CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 21, June 3rd, Vestone to Milano, 185 km
A "Killer" Giro!!!
Facciamo un brindisi al Giro (Let's toast the Giro) (Image © La Gazetta)
There is no question that this has been a great Giro. And there is no doubt that Danilo Di Luca is a worthy and great winner. Back in April when we wrote our lead-in article to the Giro, It's an Italian Thing, we voted Di Luca as our favorite to win this year's Giro.
It would seem that nobody else believed in Di Luca's ability to win a Grand Tour. He is without doubt one of the great one-day racers of our time. In fact he added to his already impressive ‘palmares' this past April by winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege. In terms of Grand Tours, Di Luca had a reputation for fading in the third week. However in the 2005 Giro he did ride into fourth place and along the way gave a spectacular display of climbing over the unmade road of the Colle della Finestre.
Today as the lads cruise into Milano on a largely ceremonial stage that will most probably end up in a mass sprint; we will quickly relive the Giro through the headlines of our daily reports…
STAGE 1: It all started three weeks ago in sunny Sardinia . Many hopefuls were Seeing Pink , including Di Luca, who was clearly 'Seeing Red' when his teammate Gasporotto crossed the line ahead of him in the opening Team Time Trial and thus claimed the first Maglia Rosa.
STAGE 2: For the sprinters this Giro was offering Slim Pickins and it was Robbie McEwen who made sure the next day of grabbing the first of these precious stages.
STAGE 3: Following this it was Petacchi's turn as he grabbed both the stage and the Ciclamino Jersey of Points Leader in Cagliari . For keen observers this final Sardinian stage illustrated the Community Racing aspect of Pro racing as team cars and riders helped each other regardless of team.
The next day was a rest day filled mostly by the long transfer from Sardinia to the Italian mainland.
STAGE 4: Back on the road we now saw Di Luca throw down the gauntlet to win the mountain top finish at Montevergne Di Mercogliano where he thought that he had Died and Gone to Heaven as he donned the Maglia Rosa.
STAGE 5: The next day was another for the sprinters as they sped into Frascati wine country famous for its Promiscuous Cultivation.
Elsewhere the Landis hearings were becoming somewhat startling. Also that bastion of champions, formerly known as the Telecom team, was crumbling as confessions from riders past and present started to admit to the use of drugs.
STAGE 6: The Giro rolled on as we hoped that the riders today understand better the difference between Good and Evil. Ironically Marco Pinotti riding for the new version of Telecom (T-Mobile) grabbed the Pink Jersey on this very day of confessions.
STAGE 7: Next day a dead flat race finished by swooping around the famous 15 Turns of the Mugello Formula 1 race track where Petacchi again reigned supreme.
STAGE 8: A mountainous route the next day soon dispatched the sprinters out the back. A monster break of 22 riders stole the day and a lot of time but Pinotti's manager told him to Supersize That chase effort to retain his leader's jersey (and he did!).
STAGE 9: The day before the stage up to Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia (Stage 10) turned out to be All Promise and No Performance as the bunch rode almost the entire distance ‘piano' to save their legs.
STAGE 10: Barely able to lift his hands in a victory salute Leonardo Pieopli conquered the Stage 10 mountain top finish to the Santuario Nostra Signora della Guardia with most of the Giro's Pink Jersey hopefuls in his wake. But benefiting from the time he gain gained a few days earlier (in the 22 rider escape) it was the oldest man (38) in the race Andrea Noe who now claimed the Maglia Rosa. No Mid-Life Crisis for him!
STAGE 11: There followed another tame stage as the riders prepared for some of the most serious climbing of the Giro the next day. Consequently Stage 11 was little more than a Storm in a Teacup that finished with a spectacular pile up as numerous riders fell over the finish line on a drenched road that simulated ice.
Stage 12 saw a “Killer” on the Loose. Danilo Di Luca (the “killer”) mastered the highest climb of the Giro (designated the Cima Coppi) the Colle dell'Agnello and then the mighty Col d'Izoard to win in Briançon (France). Along with his stage win the “killer” also claimed the Maglia Rosa which he was destined to retain all the way to Milan .
STAGE 13: However the next day's mountain time trial hung like The Sword of Damocles over the riders. Tired legs or some other problem could quickly put paid to elevated GC aspirations. Di Luca survived but Gilberto Simoni, while not losing ‘his Giro' certainly felt the pain.
STAGE 14: After two particularly brutal days, Stage 14 into Bergamo was expected to be taken easily by the peloton. Instead the mountainous course delivered A Cruel Shock to the bunch and a brilliant stage winner in former Giro champion Stephano Garzelli.
STAGE 15: On stage 15 A Sea of Humanity greeted the riders to the Dolomites. On the fantastic climb up to the finish on the Tre Cime Di Lavaredo the Saunier Duval duo of Leonardo Piepoli and Riccardo Ricco took the honors (Ricco won as Piepoli shook his hand in congratulations).
