- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 08:07
- Jen See
The peloton explains the ins and outs of their longest day
Everyone expected a long day on Thursday’s 217 kilometer stage between Seaside and Paso Robles. The course ran over undulating terrain and, though it was never especially technical, the road constantly twisted and turned. The weather changed from the previous days’ rain to warm and dry, and riders reached the finish with their kits crusted with salt.
"It was definitely hot today, you see a lot of salt on guys," commented Brad White of UnitedHealthcare after the stage. "It has to do with the length of the day, and the heat. The start was really really hard. All the big teams were more motivated than I thought to get into the break."
Rabobank in particular wanted to show their jersey today. The finish line in Paso Robles sat directly in front of one of the bank’s offices.
Two separate breakaways formed in the early kilometers of the stage, and nearly 40 kilometers of racing unfolded before the day’s break went up the road for good. RadioShack chose to keep the break on a short leash, because Chris Baldwin of Bissell made the junction. Baldwin started the day at 4:30 behind RadioShack’s Chris Horner in the general classification.
Baldwin continued Team Bissell’s streak of making the breakaway each day, but he found the stage rough going. "I don't think I'm going to be able to walk for three days," he said. "It was just insane. Every year they just make this race more challenging. It's a death march, it's like pretty hard, maybe harder than it needs to be."
White meanwhile, was the last rider to make it across. "I was going across with Jeff Louder and a Leopard-Trek guys, and about a kilometer from the top of the KOM, they just wacked it and got across, and I couldn't follow them," the United Healthcare rider explained. He remained suspended between the break and the field.
"I told myself if I don't catch them before the descent, I'm going back to the field, and then, I was kind of 20 meters from the back of their cars most of the time, I knew if I could get over the climb, I could get into the cars and get back on. [There were] not very good thoughts in my mind in no-man's land. If I hadn't caught them by the bottom, I would have gone back to the field."
Behind the break, RadioShack kept tight control on the field, and U.S. National Champion Ben King spent much of the day riding tempo on the front, explaining: "It was really hard, it was mostly me and Jason [McCartney] and one Liquigas guy for over 200 km."
Chris Horner, who arrived safely in the field in Paso Robles, credited his team with "a big ride today." The 10-rider break never achieved more than a 3:30 gap, and for much of the day it held under 3:00. "The break was a bit large, and so of course it's a lot of work," the veteran said. "There was a cross-tail wind all day, so there was no free ride in the bunch. I don't think anyone got a better ride than Levi and myself. We had a great team looking after us."
Though the sprinters eventually had their day in Paso Robles, Oscar Freire tried his best to ruin their chances. The three-time World Champion went with the break today, and attacked on the way to the final climb on Interlake Road. Freire nearly survived to the line.
"With two riders, it would have been easier to stay away," the Spaniard conceded. "In the last climb, I lost almost 40 seconds. If we were together there was a good chance to survive. The peloton was always controlling the gap. I knew there wasn't a good chance to arrive, but when you're in the break you have to try. I almost won, but in the last 3 kilometers, I saw the peloton and they were stronger."
Only fifty riders made the final sprint, and the field caught Freire close to the finish. Team Sky tried to set up Ben Swift for another stage victory, but he could not repeat his earlier success.
"It was a tough sprint," he recounted. "It was a hard day, and we were starting to run out of men toward the end. So I had to let a few people in, Leigh Howard and then Daniel Oss. I was hoping Sagan would come through, but he stayed behind. Unfortunately, I had to get around Oss's lead-out man before I could contest for the sprint. It was a good race, and a fantastic lead-out by Hayman and Henderson, and it was unfortunate I couldn't pull it off."
Leigh Howard contested the sprint for HTC-Highroad, after Matthew Goss decided with around 40 kilometers to go that he did not have the legs for the win. Howard finished second, after winding up his sprint early. "I got caught on the front a bit too early, and I had to open up at about 300 meters to go," the 21-year-old Australian, who has won multiple World Championship titles on the track, admitted. "They just caught me with about 20-30 meters to go. I'm really happy with my sprint, but I'm really disappointed not to win."
For Peter Sagan, the hard racing in the finale worked to his advantage. "In the last kilometers, we thought the group would break up more than it did," he explained. "In the end, it was still a good-size group, and there was some confusion with the number of sprinters still in the race. Fortunately, I was a little less tired than the other sprinters in the group," said the happy winner. "I'd like to thank my teammates, without their work, this win wouldn't have been possible."
