By Dede Barry
The first week of the Giro is finished. The parcours has not been particularly tough in comparison to what lies ahead in the next two weeks, but the riders have still faced many obstacles.
With nearly 200 riders heading into the rather technical finishing kilometers of the first week’s flat to rolling stages, many fell victim to crashes. Stages 4 and 6 were particularly messy in the final, with several crashes causing injuries, abandons and lost time.
It is amazing to see fallen riders leap up and jump back onto their bikes. They never want to quit. Even when the injuries are bad, the automatic reaction is to soldier on. Adrenaline often distorts judgment, allowing a racer to finish stages with broken bones.
Yesterday, Ryder Hesedjal (Discovery Channel) did a “Superman dive” off his bike, losing skin all over his body. But he was back up in seconds, thinking only of chasing back to the peloton to help his team leader, Paolo Salvodelli, in the in the finish. It was not until after the finish that he assessed the damage. He was in a lot of pain this morning, but once again mounted his bike for the start of the stage.
Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole), however, was not able to continue after his crash in stage 6. His collarbone was obviously broken; he was transferred to a local hospital and is out of the Giro.
The Aussies dominated the final in stage 6. Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto) nearly slipped away for the win in the final 1.5km, but was caught and passed just a few meters from the line by teammate Robbie McEwen.
It’s been a long, tough two years for Henk as he has been recovering from a horrific crash in the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race. Henk had finished second in the 2003 Ghent-Wevelgem classic and had many Division 1 teams courting him afterward, but the injuries sustained in Fitchburg threatened his life and his career.
He made a partial recovery by the start of the 2004 season and raced with the American Navigators team. At the end of the season, he had an opportunity to join his Aussie mate McEwen at Davitamon-Lotto. Henk’s ride yesterday was a victory of sorts for him, as it was confirmation that he is back to top form and capable of winning a ProTour race.
Saturday brings a tough stage through Tuscany is scheduled. Michael Barry (Discovery) said team leader Savoldelli believes that the steep, narrow 4.5km climb close to the finish will be selective.
Sunday’s time trial, which finishes in Florence, will be the first real test for the GC contenders. I had a chat with one of the American time trial favorites, Dave Zabriskie (CSC). We discussed his team and the time trial.
Zabriskie isn’t rockin’ out – yet
Dede Barry: What’s your role in the team during the Giro?
Dave Zabriskie: My role is to take it as easy as I can in the early stages and then to help as much as possible in the last 10 stages. Also keeping up the team morale. It is always a big job but I do my best to keep everyone smiling.
DB: Will you be going for it in the TT on Sunday or will you save your energy for helping Basso in the mountains next week?
DZ: I will be going fast in the TT to give split times to Basso.
DB: With the TT form you showed in Georgia, it looks like you may be in the hunt for a top-five finish at the Giro.
DZ: I felt good in Georgia, and we’ll see what happens in the TT here.
DB: Your old teammates on Discovery miss your singing over the mic’ on the Postal Bus, are you the star act on the CSC bus too?
DZ: Not yet, everyone is pretty serious right now. I don’t want to shock them too much; it’s better to ease them into my personality. I don’t want to get fired.
DB: Is Basso as big a star in Italy as Lance is in France?
DZ: Basso is a big star in Italy, but I don’t see the mobs of fanatics at the bus every morning like with Lance in France.
DB: What’s the difference between Riis’s approach as a director versus Johan? And also, what’s Basso like as a leader to ride for?
DZ: They are similar in the races. They are both very smart with tactics. Johan is a little more vocal. But we all know what Bjarne is expecting of us so we try our best to deliver. Basso is a good leader to ride for, he is confident and is always checking on members of the team to see how they are feeling.
Dede Barry is a former professional cyclist, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and a contributor to “Inside the Postal Bus,” a book by her husband, Discovery Channel rider Michael Barry.