"I was young once, too, y'know!" says Sunderland
By Anthony Tan in Lausanne
Team CSC, considered to be Discovery Channel's biggest arch rival at the Giro with their man Ivan Basso, has also decided on their line-up next Saturday in Seraing, despite team manager Bjarne Riis telling the press a week and a half ago that the Tour de Romandie would determine the final selection.
"We more or less made the decision before the race started that nobody here was riding for a position [on general classification] and that the team was selected before the race started," said Scott Sunderland, CSC directeur-sportif at the Tour de Romandie along with Alain Gallopin.
"Due to a few a few reasons, I know there was one rider going for the last place but he felt more comfortable doing a different program; I know he would have loved to have been in the Giro - especially riding for the win - but he felt it would be better for himself [to skip the Giro] to be better later in the season, and maybe the possibility for a Tour de France berth if he did otherwise. So, yeah, our final selection for the team will be announced early next week."
Sure enough, their best-placed riders, Andrea Peron and Bobby Julich, were by no means going into the red on yesterday's mountain stage in Sion, finishing between five and six and a half minutes down, although both are still in the top 30 riders going into today's final time trial. As for the others, Sunderland said there hasn't been any real standout performances this week from the other teams.
"At this point, no - I think it's more or less the riders that were going to be good. Contador was very strong but he already showed last year how strong he can be, especially in the shorter stages. Everyone else is where we expected them to be and probably where they expected themselves to be, so yeah, no really big surprises, just really confirmation of the riders who are good," he said.
The former veteran professional who rode his last year with Alessio-Bianchi before joining team management also believed Savoldelli's early exit from the race was the only smart choice, particularly in light of what lies ahead. "If you're sick and you've got a stomach problem, you've completely depleted yourself and your immune system, so that's not good. When you're sick, it's better to go home and get recovery - it's too close to the Giro now - it's just the wise thing to do."
An interesting tidbit is that Sunderland actually started off his career in Switzerland 19 years ago, so we asked him if the country brought back some fond memories for him, and if he misses trading in his bike for a car.
Well, I've been riding three times this week!" he retorted with a hearty chuckle. "But not racing - I've got that out of my system, I've got that totally out of my system now!
"But no, it was good to catch up with some people, especially at the prologue there; there was a lot of people in Geneva I know and a lot of supporters from those years and people from my old teams, so it's been very nice to be in these grounds again. But I mean, so many of these races are very familiar to me... I've got good and bad memories from all of 'em!
"Even now, I still get people coming up and asking to sign postcards even from almost 20 years ago. Some pretty young riders [in Team CSC] will come up and go, 'Oh, what's that photo?' - and they look it at and then at me, and go 'Ah!' I was young once, too, y'know!" laughed Sunderland.