Stage 14 – Trieste – Pula/Pola(175km)
By Fred Rodriguez, Acqua & Sapone Professional Cycling
It was a good sprint.
For the last few days I’ve been really frustrated by not being able to get into position to do my own sprint. Today, it was different. The team really rallied out there to get me up to the right spot going into the last few hundred meters and they did a great job.
Our main focus was to stay together today, so that we could set up for the sprint as a team and we did it. And for a while there, we had good little train going toward the finish. We were lacking a little power toward the end, maybe, and we allowed Fassa Bortolo to take over the front of the peloton again, but that allowed me to grab right on to Petacchi’s wheel with about a kilometer to go.
It didn’t quite work out. Coming into that last corner, with about a kilometer to go, Angelo Furlan from Alessio came in and moved right into the spot I was, so we ended up fighting for Petacchi’s wheel. So for a couple hundred meters I found myself out in the wind without a draft and arguing with Furlan “gimme the wheel, gimme the wheel. I can beat him!”
He wouldn’t budge, but I finally got him out of the way and slipped back in there, just as we hit the corner. At that point, I was just trying to catch my breath. I mean it’s tough out there trying to maintain 60, 65kph and not be on someone’s wheel. It was a tight corner and I may have lost a few meters, and that was right where Marco Velo started to give him his lead out.
I came back on him and caught his wheel, just as he was sprinting – which, if I say so myself, is no small feat – but, at that point, it was just too late. Really, whoever had come around the corner in second was the odds on favorite to win and that was Petacchi.
I had to congratulate him for that one… not only because it was his seventh win this Giro. He rode a great sprint today and it is a game and there’s always someone who wins and he did it. He has a great team with him and, of course, he’s always the best guy to finish off their effort. That team, with that sprinter is an incredibly lethal combination. The odds are really against you when you try to go up against him, but you have to give it your best and I am very proud of the work our team did today.
It was gratifying. They are really inspired to ride, too. They see that I got one stage and they really believe that we can get another. Today was exceptional. They were giving it their all and going head-to-head against Fassa. And if you look at my teammates, it’s not what you would call an even match. I had a bunch of climbers, basically, and they were taking on those big strong guys that Petacchi has leading him out. They did an amazing job.
At one point, I looked over and one of my skinniest guys was boxing with McEwen to stay at the front. That was the funniest thing to see. McEwen was up there giving him head butts and instead of backing off, he was giving him head butts right back. That alone made it worth while.
I know it’s frustrating not to win a stage, but to see the way the team worked and then feeling how well I rode, it was a good day. It reaffirms to me that I am one of the top road sprinters in the world. I look back at that sprint and I see the things that went wrong. I used a lot of energy fighting over Petacchi’s wheel with Furlan. Losing those few meters in the turn meant that I had to put out much more energy than Petacchi, just to get up there to sprint against him.
So, looking ahead, tomorrow is about the only chance I have to go for it again, before we head into the mountains. After that, it’s just Milan and I may not be there for that. I may not make it too far into the mountains. I am really trying to save my legs for Philadelphia and the USPRO championship. Right now, I am feeling really strong, but I need to play it by ear over these next few days. I have to decide how important Milan is when compared to Philadelphia.
We’ll see how tomorrow goes, okay?