CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 8, May 20th, Barberino Di Mugello to Fiorano Modenese, 194 km
Super Size That!
Another day heading north and the serious climbing stages are looming closer. Although tagged as a sprinters day, today's route was somewhat cruel for the pure sprinters. Right from the gun the race headed up the Category 2 Passo della Futa. Once over the top very hilly terrain challenged the peloton until the Category 3 Sestola which was crested at 100 kms. From there the plunge downhill took the field on to mainly flat roads to the finish.
At the top of the Passo della Futa, and only 13 kms in to the race, Petacchi, McEwen and many other sprinters were already over one minute behind the main peloton. Having seen that regular sized breaks generally do not survive, the boys decided to supersize that effort today as 22 riders forged ahead by the 35th km.
Reports came back that Petacchi and McEwen were 10 minutes down on the bunch. However by the time that everyone had scaled the Sestola the break was about 6m 30s ahead of the main field containing the Maglia Rosa and Petacchi, McEwen and co. were about 1m 30s behind them.
In this Giro a break is not a break without someone from the Tinkoff team being present. This time two of them were there (Brutt and Petrov). Cycling royalty was represented by Bettini (who is desperate to win a stage). Providing considerable horsepower were ‘rouleurs' like Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto), Serguei Yakolev (Astana) and Andrea Noe (Liquigas). Noe had the best chance of taking the Maglia Rosa as he lay only 4m 49s behind race leader Pinotti.
With about 50kms to go the supersized break was really cooperating well and they were about 6m 30s ahead of the main field. Normally in a large sized group there will usually be a few slackers hanging back to save their effort for the final kilometers. Not so here, the group was working smoothly and really flying.
Back in the main field those fancying their chances at the overall GC must have been developing some serious concerns. At the current rate of progress some of the riders in the break would become a major threat. In fact Andre Noe was now the ‘virtual leader' on the road and his past record shows that he is consistently high in Grand Tour GC placings. It is not beyond feasibility that a solid, but unspectacular rider like Noe could ride into Milan victorious.
But while the riders up front were dreaming of Pink, the riders behind had no intention of living out a nightmare. In particular Saunier Duval and T-Mobile, who were not represented in the break, were driving a furious pace. With 20kms to go the gap had closed to 4m 50s as the race did a quick tour around Ferrari's test track.
The Ferrari test track; never open to the public, but the Giro was an honored guest today
A long way back, in fact 23 minutes back at this point, McEwen who had dreamt of a classic sprinter's finish today, was now in danger of missing the time cut and thus being eliminated from the Giro! What was expected to be a fairly routine sprinters stage had turned into a drama filled experience.
McEwen was so far back today that he had slipped back into an earlier era (Giro 1925)!
The supersized break continued to function well and still comprised 22 riders with only 10kms remaining. The T-Mobile team's chase effort looked as though Pinotti's Pink Jersey would be saved. Now the boys up front were wondering what to do about Bettini. The World Champion was the fastest sprinter of them all and riding with him to the finish line was not recommended. The attacks would soon begin.
Almost everyone tried their luck, and all of them were trying to distance Bettini. The World Champion was obliged to answer everything and in the end he was outfoxed by Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Team CSC who claimed a brilliant win. As Bettini mourned yet another 2 nd place the bunch roared into town 4m 19s later. Race leader Pinotti had also had a close shave as Andre Noe started the day only 4m 49s down on Pinotti. Having done the math out on the road to calculate their margin of safety, the McEwen group rolled in over 20 minutes after the peloton and avoided the time cut.
Noe did not quite make it into Pink but now he is rewarded with second on GC and several of his break companions occupy the top ten slots. The spectacular chase by the Maglia Rosa group was obviously orchestrated by the T-Mobile team manager who had told his boys that if they wanted to hang on to the Maglia Rosa then not only chase, but supersize that effort!
A supersized effort kept Marco Pinotti in Pink for another stage ( Image © La Gazetta )
Tomorrow: stage 9 continues its journey along the Tuscan Riviera as it heads to the coastal resort of Lido Di Camaiore having covered 177kms from the start in Reggio nell'Emilia. After traveling in the ‘gruppeto' for the past couple of days Robbie McEwen should be heading the final charge in to town. Check back for our report.
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