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 09:06
- Stephen Farrand
Race organisers confirm the difficult descent, but now fear snow at altitude
As the Giro heads north into the mountains, race director Angelo Zomegnan has made it clear that Saturday's 14th stage will include the testing descent of the Crostis climb before the finish on Monte Zoncolan. Riders and sports directors have questioned the safety of the descent, especially after the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt on the descent of the Passo del Bocco on stage three.
Alberto Contador was stunned by difficulty of the descent when he rode the stage two weeks before the start of the Giro. The top section is on dirt roads and there are sudden drop offs on several corners that have been fitted with nets used in Alpine ski competitions.
The maglia rosa has continued to question the need for the descent in recent days and his team manager Bjarne Riis has spoken about the impact of the decision taken by race organisers to stop team cars following riders on the descent. Each team can follow their riders on a motorbike carrying spare wheels and can then follow carrying a team bike on the Zoncolan.
Technical race director Mauro Vegni showed team representatives a video of the descent during the rest day transfer and Zomegnan showed Cyclingnews a text message he had received from David Millar confirming that the riders were satisfied with the safety measures adopted by the organisers.
"I've had other messages too, including from Contador but I don't need a yes from riders to decide if a descent is safe. I want to make it clear that it's the race who decides things. Not the riders, not the media and certainly not people like Bjarne Riis. I especially won't accept lessons about the sporting aspect of cycling from him.
"The Crostis was in terrible condition until a month ago, but now it's actually safer than the other descents. If only all the descents were as good as the Crostis is in now.
"The riders will have mechanical assistance with them during the descent because every team can have a motorbike following their riders. We've got a plan A, a plan B, a plan C and even a plan D. We'll monitor things all the time, right up to the start of the stage before making a final decision."
Zomegnan admitted that it was not the descent Crostis that is worrying him the most at this point, but the expected bad weather forecast for the next few days. It could even snow at altitude, forcing the Giro to miss some of the biggest climbs.
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 09:27
- Kirsten Frattini
SpiderTech rider hopes to extend his lead on Mt Baldy
Pat McCarty (SpiderTech p/b C10) is on the hunt to win the California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) jersey by the end of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. The American climber will try to further his lead in the point standings on the 'queen' stage seven that includes the second mountaintop finish on Mt Baldy.
"Mt Baldy is a big day because they are higher category climbs and more points," McCarty told Cyclingnews. "Saturday is the big day for me. I will have to do everything there and on Sunday there is only one climb. I'm going to put everything into Saturday and hopefully it will work out like it did today."
McCarty moved ahead on the KOM competition by winning the Hors category ascent during stage four over Mt. Hamilton. He earned 12 points ahead of Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) who had 9 points heading into stage five.
"Yesterday I was climbing good and I was in the right place at the right time," McCarty said. "It wasn't easy but today I had to fight a little bit for it to keep it."
McCarty nearly missed the day's significant breakaway but relied on his teammate Svein Tuft to bring him across. The eleven rider-move also
included Anthony and the pair gutted one another to get the available points atop Laureles Grade, Carmel Valley Rd and
Interlake Rd, all category four climbs.
"I won the second and the fourth KOM today and I also got second place on the third KOM," McCarty said. "There was another rider [Jesse Anthony] in the breakaway that was right behind me in the KOM competition. On the first of several climbs we were battling for them but on the last one I got more points and was in somewhat of a comfortable lead. I will still have to pick up more points on Saturday."
Canada's sole UCI Professional Continental team SpiderTech p/b C10 spent the majority of the early season racing in Europe. McCarty attributed his strong performance to participating in races such as the Giro di Sardegna, Circuit de la Sarthe and Presidential Tour of Turkey.
He last competed in the Amgen Tour of California in 2006 while racing with Phonak. "Comparing races, to racing in Europe, it is really nice to be back," he said. "I did the first edition back in 2006 and was on Floyd [Landis] team when he won. It's a great race, the biggest race in America and I'm proud to be racing here and have the King of the Mountain jersey."
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 09:58
- Cycling News
Quick Step sprinter on the defensive after photographs emerge
Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step) has admitted he took a tow from his team car on the slopes of Mount Etna but has claimed it was only for a few seconds and that he managed to finish the stage inside the time limit thanks to his own legs.
