CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 20, June 2nd, Bardolino to Verona, 43 km Individual Time Trial
Speed, Skill, Strength and Stamina
With 2m 24s advantage over second placed Andy Schleck, Danilo Di Luca is all but assured of retaining his Maglia Rosa in today's individual time trial. As is so often the case with long TT's at the end of a Grand Tour, we can expect two races today; one between the top GC contenders and the other between the TT specialists. The specialists should produce the fastest times.
The 43kms was a relatively flat course that took the riders from the beautiful shores of Lake Garda to the city of Verona where it finished outside the famous Roman Amphitheater after having passed under the ancient arches of the Verona clock tower. The Amphitheater was built in 30AD and is one of the best preserved structures of its kind. Today it is famous for its opera concerts
The TT course passes through the Bardolino region known for its famous wines and olives. Bardolino is a light ruby red wine which is dry, soft and tasty with a bitter final taste. It is made from a blend of grapes: Corvina provides body and color, Rondinella is responsible for the wine's characteristic and appealing grassy flavor, Molinara gives the wine fragrance, while Negrara assures softness and freshness.
The olive oil produced in and around Garda is reputed to be some of the best in Italy and is especially delicate, ideal if used cold as a dressing for salads. Bardolino sits in the zone known as 'Riviera Degli Olivi' and is so called thanks to the microclimate created by Lake Garda which uniquely permits olives to grow this far north.
Unfortunately the local attractions were not being shown at their best today as the rains which had made yesterday so miserable persisted most of today. Languishing well down the GC table in 67 th position (1h 50m back) Dave Zabriskie ignored the weather to set the early benchmark with a scintillating 48.7kmph (30mph) TT which sliced 30s off of Laszlo Bodrogi's (Hungarian TT Champ) time.
As the riders sliced through the pouring rain on their delicate thoroughbred TT bikes we were reminded of the final TT in the Tour a few years ago when Jan Ullrich slid out on a roundabout and thus destroyed his final challenge to Armstrong. Di Luca, Schleck, Simoni and Cunego in particular were undoubtedly remembering that incident. Sliding out in today's treacherous conditions could ruin all GC aspirations.
After Zabriskie the riders came and went until Marzio Brushegin set out and, due to his Stage 13 ITT win, was considered a challenger. By now the rain was easing and the roads were becoming less saturated. Improving conditions favored the final batch of riders and Zabriskie's superb result was going to be challenged.
The great show-down was set to be launched. While Schleck needed 2m 25s to overhaul Di Luca, Simoni only needed five seconds to move ahead of Schleck. For Cunego to rob Simoni of his podium place he needed to better Simoni by 1m 2s. Lurking ominously close behind them all on GC was Eddy Mazzoleni currently 5th on GC.
As we awaited the final riders Paolo Savoldelli was showing what a class rider he is. This former two-time Giro winner hit the second intermediate split point in 26m 23s which was 9s faster than Zabriskie at that point. At the third time check Savoldelli clocked 37m 27s which was 27s faster than Zabriskie. With drying roads Savoldelli roared under the Verona clock tower and over the finish line a clear 38s faster than Zabriskie in 52m 20s.
Meanwhile the ‘race of truth' was revealing the final story of this Giro. Simoni was having a bad day and Cunego was closing in as was fifth on GC Eddy Mazzoleni. Di Luca was on fire and very soon was pulling out seconds ahead from an inspired Schleck.
Bruseghin came in 1m 16s slower than Savoldelli and as he bounced over the cobbles just meters from the finish line his TT bars broke away from his bike! Luckily Bruseghin stayed upright. As this was going on Mazzoleni was overhauling his deficit to both Cunego and Simoni. To spring above Simoni he needed to better him by 1m 19s and keep 18s ahead of Cunego.
For Schleck his result would be a point of honor as his second place on the podium was very secure. So now the real drama focused on the third spot on the podium. Simoni appeared to be having a melt-down and now the battle looked to be between Mazzoleni and Cunego.
Happily the sun started to shine and the roads were drying. Mazzoleni finished in 52m 56s and now Astana were holding first and second places on this stage. Through his earpiece Cunego got the news and started to show a much labored style as he fought his bike. On the line Cunego clocked 54m 37s, his podium hopes washed away. Simoni battled to the end but his 55m 4s also removed him from the podium.
The final act pitted the experienced Di Luca against the young new comer Schleck. The youngster once again confirmed his abilities by finishing in 53m 48s which was 29s ahead of Di Luca. No matter, Di Luca had retained his Maglia Rosa, Schleck stayed in second and Mazzoleni trounced both Simoni and Cunego to grab the third step on the podium. The most brilliant ride of the day was truly that by Savoldelli who many so often forget is as great a time trialist as he is a fearless mountain descender.
Winning bike races calls for many skills. To win a Grand Tour demands all-round excellence mixed with perhaps a little luck. Since the start in Sardinia Danilo Di Luca has ridden like a true champion and he will now roll into Milan tomorrow a worthy victor. Today's test was magnified by the challenging weather which simply showed that “the killer” is a “master” of cycling speed, strength, skill and stamina.
Danilo Di Luca finishing the ITT in Verona (Image © La Gazetta)
Tomorrow: A triumphal entry for Danilo Di Luca and a last gasp effort for the sprinters. Check back for our report and summary of three great weeks.
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