Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stage 10, Part II: Di Luca, "Better than I thought"

PINEROLO, 19 May – It is too much to make a comparison with those who made history sixty years ago. But at the end of this day, saddened by the death of a motorcyclist dear to the Giro, something important did happen. Danilo Di Luca definitively raised his voice; he is the leader of this Giro.

SMALL STEPS — "The key is to study the descent. It went better than I thought; I didn’t think I would cross the finish line alone. For me, it was like a classic stage, like a Liegi-Bastogne-Liegi. Reaching the time trial with this lead is something else." And thus, Di Luca, who crossed the finish line with his fist raised and the 24th pink jersey of his career (tomorrow he can become the absolute active record holder), accumulated the extra time he needed to remain in play, despite those 62 kilometres in Cinque Terre. He won the San Martino di Castrozza; he was second on the Siusi Alps, third in Bergamo, and today he added a full minute to the lead he accumulated just with time bonuses. To this tidy sum, add the leads inflicted through the action instigated by Pellizotti and refined by the pink jersey: 10 seconds on Menchov and Sastre (watch out for these two...), 29 seconds on Basso, Leipheimer and Rogers, and a good 1:39 on Lövkvist. "At this point, it’ll be hard for him to take the pink jersey after the time trial," Di Luca added. In the general ranking, he has a safe distance: 1:20 on Menchov, 1:33 on Rogers, and 2:03 on Basso.

MORALE — The bit of space between the pursuers and the leader has not done irreparable damage, but the picture is starting to look really favourable to LPR. "Di Luca once again showed that he is the strongest,” said Ivan Basso, who may be waiting till Thursday to definitively show his colours. “But we’re confident about the rest of the Giro. There are still two time trials and a lot of climbs, we can do well". Pellizotti, "It’s impossible to do more than this. Danilo left me behind." Lövkvist, "The rest day didn’t help me. My legs were stiff and I couldn’t keep up with the best riders. Cut out? No, the time trial can open up the playing field." Cunego, at +5:31 from the winner. “A terrible stage. I stayed with the best racers as long as I could, then I just couldn’t do it."

ASTANA SMILES — The most visible riders on the climb up Pra’ Martino, where Pellizotti tried to make his mark, included Lance Armstrong. The morale of Astana, where some back pay is starting to arrive, is good, despite the gap they’ve accumulated. Leipheimer, "The whole team raced well, I think I made a small mistake on the descent. I see that few people are noticing that someone is getting back into his old shape..." "That" someone spoke, naturally, on Twitter: "Di Luca showed that he deserves the pink jersey,” Armstrong observed. “We got a little distanced, but we were strong as well. Just a little problem for Levi. He looks good for the time trial, though".

MOMENT OF SILENCE — No celebrations on the stage, sadness throughout the small city that accompanies the Giro d’Italia on a daily basis. The death of Fabio Saccani, motorcyclist for photojournalist Roberto Bettini, was a shock for many. He had been part of the Giro family for 32 years, for a love of the sport, and time had also granted him many close friendships. Like that of Lance Armstrong, who beat cancer, just like he did, and who wrote, this evening, "Fly on brother and keep smiling."

After the Giro we'll get back to "regular programming": everything from A to Z about Italian cycling. Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail.com.

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