By Dede Barry
The competition for the maglia rosa has been tight throughout the Giro d’Italia, and it should reach a climax on Saturday during stage 19, one of the most challenging mountain stages of the race, finishing in Sestriere.
With Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffita) and José Rujano (Selle Italia-Colombia) dropping race leader Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) and edging a little closer to the lead in Thursday’s mountaintop finish, and then Savoldelli regaining the lost time in Friday’s time trial, it is hard to predict who will have the lead in Sestriere.
Although CSC’s Ivan Basso lost his chances of overall victory last weekend when he fell ill and lost loads of time in the mountains, he has fully recovered, winning the last two stages, and is the favorite for another stage victory on Saturday.
Friday’s time trial finished in Torino, the host city of the 2006 Winter Olympics. There wasn’t much evidence that the Olympics were soon to arrive, as many of the venues did not seem to be near completion. But the Italian tifosi were very much in evidence, lining the finishing stretch and pounding on the barriers as all their local favorites passed.
Savoldelli rode a solid time trial while his teammates took it easy, saving as much energy as possible for Saturday’s stage. They will have their work cut out for them, because Lampre, Sella Italia, and Liquigas-Bianchi will be on the attack.
It’s been awfully hot the past few days. On Thursday, Savoldelli asked Dimitri, one of the Discovery soigneurs, for a little salt in his bottles to aid hydration. But the Russian misunderstood the Italian and poured salt into every bottle. So theteam was drinking bottle after bottle of salt water throughout the 200km stage, disgusted by the taste and unable to quench their thirst in the 35-degree Celsius heat – not very pleasant, especially when there is hard work to be done.
Sometimes, having a multilingual team is a challenge. Fortunately, these mistakes are usually diverted, as many of the riders and directors are fluent in several languages. Each member of the Discovery team is expected to be able to speak in English, but some are more proficient than others. Director Johan Bruyneel is fluent in six languages and seems to be able to flip back and forth between them with ease. At the Giro, the team has Sean Yates directing and translating Italian, which has been a huge help, as Savoldelli is a native Italian.
On Saturday, as the riders climb towards Sestriere, the temperatures are expected to drop to a more comfortable level, and sunshine is in the forecast. This final mountain test of the 2005 Giro will determine the victor.
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.