By Dede Barry
The Dolomites have taken their toll on the peloton. The legs are aching and the energy is waning. There were 40 riders popped off the back on the first climb of stage 13 and it was not even a categorized climb. The riders were trudging up this steep ascent in their 39x25s and they had five categorized climbs and more than 200km ahead of them.
I always know from the sound of my husband’s voice when the fatigue has set in during a grand tour. There is little if any response when I ask Michael questions and the conversation generally becomes fairly dull – I can talk at him, but his energy for conversation is gone. It normally occurs around the start of the final week, although I think Paolo Savoldelli’s maglia rosa has given him and their team a big boost of energy. I had started to sense that faraway tone in his voice last night and after today, there is no sign of it.
Having the leader’s jersey in the team brings confidence and excitment and helps to bring the team’s strength up a notch. In stage 13, we saw a renewed and commanding CSC, as Ivan Basso wore the maglia rosa. They took the race in their hands, protected their leader and did their best to defend. Despite the super team effort, Basso suffered immensely from a stomach ailment. He looked as if he was pedaling squares at the top of the final ascent and the jersey was lost.
Every rider in the bunch is vulnerable and a bad day can hit at any time. The Giro has now seen many of its favorites crack, but with the difficulty of the 2005 course, it is no surprise. Michael said that stage 13 was the most difficult course he had ever raced on – it contained 17,000 feet of climbing!
Savoldelli seems to be continuing to gain strength as the others are weakening. He will need it to defend the maglia rosa, as his Discovery team has now lost two riders, Tom Danielson to a knee injury and Ryder Hesejdal, who crashed hard in the first week and never fully recovered.
Stage 14 promises more drama as the riders face another day in the Dolomites, including the Stelvio ascent. There has been much speculation as to whether the Stelvio would be passable this week, as 30 centimeters of fresh powder fell on Wednesday, but the plows have been out clearing it and the roads will be ready.