CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 10, May 22nd, Lido Di Camaiore to Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia, 250 km
Today has long been predicted as a pivotal day in this year's Giro. Its agonizing length (250km) included three categorized climbs and roads that were continually going up or down. For much of the day the road traced the spectacular Ligurian coast before turning inland in Genoa for the nearby mountain top finish.
A native of Genoa recently wrote lovingly of his home region thus:
“In the world, Genoa is famous for the G8, as the birth place of Christopher Columbus, the second biggest aquarium in Europe, for the biggest cemetery in Europe and the biggest (and expensive) old town center, with its "vicoli" (alleys), and very, very small streets sloping quaintly downhill. If you want to find only a word to describe Genoa and Liguria you can say "magic", because here all is poetry...
If you were born here, you can't not to love it... It's in your blood...
But there is not only this... there is the entire Riviera (coast) and every town has got something special...
As an alternative to a morning spent on the beach there is the possibility of taking a trip into the hills that are within easy reach as they sweep right down to the coast. There are numerous small villages, which often boast ruined castles that bear testimony to former glories of noble families. They are strewn around the hinterland, and provide a peaceful authentic setting away from the crowds, amongst the friendly hard-working local people. The ring of hills, lying immediately beyond the coast, together with the beneficial influx of the sea, account for the mild climate the whole year round (with average winter temperatures of 7-10° and summer temperatures of 25-28°) which makes for a pleasant stay even in the heart of winter.”
Six riders managed to escape the bunch at 55kms to establish a solid break. Hubert Dupont (AG2r), Alberto Losada (Caisse d'Epargne), Ivan Parra (Cofidis), George Hincapie (Discovery), Mauricio Ardila (Rabobank) and Fortunato Baliani (Panaria). Viewing the spectacular scenery with just a few of your friends was one way to enjoy the day because this break was clearly doomed to failure. After five hours or so in the saddle, and 207kms covered, they were however still 2m 30s ahead of a nervous bunch primed for action. George Hincapie has said that he is using the Giro as preparation for the Tour de France. He was obviously using today to hone his form and perhaps to play out a Discovery team strategy.
All day the riders toiled under a hot sun with high humidity necessitating frequent trips back to the team cars for more fluid. The break however continued to work hard and as they hit the Category 3 climb at 220kms there was considerably more urgency in their effort. Hincapie flatted and looked to be done for the day. Looks can be deceiving and it was not long before big George put on a great display of controlled effort to work his way back to the leaders (he is obviously getting in great form for the Tour!).
Crunch time, 9kms of leg bending effort remained to the finish. On the lower slopes the remains of the break battled on as Parra attacked. Hincapie dragged himself back up to the Columbian who promptly attacked again. While valiant, all of this effort was for naught as “The Killer” Di Luca powered up to George and then moments later caught Parra.
Next, Saunier Duval's little climber, Learnodo Piepoli, counter-attacked and quickly joined Parra/Di Luca. Piepoli then pulled away alone as a small group containing Savoldelli, Simoni, Ricco, Cunego and Schleck reconnected with Di Luca and Parra. The gradient was now alternating between 10% and 13% and causing some major suffering. Only Piepoli seemed impervious to the climb as Schleck and Di Luca joined forces to hunt the leader down. Perhaps surprisingly Simoni, now on his own, was trying to catch the Schleck/Di Luca tandem.
Barely able to lift his hands off the bars, Piepoli just managed a victory salute as he crossed the line on the steep road. Di Luca came in next 18s later and then at 27s Schleck, Simoni, Riccò, Savoldelli, Cunego and Pelizotti dragged their weary carcasses over the line. In fact the scene at the finish was quite startling for a Pro Tour race. As soon as Schleck crossed the line he veered sharply over to the barrier to hang on completely spent. The other leading riders were in much the same state and in fact for these guys, as for most of those that followed, the Giro helpers on the line were catching each finishing rider to help them keep their balance or to shove them a little further up the road. Exhausted riders were soon littering the finish area.
With the acute focus on Operacion Puerto and the Landis hearing, currently in progress in California , we can only assume that we are seeing a “clean” Giro. The riders are displaying human reactions resulting from long and intense efforts. Remember last year when on a day like today Basso would have finished looking no more distressed than if he had ridden down to the shops to collect a loaf of bread! Now we know why.
Much hope is focused on the young generation of riders in the peloton who, everyone prays, are not falling foul of the drug culture characterized by Operacion Puerto. But not all of the older riders deserve being smeared with the specter of drugs and cheating. Today Marco Pinotti tried gallantly, but in vain, to retain the Maglia Rosa. In his place the oldest rider in the race, 38 year old Andrea Noè, Liquigas, became the new race leader. For years Noè has consistently been ‘just behind' the upper echelon of riders but always producing great GC rides (especially in the Giro). This wily and experienced rider was one of the 22 riders to be found in the break on Stage 5 which took over four minutes out of the bunch and gave Pinotti his Pink Jersey. Today many of those riders from that Stage 5 break are lined up behind Noè in the top 20 on GC.
New race leader 38 year old Andrea Noe ( Images © La Gazetta )
At an age when most riders have retired and are dreading the arrival of the big ‘4' ‘0', the youthful Noè looks to be far from his “mid-life crisis”!
Tomorrow: it is back to a sprinter's stage with a
easy 198 km from
Serravalle Scrivia to Pinerolo. Check back for our report.
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