Archive for May 2009
Danilo di Luca (LPR BRakes) did everything inhumanly possible to shake Denis Menchov (Rabobank), get him off his wheel and win this Giro. It was like an Italian version of the Paul Simon song, “50 ways to leave your lover.” He attacked at least five times — from the base on Vesuvio to the summit. You have to respect his efforts and he tried everything.
On a few occasions, Di Luca looked over at the impassive Menchov as if to say, “look, what do you want–money, girls, a speedboat, a villa in Tuscany– I’ll give you whatever you want, just get off my wheel.” But no suck luck. In the sprint to the finish line, di Luca gained an 8 second time bonus but that’s not going to dislodge the Russian.
Carlos Sastre (Saxo Bank) again proved he’s the best pure climber in the Giro, taking his second stage. A valiant effort but not effort to gain a step on the podium. If not for his his won admitted mistake on the Blockhaus stage, he would surely be in the top three.
It was a day of managed expectations for Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer (Astana). A crash took Lance down and that drained whatever energy he had for an attack. For Levi, it was a typical Giro mountain stage, always in the front groups but never having the fitness to drive the pace.
It’s interesting to compare Armstrong and Basso, two riders in their first grand tour after several years. Lance returns from three years of inactivity and plenty of Lone Star beer while Basso served a 2 year drug suspension. You could argue that given the long layoff, broken collarbone and support riding for Levi, that Lance is having an amazing Giro. All that and he’s 5 years older than Basso and sat out one more year. Basso is currently 5th and Lance is 12th on GC. Lance is duh man.
Look for the never-say-die Di Luca to give it another go tomorrow. He’s the Energizer Bunny of the Giro.
We were idly scanning the cycling web sites when we were struck by a vision. Hunting for more Giro news, rider interviews and drug scuttlebutt, we suddenly saw what at first appeared to be a mirage but was in fact Victoria Pendleton showing off the most beautiful and powerful legs we’ve ever seen. The 28-year-old is described by FHM’s website as having “the sort of legs that could, should you inadvertently find yourself in a sexual embrace with the woman, kill you”.
Wearing your basic Victoria’s secret lingerie (what an appropriate brand name ) and 4 inch stiletto heels, the lovely Victoria goes on to tell us that some bikeracer chicks actually aren’t that feminine, saying “Some of the girls I race against are quite masculine and have very low voices and facial hair.” It is possible that this is the cycling outfit of the future? Can these high heels accommodate a Look or Shimano cleat?
For those unfamiliar with her stunning bio and cycling successes, it almost seems unfair. A gold medal on the track in Beijing and she was also awarded an MBE, Member of the Order of The British Empire. Perhaps we’re all spending too much time on the Giro and Tour de France. Victoria should seriously consider going the Lance Armstrong route and writing a book. Something like It’s Not About The Bike. It’s About The Legs. Could be a best-seller–as long as there are lots of pictures.
Danny & Jason. Doesn’t that sound like two characters in a kids book filled with mad-cap adventures? Danny & Jason rocket to Mars, Danny & Jason and the deep-sea monster, Danny & Jason ride the Giro!
Americans Danny Pate (Garmin-Slipstream) and Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank) gave us thrills and chills today. Along with five breakaway buddies, they both left an exhausted peleton behind after 55 kilometers. The escape was on, another exploit, our two irrepressible boys loose in the Italian countryside. Despite the efforts of Rabobank, Milram and Fuji (who both missed the break) nobody could bring them back.
With the finish line drawing near, both Pate and McCartney launched attacks. The final kilometers were a roller coaster of moves and counter moves, as the small group shattered and reformed. Pate was dropped and clawed his way back. With one kilometer to go, Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) jumped on the cobbled section and Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) chased, pulling Pate into his slipstream. Danny accelerated but was just nipped by Michele Scarponi and Cardenas.
What an amazing adventure! Danny took 3rd place and Jason grabbed 7th. Stay tuned for stage 19, Danny & Jason tackle the Vesuvio Volcano!
