fact, at one stage today, Matxin had to tell him to come off the head of the group and let others do some work.

Saunier Duval
Piepoli on a rare moment not on the front of the group.

Riccò looked impressive early-on, but by the end of the ride was happy not to be at the front.

The squad has lost Millar and Simoni and I’ve not sussed-out the party-line on old Iban yet, but it’s obvious that Piepoli has at least one more season at the highest level before he retires or goes down to a continental team. If Riccò’s upward trajectory continues, then he’ll be a big star – there’s work to do before the Primavera though, Riccardo.

Saunier Duval
Lots of climbs on today’s route.

The other thing I was reminded of today, was that team car drivers follow a different set of rules to the rest of us, even when the police are around, Matxin drives it ‘his way!’

Saunier Duval
Basque rider Iker Camaño Ortuzar followed Iban Mayo from Euskaltel to Saunier Duval.

He’s a good guy, but broaches no nonsense, when he was displeased with the way that Riccò and Piepoli split things on a descent, there was no holding-back at the bum kicking, despite the fact that these are two of the sport’s biggest stars. It’s not often Piepoli is quietened, but he was today.

The weather here is very changeable, misty in the morning, lovely at the first ‘pit stop’, but freezing at the second stop of the day.

Once you are clear of the city, the roads are quiet and up in the hills there’s virtually no traffic, great training country.

Saunier Duval
Loading up on gels and drinks.

I managed five minutes with the guy from SRAM this morning, he and his team were leaving today so I just grabbed my moment, again that should be up on Pez soon and we have a feature on the new SRAM ‘Red’ groupset here, thanks to the kind offices of Alistair Hamilton. It does look the business though and I was really impressed with the ‘double tap’ shifting last year; this year it’s meant to be even better.

Another wee job I had today was to take pictures of former Tour de France yellow jersey, Rubens Bertogliati – he has a fan in Switzerland and she is always sending us emails at Pez for “photos of Ruben’, I got her some today, so at least someone will be happy.

Saunier Duval
A lovely picture of Rubens Bertogliati.

Off down to the lobby to see if I can organise some interviews… as we say in Edinburgh: “later, dude!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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