- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 04:14
- Cycling News
Hilly and technical course not suited to BMC Racing squad
Cadel Evans may have arrived at the Giro d'Italia lacking the physical condition to contest for the number-one spot in the general classification but that doesn't mean the 2010 points classification winner is racing the Italian grand tour without ambition.
Evans' BMC Racing Team was expected to perform amongst the best in the team time trial on Stage 2 but after 17.4 kilometres of racing, the US-registered squad came up short. The team was to be guided by Taylor Phinney, a proven rider in tests against the clock but coming in with only the 12th-best time and 37-seconds down on the winning Sky team was not what the squad envisioned.
"We had a lot of sprinter kind of guys and roulers, which normally in a team time trial is great," said Evans. "But this course was particularly hilly. Thirty-seven seconds is a little bit below what I had hoped or expected, but that's the way it is.
"The guys put in everything. Someone like Klaas Lodewyck – he really gave it absolutely everything he had today, so I'm certainly not going to ask anything more of him," adde Evans of his teammate who sacrificed finishing with the six-man group including Phinney, Daniel Oss, Ivan Santaromita, Morabito, Cummings and the former Tour de France champion Evans.
"That's the way it is. We'll keep going from here," he said.
Team sports director Max Sciandri, who is reported to be taking up a more permanent position with the Italian National Team at some stage after the Giro, echoed similar sentiment to Evans. Sky brought a team of climbers to support Bradley Wiggins' bid to take the maglia rosa back to the UK and if the course had been a more traditional circuit, the end result could have been very different.
"There were climbs of eight, nine or 10 percent," said Sciandri. "I think if you look at the winning [Sky] team, it is more of an imprint of a climber team. We had some really good guys who can go on the flats like a regular time trial. But we struggled a little bit with some guys on the climbs. But I don't think we could have given anything more."
Evans will start Stage 3 in 60th-place, 37-seconds down on the new race leader Salvatore Puccio (Sky). Wiggins, arguably the biggest favourite the win the Giro outright sits on the same time as his Giro debutant Puccio.
- Giro d'Italia
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 08:12
- Barry Ryan
Team Sky in charge after the team time trial
The bigger picture of this Giro d’Italia, the final time gaps and the overall classification, are a long way from completion but Bradley Wiggins will have been pleased with the preliminary sketches that emerged from Sunday’s stage two team time trial in the scenic surrounds of Ischia, the striking volcanic island perched in the Gulf of Naples.
Wiggins and his teammates powered to victory on the 17.4km course, putting 14 seconds into chief rival Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 25 into defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and 37 into the BMC team of Cadel Evans.
In the grand scheme of things, the time won and lost in Ischia ought to count for little come the high mountains of the third week but the very early brushstrokes of this Giro d'Italia are roughly in keeping with a pre-race form guide that pitted Wiggins directly against Nibali, and Team Sky against Astana.
Little wonder then, that Wiggins was happy to stand back and enjoy the scene from the side of the podium area as he watched his young teammate Salvatore Puccio pull on the pink jersey. Wiggins, who lies in second place overall, was able to avoid the bulk of the post-race formalities, including the post-stage press conference and quietly caught the ferry back to the mainland like everyone else.
“I’m so happy for him. He’s a really nice guy and a big talent,” Wiggins said while Puccio pulled on the maglia rosa to the strains of Prince’s “1999.”
Much had been made of Team Sky’s pre-team time trial planning, which included sending an advance party to Ischia to film the course; the innovativeness of Team Sky’s approach is sometimes over-stated. All of the serious contenders had compiled video footage of the Ischia course beforehand, and Wiggins was of the view that his team had come into the test with a similar level of preparation to everyone else.
“It was very good to follow on from Trentino [where Team Sky also won the team time trial] and do a very good performance like that on a different sort of course without seeing the course very much, the same as everyone else,” Wiggins said. “It wasn’t an easy day. It’s a great start.”
The pitfalls ahead
Whether Team Sky try to defend Puccio’s lead in the coming days or look to surrender the jersey at the earliest opportunity remains to be seen, but Wiggins did not feel that holding the maglia rosa at this point was necessarily a drain on his team’s resources. “Maybe that’s a good thing because we can race on the front tomorrow [Monday],” he said.
The next two days bring the Giro deep into the south of Italy, over rolling country roads and the stage profiles are dotted with potential pitfalls. Stage three to Marina di Ascea includes the third category climb of Sella di Catona shortly before the tricky descent to the finish, while the finale of stage four at Serra San Bruno features the second category Croce Ferrata.
“Compared to what is to come [in the high mountains], they’re not hard stages but like every stage of the Giro, there could be a puncture or a crash or a small split in the bunch, so you have to be very careful on those stages,” Wiggins said. “It’s not necessarily the climbs on the next few days that are going to be the problem.”