Something is missing from this years’ 100th anniversary Giro. No, it’s not an epic climb left off the route or a famous rider or team that didn’t make the start list. Somebody forgot to include the once-a-Giro drug raid by police.
Where are the Carabinieri and the anti-drug storm-troppers? It has become something of a Giro tradition the last few years to have a drug raid as part of the race events. The authorities hit the team hotels, buses, rummage through the rooms and generally annoy the riders. Massages and pasta dinners and sometimes even bedtime are interrupted.
What happened to tradition, we ask? Not even one rider targeted for suspicious values? Perhaps the police and Giro Organizer Angelo Zomegnan (Crazy Z) worked out a deal for the 100th anniversary–no drugs raids this year in return for two raids next year.
We miss the excitement, the outrage and the goodies they always uncover: nice, new syringes, mysterious unmarked prescription bottles, a well- thumbed copy of the Dummies Guide to Performance Enhancing Drugs. What’s a three week tour without 21 stages, 2 rest days and 1 drug raid? A shocking over-sight. Surely, somebody is riding suspiciously fast, someone like, say, Denis Menchov.
We’d hate for Lance Armstrong to miss this Giro tradition in his only Giro appearance. It’s not too late for the Policia to bring the kind of excitement only they can bring.
Who wasn’t excited when Lance took off after Franco Pellizotti (Liguigas)? Who didn’t get that Tour De France feeling all over again? Who didn’t have visions of Lance on Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux and Hautacam ready to destroy all rivals? And who didn’t groan when Lance dropped back unable to reach Pellizotti’s wheel? For a few kilometers we had the Lance of old, not an old Lance. All too soon on the climb up to Blockhaus, Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Menchov (Rabobank), Basso (Liguigas) left him behind.
DI Luca did everything possible to break Menchov but to no avail. “The Killer” gritted his teeth, almost possessed, continually out of the saddle while Menchov simply sat behind. Only in the final 100 meters was Di Luca able to sprint for a gain of 5 seconds. Menchov rides a Giant bike and he truly was a giant again today. With one mountaintop stage to go, he leads Di Luca by 26 seconds.
The big loser today was Carlos Sastre whose tank appeared empty after his massive effort yesterday. He fell back two places on GC behind the Liguigas duo of Pellizotti (3rd) and Basso (4th). Sastre did he best to regain contact with Di Luca and Menchov but even with help from Armstrong, he lacked the power in his legs. A solid but unspectacular ride by Levi Leipheimer puts him in 6th with almost no hope of a podium spot.
However, Armstrong showed his great form and, freed from the domestique chores, we’re sure he’ll attack again. The team continues to miss Chris Horner– it would have been interesting to see what Horner could do when he was free to ride for himself and not look after Leipheimer. But is Lance back? He looks about 95% there and closing fast. And who wasn’t excited about that? Tour de France anyone?
Fast food meets fast riders.
The latest drug revelations about the blood doping clinic in Vienna noted that riders waited their turns at the Mcdonalds across the street. So you can have a happy meal and then a bag of blood. I’m loving it, as they say in the McDonalds advertising.
Now it must be noted that McDonalds has nothing remotely to do with the doping clinic across the street but you can’t help but ask yourself some funny questions:
Can I get fries with that EPO?
Can I have a clean syringe instead of the cheap plastic toy?
If the clinic’s refigerator breaks down, can we store the blood here until it’s fixed?
What do you recommend? The double cheese burger or the fish sandwich before an illegal blood transfusion?
It appears that “super-size me” has now met “super-speed me.” According to the report, riders were given cartoon nicknames like Shrek, Lucky Luke and Scrooge McDuck to conceal their identities.
The next time you’re hanging out in a Mcdonalds in Europe, see if there are any skinny guys in lycra shorts and team jerseys there. Then casually mention out loud you just got a job as a drug tester for the UCI and seen if anyone panics.
Hey, there are steroids in beef so HGH or blood doping in cyclists is no big deal, right?
