By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team
We had a good day today.
It was a long day, quite hot at times, but our guy, Cristian Moreni, finished second to that young kid none of us knew anything about.
Cristian has been looking good here at the Giro and a day like today really suited his abilities to a tee. He’s really good on the short, steep climbs that marked the last half of the route today. As you know, those aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but Cristian just loves that stuff.
After about 50 kilometers this morning – which was only an hour or so into the race! – he said he was feeling pretty good and so we tried to get him in that break of about 20 guys. Since he didn’t get in there, we put a few of our guys up front – along with Saeco and Vini Caldirola – and kept the gap as small as possible.
Actually, the whole early part of the race was marked by attacks. A couple of guys took of right at kilometer zero and the pace was like that for three hours, averaging 50kph the whole time. Our goal was to try and put one man in every break today. I went out on one. That got pulled back. People kept attacking and attacking all the time today. For that whole opening stretch it didn’t look like anything was going to stick, though. All of a sudden that big group of 20 got away and we’d missed it. After that, Marcus and I stayed at the front with Saeco and Vini Caldirola to keep the time gap down a bit.
When the race hit the hills, though, those roads – full of hairpin turns like they were – really strung the peloton out up and down the climbs. You just wait for that moment when someone “snaps his legs off” and it creates a big gap and the guys behind that point can’t close it. It seemed like the peloton was dropping 10 or 15 guys off the back on every little climb. To me, these days are much harder than a normal mountain stage.
I myself made it with the maglia rosa group until just around 30km from the finish. At one point, there was a really big group of guys that just sort of sat up. I looked around, saw that I was sitting there next to Petacchi and his whole team. At that point, I figure there’s no real point in pushing it, so I sat up as well and rode in to the finish with this big group of guys. Tomorrow’s another flat stage and it’s likely to be another bunch kick again… so all of the fellas in that group wanted to save a little bit in their legs for that. The climbs after that got pretty steep – 18 percent at one point. I’m sure glad that we weren’t having to really race over that.
But up ahead, this kid Emanuele Sella was off riding like a madman at the front of the race. To be completely honest, I’d never even heard of the guy. Nothing. This Giro is the first time I’d ever even seen him, so I had no idea who he was or anything. He’s a pretty young kid. The thing that struck me about him is just how absolutely tiny he is and how really young he looks. To me, he looks like he just finished school… more like a junior rider. But, after today, we all will know who he is, that’s for sure.
I was watching on television later on and saw that one little tumble he made on the hairpin turn. He cooked it a little going into the turn and probably panicked a little, instead of ignoring the brakes and laying it down through the turn. It’s just one of those turns that takes you by surprise. It gives the appearance of a sweeping turn when you first go into it and then it turns out to be a little sharper than it looks. In fact, a few other guys did the same thing later on. Of course, in Sella’s case, it didn’t seem to hurt too much… in fact, the adrenalin rush that he got from it was probably a help for a while. He had a spectacular ride.
One guy that has also continues to surprise me is Brad McGee. He rode all the way in with Cunego and those guys again today. He’s riding really well at the moment. He’s even got the climbing legs on. It’s a bit of a shock to see, because he never really climbed that well before. He’s always ridden alright up the hills, but not like this. He’s now up there riding with the GC guys. It’s been very impressive. He’s also going to do alright in time trial on Saturday, which is something I am looking forward to, as well.
I want to try to do something on Saturday and go all out. I’ve not seen the course yet, but the boys are saying that the start is quite hard and then sort of eases up, so I will try to have to ride that first part within my limits and try not to blow by the time I get to the top of the climbs and then just whack it down toward the end.
When we finish the stage tomorrow, I will probably get in the car and go check out the course and try to get a feel for it. I would like to do well again, since I had such a good finish last year in a time trial here (Backstedt finished second in the Stage 15 time trial in the 2003 Giro d’Italia – editor) and hopefully we can repeat that…or do better.
Time for dinner.
Have a good evening and talk tomorrow.