By Christian Vande Velde, CSC Professional Cycling Team
It’s good to sit down and count your blessings every now and then.
Well, starting with yesterday, the real blessing came in the form of the first 50km of the stage being bagged. That decision definitely had a good impact on moral, especially after what happened on Sunday.
On Monday morning, we woke up to pouring rain and, at 7000 feet, the prospect of riding downhill for 40k, after an 11-kilometer climb, was just depressing. We were preparing for the worst, but God bless the peloton’s Italian Mafia. The Italians just made it clear: “Hell no, we won’t go!”
It would have been nuts. The riders really brought in an element of common sense by doing that. In those conditions, the first 50 kilometers would have accomplished nothing except for making the sick people sicker and the healthy people sick… and maybe cause a crash or two along the way. It was a treacherous descent, horrible conditions and plenty of reason not to ride it.
Still, it did rain the whole day. With the prospect of Fassa Bortolo driving things into the finish, I have to say that Rabobank guy (Roy Sentjens) put in what I can only call a brazen and stupid effort out there for much of the day.
It was probably one of the biggest numbskull moves I’ve seen in a long time. I mean here he had a day where he could relax and recover and he goes out on a solo break when everyone knows that Fassa Bortolo isn’t going to let anyone or anything get off. It was one of the last days that Petacchi stands a chance to win and the Silver Train knew it. It seems like he never got more than a couple of minutes and he was out there all day by himself.
Think about it a little. There he is, spending the whole day riding by himself in a cold rain, knowing that he is going to get swallowed up with – what? – 20 or 30 k to go. And for what? He’s riding for Rabobank! It’s not like one of the little teams, when sending a guy off the front gets the sponsor more publicity than he could ever hope to buy. This is Rabobank. They don’t actually need the exposure a suicidal break will give.
He made an impression. He showed he was strong as a bull. Hey, I was impressed.
But I still think he’s a dumb ass.
It was all pretty mellow – cold though – in the peloton, at least until we reached the finishing circuit. Another blessing, though, when the organizers thought about the conditions and declared that we would all get the same finishing time, based on the first time through the finish line. That way, the sprinters could go up and fight it out amongst themselves and we could take it easy on the narrow wet roads through town.
But then, what really blew my mind is that there were still GC riders up front – like Discovery and Savoldelli! – who kept on racing. I have no idea why they were doing that. We all knew that the overall time had stopped the first time we went across the line, but there they were up there, risking life and limb through these corners and sprinting and sprinting, when they could have just sat up and ridden the final 10k easy and left the risks to Fassa and all of the other sprinters.
Discovery sent the whole team up there and those guys were busting their butts through the closing circuits. I still don’t understand why they did that, unless they were afraid that Di Luca was going to try and snag the sprint and get time a bonus. With Petacchi in there?
Anyway for us, the day was pretty uneventful, except that Giovani crashed. It was an amazing sequence, too. He hit a pot hole, and most people would have gone down right there, but he kept fighting to stay up, bumping into people, keeping his balance, but finally the inevitable did happen and he hit the deck. He got out of it with just a little scratch. I personally thought he was dead, but he pulled it off.
Team wise, morale is good. Ivan wants to continue. In that sense, the rest day came none too soon, even though today has to have been one of the most boring days I’ve ever gone through. We ate. We sat around waiting to eat. We ate some more… sat around some more… and, this being the middle of Milan, the only riding we did was on the trainer for an hour or so.
These rest days will eat you alive, slowly but surely. Still, I have to admit they are needed… especially after last weekend. In that sense it was probably the most needed rest day of my entire cycling career.
The attitude is improved. I mean we’re all a little depressed, because we worked so hard for the first two weeks only to have it slip away. So know we focus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and try for results as a team. Ivan’s feeling better – even though he was hit really hard by that bug, so we’ll have to see how he can ride on Thursday and then how he holds up for Saturday’s stage, which will be really hard. Dave is ready to try and earn a second stage win in Friday’s time trial. I think he’s in a great position to do just that.
The end is in sight, but we have some big days ahead.