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By Christian Vande Velde, CSC Professional Cycling Team
Yesterday (Wednesday) was just long and boring, but today sure made up for it.
Dead, dead flat and really slow. The only thing anyone was worried about on Stage 10 was that finishing circuit – three laps around a 5.2km loop – with narrow roads and tight corners. But before we got there it was just five hours of absolutely nothing. It was slow and that was it…until we started heading into the circuits.
We had moved to the front, to keep Ivan out of trouble and we came to a poorly marked turn, where the peloton was supposed to go right, but a good part of the field was led into the wrong part of a round-about instead. Suddenly we were at the back of the field and Ivan ends up trying to cut across the grass in the middle trying to get back on course. Well, he’s not exactly a cyclo-crosser and he ends up clipping out and losing a bunch of distance.
So we were in the process of bringing him back up to the front, when another dangerous corner comes up and we all slam the brakes on and someone hit his rear wheel from behind and tore all of his spokes out. At that point he kind of panicked and started yelling. He was worried about the point at which they’d credit people for time… at one point we’d heard it was changed because the roads were wet, but we didn’t know. Anyway, I gave him my wheel and by that point the whole team was working its way back up to the front and had no idea that we were back there.
So, Ivan is out there by himself, until Bjarne got on the radio and told the guys to come back for him. Meanwhile, this is all happening while Fassa’s kicking it in up front at 50kph. So we’re all trying to make it through the caravan, drafting off cars at 70kph and yelling and screaming and not really keeping our cool so well.
Well, we finally got him back into the peloton and everyone relaxed. As it turned out all of us – everyone in the peloton, except Illiano, the one guy out a break that stage – was credited with the winner’s times so we lost nothing, just a few frayed nerves.
By now, you probably know that today was, to say the least, much more interesting and we had no brushes with disaster.
The day started out well, with (Discovery’s) Benoît – “Quackem” – Joachim going off on his own, which was good for pretty much everyone out here, because he was really no threat and Lampre just went to the front and set tempo, pretty much from the gun.
It just got faster and faster all day, until the Passo Duran. They drove into the climb and set Simoni up for the attack. It was one of those moves that remind of Postal Service… sort of like if you’re still there when Chechu pulls off, you’re doing good. That’s pretty much the way Lampre drove it today. That’s when Simoni attacked and Cunego went off the back. From there on out, it was just one-on-one between those guys up front – Basso, Savoldelli, Simoni….
So, it really worked out as best as we could have hoped for. Ivan was obviously the guy who really shook things apart and for the rest of us on the team, there really wasn’t much to do. I personally had a bad day and am feeling a little sick right now. I spent most of the first climb at the back of the peloton, worked my way back to the front for a while and then pretty much started looking for the gruppetto.
There for a while, I really tried hard to stay with the front group and, for a while there, I found myself in no-man’s land after I got dropped. I eased off and finally got caught by the gruppetto at the top of Duran… it was HUGE! I looked back as they were coming up the climb and I couldn’t even see the back of the group… it was just one huge mass of riders, taking it easy up the climb. There must have been 80 guys in the group. I had no idea it was that big. It was nice.
There is strength in numbers and everyone there knows how to ride in the gruppetto fairly well. We bombed the downhills and then took it easy on the climb, just like it’s supposed to be. I think we all crossed at 32:00 back. With a day that offered up 11,000 feet of climbing that was well within the time-cut.
Like I said, for our team, we didn’t have much of a card to play. Lampre did all the work today and so it was just a matter of who had the legs to stay with them. Ivan sure did.
We’re obviously very happy with the outcome. Cunego had a bad day, but these things happen. He rode a great race last year, but things are different in this race this year. Different people. Different dynamic.
Obviously, Savoldelli was great today. He got dropped near the top of Duran and the fought back on, and as everyone knows, descended like a mad man. He’s still a great, great descender, despite the number of crashes he’s had these past two years. It’s amazing how he can do that. I guess he has to get back on the horse.
Di Luca was a big surprise… actually there were a lot of big surprises today. Di Luca did a great job protecting his jersey, but then you look down the top ten and you see names like… Atienza? …. Wim Van Huffel?!?!? Who the hell? There are some names in there that you don’t usually see in the top ten. A lot can happen between now and Milan.
Our whole goal is to take it cool coming up and take it day-by-day. Saturday will be brutal and then the Stelvio on Sunday. Luckily Ivan knows the Stelvio like the back of his own hand and he is feeling really good now. But as you saw today, on a relatively short stage, how much things can change. These stages will each probably come down to that very select few at the front and Ivan will probably be isolated up there… but then so will everyone else, apart from the duo of Simoni and Cunego and we don’t know how that will shake out in the next few days.
We shall see.