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By Christian Vande Velde, CSC professional cycling team
Well, Ivan has sure proved himself over these last two days, hasn’t he?
We had a great team meeting on Thursday morning and we decided that we’re still here to fight and that we were just going to take the bull by the horns that day and not let anyone else dictate the race.
Sure it makes sense for us to say that, but you have to admit, after last weekend, it’s something of an act of faith for the guys to believe that, but they did. Really, we were kinda going into the unknown on Thursday. Ivan said he felt good, which was a good sign, but still it means that the other guys really have to put in a hell of an effort and we didn’t really know. We were, more or less, going on his word that he felt great.
You know, the last time we did that … well, we all know what happened.
Anyway, when Thursday’s stage ended as it did, there was this giant sense of relief on the team… well, not really a sense of relief, but more an awareness of just how good Ivan really is.
Your first reaction, of course, is to think that this means Ivan is primed for the Tour de France and we all believe that here, but you gotta remember that the Giro and the Tour are two completely different animals. You really can’t compare the two. I mean look back and try to remember Simoni and how he just knew he was going to just kill at the Tour and then he goes and just gets it handed to him for three weeks. I don’t think we’re in the same frame of mind, but it does give you a lot more confidence going into July.
We all do have a lot of faith in Ivan, now. Look back at it. When he was healthy, he pretty much did whatever he wanted.
He got sick, lost time and lost the chance to take the overall, but he still had something to prove. Thursday was the start. Today’s time trial was proof and tomorrow will be no different.
Yesterday started from the gun…at “disgusting speed,” to quote my old (Postal) teammate Tricky Beltran.
There were people off the back from that first climb at 10km or 12km. Some of those poor guys didn’t reconnect with the peloton until 90km later. One of those guys was one of the Lampre riders. He chased and chased and chased… and just as he got on to the back of the peloton, his team sends him to the front to get up there with us, just as we were kicking it up to chase the break.
Needless to say, some of those dudes were hurtin’ baaaad and I got an earful from Henk Vogels, for one, when he caught back up and we rode in with the grupetto.
Henk, by the way, has had a phenomenal Giro and he’s got to be my pick to do something great next week in Philly. He’s shed a serious amount of weight and gained a serious amount of fitness over these last three weeks. As long as he doesn’t get sick and gets over the jet-lag, he’ll be in a great position to help out Freddie.
Henk and bunch of us were out there on that really steep climb yesterday, the one that had ramps of like 21 percent at points. It was hilarious coming through in the grupetto.We were going so darn slow on the steep parts tat the tifosi were out there pushing us… but instead of pushing us up the climb, they were pretty much pushing us into each other.
Now some guys work it really well. Frankly, I don’t think Bramati, for example, took five pedal strokes on the entire climb. The tifosi were falling over themselves trying to help him up the hill. Most of us gringos don’t get quite the same level of assistance, that’s for sure.
You might laugh, but these guys are justifiably spent. I’ve said it time and time again. No one really sees the ugly work that takes place at the beginning of the race. Even in Europe, the TV cameras don’t kick in until a few hours into a stage. At the beginning, the leaders get to sit in the back while these guys – the ones that end up in the grupetto at the end of the day – keep tabs on all of the hard attacks and sit up front pounding into the wind.
Today’s stage was just proof that Ivan is on great form. David, too, for that matter.
David did really wanted to take today’s time trial and third place is not bad… but he really wanted to take it. He was trying out some new stuff and … anyway, you always think of the coulda, woulda, shouldas, but he had a great ride no matter what. Besides, he looked really good in that stars-and-stripes kit today and when it’s all over, isn’t that what’s really important?
Speaking of David, he’s been out in the peloton, doing his on-the-bike interviews. Those are pretty darn funny. You can see them at www.DaveZabriskie.com. They’ve been great. He did one with Petacchi the other day. “Did you like Star Wars?” he asked. Okay, so none of this may translate into print, but watching him do these is the best.
At this point, we have nothing to lose… we’re here and even though the GC is out of reach, why not continue and get everything that we can? Tomorrow? Ivan’s gonna go for it.
As for Sunday, we were all joking about how Giovanni could try and take the stage into Milan… He quickly straightened us out and said “No, no, no… I’m going out on Saturday night.”
Other than that, the whole theme of the Giro is “long and longer…” We’re all looking forward to Sunday. It’s been a hard tour and everyone is feeling it.
Looking at tomorrow, I know that I said that Savoldelli was going to hold on, but I am really beginning to have second thoughts. It’s going to be a hard one…
Either way, it’s going to be nasty tomorrow. It’s going to be hot and we have a rough climb on the Colle delle Finestre. Oh yeah….
Here’s a good story. This morning, before the time trial, Bjarne drove Giovanni, our “sprinter” up to the climb. Now, you can’t actually drive the climb itself, so Giovanni had to ride the climb and turn around and come down the gravel so he could report to Bjarne what it was like. How’s that for team dedication?