Photographs of Chicchi and several other riders hanging onto a Quick Step team car first appeared on the internet on Tuesday. They were spotted by the Italian media and the Tuttosport newspaper published one of them on Thursday. Chicchi can be seen holding onto the rear windscreen wiper and so was forced on the defensive.
"Everyone has seen the photographs where I was caught. Unfortunately I think everybody is making a big deal out of a pretty small thing," he said, doing his up most to play down the damning evidence.
"It's not like it seems in the photographs. If I panicked and took a tow, then I made a mistake. But in certain moments you don’t think about what you're doing. The car was there, I tried to get a tow but it was just for a few seconds because of the judge that was with us and only left us with four or five km to go."
Italia media suggested that it had been impossible for Chicchi and the other sprinters to make it to the finish on Mount Etna inside the time cut because they started the final climb of the volcano almost half an hour down. They were accused of getting a tow because they covered the climb just a minute slower than the best riders.
Chicchi picked at the evidence against him like an expert defence lawyer.
"The times they wrote in the press where wrong," he insisted. "They said we started the climb 25 minutes down and finished just 26 minutes down. But their timing must have been wrong. The cars that were with us said we were at the most 16 minutes down."
He concluded with a less than convincing final plea: "Everyone can think what they like but I know I rode up Etna with my own legs.
While most of the sprinters headed home after the last sprint stage in the Ravenna, the Quick Step team insisted that Chicchi will stay in the Giro and tackle the mountain stage to Grossglockner.
If Chicchi does stay in the Giro, the Austrian climb will perhaps tell the real truth about his climbing ability.
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 09:59
- Cycling News
Sprinters opt out before the high mountains
Giro d'Italia stage winners Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) will not be at the start line of the 13th stage of the race today. The sprinters join HTC-Highroad's Mark Cavendish in heading for home instead of up the remaining Giro mountains.
Petacchi, who was leading the points competition, said that his main goal at the Giro was to ride in support of the team's GC candidate Michele Scarponi. “I did it with pleasure and I also had the satisfaction of battling for personal objectives. I obtained one victory and other good results, honouring the race in every stage.
“The next stages won’t give me the chance to give my support to the team. So, also considering that my season is full of other important events, I chose to quit the race”.
Danilo Hondo, who prepares the sprints for Petacchi, is also leaving the race.
Petacchi won the second stage of the Giro, and finished second in the sixth stage. He was third in the eighth, tenth and twelfth stages.
Spaniard Ventoso was also pleased with what he had accomplished. “I reached my goal, which was to win a stage and that makes me very proud. Being back after a four-year absence couldn't be better,” he said in a statement.
"I am delighted with the team that worked really well and sure to top off a great final Giro. On the other hand I am sorry to leave the race for my teammates, because I can not pay back all the work they have done for me. It makes sense not to continue, because with the upcoming mountains, I won't be of much help. "
The Spaniard won the sixth stage and was second on the tenth stage.
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 10:35
- Stephen Farrand
Italians hoping Contador will falter during the next three days
The Giro d'Italia heads into the mountains on Friday for the start of a terrible triptych of stages in the Dolomites. Race leader Alberto Contador seems to have a tight, if not unbeatable grip on the maglia rosa but both Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi refuse to accept defeat so early in the race.
Nibali always appears relaxed and in control, hence his nickname of 'lo squalo' – the shark. But a cold sore on his lower lip perhaps indicated he is already tired after 12 days of racing. "The next few stages will be very nervous and very hard days," he said.
"The Grossglockner could be an important day but the combined effect of the Grossglockner, the Zoncolan and then the long Gardeccia stage will make things especially hard. I personally think the Gardeccia is the decisive stage because it's the last of the three. You've got be at best there."
Nibali knows he has to do something to try and pull back time on Contador. He is currently third overall at 1:21.
His best opportunity appears to be the descent of the Crostis on Saturday. The testing descent has been declared safe by the riders and organisers and comes before the climb to the finish on Monte Zoncolan. Contador has perhaps mistakenly admitted he is worried about the descent. Nibali is a demon descender and so may gamble on an attack, just as he did on the dirt road descent to Orvieto.
"I think we can come up with something. We considered it yesterday (during the stage to Castelfidardo) but it wasn't worth it. I saw that Alberto is riding well, his pedaling style is really fluid. But he's had a bad day in the past, so there is a chance that something might happen."
