By Dede Barry
The final stage of the Giro d’Italia is traditionally a parade into Milan, followed by a series of fast circuit racing leading up to a massive field sprint and this year held true to tradition.
The riders lined up in Albese Con Cassano, a small town on the edge of Como decorated in pink to start and then paraded towards Milan, with a stop for gelato and cookies along the way. T
he mood was relaxed and the Discovery team staff served champagne to all the other team cars in the caravan during the race. Everything was going smooth until Sean Yates got a flat tire in the first Discovery follow car.
They had to stop to change it and then get a police escort back up to the peloton. Somehow they ended up in front of the peloton and were driving frantically to catch until they eventually realized the race was behind them. Upon entering Milan, the racers had to negotiate 12 dodgy finishing circuits with lots of turns and cobbles.
Discovery was lined up on the front, with Savoldelli following and one team member behind to keep him protected and to make sure he was escorted safely to the finish. Tony Cruz rode behind him- as they ride similar size bikes Paolo could finish the race on Tony’s bike if he ran into any mechanical troubles.
There were some solo attacks on the circuits. Matt White (Cofidis), Sandy Casar (Francaise de Jeux), and David Zabriskie (CSC) each spent time off the front solo, but Fassa Bortolo was eager for a field sprint and chased each move with the help of Discovery Channel.
Fassa took over sole control of the front of the bunch to lead Pettachi out on the final lap. Pettachi won his fourth stage of the 2005 Giro and Savoldelli toasted with champagne.
Paolo is an incredibly smart rider. He won the Giro by gauging each effort. The team also rode in a similar way, as they were short two riders, after Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesejdal pulled out of the race and the team was left with only six riders to protect Paolo.
There goal was to have Paolo arrive to each crucial moment in the race as fresh as possible and in good position. From there, Paolo had to race and the team had to conserve as much energy as possible for the coming days riding in the grupetto. At the start of the race, Paolo was not a favorite for the overall and it was said that he did not have a team to help him, but in the end, Discovery Channel proved everyone wrong.
Paolo returned to his hometown outside of Bergamo Sunday night for a party in which 10,000 people were expected. His teammates went in different directions, most went home to recover, although Tony Cruz boarded a plane to Philadelphia and will be racing in Lancaster on Tuesday night.
My Giro experience was excellent. I really enjoyed the ambiance amongst the crowds. I was impressed with how much the tifosi understand what goes on inside the race and inside the teams. I was also impressed with the immense amount of support the riders received throughout the race and the enthusiasm there is for the race.
DedeBarry is a former professional cyclist, a 2004 Olympic silver medalistand a contributor to “Insidethe Postal Bus,” a book by her husband, Discovery Channel rider MichaelBarry.