By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team
Well, a guy can’t be too disappointed with that.
Today worked out nicely for the team. It was actually a bit better than we might have expected for the first mountain-top finish. Despite all of that heavy Saeco firepower driving at the front of the field, our little Alessio team got two of our guys – Franco Pellizotti and Andrea Noe’ – into the top ten. Franco crossed in third, 16 seconds behind Simoni and Andrea took tenth at 34 seconds. Not bad.
I’m sure that if you’ve seen any of this on television, you can tell that it’s really hard going up against Saeco right now. As far as I am concerned, they have the strongest team here, especially when it comes to the climbs. I don’t know of any other team that can put that many riders into the mix on a big climb like that. If you don’t have the team to go head-to-head with them, you just have to concentrate on Simoni and do your best to stay with him when it gets tough.
Our goal today was to do exactly that: Keep an eye on Simoni and then try stay with him as long as possible. Our two GC guys are really good at placing themselves in the peloton and making sure that they are on top of whatever happens. Usually there’s not too much we have to do for those guys. I try to be there if they need, maybe clear a little space for them, so they don’t get pushed around or shoved around, but for the most part they do quite well up there on their own.
Early on the pace was quite easy… a typical Tour of Italy start to the day. As usual, Cipollini puts his whole team up to the front to make what amounts to a road block. Sure, one break went, but that is to be expected. Meanwhile, Cipo’s team is holding things at 30kph or so, and things stay pretty easy at least as far as the first climb (the Foce Carpinelli) and Renzo Mazzoleni builds up a 16-minute lead.
For Mazzoleni – who took off at 36k or so – it was a long, long ride, today, but you have to try these things. Most of the time they don’t work, but you have to give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe if they would have let it go just a little bit longer, he would have had himself a stage win. But on a day like this and it being the first day in the mountains, Simoni wanted to make his mark. The Saeco team really wasn’t going to let someone get away with stealing their thunder and, sure enough, the chase eventually kicked in and he was caught just 12km from the top.
Mazzoleni’s effort wasn’t totally futile, though. He got a good bit of publicity for the team and nice bit of TV time and he got the Intergiro sprint. So at the end of the day, it was all well worth it for him and for his team.
Back behind him, like I said, the Domina team kept things in check for the first climb and then the pace began to pick up. I was actually pleased that I felt really good today. I made it over the middle climb – the Passo di Oppio – even though by that point the speed was really picking up. I felt heaps better than I did yesterday.
Like I said yesterday, my big goal was to make it to the base of the last climb with the peloton and I did. I tried to stay on as long as I could just to be safe and make sure that I made the time cut today and still ride within my own limits so I don’t do any damage and hurt my chances for being fit and ready tomorrow.
Finally, at one point, I looked over and saw Petacchi let go – slip past – and I thought that it was a pretty safe bet to ride in with him. He’s sure to make the time cut. He had four teammates around him, and the tempo was quite reasonable. He’s a smart rider and he rides the big climbs with his guys really nice and steady, so you’re usually pretty safe staying with his group.
A good massage, dinner and rest and we’re back to the grind tomorrow. Thankfully, we’re also back to the flats again.