Italy, Sunday, May 21, 2006
Yesterday was an important stage [stage 13] and we expected some attacks. But the team and Ivan were strong enough to eliminate those, even to the point where Ivan was able to ride away with Piepoli on the climb. The descent was wet and cold and Ivan showed obvious prudence. Piepoli descended with high speed because he was going all out for the victory. For Piepoli the stage win was well worth taking risks on the wet and slippery descent. For Ivan there was just too much at stake.
We were surprised to see that Savoldelli, Cunego and Di Luca lost substantial time. For our team yesterday was more positive. Every time you can have a day like that it's welcome. Ivan is feeling good and the team is riding very well.
Today, the peloton chewed a lot of kilometres and a lot of them were uphill. It was on from the word go but our guys were able to keep it together. The peloton went over the top of the first climb with the whole CSC team in front. It enabled us to keep the tempo going all the way through the valley. We 'lost' two guys on the Simplon, but still went over the top with seven, and we were able to keep things rolling.
Both descents were fast today as there were hardly any corners. It was totally different to yesterday. I was following the peloton, and quite a few times we were flying down the mountain at over 100 km/h. I'd say that the riders would have had maximum speeds of between 100 and 110 km/h today.
Tomorrow, we'll try and keep things under control. It's a flat stage but as there's no pure sprinters left there won't be a Petacchi-train or the Davitamon-Lotto team riding to set up the sprint for McEwen. So, it's highly likely our boys will have to work even more tomorrow. Quick.Step and T-Mobile might show up to lend a hand too. It's an ideal finish for Pollack, Bettini or Sacchi, and maybe Di Luca. We'll have to wait and see what they want to do.
We have two bloody hard mountain stages ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday, including the finish at Kronplatz. The weather's been bad up there lately. If it's really wet and cold, with some snow, the riders just simply won't get up there, it will be like the Koppenberg in winter.
So far, everyone in the team is really motivated, and Ivan has now spent a week in pink already. But trust me, we're definitely not getting carried away, we're just taking it one day at a time. There's some massive days ahead, some very tough stages. A lot of things might happen, so we'll keep our wits about us.
Gutierrez (Phonak) is proving to be very consistent at the moment. I was talking to his team director Adriano Baffi this morning, and he told me Gutierrez had a good Tour of Georgia too. He's a big man, 32 years old so he's got to the age where he can ride consistently day in day out. He's not the explosive type, he's not attacking, but he can follow the strongest riders. If you want a podium spot, that's one way to go about it. Gutierrez also did a good TT the other day.
A little more on the bikes
Did you see the Cervelo R3 bike that Ivan is riding during the big mountain stages only? It's exactly the same type of frame that Fabian Cancellara and all the other riders used in the classics. When you've got Cancellara at 83kg bouncing up and down on the cobbles of Roubaix without problems, and you give the same bike to a guy who is 13 kg lighter on the nice smooth roads of Italy, then you can expect a very dependable ride.
The R3s are equipped with Zipp 202s, the ceramic/titanium wheels. The whole bike comes in at 6.6 kg, which is 200g under the UCI weight limit so we had to add 200g to the frame with lead weights. This frame has been tested in Germany by one of the standards testing labs, and Tour magazine had an article on it saying that it was so much lighter than all the bikes, but in comparison twice as strong.
We're mainly using the Carbon Soloist, which comes in just above the UCI minimum weight (6.8kg). Carlos Sastre rides the smallest frame in the team; so his Carbon Soloist weighs less and we had to add 100g to his bike as well to make up the difference.
If you think about that, maybe they should start weighing the riders too?