Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sastre: “It’s not over yet”

CAGLI (Puglia), 25 May 2009 – On 23 July 2008 Carlos Sastre Candil won the 17th stage of the Tour de France at Alpe d'Huez, a crucial moment in his overall Tour victory. Ten months later, in the Apennines at a Giro d’Italia characterised by torrid heat and its stars from far afield, the Spaniard attempted another double whammy to remember. He got halfway there. “I was hoping to gain more time over Menchov, but the team supported me and we can’t complain. I’m pleased with the stage win and the fact that I’ve gone up a place on the leader board. The Giro isn’t over yet, things could still change at Vesuvius”.

Pink Jersey Convinces — The other real winner on the day was Denis Menchov. The pink jersey holder responded in great style, showing great agility and tactical nous. “I couldn’t take too many risks closing down on Basso, Sastre and Di Luca. I decided to shadow Danilo because in terms of the overall classification he is the biggest threat. I don’t like riding like that, right on the wheels of others, but in these situations energy is in short supply and the time bonuses are so important”. Di Luca, who will be training at Block Haus tomorrow rather than in L’Aquila, emphasized: “If Menchov doesn’t open the door a little it will be difficult to beat him. I think I've got second place sewn up. We’ll see if I can make any inroads on Block Haus or Vesuvius, but it won’t be easy”.

Thirst and Hope — The Russian in the pink managed to overcome the biggest obstacle of a demanding day. It is difficult to describe the level of fatigue that sets in after over seven hours cycling in temperatures of over 35°C. Many of the teams completely finished their liquid supplies whilst, in an attempt to cool down, numerous cyclists rode with ice packs in the pockets of their jerseys, accepting water bottles from the spectators at roadside. The effect was devastating for Leipheimer, who dropped to over 3 minutes behind the pink jersey. “Lance literally saved me,” remarked the American, who got a puncture on the Catria downhill and rode alongside Armstrong on the final climb without managing to trouble the leaders. “Without him I’d have lost lots of minutes”.

Basso fires first shot — The first man to make a move was Ivan Basso. Three times he attempted to pull away from the leading pack before Sastre eventually got away from him. “Carlos was the strongest in the end. I did all I could without managing to gain much of a lead. You saw how Menchov and Di Luca are doing: they’re looking strong”. The Varese-born cyclist consequently raised the white flag (now in fifth at 3 min 19 sec) having himself been helped to victory in the 2006 Giro by Sastre.

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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