By Thomas Prehn
A time trial is often called the “race of truth” because each rider is racing against the clock, giving his or her best. There is no teamwork. There is no drafting. The winner is the cyclist who can ride the fastest.
In today’s stage of the Giro, we can clearly say that it, too, was a “race of truth.” There was no denying the young Italian rider, Damiano Cunego. He deserves to be wearing the pink race leader’s jersey.
There has been a lot of speculation about the dynamics in the Saeco camp. Was there tension between the young rising star, Cunego, and the team leader, Simoni? Cunego has said that he would support his team leader in his bid to win this year’s Giro, thereby taking himself out of the leadership position.
Today was the day everyone was put to the test – a race of truth so to speak.
The race played out perfectly for Saeco. The team worked perfectly to keep the pace steady for the group containing their team leader, Simoni, and their race leader, Cunego. The plan must have been to either deliver the two great Italian climbers to the base of the Gavia, or, if possible, to the base of the final 10km climb to Bormio 2000.
The team’s hard work paid off, and the two Saeco team leaders arrived at the base of the final climb together, with just one lone and fading rider ahead. It is a moment of truth for Simoni; if he is to regain control of the race, it must be now. He attacks and establishes a small lead. In the group behind the race leader, Cunego watches and waits, simply following the wheels of the few riders left who have the strength to chase.
Clearly, Simoni did not have the strength and form he did last year, when he won the overall, or he would have ridden away from the chasers. Instead, he could not muster a lead of even a minute over the pursuit.
For his part, Cunego was true to his word. He was playing the part of a faithful teammate and following the wheels of those chasing. Simoni’s moment of truth had come and gone; he did not have the strength to win the race, though he would move up in the overall classification. The defending champion was finally reeled back in, and the small group approached the finish together.
And then, in further proof of his dominance, the 22-year-old Cunego jumped for the line with Simoni on his wheel. But neither his older teammate nor anyone else could even come close to staying with as he powered across the finish line to win his race of truth.
Thomas Prehn is a former USPRO champion and author of the recentlyreleased “RacingTactics for Cyclists,” now available through VeloPress. If you have questions about tactics employed during a particularstage at the Giro d’Italia, send a note to WebLetters@InsideInc.comWe will try to answer a selection of questions on a regular basis duringthe Giro d’Italia.