By Lennard Zinn
With 7km left in the 212km stage, Denis Zanette of Liquigas-PATA attacked eight breakaway companions he had been with for 123km and rolled in alone through the streets of the Lubljana, the capitol of Slovenia. He crossed the line, arms upraised, throwing kisses to the huge crowd that was happily welcoming the Giro on this warm, sunny day. Mario Manzoni (Alexia) outsprinted Isidro Nozal (ONCE-Eroski) three seconds later, and the rest of the breakaways finished at 15 seconds – 10 minutes up on the main pack. The top rankings didn’t change, with a dozen riders wedged within a minute of overall leader Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo).
The riders took it easy from the start on the spit of Lido di Jesolo across the bay from Venice. Sweating under 88-degree temperatures, they averaged only 30.5kph for the first hour. Many attacks and counterattacks were attempted for the next hour and a half, none of which were successful. But when Zanette, Manzoni and Nozal attacked on flat ground with Davide Casarotto (Alessio), Eddy Serri (Alexia), Michele Gobbi (Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini), David Navas (iBanesto.com), Fabio Sacchi (Saeco), and Slovenian Andrej Hauptman (Tacconi-Vini Caldirola), the reaction of the Fassa-Bortolo-controlled group was almost nonexistent. Big mistake for anyone else interested in the stage win, since the front nine worked together very smoothly and built a 6-minute lead in 20km.
The breakaways began a rolling up and down climb that would last for 45 kilometers and only gained 600 meters elevation. They crossed the Slovenian border at kilometer 124, and their lead had been cut to 5:25, and then down to 4:24 with 50km to go. Rolling through the beautiful green countryside of Slovenia, the interest in the chase waned and Renzo Mazzoleni (Colpack) attacked alone from the peloton. Starting with Casarotto’s attempt at 38km to go and the lead nine up by 7:10, a number of riders in the break attempted solo attacks but were brought back.
With 8km to go, Mazzoleni had closed alone to 4:25, the pack was at 9:00, and Serri tried his hand at escaping. Gobbi pulled the group up, and after a bit more cat and mouse, Nozal attacked. When the Spaniard was caught, Zanette immediately countered and got just far enough ahead quickly enough that none of the others were willing to commit to damaging their own chances to the benefit of the others by chasing him down. The stage winner would later say, “I gave it everything I had, because if I had been caught I would not have been able to try it again or to sprint.” Manzoni and Nozal jumped away from the other five in the last two kilometers but were too late to bring back the Liquigas rider, who dedicated the win to his wife, Manuela and 20-month-old daughter, Anna.
Mazzoleni, who had gotten as close as 3:30 with 5km remaining, finished five minutes down, and the pack was another five minutes behind him.
Zanette explained later that their break partially succeeded because of the terrain, remarking that, “On paper, the stage was not hard, but being 10 stages in, quite long – over 200km, and hot, it was plenty tough. There was no significant climbs to change the overall, so the g.c. guys were not chasing. The descent was gradual and wide open, so it favored a small group like ours.”
Zanette was another in a string of stage winners who did not list Frigo as among his top few favorites to win the Giro. Race leader Frigo commented later, “I’m getting used to not being a favorite and yet winning big stage races this season.”
Cannondale celebrated its 30th anniversary at the start by dressing all of its Saeco team in black jerseys except for Cipollini, who rode a special black custom Cannondale with gold upraised lettering. And, as usual, the UCI fined the team for the clothing infaction.
84th GIRO D’ITALIA, Stage 10, Lido di Jesolo to Lubljana, Slovenia, May 29.
1. Denis Zanette (I), Liquigas-PATA, 212km in 5:16:21 (40.208kph); 2. Mario Manzoni (I), Alexia, at 0:03; 3. Isidro Nozal (Sp), ONCE-Eroski, s.t.; 4. Fabio Sacchi (I), Saeco, at 0:15; 5. Andrej Hauptman (Slo), Tacconi-Vini Caldirola; 6. Davide Casarotto (I), Alessio; 7. Eddy Serri (I), Alexia; 8. Michele Gobbi (I), Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini; 9. David Navas (Sp), iBanesto.com, all .s.t.; 10. Renzo Mazzoleni (I), Colpack-Astro, at 5:17; 15. Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), at 10:06.
Overall: 1. Frigo, 1853km in 42:14:55 (38.847kph); 2. Azevedo, at 0:03; 3. Olano, at 0:14; 4. Simoni, at 0:15; 5. Belli, at 0:19; 6. Hruska, at 0:30; 7. Noé, at 0:44; 8. Figueras, at 0:45; 9. Osa, at 0:48; 10. Di Luca, at 0:48; 11. Camenzind, at 0:59; 12. Garzelli, at 0:59; 13. Chaucchioli, at 0:59; 14. Gotti, at 1:04; 15. Pantani, at 1:11; 23. Rebellin, at 1:38; 26. Gontchar, at 1:54; 34. Savoldelli, at 3:23; 61. Perez, at 20:22; 66. Ullrich, at 23:37; 131. Livingston, at 54:13.