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 10:51
- Stephen Farrand
News shorts from the Giro d'Italia
Everyday during the Giro d'Italia we dig up the best the news snippets and inside information.
After the team time trial on Ischia island, the race heads south down the Amalfi coast, with Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) in the pink jersey.
There could be trouble ahead
Monday's 222km third stage could prove to be more testing that expected after the Giro d'Italia peloton awoke to cloudy skies and risk of rain on the Amalfi coast and the final climb overlooking the finish in Marina di Ascea.
The Amalfi roads are notoriously smooth due to the constant traffic on the breathtaking coast road. However they become greasy when wet.
The descent to the finish includes numerous hairpins and tight corners, which could be the perfect launch pad for a late attack.
Puccio in pink, Dowsett in white
There are four leader's jerseys in the Giro d'Italia, each designed by Paul Smith this year.
Salvatore Puccio wears the maglia rosa during Monday's stage three from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) wears the red points jersey, while Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) wears the blue climber's jersey after picking up the points on offer during stage one in Naples.
Alex Dowsett wears the white jersey thanks to his second place in the best young rider competition behind Salvatore Puccio.
The power of the pink jersey
Wearing the pink jersey carries extra responsibilities but also gives extra benefits and often secures special treatment from the race organisers.
Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) had to speak to the media after pulling on the maglia rosa and then give a urine sample at anti-doping. It meant he missed the two ferries taking the riders to Sorrento but he made it to the mainland in time for dinner thanks to taking a private motorboat.
The sixth Sicilian
Salvatore Puccio is just the sixth Sicilian to wear the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia after Mario Fazio (three times in 1949), Giovanni Corrieri (once in 1953), Guido Messina (once in 1955), Giovanni Visconti (eight times in 2008) and Vincenzo Nibali (twice in 2010 and twice in 2011).
His family moved to Assisi in Umbria when he was 13 and Puccio spent much of his amateur career racing in Tuscany before signing with Team Sky in 2012.
Movistar's mixed day
The Spanish Movistar team has had a solid start to the Giro d'Italia, finishing second in Sunday's TTT , just nine seconds behind Team Sky. However the bad news concerned team leader Juanjo Cobo.
While inspecting the course pre-race, Cobo hit the front of his knee on his handlebars hurting his patella. In the race he lost two-and-a-half minutes on the rest of the Movistar squad.
“It's sad, because things were going well but we paid for it after Cobo couldn't be there, in such a finale and on a route that suited him perfectly,” team manager Eusebio Unzué said. “We had to slow down a bit in the final climb because we needed five men together, and we might have lost the TT there. You don't celebrate after a second place, but this is one that makes us really happy.”
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 12:06
- Cycling News
'We will go to the Tour with one leader"
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has named Chris Froome as the team's leader for the Tour de France, confirming that the plan for the 2013 season is that the Kenyan-born Briton, and not 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, will lead the British team at the Tour de France.
Before heading to the Giro d'Italia, Wiggins insisted that he was ready to target the Giro-Tour, suggesting any decision about leadership would be made just before or even during the Tour de France by team management.
That angered Froome with the Kenyan-born Briton quickly issuing a personal statement claiming that he was to be the leader in July and that he had the full backing of the team.
In what seems like a move to diffuse speculation and avoid a possible damaging internal power struggle, Brailsford has named Froome as team leader, while also trying to appease Wiggins' ambitions.
“As always the team selection is a management decision and it will be evidence-based. However it is crucial there is clarity of purpose and for that reason we will go to the Tour with one leader," Brailsford said in a statement published on the Team Sky website.
“Taking that into consideration and given Chris’ step up in performances this year, our plan, as it has been since January, is to have him lead the Tour de France team."
“With over seven weeks until the Tour and the Giro to focus on, our final selection of nine won’t be confirmed until after the Dauphine."
100% focused on the Giro d'Italia
Froome is currently studying the Tour de France mountain stages and rode Mont Ventoux on Friday. Wiggins is in action at the Giro d'Italia and is lying second overall behind young teammate Salvatore Puccio after Team Sky dominated Sunday's team time trial.
Brailsford is in Italy with the team and insisted that Wiggins is aiming to win the Giro d'Italia before turning his thoughts to the Tour de France.
“Everyone here is 100-per-cent focused on this race and the next three weeks,” he said.
“We're in a fantastic position - we have two of the best GC riders in the world and they are both great racers with a competitive will to win.”
“Since the start of season, Bradley's performance plan has focused around training specifically to try and win the Giro and then ride the Tour, whilst Chris’ has been focused on attempting to win the Tour."
“Now we're here - the Giro has started and Bradley has done a brilliant job of getting in the best-possible condition for his assault on the race.”
