Road

Wednesday’s EuroFile: Horrillo rules Cataluyna; Basso relaxed; Liberty wants steep

Horrillo on the marchIt’s often said Spanish rider Pedro Horrillo is too smart to be a bike racer. After all, he’s a guy who reads philosophy books and studied law before becoming enamored with the bike. But his intellectual proclivities come in handy sometimes, especially in his bids to out-wit the hard-charging peloton. The Rabobank attacker took advantage of a rising finish to hold off the main bunch to snag the win in the 157.8km third stage of the Volta a Cataluyna. Coming through second was Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) while Italian Claudio Corioni (Fassa Bortolo) was third. “It

By Andrew Hood

Horrillo on the march
It’s often said Spanish rider Pedro Horrillo is too smart to be a bike racer. After all, he’s a guy who reads philosophy books and studied law before becoming enamored with the bike.

But his intellectual proclivities come in handy sometimes, especially in his bids to out-wit the hard-charging peloton. The Rabobank attacker took advantage of a rising finish to hold off the main bunch to snag the win in the 157.8km third stage of the Volta a Cataluyna.

Coming through second was Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) while Italian Claudio Corioni (Fassa Bortolo) was third.

“It was a close-run thing, but I timed the distance exactly right,” Horrillo told Reuters. “Yesterday my team helped me to attack from the bunch with almost the same distance to go. Today I’ve paid back their faith in me.”

Just like he did in last year’s Paris-Nice, Horrillo surprised the peloton with an unexpected move and it paid off this time with a ProTour victory.

“That was probably the most important of my career, but a win in a ProTour race like Catalonia can’t be underrated,” Horrillo said.

Horrillo’s move came moments after the main bunch was reorganizing for the final charge to the line. Fassa Bortolo’s Juan Antonio Flecha, the last man standing from an earlier breakaway, was caught with just under 1km left to go.

Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak) retained the overall lead going into two decisive days in the Catalan Pyrénées. There’s a Category 1 finish to the ski station at Pal on tap for Thursday and the climbing time trial to Arcalis in Andorra on Friday. Volta a Cataluyna
Stage 3, 157.8km, Salou to La Granada

1. Pedro Horrillo (Spa), Rabobank 3h35:59
2. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Credit Agricole
3. Claudio Corioni (Ita), Fassa Bortolo
4. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Liquigas-Bianchi
5. Fred Rodriguez (USA), Davitamon-Lotto, all same time

Overall standings after three stages
1. Miguel Martin Perdiguero (Spa), Phonak 8h46:21
2. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra), Phonak
3. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak
4. Santos Gonzalez (Spa), Phonak
5. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak – all same time

Basso ready
Ivan Basso is quietly confident as he enters the decisive second half of the Giro d’Italia sitting in the pole position.

Although he lost 30 seconds to some of his key rivals in stage 7 after his legs cramped up, he more than made up for it with what was easily the best time trial of Basso’s career the very next day.

Sitting second overall at nine seconds behind leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) but more than one minute ahead of defending champ Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) and more than two ahead of two-time champ Gilberto Simoni, Basso is poised going into the decisive second half of the 2005 Giro.

“I’m not superman in time trial or in the mountains but knowing I can do well in both disciplines is an important advantage,” Basso said during a press conference. “Thanks to my good performance in Sunday’s time trial I’m now in a strong psychological position ready for the most difficult part of the Giro.”

Basso rode early in the morning and enjoyed some quiet time with his family on Tuesday’s rest day. The 27-year-old CSC captain shook off the hiccup in stage 7 and insists he’s focused on overall victory with half the Giro in the bank.

“You can’t be great every day and have to know when you’re having a bad day. The time trial was a good day for me but I’ve already put it behind me and I’m thinking of the mountain stages to come,” he continued. “It’s about how we perform in the mountains and in the final time trial in Turin. That’s what will decide who wins the Giro.”

Zabriskie savors TT win
David Zabriskie joined elite company with his time trial victory, becoming just the sixth American to win a stage in the Giro d’Italia (Greg LeMond, Ron Kiefel and Andy Hampsten won in the 1980s while Tyler Hamilton took a stage in 2002 and Fred Rodriguez last year).

The reigning U.S. time trial champion hammered the course, taking everyone by surprise except himself and his Team CSC teammates.