"There could be an attack on the descent of the Crostis but it's risky for everyone. We've been told one team car will be able to follow us down the descent. The team cars can't pass all the riders and so it could be a problem if you have a mechanical."
"I think the team can make a big difference too. He could be isolated in the mountains and that could be important. But if he's alone maybe me and Scarponi will be too."
Scarponi gets serious
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) was happy to spend some time with his family and friends at the start in Castelfidardo but was also thinking ahead to the mountain stages. He usually likes to joke and play down things with the media but was serious about the importance of the final week of the Giro.
quot;The toughest part of the Giro is about the start and so the real Giro is about to start," he said.
"It's going to be a tough weekend and a tough final week when the final classification is really going to be sorted out. The stages come one after another with a lot of climbs and a lot of mountain finishes. But we've known what to expect for a long time.
I'm ready to focus on the key stages and key moments. Bring it on."
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 11:13
- Jean-François Quénet
Spanish climber has no pressure for Giro overall classification
Igor Anton has had a quiet start of the Giro but he's obviously improving drastically now that his time has come as the mountains are just ahead. The Basque rider was leading the Vuelta a Espana last year with an enormous possibility of winning the overall classification.
"Vuelta and Giro are two very different things for me," Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) told Cyclingnews at the Giro. "The mountains are different, the time of the year is different. I always do much better in September than in May or June."
Euskaltel's sport's director Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano confirmed. "Here, Igor has zero pressure for riding GC, we keep all the pressure for the Vuelta. If one day in the mountains he loses a bit of time, it's no problem at all. But if he goes well in all the mountain stages, it's obvious that he'll move up on GC but it's definitely not our goal."
Without targeting the GC, Anton is eleventh at 2:21 behind Alberto Contador. He limited the damage on the Etna and had an interesting end of stage 11 to Castelfidardo. "My positioning at the bottom of the final climb was pretty bad," Anton said. "I was in 40th or 45th place and I kept passing riders in the climb. Had I been in a better position from the beginning, I could have made the top 5. I don't think I'd have beaten John Gadret who has been exceptional yesterday, but I could have finished closer to Purito (Rodriguez) who was second."
Anton looked very relaxed on the Adriatic coast. "I have said since the start of the Giro that I was here for a mountain stage win and nothing else," he told Cyclingnews. "Any stage is welcome, I haven't targeted one more than the others. It's true that I didn't arrive in Turin in my best shape. I wasn't going too bad at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and at the Flèche Wallonne but my condition keeps improving."
The Euskaltel team admitted that Anton is still one kilogram overweight. "But it's maybe better to have some reserves," said Gonzalez de Galdeano ahead of the mountain stages for which the weather forecast is pretty bad. "The main factor is the number of great climbers that Igor has to beat: Contador, Rujano, Nibali, Scarponi, Arroyo, Serpa, Purito, Menchov, Gadret, etc. The competition is huge with such a quality field of pure climbers!"
But Anton is – almost – ready, as the peloton eyes the Grossglockner in Austria at the end of stage 13.
- Article published:
- May 20, 2011, 12:01
- Cycling News
Giro d'Italia leader fears Crostis climb and Gardecchia stage
Alberto Contador has admitted that he is still very uncertain of winning the overall Giro d'Italia. Going into the first of three grueling Dolomite stages with a lead of 1.21 minutes over his next serious rival, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), the Spaniard said that the race was far from over.
"Anything can happen on the climbs to come," the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider said in a press statement. "Right now, a lot people think I'll win the Giro but there are still many riders with good chances. 1.20 minutes is nothing."
After Friday's testing mountaintop finish on the Grossglockner, another two torturous high mountain stages will await the riders this weekend. Of all three, Contador thought that "the one to Gardecchia [stage 15] will be the most difficult because of the efforts we accumulated in the previous days and on that particular stage. But all three are really very hard."
Stage 15 to Gardecchia-Val di Fassa features a total of five ascents, including the labeled "monstrous" Giau and Marmolada climbs. But on Saturday's stage 14, another climb was worrying Contador: the Crostis.
"I know the Crostis climb pretty well as I tried it out after the Flèche Wallonne with two of my teammates," he explained. "It is a very demanding climb with seven or eight kilometers with a very high percentage, even harder than the Etna ascent. It will be a tough day which will make differences in the GC and show who is weak," Contador predicted.