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 14:30
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Spanish team second to Sky by 9 seconds
Fastest at the mid-way checkpoint, and second at the finish in the Giro d'Italia stage 2 team time trial, Alex Dowsett says that he believes his Movistar squad's performance was in no way above-expectations, rather that "it's time people recognised we're good at these."
Although Spain traditionally has not produced top squads for TTTs, Movistar won the technically difficult, if much flatter, opening team time trial in last year's Vuelta a España, and riders like Nairo Quintana have won races like the Vuelta al Pais Vasco this year as a result of their time trialling. Former British TT champ Dowsett, racing his first Giro, says yesterday's result was no fluke, either.
"It suited us down to the ground, for sure, but I'm not sure we're counted as a surprise given the results we've had this year," Dowsett told Cyclingnews at the stage three start.
"I think it's time we're considered one of the front runners in stages like these particularly when they're like yesterday's."
Movistar could have been even closer had not 2011 Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo, no slouch against the clock, hurt his knee during the team time trial warm-up in a crash. Cobo dropped back early on, meaning the Spanish squad lost one of their key men. It also meant a big change of plan, Dowsett said.
"I would have done my last turn on the flatter stretch of road before the last climb, and hung on, but if I hadn't it wouldn't have mattered, and if Cobo had been there then he would have been the man for the last climb. As it was, I was in quite a lot of difficulty on that last climb.
"It was annoying, too, because I had two punctures on the recce and didn't get as good a look as I wanted. But it was good, the boys rode fantastically well, and even if I'm not leading the Best Young Rider's classification, I'm getting to wear it [as Puccio leads overall] which is nice, too."
Could Movistar be looking at grabbing the pink jersey from Sky? On paper they are the best placed squad to do that.
"That's true and it's just nine seconds but those are the hardest nine seconds in the world to get back," Dowsett said. On paper, he certainly rules himself out of any such bid. "My job is to look after Beñat Intxausti, who's our GC man, and that means that if he has a problem on the last descent to the finish, he'll be taking my bike."
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 17:00
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Sky Team Principal denies any changes in team plan for Tour
Standing next to team soigneurs handing out bidons after stage three of the Giro d'Italia, Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford stated categorically that the squad’s statement that Froome would lead the Tour de France represented zero change to the team’s initial plan for 2013.
“Go back and read our press releases in February, March, April, it all says the same thing,” Brailsford told a small group of reporters.
Asked why they had then bothered to put out a new release reconfirming that Froome would be leading, not Wiggins, Brailsford replied “there was a lot of talk and chatter and whatnot, so I thought we should reiterate our plan.”
He said it had nothing to do with Wiggins hints that he was contemplating a Giro-Tour double bid, saying instead “not really, no. There was a lot of chatter. We’re sticking to the same plan, I think it’s worth reclarifying that we’re still on track - and nicely so, I’d say.”
“The key thing for us is to focus on this race” - the Giro - “and it requires a lot of focus, it’s requires a lot of that.”
“As far as we’re concerned the plan is still going, we’re right on track. We’re sticking to what we’re doing. If you read Brad’s comments you’ll see he knew that everything is caveated by a management decision.”
Reflecting on the loss of the pink jersey and the late attacks that caused that, Brailsford said “That descent was made for attacks, there’s more opportunities to be opportunistic in the Giro, it’s that sort of race. That’s what people were trying to do, it takes as much energy to ride on the front as it does on the back and it was great to see some real good bike racing.”
“Dario [Cataldo] was ill last night he was up all night with an upset stomach so he just wanted to get to the finish. But the other guys were on form, it was great to get the jersey, but it wasn’t planned. It was fantastic for him, but let’s get on with the business ahead now.”
Wiggins arrived second last of the Sky riders at the team bus, received instructions on how to ride to the team hotel and then headed off on his bike again past reporters before questions could be asked.
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 17:36
- Barry Ryan
Italian crashes on final descent
What the Giro d’Italia giveth, it taketh away. In Ischia on Sunday, Michele Scarponi’s Lampre-Merida squad limited the climber’s losses in the team time trial to just 22 seconds. At Marina di Ascea on Monday – on rolling terrain where Scarponi hoped to recoup ground – a crash on the final descent cost him a minute and severely dented his podium hopes.
With barely five kilometres left to race, Scarponi was sitting in third place in the chase group as Blanco pair Steven Kruijswijk and Robert Gesink led the chase behind eventual winner Luca Paolini (Katusha). When the two Dutchman almost overshot a right-hand bend, however, Scarponi tumbled to the ground as he tried to correct his own trajectory.
“They skidded in front of me and I touched my brakes instinctively, and I ended up falling myself,” said Scarponi, who was quickly back on his feet but then had to endure a lengthy wait for a replacement bike, as his rear mech was broken during the crash. “I had to wait a bit for Simone Stortoni to get up to me, but that happens.”