“Before the stage I had pretty good feelings in my legs. I knew the roads pretty well because we had a training camp on the course,” Zabriske told Eurosport. “In the last straightaway I was strong and in no danger of slowing down.”

Zabriskie was one of the earliest riders off and had to wait an eternity before he knew he was the winner.

“It was hard to watch and wait for so many guys to come through the finish to know if I had won,” Zabriskie continued. “I waited at least three hours before. It was more nerve-wracking waiting at the finish to find out then doing the race itself.”

Simoni-Cunego end civil war to face challengers
Everyone thought Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego would be fighting each other in this year’s Giro, but the two Lampre-Caffita leaders say their public spat that boiled over last year is long gone.

The pair posed for photographers on Tuesday’s rest day donning boxing gloves, but there are more pressing matters as the Giro edges toward the Dolomites. That’s to fend off a host of aggressive and ambitious challenges intent on ending their stranglehold on the maglia rosa.

“Everybody thinks the big fight of the Giro is between me and Damiano Cunego inside the Lampre team but the real fight is us against the rest of the overall Giro contenders,” Simoni said in a Tuesday rest-day press conference. “We’ve got to beat Ivan Basso, Paolo Savoldelli, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Garzelli if we’re going to win the Giro.”

Simoni and Cunego have won three of the past four Giri between them (Simoni in 2001 and 2003 and Cunego last year), but the Italians find themselves fighting an uphill battle against Danilo Di Luca, Ivan Basso and 2002 champ Paolo Savoldelli.

“The fact that Basso gained time on both of us in Sunday’s time trial means we have to be united and take advantage of our strong team,” Cunego said. “Basso is a big threat but we know his weak spot. He goes well in time trials but always climbs at a steady pace. There are two of us, we’ve already lost time and so our tactic is simple — we’ll have to take turns to attack him if we want to win.”

Cunego and Simoni feuded in last year’s Giro, when the largely unheralded Cunego stole the thunder from team captain Simoni en route to blazing to four stage wins and the overall victory.

The pair insist the hatchet is buried and that their communal interest lies in assuring that one of them wins the Giro for the sake of the team.

“If we manage to ride together I think we’ll have a great chance of winning,” Simoni said. “The most important thing is that the Lampre team win the Giro, it isn’t important if it’s me or Damiano.”

Scarponi relishing steeper roads
Michele Scarponi made his third start in the Giro d’Italia leading Liberty Seguros with the stated goal of finishing on the final podium. Ambitious words from an equally ambitious team and rider.

While Liberty Seguros was bolstered by Koldo Gil’s stage win in the first week, Scarponi lost valuable time in the Florence race against the clock and quietly sits 22nd at 2:47 back.

Scarponi isn’t too worried, however. He called the opening half “satisfactory,” but promised he’s arriving in his peak form just in time for the decisive climbs looming in the Dolomites.

“I lost a little more than I hoped in the time trial, but I didn’t compromise the final outcome,” said Scarponi, trained for two hours with his teammates on Tuesday. “I lost a few positions, but I’m still a minute to Cunego and Simoni, so that’s so bad.”

Team manager Manolo Saiz echoed Scarponi’s calm, saying the real Giro is just getting underway.

“The best of Scarponi is yet to come and everything can change once we get to Milan,” Saiz said. “Now we’ll go from seeing who cannot win the Giro to who can win the Giro. That will have to wait until the third week, with the second time trial and the stage to Sestrieres and the decisive climb to Finestre.”

No surgery for Munain
The miracles don’t stop for Alberto López de Munain, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider who crashed so horribly in stage two of the Giro d’Italia.

Doctors said it was too early to guess when Munain might be back on the bike, but the good news is that there are no career-threatening injuries despite the viciousness of the crash. Munain clipped wheels with a rider near the back of the peloton and crashed headlong into a metal guardrail at full-speed.

Spanish doctors said the Basque rider won’t have to be operated on despite a notable list of crash injuries. Instead, they’re calling for physical therapy and old-fashioned rest to nurse Munain back to health.

“I’m just thinking about getting better,” said Munain, who’s been in a hospital bed since the spill. “I don’t know how long all of this is going to take. It’s a little bit uncomfortable, but after what’s happened, I have to be content knowing that it could have been a lot worse.”

Among his injuries include a broken left clavicle, as many as nine broken ribs, which also caused internal bleeding in his lung, as well as cuts and bruises to his knees, face and chin.