Lance Armstrong looked frustrated. Maybe even ticked off. He was itching to follow the decisive attacks on the final climb of Monte Petrano when his team-mate Levi Leipheimer cracked. Lance kept turning around, expecting, praying that Levi would pull himself up, but it never happened. After an initial surge forward, Lance was forced to slow down and babysit Leipheimer, who picked a terrible day to have a bad day. Carlos Sastre won the stage with Menchov and Di Luca closing fast but Leipheimer lost almost 3 minutes and all hope of a podium.
It must have been a bitter experience for Armstrong, who was clearly on form and raring to challenge Menchov, Di Luca and Basso. A hundred dollars to know what conversations passed between Levi and Lance. Hard to say what’s more painful for Leipheimer: losing the Giro or letting down Lance. It was a surprising collapse for Levi who spoke with confidence only days earlier about his good form and energy level.
At the base of the Monte Petrano, Astana appeared to be in a strong position with Popovych alone up the road and Lance and Levi well-positioned. No doubt the hope was that Leipheimer would make his move, distance the main rivals and pick up Popovych for extra help in the final kilometers. A great plan except for the missing ingredient: Levi’s legs. Until the last 3k, Popovych had a stage win in his sights before he was swamped by the charging Sastre and company. A bad day for Astana, especially considering that they haven’t been paid, either.
The decision for Johan Bruyneel now is whether to free Lance Armstrong from his domestique duties. With Levi out of the podium picture and Lance ready to attack, we should see fireworks soon or at least more agressive tactics. Lance isn’t used to waiting for anyone. Not Levi and certainly not after today.
You remember the kid’s game? Simon says… “win a Giro stage.” Simon says, “do it today.”
When we last saw little, baby-faced Simon Gerrans in a breakaway, it was a winning move in a 2008 Tour de France stage. Although he looks young enough to be in college or parking cars at a restaurant, Gerrans has a confidence and killer instinct that he once again put to good use on stage 14 to San Luca.
While all the main GC riders started a riveting game of “who’s marking who?” Gerrans (team Cervelo) joined the early breakaway group only 12 kilometers into the race. It took him another 160 kilometers to dump the dozen riders with him but eventually he crossed the line in fine style, a big smile on his youthful face.
We saw a lot of Danilo di Luca wasting energy with meaningless attacks and pointless accelerations that amounted to nothing –other than cutting into his reserves for the harder mountain stages to come. As Denis Menchov, a much more savvy tour rider said, the real action comes on stage 16 and 17. While nervous riders like Di Luca rev the engine to gain a pitiful 3 seconds, Menchov and Leipheimer conserve every ounce of energy for when things get critical. As Leipheimer stated, he and Astana are in excellent shape compared to other teams (read LPR Brakes and Liquigas) that have burned up all their matches.
The monster mountains are almost here. And we expect a very happy Simon Gerrans to give his all for Carlos Sastre.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Mark Cavendish won the sprint finish in stage 13. Everybody in Italy, Europe, North America and the entire world knew the Columbia-Highroad rider would win. Alessandro Petacchi, Allan Davis and Tyler Farrar knew it.
You could hack your way through the deepest Amazon jungle, track down a lost pygmy tribe and ask them who would win. They would put down their blowguns and say “Mark Cavendish.” If you traveled into deep hyper-space and asked the first alien you saw which sprinter would win the stage, you’d get the same answer.
These sprints now have an air of inevitability and resignation as the other riders simply know the end result before the final 1000 meters. They don’t say anything afterwards like “I’ll get him next time,” or “I still think he’s beatable.” They don’t even get frustrated or angry. We miss Robbie McEwan because at least when he lost he’d shoot his mouth off, blow his stack, complain and rail against everyone.
There’s a distinct lack of drama and tension in the final kilometer. No photo finishes, no battling trains, no real competition. The only sprint Cavendish really lost in the Giro was, as he said, due to “laziness.” We say, bring on the mountains. Let’s see some competition.