After Stortoni came past and handed over his machine, Scarponi was left to give desperate chase with just Przemyslaw Niemiec for company and they reached the finish some 44 seconds down on Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and the other overall favourites.
“It was a very attacking stage and was going quite well for me. I think that we could even have got back up to Paolini but that happens. It’s just a pity that I had this accident,” Scarponi said. “It’s unfortunate too that I lost a bit of time.”
On a sinuous finale that had seen Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) go on the offensive, Scarponi had managed to remain on level pegging his fellow overall contenders and was looking to strike a small blow of his own on the plunge into Marina di Ascea when his wheels slipped from under him.
“Sometimes that can happen when you’re caught behind but I was in front, so what can you do?” Scarponi said forlornly. “I don’t even know how much I’ve lost but they’re certainly seconds that I’ve just given away.”
Scarponi reported only superficial injuries on crossing the line, with a scuffed right shoulder and grazes on his right arm, but the damage to his overall ambitions – though far from over – is of greater concern. He now lies over a minute behind Wiggins with a 55-kilometre time trial to come on Sunday.
Asked where he could recoup the time lost in Campania, Scarponi shrugged as he rolled towards his team bus. “I don’t know where I can recover it,” he said. “But I don’t want to give up either.”
- Article published:
- May 6, 2013, 18:42
- Barry Ryan
Katusha veteran takes stage and overall lead
At 36 years of age and in the twilight of a career that has stretched through one of the most turbulent periods in Italian cycling history, Luca Paolini (Katusha) is an unlikely Giro d'Italia debutant, but in his maiden corsa rosa the veteran hit the jackpot by claiming stage victory and the overall lead in Marina di Ascea at the end of stage 3.
The canny Paolini was careful to follow the attacks but not contribute to them during the sinuous finale to Monday's stage, keeping a watching brief as Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Vincenzo Nibali's Astana squad went on the offensive over the climb of Sella di Catona.
Instead, Paolini waited for the calm after the storm, and when the lull arrived, he chose his moment perfectly, clipping off the front on the descent with a shade under seven kilometres still to race.
"I suffered a lot when they attacked on the climb, but every time someone tried to stretch it out, I kept my tempo and I kept my head," Paolini said. "It was like what I tried to do at Milan-San Remo this year, when I hung in there on the climbs and had a go on the descent.
"In the finale, they told me over the radio that I only had a few seconds on the chasers but I know I'm quite good descender and I managed to keep quite clear headed through the corners."
Paolini held off the chasers, led home by Cadel Evans (BMC), to claim the win. Given Katusha's solid showing in Sunday's team time trial, Paolini knew that the 20-second time bonus for stage victory would also present him with the maglia rosa. "I told myself that today and tomorrow would be like two big classics for me," he said. "On top of that, after the team time trial, I knew I was just 18 seconds down that a stage win would give me pink."
That double bounty had special significance for the Como native. On Monday, his father Giovanni was due to undergo surgery, and Paolini had promised him a special gift for when he came around afterwards.
"My father had a big operation in the winter, today's was a more routine one but these are always delicate things," Paolini said. "I told him this morning that when he came to after the operation, I'd have a maglia rosa for him. I managed to speak with him after the stage, too, and it all went well."
Paolini, who began his career as Paolo Bettini's gregario di fiducia and continues to this day as his regista in the Italian national team, has spent much of his career in the service of others. When opportunities have fallen his way – this year's Het Nieuwsblad apart – his resume has been made up of near misses: third in Milan-San Remo in 2003, third in the Verona Worlds in 2004, third in the Tour of Flanders in 2007.
"We're very close but my father always used to tell me that I was a fool for not winning as much as I could have done," Paolini smiled. "But honestly, I have no regrets, everything I've done, I've done with my heart. With Paolo, it was more than a job, it's a friendship. That Tour of Flanders was a bit of a regret alright, but at the same time, I came up against two stronger riders than me."
But how on earth did Paolini, who turned professional in 2000 with Mapei, go thirteen years as a professional without ever riding the Giro d'Italia?
"I was always in teams that wanted me to do the Tour or else I did the Vuelta to prepare for the Worlds, so I'm happy this year I got the nod to do the Giro," he said.
Another factor, of course, was his three-year hiatus at Pro Continental level with Acqua & Sapone, which came after he was implicated in the Operazione Athena doping investigation. That inquiry snared Eddy Mazzoleni and Ivan Basso's sister Elisa, but proceedings against Paolini were eventually dropped in 2011 due to a lack of evidence.
Asked if things were better for young Italian professionals now than when he stepped up to the highest level over a decade ago, Paolini agreed. "They have the fortune to find themselves in a cycling that is very well-equipped," he said. "Now cycling is based on the small details, and even at 23 or 24 years of age, you can express your potential fully."