CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 14, May 26th, Canto to Bergamo, 192 km
A Cruel Shock
Milan is a relatively short bike ride (about 20kms) from both the start and finish towns for today's stage. But there is a lot of suffering to be done before the riders roll into the big city next weekend.
Starting in Cantu', the race heads north on roads familiar to fans of the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lomardy) as it runs alongside the fabulously beautiful Lake Como. Turning away from the northern tip of the lake the race arched back towards Milan but stopping at Bergamo. At 85kms the race encountered the 26km, Category 1 Passo di San Marco (Note: Category 1 is the top rating in the Giro and this year there are only six Category 1 climbs). Next the 10km Category 2, La Trinita Dossena (984m) came at 143km. Over the top 38kms of mostly down hill and flat roads terminated on the climb up to the old walled city of Bergamo.
Bergamo, a spectacular city for a spectacular stage finish
Ten riders pulled away up the Passo di San Marco including the World Champion Bettini. Behind them potentially dramatic events were unfolding. Garzelli attacked but was brought back. Over the top Savoldelli (il Falco) opened his wings and plummeted down the mountain taking Mazzoleni and Pelizotti (Liquigas) with him. In the confusion Garzelli and Simoni also managed to escape the Maglia Rosa group. In the valley the 10 leaders, the Savoldelli group and the Simoni group all connected. Back in the bunch the alarm bells were ringing loud and clear.
Along with Di Luca, Bruseghin, Schleck and Cunego were now under serious attack. The lead group was taking no prisoners as they took on the Trinita Dossena climb at ‘full gas'. One by one riders were shelled out of the break as Simoni, Garzelli and Savoldelli (former Giro winners all) set about to teach Di Luca a lesson. Their faces told the story of the effort which was causing serious consternation back with the chase group headed by the Liquigas and Lampre teams. Lampre in particular was in panic as they had nobody in the break which put Bruseghin and Cunego in a dangerous situation. Also losing out was young Andy Schleck who had little support to call on from his team. But the real damage was happening to Liquigas as astoundingly Di Luca found himself without any teammates.
The Liquigas director sportif was obliged to order Pelizotti back from the break to support Di Luca. As Pelizotti rejoined the chase group his former break companions were now 1m 5s up the road and only about 1km from the summit of the Trinita Dosenna climb. Savoldelli took the mountain prime.
Bergamo (Savoldelli's home town) now lay only 38kms ahead and a furious chase ensued. Perhaps through a combination of sheer anxiety and weariness, Schleck hit the deck just over the top of the climb. He was up quickly but was now forced to chase alone. After a long and stylish effort he managed to reconnect with the Di Luca group.
Now on his favorite terrain, Savoldelli was flying down the mountain as his break companions tried to maintain contact. This effort would be decisive in the day's outcome. Apart from the Di Luca chase group, the rest of the race was spread all over Lombardy . Most riders had expected an easy day following the last couple of brutal days and more to follow in this coming week. How wrong they were!
The Lampre team and just Di Luca and Pelizotti (both Liquigas) were now the only riders actively driving the chase. Up front the leaders comprised just seven riders (Simoni, Garzelli, Savoldelli, Bettini, Mazzoleni, Parra Pinto and Baliani) and all of them were fully motivated to hammer their way to the finish.
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) somehow managed to pull himself back to the chase group after the climb and now along with Pelizotti rode himself inside out for his team leader Di Luca. As hard as the front group was riding the chasers were managing to nibble seconds from the leaders. With 10kms to go the gap was down to 53s.
On the cobbled streets of ‘old' Bergamo Simoni ‘magnifico' blasted away from the leaders in pursuit not so much of a stage win, but time. Weaving around the tiny streets the high speed drama continued right up to the end where Garzelli managed to overhaul Simoni on the line. Di Luca, mouth wide open and on the ‘rivet' (tip of his saddle), was showing the true mettle of a champion. He fought to the line and consequently contained the damage such that very little changed with respect to his advantage over his main challengers.
Stage winner Stefano Garzelli ( Image © La Gazetta )
Of all the participants in the winning break it was Simoni who profited most by gaining a 12s bonus to move himself up to 5 th on GC. Garzelli's winning time and bonus, although bringing him closer to Di Luca, still leaves him 5m 26s adrift in 12 th place on GC. Similarly, Savoldelli's excellent ride today did little to improve his GC standing where he is 14 th at 8m 54s. However for Di Luca the message is clear. There are a lot of riders with the fight and the ability to lay legitimate claim to the Maglia Rosa. The road to Milan is fraught with danger for Di Luca and we can be assured of a great battle between now and then.
Today was an example of racing at its best. Since the beginning of the Armstrong era it has been rare to see an all out attack on a GC race leader by top echelon riders in a Grand Tour. The power and determination of the combined assault today must be causing Liquigas, and Di Luca in particular, serious concerns. However, for all their efforts the lead riders only produced a 38 second gain which must have been “a cruel shock” to them all.
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