The riders now had a second rest day as we contemplated the concept of A Level Playing Field and the scenario swirling around the current flood of drug related confessions.
STAGE 16: The final phase of the Giro opened with the riders fearful of the next day's climb up the feared Monte Zoncolan. As a result Stage 16 was treated with Bovine Indifference by the main GC contenders. However many riders did take the stage seriously and nothing could diminish from Garzelli's second incredible stage win.
STAGE 17: If anyone wanted to remove Di Luca from the race lead stage 17 was the time to do it. Finishing up the fabled Monte Zoncolan with its 22% ramps, it was again Saunier Duval climbers taking the day's spoils. This time Gilberto Simoni led Piepoli home but their incredible ride could not dislodge Di Luca who fought magnificently all the way to the line to protect his Maglia Rosa. By now it was Italy , the Giro, Di Luca – Amore !!
STAGE 18: In complete contrast stage 18 was pan flat and here at CyclingRevealed we revealed the mystery of A Town called X. The Papal link of Riese Pio X was honored by another blistering sprint win by Ale-Jet (Petacchi).
STAGE 19: One final time the GC contenders were looking for an easy day ahead of another very important stage. This time atrocious weather and a challenging route proved to be a Cruel Therapy as the race splashed into the thermal spa town of Comano di Terme where Iban Mayo, after ‘a long time in the desert', achieved a spectacular lone win.
STAGE 20: And so to the final big test where Speed, Strength, Skill and Stamina would determine the overall GC rankings. Stage 20 was a 43km individual time trial across the wine region of Bardolino. Young Andy Schleck got closer to Di Luca and confirmed his immense future potential. Not too shabby getting second on GC in your first Grand Tour at the age of 21! The third spot on the podium was scripted to be a battle between Simoni and Cunego. However it would appear that Eddy Mazzoleni did not read the script as he trounced both riders and thus landed in third spot on the podium.
This brings us up to today where tradition was upheld with the peloton ambling along in festive fashion. The only ‘attacks' were by riders sprinting ahead to get hugs and kisses from relatives and fans up the road. After their love fest they would simply rejoin the lads cruising towards Milan . When they reached the big city they were greeted by huge crowds lining the 5km finishing circuit which had to be ridden ten times.
Fashion alert! The stage finishes along the Corso Venezia which is part of Milan 's famous Quadrilatero d'Oro (“Golden Rectangle”) consisting of an area including the Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Montenapoleone and the Via Sant'Andrea.
The Milanese take their shopping seriously. They even dress up for it. You'll quickly notice that most locals look as if they're on their way to a gallery opening or private fashion event. This doesn't mean you have to be decked out in the latest Dolce & Gabbana before stepping out, but browsing the shops in sweatpants and trainers is guaranteed to raise eyebrows.
All the top designers (Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Gianfranco Ferré) have shops in the area, and since many of them are based in the city, a number of their stores have special features, unique to Milan . We can be sure that some of the fashion conscious and affluent pro riders will be spending a little time here updating their wardrobe once the race is done.
With five laps to go the pedestrian pace was rapidly changed to warp speed as two Tinkoff riders (who else!) attacked hard. The counter-attacks started as Milram (for Petacchi) and Quick Step (for Bettini) began assembling their troops to build the lead-out trains. Liquigas in particular worked hard to ensure that their Giro champion was as safe as possible from this final sprinters flourish. Their strategy was to simply control the front of the bunch for as long as possible.
In fact Liquigas maintained their iron grip on the race right up to the final lap where they were finally washed away by the sprinters with about 3km to go. One kilometer to go and Petacchi was in fourth wheel. On the line he has about six bike lengths over Richese (2nd ) and Bettini (3rd ) to crown a magnificent Giro with his fifth stage win (24th Giro career stage win).
Stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Image © La Gazetta)
Di Luca, Schleck and Mazzoleni stood proudly on the podium to close what has truly been A “Killer” Giro. Danilo “Killer” Di Luca is a worthy champion who from day one made his intentions clear. Every day the course and the racing presented cycling in its best and most magnificent form. As we have seen so often it will be hard for either the Tour or Vuelta to produce better pro racing than this.
A smiling Danilo Di Luca... How Sweet It Is!!! (Image © La Gazetta)
In true Italian operatic fashion the ‘Fat Lady' is now singing “it's over”. But is it? Recent Grand Tours have sadly unmasked dubious activities by the winning riders; Heras (Vuelta 2005), Basso (Giro 2006) and Landis (Tour 2006). For the sake of cycle sport let's hope that the leaders of the 2007 Giro have played the game cleanly.
To all of our CyclingRevealed readers, we truly appreciate you tuning in. Keep us as your homepage.
Return to Giro 07 ToC >>> Previous Stage >>>