Analysis
Vande Velde says that taking pink late is ideal to...

Giro Notebook, Stage 19: Vande Velde on TT; Savio livid with Rujano

Savio livid with Rujano, says Venezuelan's last chance has expired; Friday was reckoning for two GC hopefuls


ALPE DI PAMPEAGO, Italy (VN) – Garmin-Barracuda’s Christian Vande Velde said Friday that the only day that matters to have the pink jersey is the last one.

Ryder Hesjedal clawed within 17 seconds of the pink jersey in the Giro’s 19th stage, but that’s not such a bad thing, says Vande Velde.

“It’s much better not to have the jersey right now. It’s one less podium, one less press conference,” he told VeloNews. “All that really matters is having it on the last day.”

Vande Velde and Peter Stetina gave Hesjedal excellent support throughout the grueling, five-climb stage across the Italian Alps Friday. Garmin led out the top GC group onto the base of the final passage of the Pampeago and Hesjedal delivered with a number of late attacks that shed the Giro’s top contenders.

Vande Velde, who held the pink jersey in the 2008 Giro, said Hesjedal was smart to attack at the end of the stage. The more time Hesjedal has in his pocket going into Sunday’s TT finale, where he is favored over current leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), the better.

“If there’s time to be taken, you always take it. It’s not like the guy behind you has got his finger up his nose. He’s chasing you just as hard as he can,” said Vande Velde. “It’s never a slam dunk that you’re going to kill people in the time trial, unless you’re a Cancellara. Anything could happen in the final time trial. You saw what happened to Menchov when he crashed in the final day. If you can take time, you take it.”

Hesjedal will be looking to take more time up the Stelvio, and maybe even pick up the pink jersey, on Saturday.

Savio vows no third chance for Rujano

“Incomprehensible.”

That is how Gianni Savio, team manager of Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela, recounted the Friday abandon of José Rujano, shaking his head.

Much to Savio’s dismay, Rujano clicked out of his pedals before the day’s first climb and pulled the plug on the 2012 Giro d’Italia. For Savio, who offered the down-on-his-luck Venezuelan a lifeline last season, that’s the end of the line.

“Thankfully, his contract with us ends at the conclusion of the season,” Savio said. “I was the one who brought him to Europe and nursed him through the 2005 Giro, when he was third. After all of his problems, no one wanted to touch him. And then I gave him a second chance last season. After this, there will be no more chances. We are finished.”

Savio was at the end of his tether with Rujano, who came out of nowhere to almost win the 2005 Giro. Since then, he’s struggled with form, motivation, contracts and insistent managers.

After a solid season back with Savio in 2011, Rujano was pumping up his chances for this year’s Giro, talking up the podium and maybe even an overall victory.

Savio saw it like this: “He didn’t do a thing during this Giro. When he came to the start, he was singing to all the world that he was going to win stages, reach the podium, even win! My team doctor, who is a very serious man, told me that he saw no physical problems that would keep him from continuing. Rujano has a sore throat, but so do I! He said he didn’t feel good and simply quit.”

Savio pointed out that José Serpa is likely going to finish this Giro with a broken bone in his hand and that Emanuele Sella, who has been on antibiotics for a week, was in Friday’s main breakaway.

“We asked him, during the stage to Cortina, to demonstrate something for his pride. And what does he do? He finished more than 30 minutes back!” the exasperated Savio said. “We asked him again today to show his character. And what does he do? He quits.”

Savio says he’s done with Rujano. For the remainder of the season, he has a new star to hitch his horse to: Franco Pellizotti, who joined the Pro Continental team when his two-year doping ban ended just days before the Giro.

Tough day in saddle for Intxausti, Tiralongo, Guardini

Two riders hanging in the top 10 going into the final stages of the Giro faced a day of reckoning on Friday.

Beñat Intxausti, the promising Movistar rider who was sixth going into Friday’s 19th stage, sunk like a rock after finishing with the gruppetto in 157th, at 40:42 back. He fell to 33rd overall, at 43:14.

Paolo Tiralongo, the Astana rider who won a stage in the first week and was fourth overall after the first major climbing stages, also suffered. He lost 17:51, and coupled with his losses Wednesday, is now 22nd, at 21:32 back.

Among the biggest cheers came for Andrea Guardini (Farnesi Vini-Selle Italia), who finished dead last in 163rd, at 46:44 back. He made the time cut and remains in the race, but team cars and officials were all patiently waiting for him to cross the line before they could bust down the mountain road.

Guardini was last on the stage to Cortina, last in Friday’s stage, but first when it counted, when he beat back Mark Cavendish (Sky) in Thursday’s sprint. Guardini is down 4:53:38 — nearly an entire stage — on overall leader Rodríguez.

Race Notes

The jerseys
Stage winner: Roman Kreuziger (Astana) won his first career Giro stage to take the edge off the disappointment of losing time and a chance for the GC podium on Wednesday
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) defended pink, but barely, just 17 seconds ahead of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) made the time cut, but saw his points jersey come under serious threat from Rodríguez. The world champion leads the Spaniard by just 13 points, 138-125. Rodríguez can take the points jersey if he’s fourth or better in Saturday’s stage
Blue mountains: Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago) scooped up first-place points at four of the day’s five climbs, but Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini) remained in first place, leading 65-44 in the KOM competition
White young: Rigoberto Urán (Sky) widened his lead to teammate Sergio Henao to 2:26

Medical report
Luca Mazzanti (Farnese Vini) crashed on the descent off the Manghen, suffering multiple cuts and scrapes to his left side. Also crashing was Robert Hunter (Garmin), who sustained cuts and scrapes to his right side. Both riders were able to finish the stage.

Weather: Chance of rain, cooler
Forecasters are calling for afternoon showers, with cooler temperatures, highs in the 50s F on the valley floor and colder at elevation. Mostly cloudy, with a chance of afternoon showers.

Tomorrow’s stage: Mortirolo, Stelvio suffer-fest
The 95th Giro hits a crescendo with Saturday’s penultimate stage. The long day in the saddle features passages over two of Italy’s most emblematic climbs. First up is the Mortirolo, which has been decreed as the “Pantani mountain” in honor of fallen Italian star, Marco Pantani.

The stage ends atop the 2,700-meter-plus summit of the Passo dello Stelvio. The route climbs up from Bormio on the “easy” side, not the more famous switchbacks on the northern face. The final climb will be difficult enough, sure to produce the Giro’s decisive attacks.

The Stelvio is also this year’s “Cima Coppi,” the Giro’s highest point in honor of the “campionissimo” Fausto Coppi. This is the 10th time the Stelvio has been the “Cima Coppi.” The Passo Pordoi has served as the most-used high point in the Giro’s history, with 14 passages.